Ryan Kesler is going from a rebuilding project to a playoff team built to win immediately.
The center's fresh start with the Anaheim Ducks should be more than enough to earn back the trust of fantasy owners.
Ryan Kesler is going from a rebuilding project to a playoff team built to win immediately.
The center's fresh start with the Anaheim Ducks should be more than enough to earn back the trust of fantasy owners.
Hartnell and Umberger have five and three years remaining on their respective contracts. Each is 32 years old and has seen a dip in productivity over the past few years. But from a fantasy standpoint, contract terms don't come into play as much.
The big takeaway from this deal is that Hartnell has waived his no-trade clause to join one of the deepest, most promising forward arsenals in the League. His category coverage helped fantasy owners win their leagues during his time in Philly, and the potential is there for him to hit the "refresh" button in Columbus.
The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs were as unpredictable as ever, and fantasy owners can expect many developments from around the NHL to impact next year's landscape.
There were elite-level players (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Henrik Lundqvist, Patrick Kane, P.K. Subban, etc.) who fueled deep playoff runs for their respective teams, as well as breakout stars from the regular season (Nathan MacKinnon, Jamie Benn, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Johansen, Matt Niskanen, etc.) who carried over their strong play to the big stage.
But the players who will stick in the minds of fantasy owners all summer long are the playoff surprises and disappointments. Here are some players who are trending in fantasy, for better or worse, heading into the offseason as a result of their postseason performances.
The New York Islanders have a fantasy-relevant starting goalie. Let that sink in.
After trading for the rights of pending unrestricted free agent Jaroslav Halak on May 1, the Islanders locked up their new goalie Thursday with a four-year contract. For a team that hasn't had much stability at the position or success on the free-agent front in recent years, the signing is a major step in the right direction.
Halak, a productive fantasy goalie behind a stingy defense during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues, is one of four goalies with a 2.15 goals-against average and .920 save percentage or better over the past three regular seasons combined (minimum 100 outings). Cory Schneider, Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist are the others.
What had the looks of a cloudy goalie situation for the St. Louis Blues just became crystal clear.
And as a result of this contract development, it's certain that Ryan Miller, a pending unrestricted free agent, will either have his rights dealt elsewhere or test the market this summer.
As the NHL regular season comes to a close, it's appropriate to marvel at how fantasy league champions were crowned after a six-month roller-coaster ride.
Besides avoiding the unpredictable injury bug, championship teams generally draft well in early rounds. But the fantasy playoffs always boil down to depth and consistency, and that's where late-round and waiver-wire gems put teams over the top.
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 year-end ownership, it's clear which players have been the biggest fantasy "steals."
Here are the forwards, defensemen and goalies who exceeded expectations this season based on Yahoo ADP and ownership:
The 26-year-old suffered a stroke on Jan. 29 and has been recovering over the past 10 weeks. Letang has practiced with contact for the past few weeks after being cleared by doctors and the team announced he will return Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
From a fantasy standpoint, any owner who held onto Letang during his recovery period is now likely to see him pay dividends down the stretch. If your one-year, head-to-head league does not permit owners from making waiver-wire transactions once eliminated, there's even a chance Letang is available at this time for your championship round (owned in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues).
Last season, Colorado Avalanche defensemen combined to score five goals. Yes, it was a 48-game campaign, but that NHL-low total was a glaring weakness for a team that finished 29th among 30 teams in the standings.
What a difference a year makes.
This season, through 76 games, the Avalanche are the only NHL team with five defensemen who have six or more goals apiece. Bounce-back offensive seasons from Erik Johnson (eight goals) and Jan Hejda (six) as well as the additions of Nick Holden (nine) and Andre Benoit (seven) have made a huge difference, but the unit's improvement can be traced to the emergence of Tyson Barrie.
We've seen Andrei Loktionov scratch at the surface of fantasy ownership before, but inconsistency always doomed his chances of sticking with highly skilled linemates for extended periods of time.
But since being traded from the New Jersey Devils to the Carolina Hurricanes, Loktionov has earned his stripes one day at a time, leading to regular ice time in a more prominent role and, most importantly, production.
