By nature, fantasy hockey can be very unpredictable. And this year has been no exception.
Many players drafted low on average in Yahoo! leagues (P.K. Subban, Alexander Semin, Jakub Voracek, Antti Niemi) have turned out to be some of the most valuable fantasy assets in the game. For owners, bold draft choices like these often lead to fantasy championships.
Average draft position in standard Yahoo! leagues provides a strong indication of the fantasy expectations surrounding a particular player coming into the season. When comparing ADPs with current ownership numbers, it's becomes quite clear which players have been the biggest "steals" from a fantasy standpoint.
With only a week to go in the regular season, let's take a look at five players who were taken on average with the 150th pick or later in Yahoo! drafts and are now owned in at least 70 percent of leagues. These are five of the biggest fantasy steals League-wide because they have produced at an elite level despite being passed over in drafts. They have played in the vast majority of their team's games to this point as well, allowing their fantasy owners to reap the benefits all season long.
After finishing tied for 11th in the NHL last season with a career-high 35 goals, the Senators forward has seen action in only 17 of his team's 42 games during this shortened season. But while it's been a lost season in that regard for fantasy owners who drafted him, his effectiveness when in good health should not be questioned by owners looking to add him on the waiver wire.
Michalek was recently sidelined for 15 games following knee surgery, but returned last Friday and has recorded a goal in each of his first two games back. He also missed nearly a month due to the same injury before a brief return on March 6 for two games, after which he required surgery. Despite his knee issues, Michalek has tallied at least a point in his past five games overall. It's his second five-game point streak this season, an impressive feat that proves he has displayed offensive flair when in the lineup.
Do you find your deep-league fantasy squad in dire need of a goal-scoring boost from a top-line winger?
It might be a stretch, but Dallas Stars rookie Alex Chiasson could be that shot-in-the-dark fantasy pickup that can pay off in the midst of a playoff run.
The Boston University product was inserted into the Stars lineup on April 3 in the aftermath of the team's deals sending Jaromir Jagr to the Boston Bruins and Derek Roy to the Vancouver Canucks. Slotted on the team's top line with Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney, the rookie had big shoes to fill. So far, he's made a smooth transition and has already grabbed the attention of fantasy owners in deep leagues.
Niemi has put the Sharks on his back during the team's current seven-game win streak, picking up victories in each game with only 10 combined goals allowed over that stretch. The 29-year-old stopped 23 of 24 shots to defeat the Calgary Flames on Friday and earn his 19th win of the season, tying him with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild for the NHL lead.
But this Finnish-born goalie's success hasn't just been limited to this streak. He's held the opposition to one goal or less in 11 of his 33 games this season and has allowed three goals or fewer 29 times.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who are already locked in a 13-game win streak, landed the longtime Calgary Flames captain in a monumental deal that became official early Thursday morning. This should be viewed as a best-case scenario for his fantasy owners, as the 35-year-old forward is added to the League's highest scoring offense (3.38 goals per game) and second-best power-play unit (23.8 percent).
If those numbers are any indication of what's to come, Iginla is likely to see a complete turnaround in the plus-minus category to close out the season. He's a combined minus-17 over his last 113 games with Calgary, but has a legitimate chance of finishing the season with a positive rating. The Penguins have 14 games remaining on their schedule, and Iginla should be in the lineup for the vast majority of those.
After registering nine points in his first 18 games this season, Stepan has had points in 11 of his next 14 -- totaling 16 during that stretch. On Tuesday, the damage was done at the expense of the division rival Philadelphia Flyers, as the 22-year-old reeled off the first four-point game (1G, 3A, plus-3) of his three-year National Hockey League career.
Bergeron is one of only five NHL players in 2012-13 with at least a plus-15 rating, 25-plus points and 85-plus shots on goal, putting him in the elite company of Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jonathan Toews. Bergeron has posted a positive rating in 17 of his 31 games this season, tied for the second-most in the NHL behind only Pascal Dupuis (19).
It's not surprising -- based on recent and career production -- to see the 27-year-old produce at such a high rate in major offensive categories. What's shocking is that so many owners passed on his services in drafts this season.
Bergeron, selected on average with the 114th overall pick in Yahoo! leagues, has the highest combined rating (plus-77) of any forward in the League spanning the last three seasons. Monday was the latest example of his diverse fantasy game, as he tallied a goal, two PIMs and three shots on goal in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Plain and simple, Bergeron is an elite two-way forward in his prime that hasn't seen a single-season pointless drought of more than three games since the 2010-11 campaign.
Available players in promising situations that touch on more than one fantasy category should always be given thoughtful consideration -- especially if they remain under the radar despite a hot streak. For those reasons, Vancouver Canucks center Jordan Schroeder deserves to be on your team's radar in deep leagues.
The Canucks top-line center, Henrik Sedin, has put forth another top-tier fantasy campaign with consistent production (29 points, plus-16 in 32 games), but Vancouver's laundry list of injuries has dismantled its deep arsenal at the center position. David Booth is out for the season with an ankle injury and goal-scorer Ryan Kesler -- mired by multiple injuries over the last two seasons -- only played seven games before being sidelined again due to a fractured bone in his foot.
Everything is falling into place for the Minnesota Wild these days, as the club is reaping the benefits of its bold activity over the past two offseasons.
Fantasy owners are well aware of what the team accomplished last summer, signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long-term contracts. That tandem has impressed through 29 games this season, combining for 20 power-play points. Parise has 23 points and is tied for fifth in the NHL in shots on goal (110), while Suter is second among all defensemen in points (24) and tied for sixth among all skaters in assists (22).
But another key component of the Wild's success has gone virtually unnoticed until this week. Devin Setoguchi, who Minnesota acquired from the San Jose Sharks when it hosted the 2011 NHL Draft, is raising eyebrows across the NHL again -- gaining fantasy relevance as a result.
Irwin is riding a four-game point streak -- the longest of his career -- and has totaled four goals and two assists over his last six games. With the fantasy defenseman waiver-wire pool being especially thin these days, the 25-year-old defenseman's recent stretch of production has made him a commodity in deep leagues -- especially since Brent Burns moved from defenseman to wing on a line with Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
The 6-foot-2 defenseman is operating on the team's top pairing with veteran Dan Boyle and is learning on the fly as the Sharks try to navigate through their struggles. Owned in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues, Irwin was instrumental in the Sharks' third period onslaught Monday after falling behind 4-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on the road.
Sharp left Wednesday's game against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period after sustaining an upper-body injury when he was hit into the boards by Ryan O'Byrne. The No. 28 forward in NHL.com's most recent rankings, Sharp is the only player League-wide with tri-eligibility (LW/C/RW) in Yahoo fantasy leagues.
For that reason alone, it's impossible to replace the position flexibility he brings to the table. Sharp is also in the top 20 League-wide in shots on goal (78) with a plus-7 rating and 18 points (7 PPP) in 24 games. But despite injuries continuing to pile up on fantasy rosters around the world, owners must continue to keep a pulse on the waiver wire to stay afloat until Sharp returns.
On Friday, a report indicated that Sharp has a shoulder separation that could potentially keep him out of the lineup anywhere from three weeks to a month.
If you own Sharp in fantasy leagues, be sure to monitor his status over the coming days to see if he's placed on injured reserve. If that's the route Chicago takes, store him there and consider short-term replacements. For now, here's a trending player at each of the three forward positions to eye in the coming days.
With contract negotiations now in his rearview mirror, forward Ryan O'Reilly can be a key piece to the puzzle for fantasy owners around the world.
The Colorado Avalanche matched a two-year offer sheet to the forward tendered by the Calgary Flames on Thursday, meaning the team's leading scorer from a season ago is back in the fold and could return as early as Sunday.
