Special to Yahoo Sports
After a few unexpected, outstanding performances and a lot of luck, I lost my first weekly battle in the Yahoo Friends and Family League against a stacked squad. Injuries to Mikko Rantanen, Mika Zibanejad and Roope Hintz — among other absentees — finally took its toll as the rest of the team couldn't catch up.
The league had previously used the rotisserie format, but it was changed this season to a head-to-head category setup. After almost two months, I must admit the switch has made the game more exciting. Matchups may be weekly, but transactions can be made daily — up to a max of four per week. And with the shorter stretch and category diversity, multiple strategies are required to maintain lineups. As long as one continues to stay active, things will never feel stale. Kudos to commish and good buddy Scott Pianowski for implementing this plan.
There's no need to be upset following this initial defeat, as I'll keep trying to devise the optimal strategy for every situation. And to help you follow the same process, here are some significantly available skaters for the taking.
(Yahoo rostership rates/stats as of Nov. 21)
Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit Red Wings (17 percent rostered)
There's a lot to like about Athanasiou, though you may be scared off by his NHL-low minus-21 rating. The facts are he's fast, skilled and able to pot plenty of goals — like the 30 he notched last season. Double-A couldn't find the back of the net in the first 13 games, but he's posted five in two weeks. The Wings might sport the league's worst record and goal differential, but Athanasiou and other young Detroit forwards can be counted on to deliver.
Derick Brassard, New York Islanders (17 percent)
Not many people — even Isles fans — could've predicted this recent haul from Brassard. The 32 year old began with a goal in five straight and has gone off for seven points across the last three. During this 11-game period, he's accumulated an unbelievable 14 points, 26 shots, and 23 hits. Brassard's operated as a center for most of his career but has flourished on Brock Nelson's wing. One would expect the bubble to burst at some point, but it's tough to avoid any scorer from a club that boasts a solid offensive game.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (14%)
Parise turned back the clock last season with 61 points, including 16 on the power play. He started slowly this season with only three goals and a minus-12 to show from the first 13 appearances. But like he does almost every campaign, Parise has turned it on by tallying eight points and 21 shots through eight games. He's combined well with fellow veteran Mikko Koivu and should remain active on the scoresheet, barring injury.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks (12%)
Saad lost some luster from his fantasy resume after posting 35 points two years ago, but he bounced back the following season with 47. The two-time Cup champ lines up next to Jonathan Toews on even-strength and man-advantage situations. Saad's been heating lately, with three goals and four assists from the last eight games. He won't get you 50-plus points anymore but works as a decent middle-of-the-lineup forward.
Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning (11%)
A dependable two-way player, Killorn is often overlooked in fantasy because of all the talent Tampa Bay possesses up front. For someone positioned in the middle of the depth chart, he's still averaged 40 points since 2013-14. You'll find the Harvard grad on the Bolts' third unit during 5-on-5, but he's tearing it up over the last seven games with five PPPs on their premier power play. I spent $11 of my RotoWire Staff League FAAB on Killorn this week so I could own a piece of the Tampa attack. Might as well get some for yourself while it lasts.
Tanner Pearson, Vancouver Canucks (5%)
As Janet Eagleson explained this last weekend, Pearson will generally produce when he's not on your roster. The former King is enjoying his best season minutes-wise and occupies one of Bo Horvat's wings and a secondary spot on the man-advantage. He's worked with 16:36 per game to produce 11 points, including five from the last five. Pearson has also added value during that time with 15 shots and 11 hits. How can you possibly pass up this type of output?! Oh, that's right, he'll only keep doing so if you don't roster him.
Filip Chytil, New York Rangers (5%)
Maybe Chytil started his NHL career too young and wasn't prepared for the rigors of a long schedule. It was assumed he'd make the opening night roster but was ultimately sent to the minors. After nine points in nine AHL games, Chytil was promoted. Since then, the kid's fired home six goals to go with 22 shots in 10 appearances. He's recently been bumped up to the second line, but will eventually go back to the bottom-six after Mika Zibanejad returns. Enjoy Chytil's sharpshooting for now, and remember the name for the future.