The 23-year-old has six points and 12 shots on goal over his past five games and is seeing more ice time with the Hurricanes (13:51 per game) than with the Devils (12:18). His eight points (three goals, five assists) in 14 games for Carolina trails only Ales Hemsky (12), Thomas Vanek (11), Marian Gaborik (10), David Legwand (10), Ryan Callahan (10), Lee Stempniak (9) and Matt Moulson (9) for the most points since March 5 among players traded on NHL Trade Deadline day.
The 23-year-old Duchene, who has a career-high 70 points, plus-8 rating and 217 shots on goal this season, is expected to miss about four weeks with a sprained MCL. It's an injury that will severely alter the depth of the Stanley Cup Playoff-bound Avalanche and offensive production for fantasy owners around the globe.
With recent injuries to Duchene and PA Parenteau, Colorado has shifted Calder Trophy favorite Nathan MacKinnon from right wing to center and onto a line with Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn. Paul Stastny looks to remain the team's second line center alongside Gabriel Landeskog but has John Mitchell -- for now -- lining up on his right.
When the fantasy playoffs roll around, production across the board is magnified. One category point, more or less, could make the difference between moving on and being sent home.
Time and time again, category coverage wins head-to-head fantasy leagues, and this season provides the latest reminder. Watching some of the game's proven multi-category producers peak at the right time and others burst onto the scene over the course of a full season gives owners all the more confidence in them moving forward. Whether they are fueling your championship run or proving to be a thorn in your team's side as opponents, these assets should not be forgotten come draft day next season.
Here are the most valuable six- and seven-tool assets around the NHL to prioritize in drafts next season depending on your league format.
But whether or not that ends up being the case, a recent lineup development is setting the 43-year-old up for a strong finish to his season -- and possibly his career.
In a move that is revitalizing the short-term fantasy stock of the "Finnish Flash," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has been playing the veteran on the left side of the NHL's top point pair, center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry. Boudreau made the switch against the Colorado Avalanche on March 14, and Selanne has since answered the call admirably on the team's top flock.
The 24-year-old has reached the top-15 fantasy realm at his position and continues to flourish as the Rangers' featured power-play defenseman.
And he's just getting warmed up.
In keeper leagues, that makes for some difficult decisions. But in one-year, head-to-head leagues, it's important to act quickly.
Luckily, in recent weeks and months, call-ups around the NHL have come to the rescue to make those decisions a bit easier. These are fresh, young options that could inject some life into an ailing roster. Based on where they fall in their team's lineup and what they have accomplished so far in 2013-14, they must be considered down the stretch -- even if their ownership appears low based on your league size.
To this point in the season, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins has been the most valuable fantasy goalie. His goals-against-average (2.07) and save percentage (.929) are tops in the League among goalies with 50-plus appearances. He also leads the NHL with six shutouts.
But come fantasy playoff time, every goalie start is crucial and back-to-back sets need to be taken into account. "Handcuffing" a quality backup is always a worthwhile tactic to guarantee appearances and prevent your team from disaster if the injury bug strikes.
For those reasons, fantasy owners in deep leagues should take a look at the Bruins' remaining schedule and realize how valuable the team's No. 2 goalie, Chad Johnson, could prove to be.
But Palat hasn't been deterred by what has gone on around him. His season has been defined by results.
Riding a five-game point streak, Palat is the NHL's hottest point producer over the past 10 days (four goals, five assists). His 46 points in 68 games trail only Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (52 points in 68 games) in the rookie scoring race. Palat, 22, had his 13th multi-point game Monday against the Vancouver Canucks, pulling him ahead of MacKinnon (12) for the rookie lead.
Two top-tier fantasy forwards will be sidelined for an extended period of time. Back to the waiver wire we go, fantasy owners.
Jaromir Jagr is a big reason why Ruutu has turned the page so quickly. Plain and simple, Jagr has helped Ruutu go from fantasy irrelevance to being on the cusp of deep-league ownership in a matter of days.
Owned in three percent of Yahoo leagues, Ruutu has shown instant chemistry alongside Jagr and Travis Zajac with one goal, three assists, a plus-3 rating and nine shots on goal in his first three games with New Jersey. Considering the Devils are vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the timing of this development could not have been more ideal.
