Head-to-head category leagues are unique in that one goal, one shot, one number of a save percentage can truly be the difference between winning or losing an entire week. With that in mind, here’s a new mid-season roundup of fantasy’s underrated category giants who can help pin down a particular area, with no weighted points or formulas in play. The contestants who are both widely available on the ESPN.com spectrum and do not serve as fantasy passives otherwise. As usual, managers in the Roto and H2H points leagues should also find the following useful.
Michael Bunting, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs (registered in 14.6% of ESPN.com leagues): There are worse positions to occupy than on a high-scoring line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Just ask Bunting, who has scored eight goals in his last 11 games, including a hat-trick against the Red Wings on Jan. 29. the former rookie has 15 goals and 17 assists on the year, including four points with the extra skater. Averaging a fantastic 2.23 points/game since Jan. 15 – largely due to his recent propensity for finding the back of the net – Bunting could be more productive over the next 10 days. The Maple Leafs will face the Penguins, Blues, Canadiens, Blue Jackets, Wild and Red Wings between Feb. 17-26.
See also: Jeff Skinner, LW, Buffalo Sabers (15.2%)
Damon Severson, D, New Jersey Devils (20.6%): Guilty of a few defensive errors of late, Severson has nonetheless been throwing in assists at a remarkably steady pace. Seventeen of them in 22-plus games, to be precise. If you need a boost in the assists and/or power play points department, consider leaning on the New Jersey defender as your fantasy streaming option. At least until Dougie Hamilton returns from his jaw injury, which admittedly could be any day now.
Viktor Arvidsson, LW/RW, Los Angeles Kings (22.7%): The Kings winger has been firing up a storm, all season long and especially lately, averaging 3.9 shots/game since New Year’s Day. He also completes a point/game during that streak, with seven goals and nine assists (plus seven). The former Predator is enjoying a memorable season all around his new California digs, humming along at a fantastic 1.9 points/game, and yet he sits there; disappeared in more than three quarters of the ESPN.com leagues.
Calvin de Haan, D, Chicago Blackhawks (9.4%): Look no further than the Blackhawks blue line for an abundance of blocked shots, epitomized by two elite players in that department (maybe even three, if you want to count Jake McCabe). Leading the NHL with 4.4/game since mid-January, de Haan not only makes a difference in H2H category competition, but just about any fantasy league that rewards blocked shots. Fellow Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy — listed in 23.1% of the ESPN.com leagues — is another solid asset, with some extra runs and hits to boot. The aforementioned McCabe also has value in the deeper leagues and is extremely available.
Christopher Tanev, D, Calgary Flames (3.1%): Recording three goals and five assists himself, the top-four ranked defenseman has a plus-18 differential in his last 11 games with the Flames. The 32-year-old veteran also leads his group in blocked shots (77) this season. While you weren’t going to drop a fuller asset just to gain a few positive ticks in this category, Tanev might be worth picking up on dropping an equally modest commodity. It should also be noted that the veteran defender is enjoying the most productive campaign of his career. And, again, this Calgary club is hot right now.
Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey (67.9%): With identical win rates of 54.9%, only Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby has had more faceoffs (288 to 246) than the Devils center in 13 games since Jan. 16. Hischier also had six goals, two assists, 27 shots and 11 blocked shots – a good number for a forward – in that span. Although the No. 1 draft pick (2017) is only available in a third of the ESPN.com leagues, it might otherwise be worth a trade offer. Especially in leagues that reward success in the point.
The keeper wins
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (45.4%): To win, they have to play first, right? While Jordan Binnington remains largely on the sidelines, the Blues’ current No.1 is playing – and winner – many. Posting a .946 SV%, Husso has come out on top in six of his last seven starts and is looking to go a few more in the foreseeable future. St. Louis will face the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Flyers, Sabers and Blackhawks by the end of February. Outside of this Saturday’s tilt in Toronto, it’s shaping up to be an extremely friendly schedule. Husso also serves as a flagship in the GAA category. All in all, I’m a bit surprised that this fantastic, high-performance netminder is still available.
See also: Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (31.7%)
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators (6.0%): The victories do not weigh too heavily? Goals conceded are not so embarrassing? So investing in a solid goalkeeper in a more porous team defensively is not the worst idea. Murray, for example, who faced the sixth-most shots in the league since Jan. 15, despite playing one to three games less than the five-plus. The calculation is specifically for 35 shots against / occupied contests. And, more importantly, Ottawa’s top goaltender has stopped a good majority of them. Prior to Tuesday’s less impressive performance against the Blues, Murray was posting a .949 SV percentage in nine starts from Jan. 13-Feb. 13. Not bad. Scheduled to skip Thursday’s contest in Buffalo, he is expected to return soon from an undisclosed illness.