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Overlooked players who could decide titles

Overlooked players who could decide titles

Special to Yahoo Sports

If you’ve made the playoffs in your fantasy league, congratulations! The hard part now begins, and that’s bringing home the championship. The end of the season can be a tough time to figure out. After the Rangers acquired Patrick Kane, the assumption was that they would transform into a bona fide Cup contender, but that hasn’t been the case. On the other hand, you have a team like the Predators, who were hit by injuries and dealt some veteran players, only to increase their points percentage and seemingly unearth a top-six center in Tommy Novak.

Here are eight under-the-radar players who could help you bring home the championship.

Tommy Novak, C, Predators

Since the trade deadline, Novak has been the Predators’ top-scoring forward with 17 points in 15 games, leading the team in points per game. Novak is averaging 16 minutes per game, playing on the top line and on the top power-play unit with Matt Duchene. Ryan Johansen‘s leg injury, Mikael Granlund‘s move to Pittsburgh and Cody Glass‘ low-ceiling offense paved the way for Novak to be the team’s best scoring option at center, and he’s since run away with the job. He scored the game-winner Tuesday against the Wings, adding three shots, and won 75 percent of his faceoffs.

While Novak has battled Juuso Parssinen for the top job at certain points, Parssinen’s injury and Novak’s strong play has made the decision very easy for John Hynes. Look for Novak to finish the season as one of the Preds’ top scorers, as he’s already tied Johansen for fourth in scoring on the team despite playing 21 fewer games. Entering Tuesday’s game, Novak and Duchene combined for a 54.15 5v5 CF% and 71 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, compared to 47.81 5v5 CF% and 57 shot attempts for Johansen and Duchene, per naturalstattrick.com.

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Everyone knows about Clayton Keller, who has been excellent over the past two months with 30 points in 18 games, but how about his linemates? Schmaltz is day-to-day with an injury but since last season has scored at a 0.93 points per game pace, tied with the likes of Timo Meier and Claude Giroux. Brett Ritchie has skated in Schmaltz’s spot and it certainly dampens the line’s effectiveness, but look for Schmaltz to return to this line once he’s healthy.

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