Most fantasy owners who drafted O'Reilly (center eligible in Yahoo leagues) could not afford to store him on their benches for the first five-plus weeks of the regular season, so it's important for all owners to consider what this 22-year-old can bring to the table from a fantasy standpoint.
But if you're in a deep league looking for a defenseman who provides category coverage to fill a roster spot, there are not many better options than the Dallas Stars rookie.
An undrafted prospect who was signed by the Stars in March of 2011, Dillon has emerged as a full-time defenseman for Dallas. The 22-year-old picked up his second multi-point game of the season Tuesday, posting two helpers in the Stars' overtime triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dillon was credited with the secondary assist on Loui Eriksson's overtime winner, displaying tremendous poise in the offensive zone to set up the game-winning sequence.
To say the injury bug has ravaged fantasy rosters around the world in recent weeks would be an understatement.
High-profile fantasy forwards (i.e. Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Rick Nash) have been placed on injured reserve by their respective teams in recent days, meaning many owners are on the lookout for help in a number of offensive categories. Most notably, there's a high demand for power-play productivity from available waiver wire assets.
It goes without saying that it will be difficult to replace the fantasy impact of a player like Malkin, who leads the NHL with 14 PPP this season, but the players below could at least keep your team afloat with consistent production with the man advantage -- as well as in other stat categories.
Brouwer has seen a heightened power-play role following the offseason departure of Alexander Semin, and the results have been better than anyone expected.
After only seeing 2:08 per game with the man advantage last season, the 27-year-old has seen nearly four minutes of power-play ice time per game through 17 games. He has already reeled off eight power-play points (T-18th in NHL) this season, nearly doubling his output a season ago (5 PPP in 82 games).
Brandon Sutter has had his share of ups and downs in his first season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Wednesday could prove to be the start of his next point-production surge.
Sutter (owned in only 6 percent of Yahoo! leagues) scored the game-tying goal late in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers to snap his four-game pointless streak. That slump was preceded by a five-game point streak from Feb. 2-9. Prior to that stretch, Sutter had only one assist to show for himself over his first seven games of the season.
Judging by the peaks and valleys he's experienced so far in 2012-13, Sutter, 24, is not quite a center you can lean on for consistent point production. That being said, he still holds value in deep leagues -- especially as a temporary injury replacement on your roster.
If your lineup has been affected by recent injuries to center-eligible assets (Jeff Skinner, Brandon Dubinsky, etc.), Sutter is a short-term option worth pursuing. He had season-highs in shots on goal (5) and rating (plus-2) in Wednesday's loss to the Flyers, centering the Penguins' third line with Tyler Kennedy and rookie Beau Bennett since he was recalled last week.
Wilson (owned in only 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues) leads the Predators in scoring with 14 points in 17 games this season despite a widespread perception that he's a fantasy afterthought. The C/LW eligibile forward had a pair of assists in the Nashville Predators' 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, extending his point streak to five games (2 G, 5 A) -- the most balanced scoring stretch of his career.
The 23-year-old had his share of critics after failing to emerge as a top-tier point producter after being selected with the seventh pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, but he is finally finding his rhythm in the Music City. Wilson did produce 30-plus points in each of the past two seasons, but -- outside of deep leagues -- has never been considered a viable fantasy option until now.
After a brief Stanley Cup hangover, the Los Angeles Kings are back on their feet. Much of that improvement can be credited to an emerging young defenseman.
And to everyone's surprise, that player is not named Drew Doughty.
While Doughty, taken on average in the seventh round of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey drafts, has stumbled out of the gate with no goals, four assists and a minus-10 rating through 11 games, Slava Voynov has emerged as the team's most productive player on the blue line.
In four of his first five NHL seasons, Kane has played in 80-plus games. In all but one of those five seasons, he's mustered 200-plus shots on goal. He's never had fewer than 66 points in a season and is regarded as one of the most talented forwards League-wide. In only his third NHL season, he fueled a Stanley Cup championship run for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10 with 28 points in 22 postseason games.
At that time, Kane was on the fast track to stardom. So why was he selected on average in the third round of fantasy drafts entering this season with an average position of 32.8 in Yahoo leagues?
If your fantasy blue line could use a spark, this may be your lucky day.
Lubomir Visnovsky, the high-scoring defenseman who was traded by the Anaheim Ducks to the New York Islanders on the night of the 2012 NHL Draft, has finally arrived on Long Island. The Isles had suspended Visnovsky after he failed to report to the team, but they lifted the ban on Thursday to activate the defenseman.
Reports are even indicating that the 36-year-old, who practiced Friday, could make his debut for New York as early as Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, raising questions about his potential fantasy value.
Owned in only 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues entering the day, Visnovsky is far from a sure thing. But for fantasy owners to ignore what he was capable of only two seasons ago is just foolish.
The dynamic of the sport has changed significantly since Feb. 7, 1976, but that doesn't mean fantasy owners around the world aren't imagining the potential impact of a double-digit point effort. Considering how far a single multi-point game goes in determining head-to-head league results, a 10-point effort from a single fantasy player would almost certainly lead to a matchup victory during a particular week -- especially if it came in such balanced fashion as Sittler's (6 G, 4 A).
This brings us into the discussion of which players, based on both single-game and career point-production, would be most likely to challenge Sittler's seemingly untouchable mark. While one can make a case for many players around the League as candidates to reach that plateau in one game, here are five active players who could treat their fantasy owners to such a performance for the ages.
Clarkson still has accumulated 11 PIMs through his first nine games, but his ability to produce at least a point in eight of those games has taken the fantasy world by storm. The 28-year-old right wing came into his own offensively last season for the New Jersey Devils, and Tuesday night was another example of the fantasy difference-maker he has become.
Operating alongside veteran Patrik Elias and sophomore Adam Henrique, who returned to the lineup last week after being sidelined due to injury, Clarkson reeled off two goals and an assist in the Devils' 3-1 victory over the rival New York Rangers. Clarkson and Elias (10 points in nine games), a duo that has vastly outperformed New Jersey's top line tandem of Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac this season, fueled the Devils' offense again by having a hand in all three of the team's goals.
The Swedish Elite League standout signed with the Ducks in May and has made an immediate impact through his first three games at the NHL level. The 30-year-old improved to 3-0-0 on the young season after handing the San Jose Sharks their first regulation loss of the season on Monday.
Fasth's 25-save performance in that victory, coupled with strong showings in his debut vs. Nashville on Jan. 26 and his encore against the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 1, gives him a combined 70 saves on 74 shots faced to kick off this new chapter of his career in style. His stingy goals-against average (1.30) and save percentage (.946) trail only Craig Anderson for the League lead in both categories.
Roberto Luongo may have returned to the forefront of the fantasy goalie landscape, but predicting the next twist or turn of the Vancouver Canucks' goalie conundrum is still anybody's guess.
Set to make his fourth consecutive start Monday for the Canucks, Luongo has temporarily re-affirmed his status as the team's No. 1 goaltender after stopping a combined 51 of 52 shots in consecutive victories over the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks.
The 33-year-old netminder has already registered a shutout this season and is second in the NHL in both goals-against average (1.46) and save percentage (.944). He's appeared in five games thus far, allowing two goals or less in each of those outings.
But as promising as his play has been over the past few days, fantasy owners must take it with a grain of salt because of how dicey the Canucks' goalie situation has proved to be in recent memory.
Cory Schneider appeared in 25 games (compared to Luongo's 60 appearances) during the 2010-11 season before seeing action in 33 games (compared to Luongo's 55) in 2011-12. Last postseason, the top-seeded Canucks flamed out in the first round against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, and the team's goaltending situation officially became a dilemma. Luongo surrendered seven goals in the first two games of the series before Schneider found more success in the three games in which he appeared with only four goals allowed in that span.
The waiver wire is an ever-changing medium that gives fantasy owners a chance to bolster their rosters at any time. Last Friday, Michael Grabner led the list of key names for owners to consider, but as we close in on the two-week mark since the season began, there an entirely new batch of trending players to take note of.
