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Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Sam Montembeault leading the way for Montreal

Sam Montembeault #35 of the Montreal Canadiens.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images)
Sam Montembeault has been the most proficient goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, making him a great speculative pickup in fantasy leagues. (Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images) (Rich Graessle via Getty Images)

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Vacations can be great, but then you have to come home and head back to work. No more relaxation and winter escapes. You're stuck in the cold, and that's where you'll be until summer.

But being away doesn't give an excuse to stop checking on fantasy. If I can set up weekly free-agent bids and lineups while attending a Scrabble tournament in New Orleans, so can you.

Here are a few players to fit into your lineups. Not all of them are guaranteed to succeed, but everyone on this list should be readily available.

(Rostered rates as of Jan. 19)

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets (Yahoo: 49%)

It's strange to see Gaudreau at less than 50% coverage, but that'll happen when he's known for his scoring and shooting and neither has been consistent this season. The Columbus connection may not be alluring, yet their forward corps is stacked with young talent. While regular center Boone Jenner has been out, Gaudreau has alternated alongside Adam Fantilli and Cole Sillinger while posting three assists and nine shots in his last two games in a combined 43 minutes. Jenner is slated to return Friday, so perhaps the partnership with Gaudreau can once again flourish.

Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (Yahoo: 33%)

There are a few Flames who could have filled this slot, as they've potted 39 goals while winning seven of 10 contests. So let's highlight Backlund as he keeps producing while not receiving enough attention. Need proof? There's the 10 goals, 12 assists, 98 shots, and 300-plus faceoff wins since Nov. 4. Or his significant roles on both special-teams groups while logging over 19 minutes a night. Backlund isn't that proficient on the power play, though his efforts elsewhere make him a worthy addition to any lineup.

Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers (Yahoo: 31%)

Bennett was first profiled at the end of November after working his way back to full fitness. Since then, he's gone off for 17 points, 58 shots, 47 PIM and 33 hits. Bennett may only be on Florida's backup man-advantage, but he's continued as the regular center for Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe at even strength. As long as that trio remains intact, Bennett is good for sufficient cross-category contributions.

Ross Colton, Colorado Avalanche (Yahoo: 20%)

Kudos to Valeri Nichushkin for entering the Player Assistance Program. His absence has left a huge void on the Avs' lead PP, one that has been ably handled by Colton with a goal and assist there in the last four matchups. The former Bolt has never been associated as a scorer, having peaked at 39 points during 2021-22. This is Colton's chance to break that mark, and that seems doable with all the talent on a unit that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. The two shots a game with a few PIM, hits and a 52.1% faceoff rate only enhance his fantasy profile.

Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (Yahoo: 17%)

Vladislav Namestnikov was brought up last week as the center who was recently handed top-line duties and performed decently. It was also alluded to that Mark Scheifele had reclaimed that role … until he got hurt. And now Lowry has assumed the spot between Kyle Connor and Gabriel Vilardi on the first line — but not regularly while up a man. The Jets' captain has excelled the last month with nine points, 25 shots, 18 PIM, 20 hits, 13 blocks and 96 faceoff wins. Scheifele could be back within the next week, but Lowry should keep posting plenty of stats as he was already doing that before vaulting up the depth chart.

Daniel Sprong, Detroit Red Wings (Yahoo: 13%)

Betcha can't find any forward who's done more on the offensive side from the bottom six than Sprong over two seasons. Last year, it was 46 points — including 14 on the power play — while averaging 11:25 in Seattle. With the Wings so far, Sprong has transformed 12:50 into 11 goals, 17 assists, seven PPPs and 105 shots. Just imagine what he could do if provided half-decent ice time. Though that's probably never going to happen for Sprong, which works just fine for him and for your fantasy squad.

Nick Bjugstad, Arizona Coyotes (Yahoo: 12%)

Bjugstad may look like a journeyman on his fifth club, but let's not forget he was once a 2010 first-rounder who starred in Minnesota hockey at both the high school and collegiate levels. At 31, he's broken out during his first full year with the Coyotes, as he started by finding the scoresheet in 18 of his first 29 games. Bjugstad's pace has slightly fallen off, though he notched a hat-trick in his home state on Saturday and combined for 15 shots across two appearances. There's the collection of hits and nine faceoffs per outing, but you're ultimately taking him for the adequate offense.

Pavel Dorofeyev, Vegas Golden Knights (Yahoo: 0%)

With Jack Eichel undergoing surgery and out for at least another four weeks, the attention has turned to those who will benefit. Nicolas Roy (2% rostership) is the obvious selection as he's now slotted in as Vegas' No. 2 center. But let's look at Dorofeyev, who performed well as a part-timer last regular season. The current campaign could have been one to forget after a wave of underperformance and healthy scratches, yet he's back on track with a place on the first trio and power play. That alone should be enough to expand Dorofeyev's coverage numbers.

