Fantasy Hockey Pickups: Take advantage of Detroit's offense as they get healthier

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The winter break is officially over. Get ready to focus on fantasy for the next three months. No slacking allowed. And if all of you don't win your leagues, I'll be very disappointed.

Even though the holidays are behind us, we're still giving presents. This column has already helped so many poolies, but we've upped the generosity this week by involving our first repeats of the season. Rejoice in their reappearances!

(Rostered rates as of Jan. 13)


Lucas Raymond, DET (Yahoo: 43%)

Last season's rookie class was so impressive that Raymond and his 57 points could only rank fourth in Calder voting. He hasn't necessarily underperformed in Year 2, though there was a lull at the beginning and some small bumps along the way. Raymond's goal and two assists on both Tuesday and Thursday got him to 13 points — including six on the power play — in 11 games. Combine that with Detroit welcoming back key forwards and Raymond could see his totals continue to rise.

Nicklas Backstrom, WAS (Yahoo: 37%)

Offseason hip surgery saw Backstrom miss the opening 42 contests, yet he was back out there Sunday in a top-six and lead man-advantage role. His first point — an assist — came Wednesday along with additional ice time. Backstrom's current even-strength linemates are T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller but don't be surprised to eventually see long-time partner Alex Ovechkin join up — though the two are already together on PP1.

Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (Yahoo: 31%)

Couldn't decide which Red Wing to discuss, so both Raymond and Bertuzzi have been included. The latter returned Tuesday after five-plus weeks on the sidelines with his second hand injury of the campaign. Even though Bertuzzi has averaged 16:53 across two games in which Detroit scored a combined 11 goals, he didn't record a point and only directed one puck on net. The upside is that he's skating with Dylan Larkin and Raymond, and being alongside that kind of talent is eventually bound to produce positive results.

Lucas Raymond #23 of the Detroit Red Wings and teammate Tyler Bertuzzi #59 have fantasy value
As the Red Wings continue to get healthier, so too should their fantasy values rise. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

Gabriel Vilardi, LA (Yahoo: 30%)

When Vilardi was originally discussed in October, he was at 43% rostered after notching seven points in the first five outings. His coverage would exceed 50 before significant lulls in November and December saw that number plummet further. Vilardi is here again after racking up four goals, seven assists, 24 shots, 11 hits and nine blocks in a 12-game stretch that began Dec. 17. He and Kevin Fiala may be down on the third line at five-on-five, but both participate on the top power play.

Mason McTavish, ANH (Yahoo: 24%)

Like Vilardi, McTavish showed up in this space early on and proceeded to hit a rough patch before recently resurging. Point projections had him producing somewhere in the high-50s and that initially looked encouraging, though his scoring slipped and so did his ice time. The Ducks may sit 31st in offense, yet McTavish and other highly-touted youngsters provide promise for a brighter future. For now, he's reeled off 12 points and 32 shots over the last 12 games and should continue to earn plenty of opportunities based on skill and prime positioning.

Eeli Tolvanen, SEA (Yahoo: 7%)

Maybe Tolvanen never received a fair chance in Nashville and ended his time there with seven straight scratches, but he's really enjoying it so far in Seattle. Since being claimed off waivers, the 23-year-old has immediately produced four goals, two assists, 14 shots, 16 hits and nine blocks through seven matchups. Tolvanen is excelling in a lower-six role, but that isn't surprising considering Kraken forwards throughout the lineup are succeeding — this column has already featured five others (and honestly, there could've been more).

Kailer Yamamoto, EDM (Yahoo: 4%)

Yamamoto's inclusion could be simply stated as one that involves a current connection to Connor McDavid, but we've been burned many times before by the broken promise of potential partnerships. That being said, Yamamoto has been riding shotgun with the captain for a couple of weeks and has posted five points across eight contests. He may end up falling down the depth chart or miss time due to injury — as was the case for almost a month this season — but should be an enticing pickup until circumstances change.

Gustav Nyquist, CLS (Yahoo: 3%)

I was all ready to talk about Kirill Marchenko (2%) and his latest run of goals until I saw Nyquist with his mega minutes and favorable placement. The recent absence of offense or the fact that he's on Columbus may deter many in fantasy, which is totally understandable. But we're talking about a 20:09 average the last week-and-a-half and lead spots on both special-teams groups. Based on responsibilities alone, Nyquist represents a low-risk lower-lineup addition.


