This week, we take a look at some guys who have stepped up their game in the absence of others and unfortunately, those who haven’t and need to be dropped because of it.
Nino Niederreiter – RW (MIN)
The Minnesota Wild are having a terrific season and part of it is because of the contributions of right-winger Nino Niederreiter. In his last eight games, Niederreiter has put up five goals on the scoreboard while supplying four assists. Until two games ago against Nashville, Niederreiter was riding a four-game point streak, but he has started a new streak with his assist last night in a 3-2 win against Dallas. The overall totals for him this season sit at 14 goals and 19 assists and barring injury, he should easily surpass his career-highs in goals and assists of 24 and 23, respectively. In his last game against, he fired 2 shots on net, bringing his total to 15 in the last five games. He has even managed to draw a couple of penalties lately, so everything that matters in the fantasy world Niederreiter is getting done. Being linemates with Eric Staal has done wonders for his game and with Minnesota scoring on average 3.28 goals per game, look for his numbers to soar. Niederreiter can do lots of great things, so snag him if you can.
Thomas Greiss – G (NYI)
Following the move of putting starting goalie Jaroslav Halak on waivers, fellow goalie and backup-turned-starter Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders has thrived in his new role. Since taking over the reins from the departed Halak, Greiss has been outstanding, conceding two goals or fewer in eight of ten games. Though he has racked up just five wins in those ten games, three of the others went to overtime, so he is doing his job. The numbers for Greiss are pretty respectable too, as he sports a 13-7-3 record with a 2.31 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Greiss performed well in his last game against Columbus, holding their potent offense to two goals. Previously against Philadelphia, he made 44 saves in an overtime loss, and that came after two consecutive shutouts. Those performances were good enough to earn Greiss the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on Monday. Playing like he’s got something to prove, Greiss is worthy of starting on your team for his consistent efforts lately and really all season.
Jake Allen – G (STL)
After a hot start to the season and reeling off eight consecutive wins at one point, goaltender for the St. Louis Blues Jake Allen has cooled off significantly. After that eighth win in his streak, Allen held a record of 13-3-3, but since then, he has gone 4-9 since including three straight losses. Those last three games have been disastrous for Allen as he has given up at least three goals while getting pulled in favor of backup goalie Carter Hutton in each. Looking at the stats, his last win came on January 2nd and all of these poor starts have raised his GAA up to 2.85 and dropped his save percentage down to .897. Just passed the midpoint of the season in terms of games played, Allen already has 12 losses and has let 88 shots get by him when he finished last season with 15 losses and 101 goals against. Adding insult to injury, Allen has been given extra rest to clear his head and did not start once again last night against Pittsburgh. With all of his struggles, Allen is not guaranteed to be the starter moving forward, so don’t hesitate to cut ties with the youngster.
Morgan Rielly – D (TOR)
Good defensemen are hard to come by and unfortunately, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly falls into that category. After a hot start to the season with points in his first three games, Rielly has been a missing link for the Leafs, registering points in just 11 games since. More unsettling news for Rielly owners is that he missed the last three games due to injury and may miss a few more before all is said and done. Before getting hurt, he was averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time per contest and once he returns, that number is expected to decrease. In his three years of experience, Rielly has always finished the year with a negative plus/minus rating and with his current -5 rating, this year seems no different. The shots have not been there for Rielly either, as he has fired eight in his last six games including zero in his last game versus Buffalo. Currently, he is on a six-game pointless streak and has achieved two points since December 11th. Though his team has been playing well lately, for whatever reason, he has not and the journey with Rielly needs to end. Needless to say, Rielly is not worth taking up a roster spot at this time.
Jimmy Vesey – LW (NYR)
Hot out of the gates and enormously cold since, New York Rangers left-winger Jimmy Vesey is not a player to invest in right now. After his team’s first nine games, Vesey tallied five goals, but has scored just six in all the games since. Even worse, he has produced one goal since December 13th and has not as much as attained a point in his last nine appearances. As the Rangers have had Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad recently return from injuries, it has affected Vesey’s minutes, as he has had less than 10 minutes of ice time in two of the past five games. The negative plus/minus rating is piling up too, considering Vesey has not been on the ice when his team has scored more than when the opposition has scored since December 17th. The Rangers have some tough divisional rivals coming up next on the schedule, so it won’t get any easier for Vesey moving forward. Young players can become more reliable as they get older and with the recent lack of production, that may be the case with Vesey. With all of the Rangers playmakers, there is no reason to believe Vesey will right the ship, so part ways with him if you haven’t already.