With standard Yahoo Fantasy league playoffs beginning on March 17, owners around the globe are hoping to put their best foot forward from this point on.
Parenteau sustained a knee injury Monday and is likely to miss the remainder of the regular season. Stewart, who was traded from the St. Louis Blues to the Sabres on Feb. 28, only played two games for his new team before injuring his ankle in a collision on March 6. Sabres coach Ted Nolan has since said Stewart is likely done for 2013-14.
The NHL Trade Deadline had no shortage of marquee names changing area codes. Here's a quick roundup of the fantasy implications:
But with this promising fantasy update comes with some bad news in the form of Martin St. Louis' departure via trade. Stamkos will no longer have that familiar face beside him on the team's top line after St. Louis was dealt to the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan and two draft picks.
The Rangers add a top-10 point producer to the fold. The Lightning, meanwhile, are bound to see a dip offensively. Callahan has a chance to step in and fill the void left by St. Louis, but that's a major downgrade from a playmaking standpoint. While Stamkos will remain a top-five fantasy asset entering next season, his production could take a hit down the stretch considering the lack of chemistry on his line and his ongoing recovery from injury.
Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers in a package that sent goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom to the Canucks. Markstrom could wind up competing for playing time, but he has dealt with injuries and been playing for San Antonio of the American Hockey League for much of this season.
Lack, a first-year NHL goalie, starts Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes and will do his best to keep a struggling team afloat in the Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff picture. Lack has allowed two goals or fewer in 17 of his 25 appearances and started the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday over Luongo.
It's better late than never for Pekka Rinne and the many fantasy owners who have been banking on him to return for more than four months.
With the Nashville Predators vying for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the timing couldn't have been more impeccable. For fantasy owners in head-to-head formats, Rinne could make or break your chase for a league championship.
That's a chance worth taking any day of the week.
Plain and simple, it's an opportunity for this workhorse goalie to prove he still has top-five fantasy capability at his position.
Miller, who leaves Buffalo as the franchise's all-time leader in wins (284 in 540 games played), had a knack for putting his team on his back in good times and bad. This season, even with the Sabres rebuilding and in the basement of the NHL standings, his .923 save percentage ranks 10th in the NHL despite him facing the sixth-most shots League-wide (1,411).
The 2014 Winter Olympics may be in the past, but injuries at the center position will have a lingering impact on what remains of the NHL season.
New York Islanders captain John Tavares, a top-five overall fantasy asset, sustained a season-ending knee injury while playing for Canada. Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, a clear top-15 forward when healthy, could miss eight weeks after undergoing surgery for a herniated disk. Florida Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov, who was in the thick of the Calder Trophy race, sustained a knee injury while playing for Finland and is reportedly out 4-6 weeks.
Fantasy owners can take a break from setting their lineups during the NHL's hiatus for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but there's no time to rest when it comes to monitoring the waiver wire.
Olympic stats won't count in standard fantasy leagues, but strong performances could lead to positive momentum that could carry over to the stretch run of the 2013-14 season. Whether a young player expedites his development or an experienced player rekindles the fire, there's much to gain in Sochi from a fantasy standpoint.
The majority of prominent players from legitimate medal-contending countries are owned in Yahoo leagues. For Canada, 12 of 14 forwards have a fantasy ownership of 96 percent or greater. The goalie landscape, where most assets are owned in 80 to 100 percent of leagues, allows even less room for waiver wire additions.
But for wing Justin Abdelkader, it's all about keeping the ball rolling.
With three goals over his past two games, the 26-year-old has benefited from playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist on Detroit's top line. Abdelkader's linemates have assisted on two of those three goals, providing an ailing team with much-needed offensive continuity.
After missing the first 40 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery, Horton has made a seamless transition into Columbus' top-six forward mix and is, for now, living up to the sizable contract he signed this past summer.
He wasn't drafted on average in Yahoo Fantasy leagues, but that's history. Horton is quickly ascending the fantasy ladder and gaining more ownership by the day with his new team.
With the Olympic break approaching and the fantasy playoff picture beginning to take shape, owners are looking for ways to boost their chances on the waiver wire.
