Eastern Edge looks at some gems available on the waiver wire early in the season.
This week, the Eastern Edge will follow the lead of his Western counterpart and look at some potential waiver wire gems that may be available in your league.
Now is the perfect time to identify players who other owners in your league are reluctant to pull the trigger on. Here are half a dozen guys who could help you along in your quest to dominate your pool early this season.
Kyle Okposo, Right Wing, NY Islanders
Okay, so he's owned in 31 per cent of Yahoo! leagues, but the way I see it, he is available in 69 per cent of Yahoo! leagues. His linemates, John Tavares and Matt Moulson are taken in 100 percent and 97 per cent of Yahoo! leagues respectively.
Only 25 years old, Okposo scored 39 points in 65 games (49 points pro-rated) in his first full NHL season. In the following year, he hit for 52 points (2009-10), but has struggled to hit 45 points since then. In 2010-11, he recorded 20 points in 38 games, a 43 point pace and followed that with 24 goals and 45 points. Last year, he recorded 24 points in 48 games, a 41 point full season.
Okposo is receiving an average of 20:41 minutes per game, including top power play time. So even though he has exactly zero points after two games, he's still a great buy low candidate due to ice time, linemates and opportunity.
Tom Gilbert, Defence, Florida
Talk about going from the trash heap to potentially smelling like a rose. Gilbert was nearly left without a chair when the free agent music stopped playing after being bought out of his contract by the Wild this summer. He was finally invited to the Panthers camp in mid-September and won a one year contract.
Clearly the 30-year-old defender is not the same player who scored 45 points back in 2008-09 with the Oilers. He followed that career year with seasons of 31, 26, 22 and a pro-rated 25 points last year. He's found himself paired with Brian Campbell, who since coming to Florida in what was a salary dump trade by Chicago, has logged more regular season minutes than any other player in the entire NHL.
This season, Gilbert is averaging 23:22 minutes per game, including a whopping 5:18 per match on the power play. Many of you out there are thinking, "well, what about Dmitry Kulikov?" and you'd be right to think that. So far though, in Kulikov's first full game this year, he played 18:41 minutes overall, 4:11 on the power play. Gilbert played 22:03 minutes overall, including 5:55 with the man advantage. Clearly, Gilbert has the early season advantage on the Panthers power play and at only one per cent owned in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, he could be a nice waiver wire pick up right now.
Rene Bourque, Left Wing, Montreal
Surprisingly only owned by two per cent of Yahoo! owners. Has he really fallen that far out of favour amongst poolies? He recorded 13 points in 27 games last season before missing 21 games with a concussion. He has twice hit for 50 or more points and is only 31 years of age.
This year, he has been playing primarily with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta and averages 17:12 minutes per game. Even more important is that Bourque is also receiving first unit power play time, a sweet 4:55 minutes per game. He has one power play goal to his credit this season.
Matt Niskanen, Defence, Pittsburgh
A nice short term pick up while Kris Letang is out with a lower body injury might be Matt Niskanen. He is owned in only seven per cent of Yahoo! leagues and currently sits atop the Pens in team scoring with three points in his first two games. He also leads the team with a plus-4 rating.
In addition to receiving top four ice time, 20:14 minutes per contest, Niskanen is averaging 1:21 with the man advantage. While that is second amongst Pens defensemen and sixth overall on the team, it is clearly second unit minutes and won't last when Letang returns.
Don't expect Niskanen to put up big numbers, last year he scored at a 29 point pace and the year before that he had 21 points. In his best offensive season, he recorded 35 points with Dallas back in 2008-09. That should be considered his absolute upside this season, but he'll likely finish closer to 25 points than 35.
Nathan Gerbe, Center/Left Wing, Carolina
It will only take Eric Staal six games to make what Nate Gerbe will cost against the Canes cap for the entire year. After only two games, Gerbe sits ahead of the brothers Staal, both Eric and Jordan, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty in team scoring. Okay, that's a little over-dramatic because by game five, I fully expect ALL of those players save maybe Tlusty to be ahead of Gerbe in Hurricanes team scoring.
The talented, but tiny Gerbe is getting some love from his coach in the form of ice time, receiving 19:32 minutes per game, second only to Jordan Staal and averages 2:47 minutes per contest with the man advantage, fifth on the Canes. He's playing mostly with Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer. In his best NHL season, Gerbe recorded 31 points in only 64 games with Buffalo back in 2010-11, a 40 point pace. If he can maintain even second unit power play time, he could provide a decent return on investment this season. He is only owned in two per cent of Yahoo! leagues.
Frans Nielsen, Center, NY Islanders
Nielsen has a goal and an assist in two games so far this year. He's lining up with Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey, not exactly household names, yet if the line clicks you can reap the benefits.
Last year, Nielsen scored at a 50 point clip, recording 29 points in 48 games. The year before that, he sniped 47 points and the one before that, 44 points in 71 games. The 29-year-old Dane could be in for his best season yet and is only owned in five per cent of Yahoo! leagues.
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