More injuries have piled up over the past few days (Jason Spezza, Ryan Callahan, etc.), so here's an updated list of 10 fantasy assets floating around in both deep and shallow leagues that can pay dividends moving forward.
-Often overlooked because he's situated amongst an array of emerging young forwards in Edmonton, Gagner has made an early statement from a fantasy standpoint with eight points, 10 PIMs and 19 SOG in seven games. The 23-year-old has also logged nearly four minutes per game with the man advantage, displaying proficiency in those situations (5 PPP) for a power-play unit that sports the NHL's third-best conversion percentage (31.4). The dual-eligible forward has been the trendiest fantasy player in the League over the past two days in Yahoo! leagues (over 5,000 adds during that span), so be sure to snatch him while you still can.
With contract negotiations finally in his rearview mirror, P.K. Subban is gearing up for his long-awaited return to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup -- something that brings music to the ears of his fantasy owners.
And remember, this isn't just any young defenseman with fantasy potential. After scoring 14 goals as a rookie in 2010-11, Subban still provided his owners with rare category coverage despite falling into a so-called "sophomore slump" when the Habs missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season ago.
P.K. Subban is gearing up for his return to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup -- something that brings music to the ears of his fantasy owners. (Photo: Getty Images)
Last year, Subban finished with 36 points (T-26th among defenseman), 205 shots on goal (7th), 119 PIMs (1st) & 14 power-play points (T-20th), but never truly found his groove offensively. This season, Subban finds himself in a promising situation upon his return, as the Canadiens are off to a 3-1-0 start riding the hot hand of blueliner Andrei Markov (4G, 1A, plus-2, 5 PPP in 4 games). If Subban meshes well with Markov, we could be talking about the younger of the two being a top-10 fantasy defenseman when it's all said and done.
But on the flip side, what will happen to Subban's value if he disrupts the flow of a power-play unit currently tied for the sixth-best conversion rate in the NHL? What if it takes a while for him to acclimate himself to new coach Michel Therrien's system at both ends of the ice?
These are valid areas of concern for fantasy owners, but the most important thing to note is that Subban will be back on the ice in the near future -- something that was far from a given for the past few weeks.
We're now one week into the 2012-13 NHL season and it's very clear which players have risen to the occasion from a point-production standpoint. Between Patrick Marleau's historic goal-scoring start, Martin St. Louis' distributing prowess and Zach Parise's immediate splash with the Minnesota Wild, these names are widely recognized and owned throughout the fantasy landscape.
But while the players who have racked up goals and assists are integral pieces to a championship squad, it's also worth noting which players have provided noteworthy category coverage so far. Specifically, players who put forth a combination of points and PIMs can lift your fantasy team to new heights.
While most of the players mentioned below are owned in the majority of fantasy leagues, putting together a package to acquire these assets can be a worthwhile initiative.
NOTE: "Penalties in Minutes" is a default category in Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey Leagues
- The League-leader in PIMs may only find himself in that spot after a 35-PIM outburst Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, but his total is far from a fluke. Clowe has been a reliable points/PIMs producer in each of the past three seasons. He's played in 75-plus in each of those campaigns, racking up an average of 55 points and 109 PIMs per season during that span. Most of the Sharks' scoring has come from the likes of Marleau, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski through five games, but Clowe remains a fixture on the team's second line -- meaning he's in great position to produce points every night.
Then, despite his teammate fanning on the ensuing shot, Kovalchuk didn't give up on the play. The Devils' sniper swooped around the Capitals' net, parked himself on the left wing and cashed in on a feed from Marek Zidlicky to win the game and keep Washington winless this season.
While it may only be a single play in a 48-game season, it really represented what has been a contrasting opening week for fantasy owners who spent first-round draft picks on either Kovalchuk or Ovechkin. Kovalchuk, 29, has fully lived up to fantasy expectations (2 G, 2 A, plus-5, 6 PIM, 1 PPP, 13 SOG), but Ovechkin is off to the least productive four-game start of his NHL career (0 G, 1 A, minus-1, 4 PIM, 0 PPP, 13 SOG). Both averaged better than a point per game playing in the Kontinental Hockey League during the work stoppage, but only Kovalchuk has risen to the occasion since returning to NHL action.
Many fantasy owners have already reaped the benefits of waiver wire pickups less than a week into the young season. With injuries piling up (Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, etc.) and a jam-packed Thursday night of NHL action now in the books, here are three forwards that fantasy owners should be conscious of based on their consistent production during the opening week of the NHL season.
The offensive clinic that rookie Vladimir Tarasenko and Andy McDonald have put on in the early going can be attributed to the stellar play of Steen (owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues), St. Louis' second-line center. Through four games, Steen has assisted on four goals and seen nearly two and a half minutes per game on the man advantage (1 PPP). He also sports a plus-4 rating and is second on the team in shots on goal (14), behind only Tarasenko (16). After playing in only 43 games last season for the Blues due to recovering from a concussion, the dual-eligible forward has returned to form in a hurry -- a trend that fantasy owners searching for offense should latch onto.
The Phoenix Coyotes already sport a top-15 fantasy defenseman in Keith Yandle, but could soon see another one of their blueliners join the elite ranks at the position as early as this season.
The Coyotes already sport a top-15 fantasy d-man in Keith Yandle, but could soon see Oliver Ekman-Larsson also join the elite ranks at the position. (Photo: Getty Images)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Swedish blueliner who burst onto the scene last season with 13 goals (5th among NHL defensemen) made an early statement on Wednesday night in the Coyotes' first win of 2012-13. The 21-year-old exploded with a well-rounded stat line (2 G, 1 A, plus-3, 2 PIM, 1 PPP, 6 SOG) against the Columbus Blue Jackets, proving he can serve as a remedy for Phoenix's often inconsistent offense on any given night.
Through three games, Ekman-Larsson (3:59 PP TOI/G) has even logged more time with the man advantage than Yandle (3:42), a significant upgrade after the youngster saw just over two minutes per game in such situations last year. This may only be an early trend, but the fact that Ekman-Larsson is being given such valuable minutes indicates Dave Tippett has big plans for the d-man moving forward.
The reigning AHL most valuable player and rookie of the year has made an immediate impact in his first three games with the Bolts, reeling off two goals, three assists, a plus-3 rating, four PIM, one power-play point and five shots on goal in an average of 14:41 ice time per game. On Tuesday night, the 23-year-old Conacher beat Cam Ward on the rebound for a first-period goal that was made possible by a nifty move to the net by Vincent Lecavalier.
And it's those sequences that are what make Conacher's situation so promising. In a matter of days, the dual-eligible (C/LW) fantasy forward's value has spiked as he's gone from owned in less than 1 percent of Yahoo! leagues to 18 percent on Wednesday morning.
Is a borderline top-20 fantasy goalie that was taken on average in the eighth round of fantasy drafts really the most productive player in the land? The numbers certainly don't lie, and Anderson has seen an exponential value spike as a result.
Anderson, even after posting 33 wins in 63 outings last year, was perceived as a mediocre fantasy netminder at best coming into 2012-13. He was outside the top-20 in both GAA and save percentage last season, and had more than enough to worry about if he was to start the season slow.
These are small sample sizes, but this pattern indicates that backups are worth storing on your bench for these situations. Owners who drafted Fleury, Corey Crawford and Niklas Backstrom would be wise to snag their backups off the waiver wire, as this strategy can brace your team for potential injuries while also ensuring your maximum goalie starts each week.
Gabriel Landeskog was named the youngest captain in NHL history Tuesday -- yet another reason why he deserves to be on your fantasy team's radar.