But while scoring-related categories (goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, rating) are usually most coveted, owners in rotisserie leagues or ones that take real-time stats into account are looking for ways to satisfy their league-specific needs.
Here are four readily available players that should be considered specialists in non-offensive categories. Their high level of production in their respective categories, along with a touch of offensive capability, could pay dividends for your team down the stretch of the season.
Joe Pavelski saw time on the San Jose Sharks' third line earlier this season and was drafted on average with the 87th pick in Yahoo Fantasy leagues. He's currently the NHL's second-leading goal-scorer (28).
That paints a perfect picture in regards to Pavelski's adaptability and overall value, both in fantasy and reality.
Pavelski, who has center and right wing eligibility in Yahoo Fantasy leagues, continued his torrid surge with his 19th goal in 21 games on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets. That goal marked his third game-winning tally in as many contests and stretched his point streak to four games (seven goals, one assist).
Suddenly, 23-year-old defenseman Roman Josi became an afterthought from a fantasy standpoint.
Jones was paired with star blueliner Shea Weber early on this season, logging a ton of minutes and even producing power-play points. Over his first 14 games, Jones had seven points, four coming with the man advantage. His seamless transition was well-documented, opening eyes around the League.
But since then, Jones has cooled off considerably with 11 points over his next 37 games. His rating has staggered to minus-19. Over that time frame, Predators coach Barry Trotz has limited Jones' ice time based on his earlier workload.
That needs to change.
The Ducks have won 18 of their past 19 games and have yet to lose in regulation in 22 home games this season (20-0-2). Their top-line combo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry is currently tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins' duo of Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz for the NHL's most productive point pair (35 common goals).
But as integral as Anaheim's front-liners have been to its historic stretch, the team's depth scoring has made it unbeatable of late, especially at home. That's where Bonino's value truly lies.
And, make no mistake, first-year NHL coach and legendary goalie Patrick Roy has everything to do with his netminder's remarkable turnaround.
Varlamov played 88 regular-season games in an Avalanche uniform prior to this season and left something to be desired over that span with goals-against averages of 2.59 in 2011-12 (53 games) and 3.02 in 2012-13 (35 games). Varlamov, drafted in the first round by the Washington Capitals in 2006, totaled the most losses (21) of any goalie during the shortened season.
When it comes to rookie centers this season, it's been Nathan MacKinnon and the rest.
The No. 1 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft has been as good as advertised for the Colorado Avalanche. He's covered five categories (goals, assists, plus/minus rating, power-play points, shots on goal) for fantasy owners and is owned in more than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues as a result.
But if you missed out on MacKinnon (Yahoo average draft position: 154.3), first-year centers Tyler Johnson, Aleksander Barkov and Mark Scheifele are there for the taking in most leagues. While they don't offer dual-position flexibility, each is worth the attention of deep-league fantasy owners.
His goals-against average has ballooned to 3.08 after surrendering five goals in each of his past three outings (0-2-1) dating back to Dec. 17. His slump and Michal Neuvirth's injury opened the door for rookie Philipp Grubauer, who improved to 6-2-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage with a win Thursday over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Grubauer, 22, has received the bulk of playing time over the past month and change -- and deservedly so.
But fantasy owners should look to take a calculated risk ahead of the final three months of the 2013-14 season. The opportunity to buy low on Holtby while his value has hit rock bottom is worth pursuing. He's a proven second-half performer for a team all too familiar with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He's become a mainstay on a line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, and the Flyers have benefited from the developing continuity of that secondary-scoring group. The Flyers are 21-10-4 since their 1-7-0 start and have been especially hot of late, winning eight of their past 10 games.
Hartnell's production has had a direct correlation to his team's sizzling stretch, as he's put together a career-long eight-game point streak (four goals, five assists) with points in nine of 10 games.
And while Philly's gritty second-liners continue to take the League by storm, two of its three components remain available in over half of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Hartnell (47 percent owned) and Schenn (40 percent) are there for the taking in most shallow formats, while Wayne Simmonds (68 percent) also warrants more ownership than he currently holds.
Filppula has answered the call with balanced point production and clutch goal-scoring, enabling the Lightning to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference standings despite losing one of the NHL's elite forwards for an extended timeframe.
