Fantasy hockey: Players to add, backup goalies to consider

Kyle Palmieri is riding a three-game goal streak for the Islanders, who have won five straight. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With three games on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday and five contests Friday, only the Avalanche and Bruins are idle until the weekend. Some team schedules amongst contenders appear friendlier (the Panthers face Columbus and Buffalo) than others (the Jets visit Dallas and Colorado), while the list of clubs designated for the spoiler role grows. It's a gig that several players/teams appear to relish, such as Montreal's Juraj Slafkovsky -- who seems determined to rack up as much scoring as possible before next Tuesday -- or members of San Jose's top line, Mikael Granlund and rookie William Eklund. Calgary's Nazem Kadri, a point-per-game player since before Christmas, is also going down swinging, as expected.

For many of these fierce competitors, just because they're out of it doesn't mean they're done. Don't shy away from turning to such fantasy skaters on non-playoff contenders -- Chicago's Philipp Kurashev also comes to mind -- as long as they remain in their respective lineups. There's a lot to appreciate about the freedom of playing loose as well.

Note: Nursing a lower-body injury, Connor McDavid could miss Wednesday's game with Vegas. Check on the star's status ahead of puck-drop.

Stock Up

Brayden Schenn, F, St. Louis Blues (Available in 84% of ESPN leagues): The Blues need to beat the Blackhawks on Wednesday to maintain any sliver-slim hope of snagging a playoff spot. I'm not sure that they do, but I still like Schenn's odds of contributing to the scoresheet. The veteran forward is in a groove, with four goals and an assist in his past four games.

Semyon Varlamov, G, New York Islanders (Available in 87% of ESPN leagues): Winner of five of his past six dating to March 23, the Islanders' backup is helping keep his club in the Eastern playoff race. With wins over the likes of the Rangers, Predators (a 41-save shutout), Panthers and Jets, Varlamov is unquestionably playing his finest between the pipes right now. We'll see if coach Patrick Roy opts to offer the veteran his third straight start versus the Canadiens on Thursday after Tuesday's impressive 32-save victory over the Rangers.

Kyle Palmieri, F, Islanders (Available in 88% of ESPN leagues): On the topic of jazzed-up veteran Islanders, Palmieri, historically an impactful rise-to-the-occasion guy, also deserves credit for his club's recent surge to the third spot in the Metropolitan. Skating on a scoring line and secondary power play, the winger is riding a three-game goal streak, strung together on 13 shots (also adding an assist). Four contests remain on the Isles' schedule, including meetings with the Canadiens, Rangers, Devils and Penguins.

Philipp Grubauer, G, Seattle Kraken (Available in 92% of ESPN leagues): Winner of four of his past five -- mind you, against Arizona, Anaheim (twice) and San Jose -- Grubauer is rewarding his fantasy managers to close out 2023-24. Also know that Shane Wright scored again in that top-line role against the visiting Coyotes on Tuesday.

Tyler Bertuzzi, F, Toronto Maple Leafs (Available in 48% of ESPN leagues): Following a minor scoring lull this past week, Auston Matthews' linemate erupted for two goals and a helper in Tuesday's win over New Jersey. Ahead of next week's tour through Florida to face the Panthers and Lightning, the Maple Leafs battle the Devils again before welcoming Bertuzzi's old Red Wings on Saturday.

Stock Down

New Jersey Devils: It's over. The math no longer works. Jack Hughes is settling in for season-ending shoulder surgery. After securing only three of a possible 12 points these past two weeks, the Devils play the Leafs (again), Flyers and Islanders to wrap up a disappointing 2023-24.

Philadelphia Flyers: Rock bottom is right. The Flyers are 1-6-3 since March 21, averaging only 2.30 goals per game while conceding 4.70. Tuesday's 9-3 loss to the Canadiens was deflatingly bad. Apart from a shot-blocking defender like Nick Seeler, Philadelphia isn't exactly teeming with attractive fantasy performers right now.

Streamer Specials

Dustin Wolf, G, Calgary Flames (Available in 98% of ESPN leagues): I might consider streaming Wolf against the Ducks on Friday night. The 22-year-old was good enough in Tuesday's 3-2 comeback, overtime win against San Jose.

Calvin Pickard, G, Edmonton Oilers (Available in 87% of ESPN leagues): Edmonton's No. 2 could make for a smart streaming play versus Arizona on Friday ahead of Saturday's big tilt with Vancouver. The Oilers still have a shot at securing top spot in the Pacific.

Kevin Lankinen, G, Nashville Predators (Available in 99% of ESPN.com leagues): Toss out that one ugly showing versus the Avs, and Nashville's other netminder has been altogether solid since mid-February. Consider streaming Lankinen on Friday against his former club in Chicago or versus the Blue Jackets or Saturday, however the starts fall.