Defensemen

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 31%)

Fowler has operated as a workhorse throughout his 14-year career and peaked last season with 48 points. While the scoring isn't flowing as freely, he's set a personal-high average of 25:21. And since the departure of Jamie Drysdale, Fowler has moved up to Anaheim's lead power play, where he's notched nine PPAs overall. He's still managed a respectable 20 points, with eight since Dec. 17 to go with 23 shots and 20 blocks.

Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken (Yahoo: 2%)

The Kraken continue to balance their power play, allowing for more of their players to be fantasy-relevant. While Vince Dunn sits atop the blueline depth chart, others have been worked into the offense. Youngster Ryker Evans has gotten a look on both units along with the 33-year-old Schultz. The latter carries a long history of power-play production, including 13 points last season. Since returning from a seven-game injury/press box stint, Schultz has picked up two goals, three assists, 15 shots and 10 blocks. There's a possibility he could be pushed out of the lineup, though he remains a decent pickup for now.

Nils Lundkvist, Dallas Stars (Yahoo: 1%)

As mentioned in this column last week, Thomas Harley has added ice time and responsibilities to cover for the injured Miro Heiskanen. But Harley isn't the only Dallas defender to take advantage of the situation. Following a decent three-week run, Lundkvist became a healthy scratch for most of December. He jumped back into the active roster to record three helpers across two matchups, and he's occupied a larger role following Heiskanen's injury, skating just under 18 minutes a night. Lundkvist may end up the odd man out again with the star's upcoming return, so take the special-teams work and advanced placement while it lasts.

Alex Vlasic, Chicago Blackhawks (Yahoo: 1%)

The Blackhawks are minus a few forwards, yet their defense is mainly intact. Seth Jones missed over a month and got back on the ice Saturday. His latest partner has been Vlasic, who's accumulated four assists and 27 blocks the last three weeks while averaging 22:40. The duo recently teamed up on Chicago's top power play, where Vlasic is looking to build upon his first NHL power-play point, something he achieved earlier this month. He may not be a prime target, yet there are enough stats for him to qualify as a short-term rental, at the very least.

Goaltenders

Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes (Yahoo: 32%)

The Canes boast one of the league's deepest rosters, yet their goaltending has experienced issues and they currently sit 14th in GAA. Frederik Andersen has been sidelined since early November with no timetable as to when he'll be back. Pyotr Kochetkov left last Thursday's contest after suffering a concussion and has been placed on injured reserve. That leaves Raanta as Carolina's No. 1, which would have been a scary proposition considering the veteran was demoted mid-December after giving up a combined 23 goals the previous five appearances. But he settled in upon his return with three wins and only six goals allowed over four games. Raanta did let past five in just over two periods versus LA on Monday, but he's the Canes' top current option, and better results may come with the club hosting seven of the next eight games.

Sam Montembeault, Montreal Canadiens (Yahoo: 28%)

Cayden Primeau was discussed last week as someone who could receive more opportunities to assess his long-term potential, though he's only seen action once since. During that same stretch, Jake Allen notched a victory against Colorado and Montembeault covered the other three outings where he stopped 99 of 106 shots — which included a win in Jersey and a tough-luck OT defeat versus Edmonton. And that was preceded by a pair of Ws over the Stars and Rangers. Even with the Habs deploying three netminders, Montembeault should continue to be busy as the lead.

Players to consider from past columns: Pavel Zacha, Seth Jarvis, Ryan O'Reilly, Troy Terry, William Karlsson, Wyatt Johnston, Nick Schmaltz, Quinton Byfield, Owen Tippett, Gustav Nyquist, Jake DeBrusk, Josh Norris, Robert Thomas, Nazem Kadri, Joel Farabee, Cole Perfetti, Nikolaj Ehlers, Chandler Stephenson, Adam Fantilli, Mason McTavish, Dylan Strome, Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev, Charlie Coyle, Jonathan Drouin, Marco Rossi, Dawson Mercer, Nick Paul, Trevor Moore, Ryan Strome, John-Jason Peterka, Blake Coleman, Morgan Geekie, Yegor Sharangovich, Sean Couturier, Eeli Tolvanen, Oliver Bjorkstrand, David Perron, Kirill Marchenko, Rickard Rakell, Gabriel Vilardi, Dakota Joshua, Michael Bunting, Matias Maccelli, Alex Kerfoot, Alex Killorn, Jake Sanderson, Owen Power, Mike Matheson, Brock Faber, Filip Hronek, Scott Perunovich, Noah Hanifin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Thomas Harley, Jamie Drysdale, Neal Pionk, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Simon Nemec, Will Borgen, Connor Ingram, Martin Jones, Alex Lyon, Joey Daccord, Samuel Ersson, Lukas Dostal, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Anthony Stolarz, Petr Mrazek, Charlie Lindgren, David Rittich