The reigning Calder Trophy winner was tabbed the leader for the Colorado Avalanche after excelling in all six offensive categories (22 G, 30 A, plus-20, 51 PIM, 12 PPP, 270 SOG) during his stellar rookie campaign. NHL.com's team of fantasy experts ranked Landeskog as the No. 54 overall fantasy player in its latest set of overall rankings released earlier Tuesday.
Left Wing - COL
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 52
SOG: 270 | +/-: 20
Landeskog's finish to the 2011-12 season saw him emerge with near point-per-game production, as he tallied 13 goals and 17 assists over his last 34 games. The 19-year-old phenom showed tremendous chemistry with late-season linemates Steve Downie and Ryan O'Reilly, posting a plus-20 rating for a non-playoff team in the process. He was owned in 59 percent of Yahoo! leagues at season's end -- a number that is bound to rise after upcoming drafts take place.
Taking into account his PIM production and ever-expanding role for the Avs' power-play unit, Landeskog already warrants keeper consideration in such leagues and should be on every team's draft watch list from the third to fifth rounds -- depending on league size and format.
While the New York Islanders' secondary scoring spike over the past few games is likely "too little, too late" for the team's playoff hopes, it could be just what the doctor ordered for any fantasy team in the midst of a championship run.
Every point is crucial this time of year as the vast majority of fantasy leagues have reached their final playoff round, so the play of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo should not be overlooked. The Isles' current secondary line -- comprised of three forwards owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues -- has kicked it into high gear over the last week and a half.
New York remains mathematically alive in the playoff race entering Friday's action after sweeping a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who endured a major setback in their pursuit of the East's top seed. Despite facing Marc-Andre Fleury twice this week, the Isles managed to post 10 goals in two games en route to a pair of 5-3 wins over their Atlantic Division foes.
Bailey (LW - 2 percent) put forth a 5-point game in Thursday's win over the Pens and has accumulated 3 goals, 9 assists and a plus-8 rating over his last six games. The ninth pick in the 2008 NHL Draft is only 22 years old and has looked confident moving the puck over the past few games. His linemate, Nielsen (C - 5 percent), has centered the secondary unit for most of the season, but has recently seen a major spike in his production as well with 4 goals and 5 helpers over the six-game stretch.
Flanking Nielsen on the right wing is Okposo (RW - 9 percent), who has taken his goal-scoring to new heights with 5 goals over his last four games, adding an assist in Tuesday's road win in the Steel City. The story for Okposo, 23, has been his ability to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career despite failing to register a goal in his first 15 games this season. Okposo has accomplished that feat by scoring 14 goals since the turn of the calendar year.
The inconsistency of these three players is still a glaring concern in the long-term, as the Islanders have sought a lift from their depth lines all season long -- to the point where the team's top line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares and PA Parenteau has accounted for 42.6 percent of the team's goal-scoring. But as the team finally seems to be reaping the benefits of its young core players late in the season, fantasy owners would be wise to take notice.
Over the last two games, though, the team's primary unit has gone pointless -- despite the team sweeping a home-and-home with the star-studded Pens. The secondary unit has shouldered the load and has been extremely promising from a fantasy standpoint. For any injury-plagued or underperforming fantasy roster during championship week, any of these three offensive players could provide a boost.
The Islanders have a pair of home games this weekend against the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, and still have five remaining regular season contests overall. Therefore, time is of the essence for fantasy owners to catch on to this potentially rewarding trend.
To submit a question for NHL.com's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact PJensen@NHL.com.
It's a small world after all, as the Buffalo Sabres have received the jolt they've been longing for all season from a product of their own city.
Rookie winger Marcus Foligno, a Buffalo native, was recalled from the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester on March 9 and has quickly emerged as a catalyst for the Sabres in the offensive zone. In five games since the call-up, the 20-year-old has mustered a five-game point streak with 5 goals, 2 assists, a plus-6 rating and 8 SOG. Hits have also been abundant for Foligno, as he has totaled 15 in only six games this season.
Foligno burst onto the scene when he went head-to-head with his brother, Nick, in his first game since the call-up in Ottawa on March 10. It all started with a great individual effort and a lucky bounce for the game-tying goal in an eventual shootout win for Buffalo. Ever since, it's been a dream ride for the young forward -- not to mention for the few fantasy owners who have caught onto this growing commodity.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward is only owned in 2 percent of Yahoo! leagues to date, but if his magical run continues, that number will certainly skyrocket. The former fourth-round selection by Buffalo in 2009 has sparked the Sabres' offense, which ranks 23rd in the NHL in goals-per-game (2.47).
His second multi-goal game in three contests came in Monday's 7-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, as he tallied two goals on as many shots. Foligno's ice time has been on an incline since being recalled, and he is finding a home on the Sabres' secondary line with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, as evidenced by his power-play goal Tuesday.
To put Foligno's surge into perspective, the Sabres have seen a similar one from a rookie forward this season, as Luke Adam got off to a torrid start with 4 goals and 7 assists in his first 11 games. Adam cooled off from there, though, and was assigned to Rochester in February in the midst of a 20-game goalless drought.
Whether or not Foligno's game comes back down to earth in the near future, he has been a sensational story from a fantasy standpoint in his first week and a half of extensive NHL action. Any playoff contending team in a fantasy league should give Foligno a serious look, especially with more meaningful hockey to come for the Sabres -- who stand only two points behind the Washington Capitals for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
There's no question that the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes have opened eyes around the hockey world by remaining in the thick of their respective division races through mid-March.
But even more surprising may be the fact that two emerging assets from those teams, Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Florida's Wojtek Wolski, are widely available on the waiver wire for the stretch run of the fantasy season.
Let's start with Ekman-Larsson (11 G, 18 A, minus-2, 26 PIM, 8 PPP, 126 SOG, 128 hits), who has played in all 72 games for the Coyotes this season and is currently tied with Alex Pietrangelo for the fifth-highest goal output among NHL defensemen. The Swedish-born blueliner scored a goal in his third consecutive game Thursday in Calgary, and has added 2 assists, a plus-2 rating and 11 SOG during his current three-game points streak.
What's more, Ekman-Larsson is only owned in 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Considering the 20-year-old has been a solid point-producer all season long and has totaled 100-plus hits and 100-plus shots for the Coyotes' secondary defensive pairing, it's important to note he's there for the taking in most leagues to provide a lift on the blue line.
Wolski, meanwhile, has come out of nowhere to blossom as of late since being shipped from the New York Rangers to Florida on Feb. 25. The 26-year-old battled through some injury issues this season in the Big Apple, but has been a sparkplug for the Cats as they pursue a division crown and potentially even the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Owned in only 2 percent of leagues, this Polish-born winger has accumulated eight points (3 G, 5 A) in 11 games since moving to the Sunshine State.
His most impressive stretch has come during his current four-game points streak, as Wolski has thrived on Florida's top line in the absence of Kris Versteeg with 1 goal, 4 assists, a plus-3 rating and 6 SOG in that span. He notched a goal and had a plus-2 rating skating alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss in the Panthers' 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday, lifting his value from a fantasy standpoint.
Each of these skaters could ultimately be diamonds in the rough for fantasy squads if their hot streaks continue, so it's important to monitor their performances over the next few days and potentially add the one that best fits your team.
This season hasn't been a bed of roses for Ilya Bryzgalov, but a quality stretch run could change the fantasy perception of the veteran netminder.
With two separate losing streaks of more than four games this season, along with his team's struggles against the East-leading New York Rangers through five meetings, Bryzgalov has failed to produce the return expected by his fantasy owners, who nabbed him in the second round of their drafts on average. That being said, his current stretch of strong play is beginning to turn the tide for him, which is good news for the Flyers considering Bryzgalov is in just the first of nine seasons in Philly.
Bryzgalov (owned in 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues) is coming off one of his most complete performances of the season, a 34-save shutout of the Washington Capitals on Sunday at the Verizon Center. Over his last six outings, Bryzgalov has put forth a 4-2-0 mark, allowing two goals or less in three of those six starts.
