Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Last call for Bryan Rust & Josh Norris

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Overreacting isn't the answer — at least not yet. There's the temptation to chuck a few notable names who've underperformed so far, and that's understandable. But that's not highly recommended if their lineup position remains strong and the underlying numbers indicate upcoming upward movement.

Let's check on a couple of players who seem to be trending in the right direction while still being widely available in Yahoo! formats.

(Rostered rates as of Oct. 20)


Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins (Yahoo: 50%)

Rust has never been an elite scorer, but he's been blessed through most of his career having teamed up with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or both. He's still alongside Sid at even-strength, though he now participates on Pittsburgh's serviceable second power play. Rust's main selling point from the last four seasons may be affected, yet he's still recorded four goals, 12 shots and six blocks while his ice time remains substantial.

Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators (Yahoo: 49%)

By the time you read this, Norris' roster rate should exceed 50 percent. That'll happen after he returned to the lineup Wednesday having missed the first three games and was immediately installed on the lead man-advantage to tally a PPG in addition to another goal while firing three pucks on net and winning five faceoffs. Ottawa's forward corps is deep, so Norris would be surrounded by excellent talent as long as he stays within the first three trios.

Evan Rodrigues, Florida Panthers (Yahoo: 43%)

Preseason chatter claimed Rodrigues would open the season with Aleksander Barkov and hold a place on the first power play, but I didn't buy it. I had him targeted in the RotoWire Staff Hockey League auction, but I hesitated. Then on Saturday, Rodrigues made me look like an idiot by racking up two goals, two assists and five shots. Like Rust, he's no stranger to star linemates from his days with the Pens and Avs. Someone like Carter Verhaeghe could eventually assume Florida's lead left winger role, but it's Rodrigues' job to lose.

Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Yahoo: 21%)

Betcha didn't know Lafreniere was the first player selected in 2020! (Just kidding, of course. It's just amazing how many stories about him where that fact is brought up multiple times.) The phenom who torched the QMJHL and dominated a WJC may not yet have lived up to the lofty expectations, but let's remember he's still only 22. Lafreniere displayed potential last season on a line with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, and now gets a regular place on the opposite wing from Artemi Panarin. The visible output — one goal, four shots — hasn't been awe-inspiring, yet reports from coaches and analysts have been praising his effort and hockey IQ.

Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings (Yahoo: 15%)

Copp's functioned as a solid middle-six forward throughout his time in the NHL. He's never been asked to lead the offense, but he's been more valuable in fantasy than some may realize. His 42 points and 120 shots last year weren't half bad, and after some shuffling in Detroit during the offseason, Copp functions as the second center in tandem with J.T. Compher (38 percent). The duo have looked great together with the former up to three goals — two of those Wednesday — an assist, 17 shots, five blocks and 21 faceoff wins.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers (Yahoo: 15%)

For someone who missed over 20 months, Couturier sure looks comfortable carrying a heavy workload again. 20:45 a night with lead places on both special-teams units hasn't fazed him so far. Philly hasn't been a strong attacking side, so Couturier's four points and nine shots are great. And he's continued his prowess at the dot by averaging 11 faceoff wins per appearance. The reintegration of Couturier could be key for the Flyers on their road to regain respectability, so you may want to give him a go.

Kirill Marchenko, Columbus Blue Jackets (Yahoo: 12%)

The addition of Adam Fantilli at the Draft and re-introduction of Alexandre Texier should be an offensive boost for the Blue Jackets along with the development of some of their younger forwards, including Marchenko. The 23-year-old made a splash upon his debut with 21 goals across 59 matchups. Marchenko immediately gelled with some of the bigger names and has received the same treatment besides Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner. He hasn't found the back of the net yet, though three helpers and 10 shots will do for now. Columbus is also set for five games over the next nine days, which makes Marchenko and anybody else within the top six a great short-term option.

Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders (Yahoo: 3%)

On the topic of organizations who've recently experienced issues scoring, the Isles have only delivered four goals through two contests. The sample size is obviously small, yet there's less hope their drought can turn around since the lineup hasn't improved, at least on paper. But as this column often highlights, you can never discount the importance of regular power-play minutes. Palmieri once registered six consecutive campaigns with at least 11 PPPs and is currently situated on the first group where he's managed an assist. That's at least worth a flier.


Mike Matheson, Montreal Canadiens (Yahoo: 33%)

Finding top power-play blueliners often works well in fantasy, even on weaker teams. The Habs are coming off a 29th-place ranking in PP percentage and have successfully scored only once in 11 attempts. Matheson was involved in that one goal after notching nine PPAs as the lead last year and is surrounded by talented forwards like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. He's also Montreal's workhorse, averaging 25:37 thanks to a sizable short-handed role while picking up nine shots and 11 blocks.

Jonas Siegenthaler, New Jersey Devils (Yahoo: 16%)

Siegenthaler isn't the sexiest selection, but he's a fine complementary piece on a strong squad. He opened his account with a three-assist, four-hit, three-block performance against Detroit. Siegenthaler will never be a great point producer and won't be seen on the man-advantage, though he thrives in the physical areas and on the penalty kill while benefiting by skating alongside an offensive talent in Dougie Hamilton. Pick him up if you're searching for someone to fill supplementary categories and occasionally chip in a bit on the scoresheet.

Calen Addison, Minnesota Wild (Yahoo: 7%)

As mentioned with Matheson, it's beneficial to roster PP QBs. But does that still apply to a D-man whose fantasy value is significantly tied to that situation? In the case of Addison last season, 18 of his 29 points were achieved there. He's currently at two assists, with the latest coming Tuesday while up a man, where he logged 9:32 of his 19:31 for the night. Addison may be light in most other areas, but you can't ignore what he offers on the power play, especially if that's an area you're looking to improve.

Pavel Mintyukov, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 3%)

Mintyukov was drafted 10th overall in 2022 and has already jumped into the Ducks' lineup. After starring in the OHL for two years and with the franchise somewhat weak offensively on the back end, it was deemed the 19-year-old was good enough to skip the minors. Based on initial returns, that assessment seems to have been wise. Mintyukov potted his first NHL goal Sunday while contributing an assist, six shots, six hits and five blocks in three outings while stepping up to Anaheim's top power play on Thursday. It's still early, but at worst he's a decent stash/dynasty candidate.


Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Yahoo: 45%)

Stuart Skinner came in as the presumed No. 1 in Edmonton after a spectacular rookie campaign alongside Campbell's subpar stats. The first two games against Vancouver were awful for both, as the veteran was pulled after giving up four goals in the opener while the youngster matched that total in relief and proceeded to let past another four in Game 2. Campbell got the nod Tuesday in Nashville and impressed with 43 saves, then received mixed reviews in a 4-1 defeat to the Flyers. That combination probably doesn't guarantee him the top job, though a solid share of the starts behind one of the league's premier offenses should eventually result in plenty of wins.

Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (Yahoo: 29%)

One wouldn't immediately consider endorsing any netminder from the club that ranked 31st in GAA and 29th in save percentage last season, yet Merzlikins has looked excellent so far, stopping 57 of 60 shots. He left Saturday's contest versus the Rangers due to illness and didn't appear on Monday but has been deemed fit enough to return. As detailed earlier, the Blue Jackets play five games in nine days — with three against weaker scoring sides — so Merzlikins will at least be busy and valuable enough in formats that count saves.

Players to consider from past columns: Seth Jarvis, Ryan O'Reilly, Logan Cooley, Nick Paul, Ryan Johansen, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Donato, Jake Sanderson, Jamie Drysdale, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arber Xhekaj, Karel Vejmelka, Anton Forsberg