Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Pavel Zacha tops the best free agent pickups

Owen Power #25 of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Defenseman Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres is one of the best pickups this week on the fantasy hockey waiver wire. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Being 0-3 in fantasy hockey isn't the end of the world. We're still early enough in the season where players who aren't living up to expectations can recover, and perhaps a few have already done so in the last few days. (I'm looking at you, Jason Robertson and Alex Tuch.)

There's a chance some stars can be acquired at a significant discount. The key is finding the right ones and willing trade partners. And then it's up to you to check the lines, trends and latest updates to see who's available — even if it's for someone on the wire.

Another batch of 14 names. Get them while most are still relatively under-rostered.

(Rostered rates as of Nov. 3)


Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Yahoo: 48%)

The retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci created a couple of vacancies on the Bruins' depth chart. Zacha set a career-high last season with 57 points. This year didn't start as promising as he only managed an assist from the first five games despite maintaining work on the top line and power play. Things have thankfully turned around for Zacha as he's posted six points in five games to go with 14 shots and 12 hits. That should keep him a permanent fixture in the top six and a valuable fantasy commodity.

Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers (Yahoo: 30%)

Like teammate Sean Couturier — who was mentioned here two weeks ago — Atkinson was inactive for over a year and has come back to register decent offensive totals. The former Blue Jacket is currently at six goals and three assists, with two of the latter on the power play. Atkinson has also fired 29 shots on net while logging 17:31 through 10 contests. And how can you say no to someone who participates on the first line and power play?

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets (Yahoo: 29%)

Everyone knows how talented Ehlers is, though injuries have prevented optimal production. Two goals and two assists across 10 matchups may not be exciting, yet both markers have come recently. Another encouraging sign involves his 20 shots from the last four games. Ehlers performed at almost a point-per-game pace the previous three seasons, so it's only a matter of time before he goes on another big run.

Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues (Yahoo: 24%)

St. Louis has only potted 15 goals across eight games, so it's amazing anyone on the roster has more than five points. And it's not a huge surprise that player would be Thomas, who's combined for 142 in the last two seasons. He continues to be the lead center, wins around 11 faceoffs a night, and ranks in the top 10 for NHL forwards in average ice time at 21:23. The Blues will continue to experience issues on the offensive end, but it's difficult to comprehend how someone the caliber of Thomas could be available in three of every four Yahoo leagues.

Wyatt Johnston, Dallas Stars (Yahoo: 22%)

Some predicted Johnston would immediately impress as a 19-year-old rookie, and he lived up to expectations, notching 24 goals and 17 assists while placing fifth in Calder Trophy voting. There were a couple of lulls over the campaign, but that's to be expected from any teenager who played an entire schedule. Johnston is already proving the freshman experience wasn't a fluke, as he's registered seven points and 19 shots while averaging just below 17 minutes.

Jaden Schwartz, Seattle Kraken (Yahoo: 21%)

Since starting with only three goals from the first four games, the Kraken have rediscovered their scoring ways with 25 in their last seven. Leading the surge during this latest period has been Schwartz, as he's racked up eight points, 25 shots and six blocks on 17:57 a night. He also tied for the lead among Seattle forwards in PPPs at four. As long as Schwartz doesn't run into any significant physical problems, he's good for 45-50 points, at least two pucks on net per game, and some man-advantage production.

Paul Cotter, Vegas Golden Knights (Yahoo: 15%)

Cotter battled through injury and a number of healthy scratches in his first full year to post 13 goals, 76 shots and 168 hits. He was moved up to a higher line soon after Opening Night and has fit in nicely with any linemate combination. The Michigan native has tallied three goals, three assists and 37 hits, with three of his six points coming on the power play. Cotter is currently on a unit with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson, but he could be anywhere within Vegas' top nine and still pull off a decent return.

Leo Carlsson, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 9%)

We're going to start with the biggest concern regarding Carlsson's on-ice involvement, and that's the selective scratches he's been given as a way of properly integrating him into the lineup. The unknown nature of this ends up scaring most poolies, as the 9% coverage shows. The thing is that when Carlsson has been in the lineup, he's looked brilliant at times. Like second-overall, otherworldly sensational. And through all the inactivity, the phenom has somehow averaged 18:45 and teams up with tremendous talents like Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and Mason McTavish. The offensive breakout will come — just be patient.


Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres (Yahoo: 48%)

The top pick from the 2021 draft didn't disappoint during his debut, finishing with 35 points and 130 shots while skating nearly 24 minutes a night. Power has maintained a similar workload in year two and is currently riding a four-game scoring streak where he's notched a goal, three assists and a plus-8. Hits aren't really part of his repertoire, though he's decent at blocking shots and deserves more coverage based on his offense alone.

Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche (Yahoo: 36%)

Staying healthy has been a problem for Byram the last two years, but he was outstanding when available averaging 0.57 points per contest. He didn't produce anything from the first four outings and has since chipped in with two goals and a helper. Byram has also recently picked up his shot frequency to go with overall tallies of 16 hits, 13 blocks and 14 PIM. That's a remarkable haul for any blueliner, let alone someone available in over 60 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Ivan Provorov, Columbus Blue Jackets (Yahoo: 21%)

The Blue Jackets overhauled their defense during the offseason with the addition of veterans Provorov and Damon Severson. The former's form dipped during the tail end of his Philly tenure, so a change of location seemed inevitable. Provorov has always logged a lot of ice time, and that's no different in Columbus. What's been even more positive are his eight assists, including four on the power play. Neither output seems sustainable long term, yet Provorov still participates in all situations and has posted almost three blocks a game.

Matt Roy, Los Angeles Kings (Yahoo: 15%)

Roy is more of a niche fantasy player in that he'll provide enough hits and blocked shots to last you a lifetime, though his other contributions can't be overlooked. Namely, the 19 pucks directed on net and the three assists from the last seven matchups, with one of those on the man-advantage. Roy doesn't maintain much of a power-play role, but there's a sizable short-handed spot while recording 21:13 per night.


Lukas Dostal, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 29%)

The Ducks experienced issues on the defensive end last year as they finished with the worst GAA despite an 18th-ranked save percentage. John Gibson has operated as their workhorse for most of the previous eight seasons while Dostal has waited for a larger share of the starts. He's now getting that chance, having made six appearances with wins in five and a 2.80/.920 line. Anaheim's young skaters have received plenty of press for their recent achievements, though Dostal has also performed well and should continue to see significant minutes in net.

Joel Hofer, St. Louis Blues (Yahoo: 3%)

Hofer got a taste of the NHL the last two seasons while impressing in the AHL. Jordan Binnington came into the current campaign on a rough run but opened with two victories and a shootout loss while stopping 94 of 98 shots. He's gone on to drop the last three on a combined 12 goals. Hofer kicked off his 2023-24 season by giving up six against Arizona and waited a week for his next start, where he managed to produce a shutout in Calgary. As the Blues will be at home for the next four games — including a back-to-back Friday and Saturday — and Binnington regressing, Hofer is in line for more opportunities.

Players to consider from past columns: Seth Jarvis, Ryan O'Reilly, Logan Cooley, William Karlsson, Bryan Rust, Ryan Hartman, Josh Norris, Evan Rodrigues, Ryan Johansen, Adam Fantilli, Dylan Strome, Trevor Moore, Sean Couturier, Jake Sanderson, Mike Matheson, Calen Addison, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pavel Mintyukov, Travis Sanheim, Juuso Valimaki, Karel Vejmelka, Jake Allen, Elvis Merzlikins, Petr Mrazek