The Finnish-born forward had his 10th multi-point game of the season (T-17th in the League) Wednesday when his team triumphed on the road against the Vancouver Canucks. Filppula, who has points in seven of his past eight games with a total of 12 in that span, is one of 24 players League-wide with 15-plus goals and 15-plus assists.
Mats Zuccarello's one-year contract this summer didn't come with much fanfare.
In similar quiet fashion, he has proved to be as valuable as any New York Rangers forward so far in 2013-14 -- in fantasy and reality.
His play and effort have done all the talking. With the exception of his size and contract length, nothing about his game is diminutive.
When Johnson was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart in 2011, the pressure shifted to his new role in the Mile High City. Johnson's struggles continued, with the low point coming in 2012-13 when he failed to register a goal in 31 games.
But just when fantasy owners thought he had reached irrelevance, he has navigated his way back into the equation.
The 20-year-old forward was recalled Wednesday and could make his long-awaited NHL debut as early as Thursday when the Islanders wrap up their Western Conference road swing against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Strome came into the season as a fantasy sleeper pick, but did not make the Islanders opening-night roster. He has made his case over the past few months by leading the American Hockey League with 33 points for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His production at the Ontario Hockey League level in years past is also well-documented.
One-third of the way into the 2013-14 NHL season, fantasy owners have seen quite a few curveballs when it comes to the goalie landscape.
There's still a ton of hockey left to be played in the coming months, but the bottom line is many goalies who came into the season with high expectations surrounding them have either failed to live up to the hype (Sergei Bobrovsky, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard) or seen injuries define their season (Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne).
Meanwhile, when you take the Yahoo average draft position (ADP) of the League's workhorse goalies into account, it's very clear who the most pleasant surprises have been. Here are five goalies that have maximized their value based on where they were taken in drafts. If you own one of these players, you've been in good hands so far.
With news surfacing Tuesday that Zetterberg is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks due to a herniated disc, those who own this top-10 fantasy forward are mulling their next move.
Of the seven players with 30-plus points this season, only Zetterberg has mustered a plus-10 or better rating with 90-plus shots on goal. His point production on the power play (11) is tied for 12th in the NHL, and his consistency over the years gives fantasy owners a peace of mind whenever he's in the lineup.
Just ask his fantasy owners. They're thankful to have him along for the ride this holiday season.
Neal continued his recent surge with his fifth-consecutive multi-point game Wednesday, adding a season-high 10 shots on goal in Pittsburgh's 6-5 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Coming into the season, fantasy owners didn't know what to expect from David Perron.
The St. Louis Blues shipped him to the Edmonton Oilers in July, raising questions about his long-term fantasy value. Between his injury history and his new team's string of bottom-10 finishes in the League standings, he was far from a commodity.
In fact, he wasn't drafted on average in Yahoo leagues. But to everyone's surprise, he's been one of the most indispensable players from a fantasy standpoint this season. Somehow, he's still available in more than 50 percent of leagues.
The crop of defensemen on the fantasy waiver wire is pretty barren these days.
And the best part is he remains vastly overlooked in fantasy leagues, owned in only two percent of Yahoo leagues.
Gelinas notched his first career multi-point game Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks in arguably the Devils' most impressive victory of the season. Each of his points came during a power play after Anaheim was whistled for a double-minor high-sticking penalty in the first period.
Rick Nash's return is here, and the fantasy implications are huge.
Nash, a perennial 30-plus goal scorer with 300-plus shot capability, will be back in the lineup Tuesday when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). The 29-year-old sustained a concussion on Oct. 8 in San Jose and had been sidelined ever since.
In three games this season, Nash compiled three points (one power-play point), five penalty minutes and nine shots on goal. Even after missing 17 games due to injury, he still has three-quarters of the season left to get his production back up to speed and pay dividends for your team.
When exploring potential waiver wire additions, recent production and line combinations always come into play.
In addition, dual-position flexibility is a wild card. On jam-packed game nights, it provides fantasy owners with the chance to fill as many roster spots as possible -- which can prove to be a significant edge in head-to-head leagues.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen, owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues, fits the bill in that regard. The 21-year-old, who has both center and right wing eligibility, picked up his fourth multi-point game of the season and had five shots on goal in Sunday's win against the Ottawa Senators.
