By Neil Parker, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
Another NHL season is almost in the books, and it’s particularly important to pay attention to the latest news this time of year. Teams are shutting down injured players, youngsters are receiving extended opportunities and there will be plenty of mismatches to capitalize on over the next week.
Here’s the schedule for the next scoring period, April 2-8:
Two games: Penguins
Four games: Sabres, Panthers, Wild, Senators, Blues, Jets
All other teams play three games
Remember to keep an eye on who is cut in your leagues because potential upgrades come in all forms. Also, note the players previously covered in this space listed below this week’s recommendations.
(Yahoo ownership rates as of March 29.)
Kyle Connor, WPG (38 percent): Aside from a road game against Toronto, the Jets have five cushy matchups to wrap up the season. Connor has caught fire again with seven goals, nine points and 25 shots through his past seven outings. He’s also connected with linemates Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler for a strong 3.82 goals per 60 minutes over 659:52 of shared ice time.
Nick Bjugstad, FLA (39 percent): The Panthers have seven games remaining on the schedule, which gives Bjugstad some extra value. He continues to skate on the No. 1 line with Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov, and the 25-year-old winger has remained dangerous with 15 shots through his past four contests.
Boone Jenner, CLM (20 percent): The 24-year-old winger has been a force since joining Alexander Wennberg and Thomas Vanek at even strength, as Jenner has recorded six goals, five assists, 28 shots, 31 hits and a plus-13 rating through his past 10 contests. That level of cross-category production is difficult to find, and Columbus is also peaking at the right time. The Blue Jackets have a soft upcoming schedule with Calgary, Vancouver and Detroit on deck, too.
Bryan Little, WPG (25 percent): While his recent numbers don’t jump off the page, Little has still managed to record two goals, three assists and 12 shots through his past six games. Being pushed down the depth chart to the third line will provide softer five-on-five matchups, and he’s still receiving consistent power-play time with the No. 2 unit. As noted, it’s a favorable closing schedule for Winnipeg, too.
Thomas Vanek, CLM (17 percent): Relocating to Columbus has been a fantasy boon for Vanek, as he’s marked the scoresheet in eight of his past 10 outings for seven goals, six assists and 33 shots. The veteran has been particularly productive since joining Alexander Wennberg and Boone Jenner, and the trio boasts a jaw-dropping 8.37 goals and 16.21 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes.
Chris Kreider, NYR (37 percent): Two games removed from a five-game point streak that consisted of three goals, seven assists and 11 shots, Kreider is gaining momentum heading into the final week of the season. He also helps in the PIM and hit columns, and despite suiting up for just 54 games, he’s just a single power-play point shy of his previous career high of 13.
Valentin Zykov, CAR (1 percent): After recording 32 tallies and 20 helpers through 61 games in the AHL, Zykov has impressed with three goals, two assists and 11 shots through five games since being recalled to Carolina. It’s a small sample size, but he’s also been skating on an encouraging line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen at five-on-five of late. Zykov is definitely worth a look in deep settings.
Shea Theodore, VGK (19 percent): While his four-game point streak was snapped Wednesday, Theodore is still a strong add. He’s recorded a goal, four assists and 17 shots while averaging 21:29 of ice time (2:05 on the power play) through his past five outings, and the final three games of the season for the Golden Knights are against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames.
Josh Morrissey, WPG (14 percent): Another Jet to consider because of the friendly upcoming schedule, Morrissey has climbed to a top-pairing role with Tyler Myers. The 2013 first-round pick isn’t going to impress in any one category, but he tilts the scales across all columns. Just note that his floor is probably more attractive than his ceiling.
Vince Dunn, STL (2 percent): The Blues have won six consecutive games to return to the thick of the wild-card race in the Western Conference, and Dunn’s play has certainly been a huge help. The rookie has recorded a goal, seven assists, three power-play points and 19 shots through 11 March games, and he’s also been promoted to the second pairing with Colton Parayko.
Marcus Pettersson, ANA (1 percent): The rookie has collected three assists through his past five games and is receiving power-play looks with the second unit. Anaheim has four straight home games before visiting Arizona to finish the season, so in deep settings, Pettersson is an add candidate.
Ethan Bear, EDM (1 percent): The rookie has been quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit of late and recorded a two-point night against Anaheim on Sunday. Bear was an accomplished scorer for WHL Seattle, and he’s also shown some notable peripheral coverage with nine shots, 11 blocked shots and four PIM through his past four games.
Keith Kinkaid, NJD (28 percent): With a 12-3-0 record, .930 save percentage and 2.36 GAA through 16 appearances dating back to mid-February, Kinkaid has been an excellent fantasy asset. He’s leapfrogged Cory Schneider, and with New Jersey battling for a playoff berth, expect Kinkaid to continue receiving the majority of starts.
Anton Khudobin, BOS (28 percent): The Bruins have two back-to-back sets remaining on the schedule, and Khudobin has recorded a 15-6-1 record, .915 save percentage and 2.53 GAA for the campaign. Additionally, considering the Bruins continue to add healthy bodies back to their lineup, the Russian backstop should snap his current four-game losing streak.
Michal Neuvirth, PHI (8 percent): While there’s a chance Neuvirth aggravated his lower-body injury in his return to action Wednesday, he’s still on the fantasy radar. The Flyers have four games next week, and if the Czech netminder is healthy, he’ll likely draw at least one start.
Players to consider from past columns: Matt Duchene, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mika Zibanejad, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala, Sam Reinhart, Derek Stepan, Tom Wilson, Zach Parise, Travis Konecny, Max Domi, Alexander Wennberg, Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, Oskar Lindblom, Sami Vatanen, Matt Niskanen, Brandon Montour, Mike Matheson, Neal Pionk, Dylan DeMelo, Nikita Zadorov, Alexander Edler, Antti Raanta, Casey DeSmith, Curtis McElhinney, Juuse Saros, Philipp Grubauer, James Reimer, Alexandar Georgiev, Antti Niemi, Jacob Markstrom, Malcolm Subban.