But despite his recent production hike, the 31-year-old still only stands as the 23rd-best fantasy netminder in this week's NHL.com goaltending rankings for a reason. His goals-against average and save percentage are simply sub-par, which is why he's ranked behind even Brian Elliott and Evgeni Nabokov -- who have played in 15 and 11 less games, respectively, than Bryzgalov this season.
So here's the quandary: Because Brzgalov (24-13-6, 2.72, .901, 3 SO) is not a keeper in most leagues, he is expendable in the event that you are able to improve your roster either in the short- or long-term. But as the fantasy trade deadline and playoffs loom in most leagues, can you logically part ways with a starting netminder who has the support of an offense that sports a League-best average of 3.25 goals-per-game?
It's no secret that Bryzgalov has taken the patience of his fantasy owners to the brink this season, but if you've stuck with him this far, you owe it to yourself to ride out his current stretch of strong play. As he gets set for his ninth consecutive start for the Flyers Tuesday against the injury-depleted Detroit Red Wings, another opportunity presents itself for Bryzgalov to continue the turnaround.
And after all, a goaltender that is frequently starting for a playoff contending team should be valued from a fantasy perspective.
The 32-year-old netminder has posted a 3-1-1 record and is unbeaten at home this season as the Wings seek their 21st consecutive win at Joe Louis Arena -- which would set a new League record. MacDonald is expected to get the nod again over Ty Conklin, who had served as Detroit's backup all season long to Jimmy Howard prior to his injury.
Howard, who still leads the NHL with 32 wins, could be back in the crease as soon as this weekend after suffering a broken finger on Feb. 2 against the Vancouver Canucks. But despite this news, it's still hard to ignore MacDonald's stock in the Motor City -- which is rising by the day.
Joey MacDonald is making a case for more playing time with a three-game win streak at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo: Getty Images)
MacDonald has allowed two goals or less in three of his four starts since being recalled from the Wings' AHL affiliate earlier this month, while posting a 1.87 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. When Howard returns to the lineup, he obviously warrants the bulk of the playing time. But with the twists and turns that come over the course of the NHL season, it is highly unlikely that MacDonald's performance in big spots over the last few games will be forgotten. Regardless of whether or not MacDonald will be reassigned when Howard returns, he has kept the Wings' streak going and made quite the impression on his teammates, coaching staff and the rest of the hockey world.
In the meantime, MacDonald is only owned in 18 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, so he remains a valuable commodity with games on tap for Detroit against Dallas, Nashville and San Jose to round out the fantasy week. If Howard decides not to rush back into the lineup or if he takes some time to get back to game speed, MacDonald could stick around after outperforming Conklin by a landslide since the call-up.
This journeyman goaltender has stepped into the fire during a historic win streak, absorbed the pressure and delivered results. For those reasons, as long as he's on the roster at the NHL level, he can be relied upon from a fantasy perspective.
The Swedish-born forward reeled off two goals on Wednesday as the Florida Panthers held off the Washington Capitals to move into first place in the Southeast Division. With three goals and an assist in his last five games, Samuelsson is finally healthy and producing for a team that appears to be in the postseason hunt with just over two months to go in the regular season.
During a time when injuries are decimating fantasy teams around the world, this 35-year-old is skating on the second line for the Panthers and making a sizable impact after an injury-plagued first half of his own. With Kris Versteeg out with flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, Samuelsson (5 goals, 8 assists, plus-1, 10 PIM, 5 PPP, 51 SOG) notched a power-play goal and will be a sure-fire contributor moving forward as the Panthers continue to play meaningful hockey.
Samuelsson was in the midst of a six-game goalless drought from Jan. 9 to Jan. 21, but has responded nicely and has compiled four goals and six assists overall in 16 games since being traded to Florida. With Samuelsson owned in only seven percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is certainly worth taking a chance on. His 30-goal, 53-point season in 2009-10 is evidence that he has the capability of producing points at a high level.
Turris, operating on the Senators' second line with All-Star forward Daniel Alfredsson, is playing the best hockey of his career with 3 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating over his last four games. He scored a goal and added an assist in Thursday's 4-1 road triumph in San Jose.
It's been a refreshing turnaround for the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, who was still seeking an identity following a contract dispute with the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this season. The 22-year-old center signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes on Nov. 22, and made his season debut with the club on Dec. 1. After going pointless with a minus-2 rating in six games, Turris has become a diversified fantasy option for deep leagues with 13 points in 16 games since the trade to Ottawa on Dec. 17.
He has provided the Senators with added depth at his position behind top-liner Jason Spezza, and is also touching on valuable categories with 15 PIMs and a plus-13 rating since the move to Ontario. While he's seen minimal ice time on the man advantage and has not registered a power-play point this season, that doesn't mean Turris (owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues) can't give fantasy owners an offensive spark via free agency.
Turris' stock is rising by the day for the surging Senators, so the time is now for fantasy owners to get on board as the forward approaches point-per-game territory. Whether or not Turris can stick with his current pace is uncertain, but with consecutive multi-point outings, this youngster's game is evolving right before our eyes.
After posting an 11-5-1 mark during his stint with the Sens last season, Anderson has carried over the positive momentum to this campaign, where he leads the NHL in games played, time on ice, shots allowed and saves. Despite the heavy workload, he has been the stable foundation behind Ottawa's resurgence in the Eastern Conference.
The most impressive stretch of the Anderson's season is ongoing, as he held down the fort Tuesday with 37 saves as Ottawa rallied past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, to improve to 9-1-1 in his last 11 outings.
Anderson (owned in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues) is tied for second in the League in wins (24), and the Senators are a mere four points behind the New York Rangers for the NHL lead in points. Quietly, he has been one of the most intriguing stories past the midpoint of the fantasy season.
While Anderson is likely nowhere to be found on the free agent wire of most leagues, he is flying under the radar as one of the most durable goaltenders in the League. The fantasy world was probably not convinced that the 30-year-old netminder was a difference-maker coming into 2011-12, but Anderson has used an elite statistical season through 43 appearances to instill nothing but confidence in his owners.
Mike Cammalleri and Rene Bourque have yet to emerge as true fantasy difference-makers for their respective clubs this season. Thursday's trade provides each with a change of scenery that could ultimately turn over a new leaf.
Cammalleri (9 G, 13 A, minus-6, 10 PIM, 6 PPP, 111 SOG) had only three goals in his last 17 games for the Montreal Canadiens before being shipped to the Calgary Flames after playing in the first two periods of the Habs' loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Bourque (13 G, 3 A, minus-3, 41 PIM, 5 PPP, 91 SOG), who is nearing the end of his
five-game suspension for elbowing Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals on Jan. 3, has averaged three minutes of power-play time per game this season, but has struggled mightily on the man advantage.
This trade comes at a make-or-break juncture of the campaign for both squads. A return to Calgary is a breath of fresh air for Cammalleri (owned in 62 percent of Yahoo! leagues), who notched career-highs in goals (39) and points (82) for the Flames during the 2008-09 season. Despite missing a total of 32 games due to injury over the last two seasons and seeing his numbers dip through 38 games this season, Cammy was a proven playoff point-producer in Montreal and could be an asset for the Flames -- who find themselves only three points out of the final playoff spot in the West.
Bourque (owned in 38 percent of leagues), on the other hand, brings size, physicality and goal-scoring to Montreal's lineup and is on pace to challenge for a career-high in goals this season. While the 30-year-old forward has only compiled 5 PPP through 38 games and has been one-dimensional from a point-production standpoint with only three assists, he brings experience and goal-scoring potential to a lineup in desperate need of an offensive spark. Montreal is seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East.