When he missed time due to injury early on, many owners were especially down on his value. Some even bailed on him, making him temporarily available in shallow leagues.
With the 37-year-old facing unrestricted free agency next summer, the clock began to tick for him to perform -- both in fantasy and reality.
Where do fantasy owners of Steven Stamkos go from here?
Stamkos, out indefinitely after sustaining a broken leg Monday, has more goals (222) than any other player since he entered the League in 2008-09. At 23, he's played in 390 of a possible 393 games over five-plus NHL seasons, racking up 409 points along the way.
He's one of the game's elite, but likely won't be paying dividends for fantasy teams for an extended period of time.
But though it may seem virtually impossible to replace his presence in your lineups, fantasy championships are not won by a single player. Thus, owners must explore center-eligible options on the waiver wire to help keep their teams afloat.
And glimpses of his promise are already evident this season.
The 18-year-old Russian has put together a three-game point streak after a slow start to the season (two points in his first 12 games). His patience in the offensive zone in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday allowed him to feed Rich Peverley for the game-winning goal.
It hasn't been easy for Ottawa Senators goaltenders through 15 games this season.
Craig Anderson (4-4-2) and Robin Lehner (1-2-2) are the only goalie teammates in the NHL to each face 40-plus shots on goal on three separate occasions in 2013-14. Ottawa has won once in those six games and is allowing a League-worst 38.1 per game.
Thus, the burden on backup goalie Robin Lehner seemed even heavier entering Tuesday's road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily for the Senators and fantasy owners, the 22-year-old answered the call by stopping 32 of 33 shots for his first win of the season.
It's no surprise when countries like Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia produce NHL players that pay dividends in fantasy hockey leagues.
But the first month of the 2013-14 season has seen Denmark emerge as a new source of fantasy assets.
The 26-year-old had a hand in each of his team's goals, scoring twice and dishing out a pair of assists, as the Leafs blanked the Edmonton Oilers, 4-0. His four-point night marked the 10th time in 13 games that he's registered at least one point.
Over the past 10 days, no player League-wide is producing at a higher level than Kessel. With seven goals, 10 points and plus-7 rating over that four-game span, Kessel is single-handedly carrying fantasy owners in head-to-head league formats.
Whether one of your fantasy defensemen is injured or simply failing to meet your expectations, there is hope on the waiver wire.
Gudas, who has registered a point in four of his past five games, leads the NHL with 53 PIMs and all defensemen with 40 hits. Owned in only 17 percent of Yahoo leagues, Gudas is producing in multiple categories and catching the eyes of fantasy owners in the process.
David Clarkson's 10-game suspension has been served. Now, he can go back to serving fantasy owners with top-notch category coverage.
The Toronto Maple Leafs power forward will be in the lineup Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets in what will be his first regular-season game with his new team. Clarkson, who signed a seven-year contract with the Maple Leafs in free agency, can finally put the preseason incident that led to his suspension behind him.
If you were one of the wise fantasy owners to select Clarkson in the late rounds of your draft and store him on your bench, this 29-year-old should give your team an immediate lift. On the flip side, if you chose to play it safe and leave Clarkson on the waiver wire, the clock is ticking.
Now the rookie blueliner's power-play role not only has carried over to his first full NHL season, but also expanded.
But what's even more stunning is how long it's taking fantasy owners to notice.
It's no secret that chemistry between two skaters can pay major dividends in fantasy hockey.
Having two players on your roster that work cohesively and regularly combine to account for team goals can compound normal statistical production in your favor. It's comparable to having a strong quarterback-wide receiver connection in fantasy football. Common success between two players can give your team a sizable boost.
But while this season's most productive forward-to-forward point pairs (Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, etc.) could have been anticipated prior to the season, it would have been much more difficult to detect which forward-defenseman combinations have been most valuable to this point.
When one of Wayne Gretzky's records is broken, it's only natural for fantasy owners to take notice of everyone involved.
