Special to Yahoo Sports
Congrats to Canada for taking out the Russians to win the World Junior Championship. And don't worry, American fans, your team looks promising for next year — even in the projected Group of Death with Russia and Sweden.
But that tournament is in the past and the NHL version represents the present and future. Let’s help make your fantasy teams better with this week’s waiver-wire suggestions.
(Yahoo ownership rates/stats as of Jan. 9.)
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (28 percent owned)
As Taylor Hall was dealt and Jack Hughes hasn't yet struck fear in the hearts of NHL opposition, other Devils have been asked to pick up the scoring slack. One is Hischier, who combined for 99 points in his first two seasons. The 2017 No. 1 pick has endured a couple mini-slumps along the way, but is heating up with five goals and five assists in his last 10 games. Hischier is also centering Jersey's first even-strength and power-play units, so his Yahoo rostered percentage should be higher.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens (22 percent)
After a sour end to Kovalchuk's career in the Garden State and a failed L.A. comeback, his arrival in Montreal may have left some skeptical. And then it was announced Monday the Russian star would make his Habs' debut that evening AND skate significant minutes. In two games, Kovy has produced three assists, five shots, eight hits and two blocks, averaging 20:23 — including 4:14 with the extra man. The two-month layoff could affect him in the long run, but there's no good reason to leave him on the wire now.
Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs (20 percent)
Many will associate Kapanen with the gold-medal winning goal at the 2016 WJC, but he's also excelled as a pro. He racked up 92 points in 115 AHL outings after the trade from Pittsburgh, but it wasn't until last season when he broke through at the top level. Kapanen operates on Toronto's third line, but he's recorded two goals, six assists and 17 shots in the most recent seven. He's moved around the lineup and occasionally participates on the man-advantage, so he should continue to contribute.
Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (12 percent)
Backlund struggled to start the season, with only four points from 17 games. He's recovered somewhat, but still appears to be off the 48-point average from the previous four campaigns. The Flames' lines have switched up due to inconsistency, with the most recent alignments showing Backlund alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau (though that could quickly change again). He's also supplying stats on the second power play and main shorthanded group — including a pair of SHGs the last two weeks.
Marcus Johansson, Buffalo Sabres (5 percent)
We profiled Johansson in mid-October as someone who possessed offensive upside but often succumbed to injury. Naturally, he'd repeat that trend with five points in the next nine appearances and an immediate seven-game stint on the sidelines. He has recently picked up the pace with an impressive run of six in the last four. And thanks to Victor Olofsson's ankle injury, Johansson's value has been enhanced via a promotion to the Sabres' first man-advantage.
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers (4 percent)
Following a stellar junior career, Yamamoto could only replicate similar stats in the AHL. Unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy enough the last two years to display much of his talent. And after posting 16 points in 23 minor-league matchups, Yamamoto was called up by the Oilers before the new year. The Spokane, Wash., native has enjoyed his time so far, with two goals, an assist, 13 hits and a plus-4 from his first four. If he sticks, he'll eventually be included on the power play. But until then, a second-line role with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have to do.
Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators (1 percent)
Like Yamamoto, Batherson has succeeded outside the NHL. One can see the skills through the 77 QMJHL points from 51 regular-season contests in 2017-18 or the 62 in 59 the following year in Belleville. In his extended trial with the Sens last season, Batherson registered three goals and six assists in 20 games. Another 41 in 33 in the AHL warranted a return trip to Ottawa, where he's lined up on the second unit during both five-on-five and man-advantage.
Daniel Sprong, Anaheim Ducks (1 percent)
And we conclude the forward portion with yet another youngster who hasn't yet realized full-time big-league duty. But Sprong represents the grizzled veteran of the three, considering he suited up 18 times as an 18-year-old in 2015-16 while in Pittsburgh. He showed flashes of flair last season with 19 points in 47 outings after arriving in Anaheim. He is in a favorable situation as a member of the Ducks' top group in multiple situations — where he's tallied a PPG while averaging 2:43 of power-play time.
Radko Gudas, Washington Capitals (28 percent)
Point producer has never been the best way to describe Gudas. After all, he's never hit anything higher than 23 in any campaign. But somehow, he is already up to 14 — including seven in the last 12 games. That run is bound to tail off as the season progresses, but Gudas will remain fantasy relevant as he's also picked up 34 PIM, 122 hits and 54 blocks to go with a plus-21.
Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings (26 percent)
At 22, Hronek already sits atop the Detroit D depth chart. Since the beginning of December, he's amassed 10 points, 27 shots, 35 hits and 23 blocks in more than 24 minutes per night. Like any other Red Wing recommendation, there's the implied warning concerning plus-minus — and Hronek's no exception with a minus-18. But his major attacking role should sway the other 70-plus percent of Yahoo participants to at least consider making the pickup.
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks (23 percent)
The Ducks may not be the offensive juggernaut from their heyday, but they can provide sufficient stat sources. It's amazing to realize Fowler peaked in points with 40 as an 18-year-old rookie. Assorted injuries mainly got in the way, but he's generally served as a dependable blueliner over the years — at least when it comes to power-play production. Fowler has not disappointed in the last 21 games with 14 points — including five PPPs — 50 shots, and 25 blocks.
Erik Cernak, Tampa Bay Lightning (10 percent)
Tampa Bay exploded for nine goals Tuesday and Cernak managed a goal and an assist. That's pretty much a dream situation the 6-foot-3, 233-pounder, as he's collected a whopping eight points in 39 matches. To his credit, Cernak has also fired 77 pucks on net, connected on 95 hits and blocked 54 shots. If the Bolts can continue their resurgence, he's bound to collect additional useful stats merely by standing on the ice.
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (14 percent)
The hottest thing to appear in NYC since sliced pizza made his long-awaited debut Tuesday. And Shesterkin didn't disappoint the home crowd by stopping 29 of 32 shots in a victory over the always-dangerous Avalanche. Even at 24, he had already played six years in the KHL and dominated, finishing with a 1.11 GAA and .953 save percentage during the final season. Those numbers "deflated" to 1.93 and .932 in the AHL, prompting the summoning of the heir to Henrik Lundqvist's throne. Based on all the hype and excellent efforts, you figure the Rangers should at least let Shesterkin prove himself on hockey's biggest stage.
Adin Hill, Arizona Coyotes (6 percent)
Darcy Kuemper went down in mid-December, yet the club has only allowed 20 goals in the eight games since. And Antti Raanta left Saturday's game, but could be back by the weekend. That's left Hill, who appeared 13 times last season, as Arizona's top netminder. He earned his first W of the year Tuesday at Florida and should cover the crease for most of any upcoming action. Based on how solid the Coyotes' D has been all year, you might as well grab Hill before either of the two main netminders return.
Players to consider from past columns: Brock Nelson, Bo Horvat, Clayton Keller, Sam Reinhart, Patric Hornqvist, Nazem Kadri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zach Parise, Andre Burakovsky, Ondrej Palat, Phillip Danault, Alex Killorn, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Strome, Robby Fabbri, Bryan Rust, Jordan Eberle, Gustav Nyquist, Nikita Gusev, Christian Dvorak, Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, Oscar Klefbom, Neal Pionk, Jakob Chychrun, Sami Vatanen, John Marino, Alex Goligoski, Anthony DeAngelo, Samuel Girard, Nick Leddy, Adam Fox, Tristan Jarry, Jonathan Quick, MacKenzie Blackwood, Jaroslav Halak, Elvis Merzlikins, Linus Ullmark, Aaron Dell