It's been a bumpy ride for Bourque, Cammalleri and their respective teams this season, but each should be an intriguing fantasy story in his new home. Bourque has posted 27 goals and 50-plus points in each of his last two seasons, while Cammalleri is a two-time 80-point scorer. Both are expected to be utilized in new roles with their new teams to cater to their strengths, which is promising news for fantasy owners.
While Cammalleri is likely nowhere to be found on the free-agent wire in most leagues, now is an opportune time to grab Bourque if he's available. Although Bourque faces a tremendous challenge in turning around the League's second-worst power-play unit, his tenacity, along with his knack for finding the back of the net, could provide a new element to the Habs' offensive initiative.
And as far as Cammy, his return to Calgary warrants more patience moving forward from his fantasy owners.
Wheeler extended his point streak to four games by assisting on Evander Kane's overtime winner as Winnipeg blanked the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 on Thursday night at a raucous MTS Centre. With Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little again out of the lineup for the Jets, Little continues to shine as a distributor alongside Kane on Winnipeg's top line. The 25-year-old notched his team-high 22nd assist of the season and also leads the club with a plus-11 rating.
At the forefront of Claude Noel's offensive system, Wheeler is certainly emerging as a breakout fantasy asset. While he is far off the goal-scoring pace of his career-best rookie campaign (21 goals), Wheeler is among the League leaders in helpers and quietly one of the most impactful players in Winnipeg's lineup. Wheeler (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) has played in all 37 games for the Jets and even touches on categories such as hits (52), power-play points (5) and shots on goal (79).
With the Jets suddenly in the thick of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference as December comes to a close, Wheeler may not be available much longer in deep fantasy leagues. Thus, the time is now to catch on to Manitoba's hottest fantasy hockey commodity.
Marchand (15 G, 14 A, plus-25, 58 PIM, 3 PPP, 78 SOG) and Bergeron (7 G, 21 A, plus-21, 12 PIM, 7 PPP, 86 SOG) were a two-man wrecking crew on Friday night, combining for eight points and a plus-7 rating in the Bruins' 8-0 rout of the
Southeast division-leading Florida Panthers. Marchand notched a shorthanded goal and ultimately his first career hat trick, while Bergeron tallied two points on the power-play and three overall to keep the Bruins rolling into the holiday break.
With Boston sporting a 20-2-1 mark in its last 23 games, the team's secondary unit continues to make an impact in a number of different areas on a regular basis. Both Marchand and Bergeron are among the League's top-10 in plus-minus and rank second and third, respectively, on the team in points. On Wednesday, Bergeron (3:00 PP ice time per game) and Marchand (2:36) even produced on special teams.
Marchand (owned in 76 percent of leagues) and Bergeron (67 percent), despite their place in the League's deepest lineup, are proving to be premier all-around options with the Bruins surging over the last two months.
Carter notched a first period hat trick in Tuesday's 6-5 road loss to the Nashville Predators. With a streak of three-straight 30-plus goal, 60-plus point campaigns on the line, the 26-year-old forward has finally reassured panicking fantasy owners by scoring seven goals in his last seven games.
While Carter is playing for a team that is currently last in the League standings, he picked up steam as a power-play threat against the Predators. Carter has averaged 3:54 of power-play ice time this season, and finally broke through with a pair of goals on the man advantage on Thursday.
Operating on Columbus' top line with Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal, Carter has seen his team's struggles take a toll on his fantasy showing through 23 games this season. His minus-9 rating is evidence of that. But despite missing time due to injury this season, Carter is beginning to show chemistry with Nash, who assisted on two of his three goals on Thursday.
Carter (owned in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues) appears to be turning the corner after a slow start in Columbus, so the time has finally come for his fantasy owners to ride the wave of success.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux has made "positive strides," which is a reason in itself for fantasy owners to remove him from Injured Reserve immediately and make room on their rosters. When dealing with Giroux (concussion) who is tied for the League lead in points, despite missing his team's last four games, the reward outweighs the risk.
Even if Giroux does not end up playing Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, it's simply a more logical move to have him in your lineup. Wednesday is only a six-game night, so your team doesn't have to worry about losing production from elsewhere as you would by benching a healthy player on a 13-game night. If you elect to leave one of the game's most potent point-producers in the IR slot of your lineup, you could potentially miss out on an impactful performance. A recent example was Taylor Hall's two-goal night upon his return from injury on Dec. 15 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Plus, taking a casual approach and waiting another day or two could cost your team precious goals or assists during a shortened fantasy week. Since there are no NHL games scheduled for Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, any points that Giroux provides could go a long way in helping you win your matchup this week.
The concern surrounding Brenden Morrow is diminishing by the day, as the Dallas Stars' captain has returned to his goal-scoring ways.
Since returning to the lineup from an upper-body injury on Dec. 8, Morrow has compiled 4 goals and 3 assists in six games. Despite a minus-2 rating during that stretch, the 32-year-old winger has excelled on the man advantage with 3 power-play points, while racking up 17 shots on goal and 6 PIMs as well during that span.
But, beyond his stellar production, Morrow has shown tremendous chemistry on the Stars' secondary line with Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott. That trio was in full swing Monday night with two of the team's first three goals, as Morrow's linemates assisted on his opening goal before he returned the favor on Ribeiro's strike early in the second period en route to a 5-3 win against Anaheim.
For a guy who seemed on pace for an underachieving season when he went down with an injury on Nov. 21, this recent development is huge for fantasy owners who stuck with Dallas' captain, and is also relevant for owners seeking an experienced forward on the free agent wire.
Morrow, in his 12th NHL season, has never posted a 40-goal season, but set a career high with 33 goals last year. Despite missing six games due to his injury this season, Morrow's recent stretch indicates he could still be in position to build off his 2010-11 campaign. While he may not be available in deeper pools, he is owned in only 64 percent of Yahoo! leagues and could be a timely fantasy squad addition for a team in need of goal-scoring help.
Fantasy owners of Chris Pronger are searching for answers after news broke Thursday that the Philadelphia Flyers' defenseman will miss the rest of the season due to post-concussion syndrome.
While there's no doubt that the news comes as a road block to fantasy owners who hoped this elite blueliner would be a significant piece to their championship puzzle, Pronger's teammate, Matt Carle, has proved he can be an adequate replacement for any fantasy lineup.
Carle (4 G, 14 A, plus-8, 18 PIM, 3 PPP, 46 SOG, 14 hits) may not match the point-per-game production of Pronger this season (1 G, 11 A, 8 PPP in 13 games), but the 27-year-old blueliner could step in for the Flyers' captain and emerge as a factor on the power play. With three power-play goals already this season, there could be more on the way in that department.
His average of just over three minutes per game on the man advantage should increase, and his superb plus-minus only adds to his upside. His recent stretch of a goal and six assists in his last four games is certainly noteworthy production from a fantasy standpoint.
Philadelphia has won seven straight games to kick off the month of December, and Carle registered a season-high three-point outing (all assists) with a plus-2 rating in the Flyers' 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Owned in only 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Carle will quickly become a commodity in leagues around the world.
While he was not viewed as a fantasy difference-maker coming into the season, Brian Elliott has become the hottest commodity on the goaltending market.
Elliott (12-2-0, 1.45, .947, 4 SO) tied Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts on Saturday as the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Saturday night. With just two losses on the season, Elliott is proving to be much more than a temporary addition to a fantasy lineup. His ownership in Yahoo! leagues has escalated from 55 to 75 percent over the last three weeks, as Elliott has proved to be the most complete goaltender in the League this season.
Leading the League in both goals-against-average and save percentage, this 26-year-old has allowed more than two goals only once in 15 outings. Coach Ken Hitchcock -- who is 11-2-3 since taking over for Davis Payne in St. Louis -- has given each of his goaltenders eight starts apiece under the new regime. While both Elliott (7-1-0) and Jaroslav Halak (4-1-3) have risen to the occasion in that span, Elliott's body of work this season is the most impressive in the League by far.
