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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 11:26 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Ekman-Larsson on track to elite fantasy d-man status

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.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.23.2013 / 10:48 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Conacher latest trending waiver wire option

The healthy scoring arsenal of the Tampa Bay Lightning is clicking on all cylinders, and rookie Cory Conacher has been the primary beneficiary thus far.

Cory Conacher
Center - TBL
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 5
SOG: 5 | +/-: 3
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.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 11:47 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Anderson's value soars after near-perfect start

Three days into the NHL season, Ottawa Senators' goaltender Craig Anderson is Yahoo's No. 1-ranked overall fantasy player.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 2-0-0
GAA: 0.50 | SVP: 0.983
Let that sink in for a moment.

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.

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Posted On Monday, 01.21.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Five unnoticed opening weekend fantasy storylines

Two days of games are already in the books, so it's appropriate to quickly reflect on a few storylines following an eventful opening weekend in the NHL.

While mainstream players (Martin St. Louis, Jaromir Jagr, Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau, etc.) and highly-touted prospects (Vladimir Tarasenko, Jonathan Huberdeau, etc.) stole headlines by kicking their seasons off with a bang, here are five developments on the fantasy front that may have gone unnoticed:

Vokoun should be valued as the short season rolls on -- especially by fantasy owners who drafted Marc-Andre Fleury. (Photo: Getty Images)

-- Three teams (Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins) are off to 2-0 starts, with each riding backup netminders to wins Sunday. Josh Harding (owned in 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues), in his first appearance since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, stopped all 24 shots to blank the Dallas Stars. Tomas Vokoun (38 percent), who gave Marc-Andre Fleury a breather, held the New York Rangers in check by making 31 saves on 34 shots. Ray Emery (6 percent) was far from perfect against Phoenix (25 SV on 29 SOG), but still earned a victory as the Blackhawks scored five-plus goals for the second straight day.

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.

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Posted On Tuesday, 09.04.2012 / 4:11 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Landeskog's stock continues to rise

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.

Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog
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.

To see where Landeskog ranks among the game's best fantasy assets, check out NHL.com's top-175 overall rankings.

Follow Fantasy Insider Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen; Join the conversation: @NHLFantasy

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Posted On Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:15 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Isles second line warrants a look



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.

Josh Bailey
Center - NYI
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 31
SOG: 99 | +/-: -8
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.

Kyle Okposo
Right Wing - NYI
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 41
SOG: 143 | +/-: -14
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.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Foligno emerges for hometown Sabres

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.

Marcus Foligno
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 7
SOG: 9 | +/-: 5
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.
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Ekman-Larsson, Wolski pick up steam

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.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Bryzgalov due for strong finish?

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.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 24-13-6
GAA: 2.72 | SVP: 0.901
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.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: MacDonald making a case for time

As the Detroit Red Wings look to make history Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, goaltender Joey MacDonald will try to keep the ball rolling from a personal standpoint.

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.
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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season