The clock's ticking on the fantasy hockey season now. The trade deadline is firmly in the rear-view mirror, and everyone who's still in a position to compete should be forechecking their way to a playoff spot.
If you can shake off losing an hour of sleep this weekend -- believe me, I know it's harder than it looks -- there are moves to be made. I want to first reflect on the Dmitry Orlov trade. I'll be the first to admit I didn't see his scoring burst coming. I thought the Bruins coveted him for his toughness and little else. With 10 points in eight games as a Bruin, he's already over halfway to matching what he posted in 43 contests with the Capitals. A career year (previous high: 35 points) is not out of the question. Early birds get the worms, so go see if Orlov's still wiggling on the waiver wire.
Every year, there are players that all the numbers in the world can't explain. It's just how hockey goes -- some players can sustain ridiculous numbers for a year before returning to earth. We're about three-quarters of the way through the season, and Jared McCann is shooting 22.4 percent, second to only Vancouver's Andrei Kuzmenko among players who have at least 100 shots. Career highs in points (52) and goals (33) should have seen McCann already long gone in most fantasy formats, but considering he's been a little more balanced with 10 goals and seven helpers in 17 outings since the All-Star break, he's worth checking on again.
It's time for my semi-annual Jason Zucker hype paragraph. Over his last 16 games, he's recorded 11 goals. He doesn't have an assist in that span, and only one of the tallies has come on the power play. He's also added 37 hits and 47 shots on goal. I love a good playmaker as much as anyone else, but it's impossible to ignore someone putting the biscuit in the basket that often. Nine of those goals have come in his last eight games.
Nick Schmaltz (lower body) is still widely available, sitting on the wire in 61 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's pretty well known at this point, though a new injury is a concern, but a couple of his teammates down the lineup should get a chance to replace his production in the short term. Lawson Crouse is one of them -- the rowdy winger had a five-game point streak (two goals, three assists) snapped Sunday. He's added 20 hits over his last six contests. Despite the Coyotes' often questionable defense, Crouse went a month between minus ratings, logging dash-1s Feb. 11 and Sunday. His offense isn't always consistent, but he's been solid of late, and he has a great profile as bench depth in fantasy.
If you want a bit more punch with an increasingly strong scoring touch, take 23-year-old Jack McBain. The Boston College product ranks seventh in the NHL with 230 hits -- ahead of notable bangers such as Garnet Hathaway and Brady Tkachuk. McBain isn't just a one-category wonder though, as he's picked up four goals and two assists over his last eight outings while jumping into the second power-play unit spot vacated by Nick Bjugstad's move to Edmonton. The power-play production isn't there yet, but McBain is started to show off some hands to go with his heavy play.
It's been a rocky year for Ryan Hartman, but he's found his way back to the top-line role that he lost earlier in the campaign. The 28-year-old was a healthy scratch as recently as Jan. 26, but over his last 12 games, he has four goals and six assists. Most of that production came with the massive benefit that is having Kirill Kaprizov as a linemate, but Kaprizov is set to miss most of the rest of the month with a lower-body injury. Regardless, I'm remaining optimistic on Hartman for now. Kaprizov's absence opens up more power-play time for Hartman, and if he can be the finisher to Mats Zuccarello's high-end playmaking, things should continue to point north for Minnesota's offense.
Another Central Division injury that could make an old friend new again is Tyler Seguin's lower-body injury opening the door for Evgenii Dadonov. Seguin was cut by a skate blade in Thursday's 10-4 win over the Sabres, and Dadonov stepped up into a top-six role. Dadonov has looked like the best version of himself since he was dealt from the Canadiens to the Stars, posting two goals and four assists over seven games in Victory Green. I cautiously liked the move for Dallas from the start, and I'm abandoning that caution now -- he's only on three percent of Yahoo! rosters, so you should be able to make room for him.
If you're looking at the post-deadline Oilers, specifically on defense, you've got a couple of considerations. Evan Bouchard has collected a goal and five assists over his last four games, and he's the unquestioned power-play quarterback now, so those big numbers aren't that weird to see. He's got a heavy shot that can beat a goalie or generate rebounds -- I don't expect Tyson Barrie-like numbers, but Bouchard should be a smidge under that level for the rest of the season.
There's also Mattias Ekholm, who has a modest three points and a plus-7 rating over his first six games with the Oilers. In other words, he's doing exactly what he was brought in to do: improve the defense. The Oilers have given up seven tallies twice in those six contests, but that's not on Ekholm. Between him and Bouchard, Ekholm is more widely available, but he also has less scoring upside, with likely 6-8 points for the rest of the season being about as much as you can expect from him. He's not overly physical either, but he'll do enough of everything to help with category coverage, while Bouchard is the better point-production target.
I was not initially keen on Matt Roy's production with the addition of Vladislav Gavrikov, but the two have worked out well as the Kings' second pairing. Gavrikov's presence has freed up Roy to be more of a threat on offense -- he has a goal and four assists over his last seven games. The 28-year-old is enjoying a career year with 23 points, 123 blocked shots, 98 hits and a plus-4 rating through 67 contests, and having a stable defender to play with should allow him to flourish over the final month of the campaign.
A top-line gig with the Panthers doesn't carry the same weight as it did last season, but it's been serving Eetu Luostarinen pretty well lately. The 24-year-old Finn has six goals and eight assists over his last 15 games, though he's averaged just 28 seconds per game on the power play in that span. Still, the offense is there, and the role assignment means lots of playing time alongside Aleksander Barkov. Sign me up.
I was surprised at just how good Kevin Lankinen's numbers are this season. An 8-5-1 record is more than fine on a middle-of-the-pack team, and he's added a 2.45 GAA and a .925 save percentage through 15 outings. There's only one knock on Lankinen -- he rarely plays with Juuse Saros handling a workhorse role. Lankinen's won three of his four games since the All-Star break. Unfortunately, that's about one appearance a week, but he's a solid streaming and DFS target when you know he's getting the nod.
I'm admittedly a little late to the party on Akira Schmid. With Mackenzie Blackwood out since Feb. 21, Schmid has stepped in to back up Vitek Vanecek, and the numbers are strong. Over five his last five appearances, Schmid has gone 3-0-1 with a 1.34 GAA and a .944 save percentage. He's playing well behind a solid defense, and he should have at least another week of splitting the goalie duties with Vanecek before Blackwood gets back.
Usually, when it's time to rise and shine, it's all about waking up. There's plenty to be awake for in March -- outside of football, this is a strong sports month. The NHL's playoff push looks like it could go down to the wire in both conferences, with the East's wild-card race looking particularly fascinating. The West looks more like jockeying for position. I'm on the record for the Flames not making the playoffs, and I don't think the Predators have the talent to make a push even with games in hand on the field.
Bounce back from the lost hour and rise and shine for the week ahead. Making the right moves now will help you rise up the fantasy standings and shine in your own playoffs. The majority of formats I'm in will begin the playoffs next week, so I'll be back next Monday for more to get you ready to compete for a fantasy championship.