Alex Iafallo, Los Angeles Kings (1%)
Thanks to Anze Kopitar at his side, Iafallo produced 33 points last year. The winger received three minutes a night on the power play across the first 14 contests, but only picked up four points with nothing on special teams. The man-advantage role has slightly decreased in the last seven, but he's registered two goals and four assists — including three PPPs. Those stats are impressive considering the Kings have only scored 15 times in that stretch. If Iafallo keeps skating with Kopitar, he should gain interest.
Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks (56%)
Last season, Gustafsson broke into the fantasy D elite by racking up 60 points. After three assists in the first two games, it was assumed the success would never stop. Unfortunately, the Swede would only tally one helper in the next 14 and would even serve as a healthy scratch at the start of the month. While the ice time hasn't returned to previous levels, he's potted a goal in three of the last four outings. If Gustafsson is on your team, hold on to him. And if he's available, snap him up in case of a scoring explosion.
Brandon Montour, Buffalo Sabres (3%)
Montour did well in his first full campaign by notching nine goals and 23 assists with Anaheim in 2017-18. Due to the Ducks' defensive decadence, he was shipped to Buffalo in February and went on to record 10 points over 20 games. A broken hand kept the Brantford native out for the opening 14, but he's slowly gotten up to speed. In addition to the goal and assist through seven matchups, Montour has registered 20 shots on goal and has worked his way back to the Sabres' second power-play unit.
Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers (2%)
The 124th pick from 2015 excelled in juniors and immediately adapted to the AHL before earning his first taste of the NHL in March 2018. Bear returned to Bakersfield the next year and posted 31 points in only 52 outings. Following an impressive training camp, he started the season on the Oilers' roster. Nothing from the first four appearances, but two goals and an assist in the next four. Bear contributed with a lone assist during the next 10 but has been paired with Darnell Nurse and just notched his first man-advantage marker.
Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins (1%)
Grzelcyk has been the beneficiary of Torey Krug's injury by slotting in on the Bruins' deadly top power play. While he hasn't counted there the last four contests, he's still averaged 3:23 and has fired 12 shots on net. Grzelcyk also scored twice Tuesday but may drop down the pecking order with Krug slated to return this weekend. Until then, see what fantasy goodness you can squeeze out of him.
Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes (51%)
The Coyotes are proving themselves a formidable defensive force by leading the league with a 2.18 GAA. That starts with Darcy Kuemper and his 1.85 GAA/.937 save percentage over 14 appearances. But Raanta — who's faced multiple health issues since 2018 — has performed well when called upon. He's even started three of the last five, including a 31-save shutout Monday against the Kings. Due to the excellence of both Arizona netminders, Raanta is required as insurance for any Kuemper manager — and vice-versa.
Anders Nilsson, Ottawa Senators (21%)
You'd think it was a snowy day in hell if any Ottawa goalie was mentioned here this far into the season. But here we are in late November and Nilsson has won five of his last six starts. He may only have lasted for half of the 8-2 drubbing versus Carolina last week, but managed to turn away 157 of 166 shots during the rest of the run. Nilsson's numbers could easily slip based on the Senators' prior backline issues, but he's preferred over most other lower-rostered backstoppers.
Players to consider from past columns: Bo Horvat, Kaapo Kakko, Victor Olofsson, Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Joel Armia, Andreas Johnsson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jared McCann, Adam Henrique, David Krejci, Andre Burakovsky, Dylan Strome, Ryan Strome, Martin Necas, Eric Staal, Travis Konecny, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Kreider, Oscar Klefbom, Devon Toews, Adam Fox, Alex Goligoski, Justin Schultz, Esa Lindell, Anthony DeAngelo, Cam Fowler, Matt Niskanen, Mikko Koskinen, Jonathan Quick, Jaroslav Halak, MacKenzie Blackwood, Linus Ullmark