Edmonton Oilers wing Taylor Hall scored two goals in eight seconds on Thursday against the New York Islanders, besting Gretzky's team mark of two in nine seconds from 1981. Oilers center Mark Arcobello was lucky enough to be a part of Hall's milestone by association.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially from a fantasy standpoint. And it turns out Arcobello's performance sheds some light on a diamond-in-the-rough fantasy asset worth an investment.
Injuries are piling up around the League, with Rick Nash (head), Vincent Lecavalier (lower body) and Scott Hartnell (upper body) all on injured reserve in Yahoo Fantasy leagues and James Neal (upper body) set to join them on that list.
So where can fantasy owners find someone playing top-line minutes to fill a void left by one of the aforementioned forwards?
But don't look now. He has someone in his rearview mirror making a legitimate push for playing time.
That goaltender is Anton Khudobin, a 27-year-old from Kazakhstan who is one of the few fantasy goalie options worth your time on the waiver wire market in deep leagues. He signed a one-year deal with Carolina after serving as the backup to Tuukka Rask with the Boston Bruins last season.
The Calgary Flames had one player in NHL.com's preseason top 200 rankings, making them the League's least represented team entering the season from a fantasy standpoint.
That player was Mike Cammalleri (C/LW, 38 percent owned), who has yet to play a game due to an upper-body injury. Only defenseman Dennis Wideman (average draft position: 129.1), left wing Sven Baertschi (156.1) and goalie Karri Ramo (173.3) have been drafted on average in Yahoo leagues.
But whether or not a player is selected in fantasy leagues should not always dictate his value moving forward. Therefore, rookie center Sean Monahan could end up boosting your team off the waiver wire if he continues to impress during his nine-game NHL tryout.
But with Hertl now owned in over 50 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues, your late bid for this single-game impact player was likely unsuccesful. Luckily, there's another readily-available player on a high-caliber line who can pay both immediate and long-term dividends.
Jussi Jokinen, owned in only 28 percent of leagues, notched his second hat trick in just over two weeks. The first came in a preseason game on Sept. 21, so this was the first to count in fantasy leagues.
Marc Staal's career was in jeopardy after he sustained a severe eye injury in March, but Thursday was a breath of fresh air in the defenseman's ongoing recovery.
The 26-year-old's confidence was on full display in his return to regular-season action in the New York Rangers opener -- and fantasy owners would be wise to take notice.
Staal was not drafted on average in Yahoo Fantasy leagues, largely because of the uncertainty surrounding his health. While he made a one-game comeback attempt during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals, there were still lingering effects of his career-threatening injury.
There's no question that rookie Nathan MacKinnon and new coach Patrick Roy stole the spotlight in their sparkling debuts for the Colorado Avalanche, but Wednesday's 6-1 rout of the Anaheim Ducks also made it clear Steve Downie can be an asset to both his team and fantasy owners.
Operating on the team's top line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, Downie kicked off the season with a Gordie Howe hat trick (one goal, one assist, five PIMs), with both of his points coming on the power play. He also added four shots on goal and two hits in the win.
Colorado's depth up front, showcased by NHL.com leading up to the season with a League-leading nine forwards in its top 300 fantasy player pool, was evident all night long in a virtuoso offensive display. It was merely one game, but four of Downie's teammates -- MacKinnon, O'Reilly, Jamie McGinn and Alex Tanguay -- joined him in recording multi-point games on opening night.
The fantasy significance of Mikhail Grabovski's opening-night performance went way beyond his hat trick.
As a result, his time on the waiver wire has been short-lived.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to lose a Game 7 after leading by three goals in the third period, fantasy owners probably weren't expecting an endorsement of the team's goaltending only a few months later.
But when reflecting on James Reimer's development over the past year and the team's acquisition of former Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier, the future looks crowded -- and bright -- in Toronto's crease.
So, just about as suddenly as their lead slipped away in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the case can be made that the Leafs sport the League's best timeshare fantasy goalie tandem.
While everything seemed to come crashing down for Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fantasy owners would be wise not to hold his postseason struggles against him when they're looking for goaltending this season.
Fleury got a vote of confidence from Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma in June, which indicates he'll be in position to reclaim the team's starting job. If that's the case, he certainly deserves top-15 consideration among fantasy goalies heading into 2013-14 -- despite the negative perception surrounding his value these days.
