The race for fantasy hockey MVP is heating up.  

Trust me when I say there’s a plethora of bona fide contenders, even if it’s a fictious badge of honour.

The big two in Edmonton deserve some love. So do Nazem Kadri, Auston Matthews and Jonathan Huberdeau. And what about Igor Shesterkin? The Rangers netminder has a legitimate shot of becoming just the fifth player in NHL history to win the Hart and the Vezina trophies in the same season.

Shoutout to Cale Makar and the red-hot J.T. Miller as well.

Any way you slice it, fantasy owners have been blessed this season with some unbelievable performances. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

1. Jack Hughes won’t be in the running, but my goodness, how hot has the Devils star been lately? The 20-year-old phenom has nine points in four outings since the All-Star break and is now up to 15 goals and 36 points in 32 games. Suffice it is to say, move heaven and earth to acquire Hughes, who should be viewed as a top-50 file moving forward this season.

2. Along those lines, if you’re looking for a value buy on the back end right now, look no further than Dougie Hamilton. After missing nearly two months with a broken jaw, the 28-year-old is back in the New Jersey lineup and is ready to do some damage. Due to how much time he missed, the premier defenceman has become an afterthought in most fantasy circles. Pounce on that.

3. For rest-of-season purposes, Jesper Bratt should be viewed as a must-own file. Honestly, it’s astounding how undervalued he continues to be. The 23-year-old Devils winger has five points in the past two games and 48 in 47 on the season. That’s right, he’s averaging a point per game. The cherry on top is that Bratt gets a lot of time with Hughes.

4. One last thought on New Jersey. Take a flier on the sizzling Yegor Sharangovich. The tri-eligible forward is riding a modest five-game point streak where he’s tallied four goals and five helpers. Another guy who gets tons of Hughes exposure.

5. Considering how hot Patrik Laine is these days (13 goals in 11 games), it would be foolish not to consider rostering his linemates right now. Have a look at Boone Jenner and Jake Voracek.

6. With Anthony DeAngelo sidelined indefinitely, pick up Jaccob Slavin, who’s been elevated to PP1 QB duties for the Hurricanes.

7. Same kind of deal for Adam Boqvist in Columbus with Zach Werenski day-to-day (upper body).

8. Jeff Petry, Jared Spurgeon, Noah Dobson and Mark Giordano are some external injury replacement options to contemplate adding.

9. Trade for Erik Karlsson. The 31-year-old, who’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from forearm surgery, could be back in the Sharks lineup in about two weeks. Quietly, Karlsson was putting together a bounce-back season with 26 points in 33 games. Most importantly, he won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

10. Execute a buy-low on Nick Backstrom. The veteran Caps centre has just three points in his past 10 outings. Washington is starting to get healthy, which in turn, should help to get the offence going again.

11. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to scoop up and stash Anthony Mantha and/or Jakub Vrana. Not only were the pair traded for each other at last year’s deadline, but weirdly enough, they’re also both working their respective ways back from shoulder surgery. We could see both guys back by mid to late March, just in-time for fantasy playoffs. Be alert.

12. Mainly because of the weapons he plays with (Auston Matthews & Mitch Marner), Michael Bunting is another player who deserves a full-time spot on your roster moving forward. The rookie has six goals and 13 points in the past 11 games.

13. It could be time to jump back in on St. Louis’ Ivan Barbashev. After a nasty 10-game pointless drought, the tri-eligible forward has registered five points in the past two games. Get ahead of it.

14. Put Brandon Hagel and Jake DeBrusk on your watch list. For my money, both players – if traded – could be in contention to be this year’s Sam Bennett. Since being moved to Florida at last year’s deadline, all the 25-year-old has done is register 52 points in 58 total games.

15. Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell is another wild-card name to keep close tabs on. The pending unrestricted free agent has tallied three goals and seven points in the last eight contests. With the Ducks slumping big-time and trending towards selling, the dual-eligible winger could emerge as a stealth deadline target.

16. Looking for some cheeky DFS value? Well, Zach Parise has been feeling it since his promotion to the Isles’ top line. Playing with Mathew Barzal and Kyle Palmieri, the veteran has notched three goals, three assists and nine shots on goal in his past five outings.

17. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left Saturday afternoon’s game in Sunrise due to an undisclosed injury. With that in mind, Tage Thompson, Tim Stuetzle, Brock Nelson and Nick Schmaltz are four stop-gap options worth grabbing in the meantime.

18. Let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule (Feb. 28-Mar. 6):

Monday: 3 Games
Tuesday: 9 Games
Wednesday: 4 Games
Thursday: 9 Games
Friday: 7 Games
Saturday: 10 Games
Sunday: 8 Games

19. In total, there are eight four-game teams: Boston, Carolina, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Vegas.

For schedule manipulation purposes, I like these three slates the most:

Los Angeles Kings: Mon (BOS), Wed (@DAL), Fri (@CBJ), Sun (@BUF)
Waiver Looks: Adrian Kempe, Victor Arvidsson, Phillip Danault
SN Fantasy: Anze Kopitar 2, LAK Goalies 2

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tues (OTT), Thurs (PIT), Fri (DET), Sun (@CHI)
Waiver Looks: Anthony Cirelli, Corey Perry
SN Fantasy: TBL Goalies 4, Nikita Kucherov 4

Vegas Golden Knights: Tues (SJS), Thurs (BOS), Fri (@ANA), Sun (OTT)
Waiver Looks: Reilly Smith, William Karlsson
SN Fantasy: Jack Eichel 3, Shea Theodore 2

20. Lastly, steer clear of waiver adds from the following four teams: Arizona, Florida, Nashville and Ottawa. Those are your two-game teams this week.

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