Waiver watch: Fantasy hockey sleepers available right now

Neal Pionk's shot deflects in off Morgan Barron (0:49)

The Jets get the scoring started with Morgan Barron's deflection in the first period. (0:49)

A third of the way through the season, the fantasy hockey finish-line is beginning to appear, however faintly, on the horizon. We're well past the point of waiting for players to "warm up" or hit their "true potential" at this stage. Perhaps aside from a precious few exceptions, players have had enough time to show us who they actually are in 2023-24. If it's not happening for them already, it's probably not happening. Irrespective of fantasy pedigree, position, and/or name value.

In that spirit, give some thought to finally shuffling an under-performing body (or two) off your fantasy roster in exchange for a less-recognized asset who is, in fact, getting it done. Here's a suggested few figures - every single one of them available in more than half of ESPN.com leagues - worth permanent or temporary investment. A good handful of them hardly spoken for at all.

Nicolas Roy, F, Vegas Golden Knights (rostered in 5.9% of ESPN Fantasy leagues): Yes, I realize that Jack Eichel is projected to return from injury sometime in the foreseeable future, but Vegas' top center doesn't appear ready yet. So it's worth discussing that, in Eichel's stead - on that Golden Knights' No. 1 line between Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Marchessault - Roy is trooping along at a much-better-than-point-per-game pace with three goals and 11 assists in 10 contests. In fact, the 27-year-old only failed to register a single point once since Jan. 13, Eichel's first missed game. So, even if it's for a good fantasy time instead of a long one, why not reap all that Roy is sowing for now?

Anthony Cirelli, F, Tampa Bay Lightning (6.1% rostered): Settling in a recent grove, the Lighting's second-line center boasts three goals and nine assists in his most recent 10 games - which helps to add up to more fantasy points than accrued by both Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos over the same stretch. The gifted two-way center is also logging heavy minutes at even-strength and with the extra skater.

Kyle Palmieri, F, New York Islanders (10.3% rostered): The veteran forward is clearly in one of his moods. With a storied inclination for producing in hunks and chunks, Palmieri is on one of his points runs, with four goals and three helpers through six contests. He also fired seven shots on net in one of those contests, and 11 in another. While the production will probably dry up once more, at some point, you may as well take advantage of this inspired flurry for as long as it lasts.

Shane Pinto, F, Ottawa Senators (16.6% rostered): After sitting out half the season, this young skater is clearly thrilled to be back to the business of playing hockey, as suggested by his two goals and four assists on 12 shots in three recent games. Centering a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and empty-net enthusiast Ridly Greig, Pinto is also carving out a role for himself on the Senators' top power play. While he hasn't statistically figured into any of the five goals scored with the extra skater since his return, those special teams points will also come soon enough as well.

Adam Henrique, F, Anaheim Ducks (34.8% rostered): As discussed earlier this week, Henrique is averaging hefty fantasy points - 2.6/contest in ESPN.com standard leagues since Jan. 15 - while competing on a scoring line with Leo Carlsson. He's worth plugging into most rosters for now. Then take a fresh look, if/when he's traded elsewhere. It's also worth noting that the Ducks are active more often when the majority of the league is idle. Hacking the schedule, and all that.

Ondrej Palat, F, New Jersey Devils (3.0% rostered): A titch under the weather at present, Palat is otherwise serving as a fantasy delight since returning from a lower-body injury in late January. Competing on a dynamite scoring line with Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, the 32-year-old veteran has three goals and three assists - plus eight blocked shots - in his seven games back. Which works out to 2.2 fantasy points/contest in standard ESPN Fantasy leagues. He certainly merits rostering in deeper leagues.

Ben Chiarot, D, Detroit Red Wings (45.9% rostered): He's back! Hitting and blocking shots with gusto. After losing five dates to injury, Chiarot is eight-blocked shots and one assist to the good in his two-game, and counting, return. The defender merits rostering in most leagues that reward physical play. Especially since he also pitches in a few points here and there.

Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Carolina Hurricanes (36.6% rostered): First off, the 24-year-old is a good enough goaltender who plays for a better-than-good playoff-bound team. Plus, he's going to compete plenty in the foreseeable future while Antti Raanta is sidelined week-to-week, and Frederik Andersen remains without a firm timetable for return. A recent 34-save shutout of the Devils also bolsters the argument that drawing Kochetkov into your own fantasy fold is at least worth thinking about.

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