While it's not likely that St. Louis will continue its unconscious stretch, Elliott is taking steps toward earning the No. 1 goaltending role with the Blues. Hitchcock will likely continue to utilize both of his options while both are playing well, but Elliott's value should not be underestimated. He has simply separated himself from the "add/drop" discussion, and will likely be fixated in fantasy lineups around the world over the next several days -- if he hasn't been already.
While the perception surrounding Tomas Kaberle is far from high in the fantasy world these days, a fresh start in Montreal could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Canadiens acquired the 33-year-old defenseman Friday in exchange for Jaroslav Spacek -- in the hope that Kaberle (0 G, 9 A, minus-12, 2 PIM, 4 PPP, 38 SOG) can inject some life into their offense. With Montreal outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings through 29 games, this puck-moving defenseman brings a wealth of experience to the table that could potentially help the Habs turn their season around.
From a fantasy standpoint, Kaberle certainly has value as he's projected to be Montreal's new power-play quarterback. With Andrei Markov still experiencing setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery and Yannick Weber in the midst of a 10-game goal drought skid, Kaberle will be put in a position to shine on the man advantage. If Markov returns, Kaberle gives the team added depth on the blue line with P.K. Subban (1 G, 10 A, plus-4, 37 PIM, 2 PPP, 77 SOG, 36 hits) experiencing a sophomore slump in offensive production.
Kaberle sports a passable assist total and power-play point output this season, but his plus-minus in Carolina was subpar to say the least. On top of Eric Staal and Cam Ward having rough fantasy seasons for the Hurricanes, Kaberle never found his rhythm with Joni Pitkanen, who has missed a total of nine games this season.
While it's impossible to predict whether Kaberle will break out of his shell and excel on the power play, he will get a clean slate in what has been a forgettable season. At the very least, Kaberle's plus-minus should improve and his healthy presence will benefit an offensive unit ranked near the bottom of the League in both goals per game (2.45) and power-play percentage (11.4).
Basically, Kaberle (owned in 39 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) is worth adding in a deep league for defensive depth on your roster. You may not like what you see after five or so games, but the bottom line is that there is little risk involved in this move. If Kaberle is up to challenge and ultimately returns to form, your fantasy squad could reap the benefits.
Because, after all, this eight-time 40-plus point scorer will have at least a chance to rediscover his rhythm after a change in scenery.
Less than six months after suffering a vertebrae fracture in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Mason Raymond proved Thursday that he can still score with the best of them.
The 26-year-old capitalized in transition with a shorthanded goal off a feed from linemate Jannik Hansen in the second period of Vancouver's eventual 4-3 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. His swift wrister bested Carey Price, and sparked his team's furious rally at Bell Centre in the process. Raymond and Hansen were promoted to the Canucks' second line following injuries to David Booth (sprained MCL) and Chris Higgins (infected foot). While Higgins is day-to-day, Booth is expected to miss four to six weeks.
From a fantasy standpoint, this news elevates the value of Raymond, who has looked comfortable in three games since returning to the lineup on Dec. 4. Raymond (1 G, 1 A, plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 SOG in 3 games) has seen increased ice time since his season debut (14:35 in his debut to 19:09 Thursday) and is now operating alongside a potent goal-scorer in Ryan Kesler. With Kesler working his way back toward point-per-game production and Hansen poised for a career year, Raymond is in great position to earn scoring chances in Vancouver's high-flying offensive system.
In short, Raymond -- owned in only five percent of Yahoo Leagues -- will have the opportunity to ease his way back into the swing of things for the Canucks. While his temporary role might not lead to a permanent one, it will at least give fantasy owners a chance to assess his progress in his ongoing recovery from a career-threatening injury.
Raymond's ability to shine offensively in a heightened role for Vancouver on Thursday proves that he has not lost the scoring touch that propelled him to a 25-goal, 50-point, 200-shot season in 2009-10.
Hansen (27 games, 9 goals, 5 assists, minus-1, 0 PPP, 14 PIM, 42 SOG) continued to fly under the radar as a complementary offensive weapon for Vancouver, scoring a pair of goals in the Vancouver Canucks' 6-0 rout of the Colorado Avalanche. The Danish-born right wing has operated alongside Cody Hodgson on Vancouver's third line, and is picking up steam as of late -- with four goals in his last three games. Considering Hansen opened the season with only a goal and three assists in his first 14 games, his recent performance has made it clear that he does possess sleeper fantasy value.
If his heightened goal-scoring production continues, it will only be a matter of time before the 25-year-old becomes a trending commodity in the fantasy world. Despite the fact that he does not see much time on the power play these days, Hansen has already equaled his goal-scoring production from last season -- an indication that he may be primed for the first 20-plus goal season of his career. If his production soars, he could potentially challenge newly-acquired David Booth for time at wing on Vancouver's secondary line.
For a player owned in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues, Hansen is worth the risk at this point, especially considering he diversified his game as a distributor last season (82 games, 9 goals, 20 assists, plus-13 rating, 113 SOG). If Hansen stays healthy, there is a great chance he will take the next step in his development and thrive in an even bigger way in a back-seat role for the Canucks.
The New York Islanders departed on their four-game road trip in search of an answer to their offensive woes. It's safe to say they found a spark in Matt Moulson.
The 28-year-old was an offensive machine during the swing away from Nassau Coliseum, compiling seven goals and one assist in four contests. Moulson (13 G, 6 A, plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 PPP, 61 SOG) capped off the trip with an emphatic four-goal outing on Saturday in New York's 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars. The Islanders finished the road trip with a 3-0-1 record, after entering the stretch without a road win to show for themselves all season.
The Isles' offense still sports the worst goals-per-game average in the NHL (2.17), but Matt Moulson's scorching stretch has brought out the best in the team's top line -- even with John Tavares in the midst of a 13-game goalless drought. During the team's recent struggles, coach Jack Capuano did some line shuffling, but now the team's primary line is back where it belongs.
The trio of Moulson, Tavares and PA Parenteau -- which combined for 19 points in the Isles' three-game win streak spanning from Oct. 10-15 -- has reeled off 20 points in their last four games. But while the line has shown astronomical potential in small doses, it has been more defined by its inconsistency this season.
From a fantasy standpoint, Moulson (owned in 46 percent of Yahoo! leagues) has well-documented goal-scoring ability, having played in all 82 games and scoring 30-plus goals in each of his last two seasons. While Tavares (three assists on Saturday) is the most promising young player on New York's roster, Moulson is the more mature leader of the forwards and has provided a stepping stone for the unit with four of the team's next five games coming at home. Moulson stands as the only NHL player to score four goals in a game this season, so he'll become a popular addition to fantasy lineups around the world once the new fantasy week begins on Monday.
The challenge for Moulson and the team's top line is now to carry the positive momentum over to Nassau Coliseum -- where the Isles have been shut out five times this season. In the mean time, Moulson is making a living off making scrappy plays around the net -- and his linemates are reaping the benefits.
Parise, who posted an assist and a minus-2 rating in the New Jersey Devils' 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, extended his goalless streak to six games. This marked the second time this season in which Parise has gone five-plus games without finding the back of the net. For a player with an average draft round in Yahoo! Leagues of 2.7, Parise's fantasy production is way down based on high expectations (circa 40 goals) surrounding his contract year.
Coming off a season where he played only 13 games due to a knee injury, Parise was named the Devils' captain in October and has also gone through a brief position change where he saw time at center. With pressure brewing, Parise nearly notched the most dramatic goal of New Jersey's season when the puck crossed the goal line off his skate with 2.1 seconds remaining in the third period last Saturday against the New York Islanders. But when the ruling on the ice was overturned due to a distinct kicking motion on Parise's part, the frustration continued to mount as the Devils suffered an excruciating 3-2 loss.