Didn't backup Tomas Vokoun clearly outplay Fleury in the playoffs? Doesn't the fact that Fleury has struggled in each of the past four postseasons hurt his fantasy value?
After the departure of David Clarkson and the stunning retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils are turning to one of the most accomplished players in NHL history to fill a short-term void on the wing.
At 41 years young, Jaromir Jagr will suit up for yet another NHL team -- and remain a fantasy commodity in doing so.
The Devils came to terms on a contract with the coveted unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, setting up a potential tandem of the two highest-scoring players from the Czech Republic in NHL history. With longtime Devils wing and Czech native Patrik Elias (930 career points -- second all-time among Czechs) looking for a new linemate on the right side after Clarkson signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jagr (1,688 points -- first all-time among Czechs) is a candidate to help New Jersey fill that void.
In terms of productivity and longevity, there has never been a fantasy goaltender quite like Martin Brodeur.
But over the last three regular seasons, no goalie League-wide has been more efficient than Cory Schneider.
With both netminders on the New Jersey Devils' roster entering 2013-14, this inevitable time share should be one of the more compelling storylines of the fantasy season. The Devils, who acquired Schneider in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center, will not hesitate to integrate the 27-year-old into the lineup early and often next season.
Bobby Ryan no longer has to deal with swirling trade rumors. The dynamic forward has a new home where he can focus on what matters most to fantasy owners: returning to form as an elite offensive player.
The four-time 30-goal scorer landed with the Ottawa Senators in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The move allows the 26-year-old to turn the page on his time with the Ducks, which was mired by positional changes and line shuffling.
The deal injects a playmaker entering his prime into the Ottawa lineup following the departure of veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson, who signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings earlier Friday. Ryan, who had 30 points, 101 shots on goal and 80 hits in 46 games in 2012-13 for the Ducks, will be a go-to guy in all situations on the wing for the Senators, a team with a wealth of offensive firepower.
The centerpieces of Thursday's blockbuster trade will get a fresh start -- and fantasy owners should take notice.
When the Boston Bruins dealt Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson in a seven-player deal, each team addressed an important positional need. Both players took steps back fantasy-wise in 2012-13, but changes of scenery suddenly present reasons to give them early-round consideration in your drafts this fall.
The club agreed to a multiyear contract Tuesday with 33-year-old center Vincent Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 27. While the move to acquire Lecavalier is a surprising one considering Philadelphia's lack of a sure-fire starting goaltender and weakness on defense, it's safe to say the former Lightning captain can, when healthy, bring a lot to the table from a fantasy standpoint.
While the offseason is young and more moves could be on the horizon in Philadelphia, fantasy owners can expect Lecavalier to assume a role as the team's second-line center, where he likely will be flanked by young forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
The 35-year-old signed a four-year contract Friday with the Flyers, who have finished top-10 in the League in goals-per-game for six consecutive seasons. Only Kris Letang (26), Andrei Markov (25), Cody Franson (25) and Ryan Suter (24) had more games with at least one point than Streit (23) during this past 48-game campaign.
But here's the other side to the story: The former New York Islanders captain is tied with Eric Gudbranson for the NHL's worst combined rating (minus-41) over the past two seasons. The Flyers also posted a worse goal differential (minus-8 in 2012-13) than the Islanders (even). Therefore, it shouldn't be assumed Streit's rating will improve significantly.
Sergei Gonchar may be in the latter stages of his NHL career, but he proved this past season he can still be a valuable fantasy contributor when given a prominent offensive role.
His new two-year contract with the Dallas Stars, which was made official Monday after the Ottawa Senators traded his rights last Friday, indicates he could be quarterbacking the team's first power-play unit once next season rolls around.
If Gonchar transitions well, he's likely to remain valuable and under the radar from a fantasy standpoint entering 2013-14. With Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson sidelined in February, the 39-year-old stepped into his teammate's role and proved he can still make a difference. Gonchar kept the team afloat in the playoff race and even set a franchise record with at least one assist in 10 consecutive games (Mar. 3 to Mar. 23). He also led all Ottawa skaters with 12 power-play points in the regular season.
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They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.