Neal Pionk, WPG (Yahoo: 50%)

Pionk used to lead the Jets' blue line offensively, but that honor has transferred to Josh Morrissey. Pionk accumulated 60 PPPs across the previous four seasons, yet only has two so far as part of a decent second unit. Pionk's scoring has been erratic all year, though he's gotten back on the scoresheet with two goals and three assists from his last six games. During that same stretch, he's also contributed 11 hits, 10 shots, and nine blocks while averaging just under 22 minutes.

Justin Schultz, SEA (Yahoo: 19%)

Our first repeat D-man was originally brought up in the opening installment as someone who should benefit from Seattle's enhanced attack. Here we are, three months later, and Schultz has already matched last season's total of 23 points, six of which have come in his six most recent outings. Even though his ice time is nowhere near either Vince Dunn or Adam Larsson, he's still been able to produce eight PPAs, 55 shots and 46 blocks and shouldn't be available in roughly four of every five Yahoo leagues.

Calen Addison, MIN (Yahoo: 13%)

Addison was also featured back in mid-October as an offensive specialist on the Wild's lead man-advantage. That special-teams role has clearly paid off, as he has 15 PPPs, yet he's only managed six other points. Addison hasn't registered much in other statistical areas and is only skating 16:34 a night. His rostership has suffered as a result, but he remains a top candidate for anyone requiring immediate power-play assistance.

Ryan Graves, NJ (Yahoo: 6%)

We've started this section with three attack-minded players, so let's conclude it with a more defensive example. Graves got noticed in Colorado during his first full campaign when he recorded 26 points and led the league with a plus-40. His first season in Jersey would yield six goals and 22 assists along with 111 shots, 90 hits and 135 blocks. This year hasn't been as offensively bountiful for Graves, though he's posted helpers in three of his last five outings, including Tuesday's across-the-board effort of seven blocks, two hits, two PIM and a plus-3.


Samuel Ersson, PHI (Yahoo: 14%)

Carter Hart was pretty much a wall the first three weeks of the season, winning six of eight starts while only allowing 16 goals. Regression would eventually creep in until the end of 2022, which would cover a few awful appearances. The tail end of Hart's downturn coincided with Ersson's NHL debut on Dec. 23, where he was pulled after letting in five past over two-plus periods. The Swede has shaken off that effort to go 4-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .947 save percentage, with the latest victory a shutout on the road against the top-ranked Buffalo attack.

Joonas Korpisalo, CLS (Yahoo: 10%)

Recommending a goalie from a side that's given up almost four goals a night may not be the best fantasy strategy. Daily netminding options often prove difficult, but they can ultimately make a difference in weekly matchups. Korpisalo posted a 2.15/.936 line in five games heading into Thursday night, highlighted by stopping 39 of 42 Saturday against the Canes. Elvis Merzlikins hasn't done well all year and is now under the weather. With Columbus set to face a few weak defensive Western Conference clubs later this month, Korpisalo is at least worth a look in deeper formats.

Players to consider from past columns: Logan Couture, Martin Necas, Dylan Cozens, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jeff Skinner, Andrei Kuzmenko, Matty Beniers, Phillip Danault, Dylan Strome, Kevin Hayes, David Krejci, Trevor Moore, Nick Schmaltz, Max Domi, Kent Johnson, Alex Iafallo, Brock Boeser, J.T. Compher, Owen Tippett, Jared McCann, Conor Sheary, Jack Roslovic, Brandon Hagel, Michael Amadio, Sam Steel, Jordan Eberle, William Karlsson, James van Riemsdyk, Viktor Arvidsson, Jason Zucker, Nick Paul, Seth Jarvis, Brandon Montour, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake Sanderson, Noah Hanifin, Cam Fowler, Ty Smith, Sean Durzi, Vince Dunn, Adam Boqvist, Janis Moser, Erik Gustafsson, K'Andre Miller, Vitek Vanecek, Martin Jones, Charlie Lindgren, James Reimer, Karel Vejmelka, Pyotr Kochetkov, Antti Raanta, Stuart Skinner, Pheonix Copley, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Craig Anderson, Casey DeSmith