The 27-year-old has been in the lineup for all 23 of New Jersey's games this season, but has simply not displayed the game-breaking ability that justified an early-round fantasy draft selection. Despite a strong shot output, his plus-minus and point totals are sub-par. Regardless of whether or not his slump is due to an ongoing recovery from injury, the bottom line is that Parise is on pace to register his first full season with under 30 goals since his rookie campaign in 2005-06.
Evander Kane's slow start is history, and Tuesday night is more proof that this 20-year-old has taken his versatility to new heights.
With two goals, a plus-2 rating, seven shots on goal and three hits in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Kane (12 G, 6 A, plus-1, 23 PIM, 4 PPP, 89 SOG, 58 hits) provided more reinforcement behind the claim that he's among the most well-rounded fantasy players in the game. Winnipeg's rising star brushed off a five-game scoreless streak to start the season, and is currently seventh in the League in goals and fifth in shots. His output in hits can also carry a fantasy team's production in that category.
Owned in only 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Kane has blossomed in Claude Noel's system after initial impressions this season indicated that he could be in for a down year. After posting a 19-goal, 24-point, 82-shot, 154-hit campaign in 2010-11, this left winger is on pace to shatter those numbers and put together an incredibly well-rounded season. What's more, he has proved, through 23 games, to be the crown jewel of the Winnipeg Jets' organization moving forward -- which gives him tremendous long-term keeper value.
With Pekka Rinne caught in a four-game winless skid, Henrik Lundqvist is quietly emerging as the League's top fantasy netminder. His performance on Saturday spoke for itself.
With the potent offense of the Philadelphia Flyers in town for a preview of the season's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, things got heated early and often. But Lundqvist's 29-save shutout gave the New York Rangers the last laugh in the latest chapter of their spirited rivalry with Philly.
Lundqvist (9-4-3, 2.05 GAA, .935 save percentage, 2 SO) has won seven of his last eight starts overall, and notched another masterful effort in a big game behind a suddenly stout Rangers defensive front -- even with Marc Staal (concussion-like symptoms) having missed all 20 games this season. The Rangers, who started the season slow, are only five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who sport the League's best record -- with four games in hand.
In short, the Rangers have become an elite team for a reason. And with all due respect to Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, Lundqvist has been the team's backbone through thick and thin. The Blueshirts have played the second fewest games in the League to date (20), but Lundqvist is still tied for ninth in the League in wins. He also sports the fourth-best save percentage and is among the leaders in shutouts.
If this dominant stretch of play is any indication, Lundqvist will start 60-plus games for the Rangers and make his fantasy owners proud in the process.
But with all due respect to those dazzling young point-producers, there is an often forgotten member of the Oilers' fantasy crop of forwards -- Jordan Eberle. The former 22nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft churned out his seventh multi-point outing in 21 games this season on Tuesday, and is in the midst of a scorching stretch that has elevated his value to new heights.
Coming off a 18-goal, 25-assist rookie campaign, Eberle (7 G, 14 A, plus-1, 6 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 15 hits) is on pace to shatter those numbers as surprising Oilers have seemingly put their stretch of last-place finishes to rest. Nugent-Hopkins (8 G, 14 A, plus-3, 11 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 11 hits) and Hall (6 G, 10 A, even rating, 8 PPP, 12 PIM, 57 SOG, 20 hits) had a pair of assists apiece on Tuesday and are both machines on the man advantage. But Eberle is up to speed with his peers in nearly every category, including power-play points, proving he is just as likely to continue his breakout season.
His three-point (2 G, 1 A) performance Tuesday night -- despite a difficult road environment in Nashville -- truly showcased his creativity with the puck and also his knack for finding his teammates in stride. Eberle has compiled four goals and six assists in his last five games, but is still only owned in 60 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. This 21-year-old's caliber of production should no longer be undervalued, as it mirrors his frequent linemates, Hall and RNH.
All three of these fantasy assets are bound to have their ups and downs as the season wears on, but their frequent outbursts of high-flying point production have made it crystal clear that they are on the fast track to stardom in this League.
Monday night served as a reminder to fantasy owners: Few players possess the game-breaking ability of Sidney Crosby.
The 24-year-old scored on his first shot on goal since Jan. 5, and didn't stop there. Crosby (2 G, 2 A, plus-3, 1 PPP, 8 SOG on Monday) assisted on the Pittsburgh Penguins' next two goals, before capping off a near-perfect night with his second goal early in the third period as the Pens blanked the New York Islanders, 5-0. There's no question that his fantasy owners, especially the ones who made bold statements by taking Sid with an early first-round selection, channeled the excitement of the capacity crowd at Consol Energy Center on the night of his return to the lineup.
Sidney Crosby's two goal, two assist debut performance was impressive even by No. 87's high standards. (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI)
Despite the fact that his brilliant performance came against the last-place Isles, Crosby's ability to attack the net at will and mesh with his teammates in game action after such a long period of rehabilitation from post-concussion syndrome speaks volumes about his sheer talent and determination in working his way back.
With 61 games left in the regular season for the Steel City's superstar, the sky is the limit. The proof? His 66-point season in just 41 games last season before suffering an injury that would set him back for nearly 11 months.
But the excitement surrounding Crosby, from a fantasy perspective, should not be limited to his owners alone. "Sid the Kid" wasted no time in clicking on all cylinders with his linemates, Chris Kunitz (7 G, 4 A, plus-1, 8 PIM, 63 SOG) and Pascal Dupuis (4 G, 13 A, plus-10, 6 PIM, 56 SOG). Dupuis had three assists on the night, and each of Sid's linemates had plus-3 outings. What's more, Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal, assisted by Crosby and top-5 fantasy defenseman Kris Letang, is further evidence that the addition of Crosby will put his teammates in prime position to succeed -- and produce phenomenal fantasy numbers -- on a nightly basis.
The 32-year-old forward posted a hat trick on Sunday, including an empty netter on the power-play to seal a 4-1 win in the Mile High City -- marking San Jose's sixth victory in eight games this month. Marleau is thriving alongside Joe Thornton (1 G, 6 A in last 3 games), and it's no secret that the Sharks are one of the most prolific offenses in the League when those two forces are in full swing.
Marleau (9 G, 10 A, plus-4, 9 PPP, 8 PIM, 55 SOG) has reeled off six goals and four assists in his last six games and is an experienced power-play orchestrator. Despite a five-game slump to start the season, Marleau has been extremely active in the offensive zone for the Sharks (6-1-1 in November) ever since, and is proving he is still at the top of his game. He is also center/left wing eligible, which is icing on the cake for his fantasy owners.
The Sharks, despite falling in the Western Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons, continue to be one of the most dangerous regular season teams in the League -- which has been the case since their President's Trophy-winning campaign in 2008-09. With Joe Pavelski emerging as a top-10 fantasy right wing and Thornton's production in full swing, Marleau is in prime position to live up to expectations and produce a 35-plus goal, 75-plus point season in '11-12.
Russell gave the Blues some breathing room with a third period goal in Thursday's win over the red-hot Florida Panthers. Since joining forces with his former coach, Ken Hitchcock, in St. Louis via trade on Nov. 11, Russell has scored twice and compiled a plus-1 rating. To add even more intrigue to the situation, the Blues have won all three games since the addition of Russell, and are off to a 4-0-1 start since the organization made a coaching change earlier this month.
This 24-year-old showed flashes of promise as a puck-moving blueliner in Columbus, but never produced eye-opening numbers in his four-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets. Hitchcock, however, saw enough potential to reunite with his former player.
While the Blues are not likely to keep up their scorching start to the Hitchcock era, it's becoming less of a secret with each passing day that the 5'10 Russell is in his comfort zone in Hitchcock's system. If you're in a deep fantasy league and in need of a blueliner, look no further than Russell (4 G, 1 A, even rating, 13 PIM), who is owned in only 1 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.
— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas