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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 4:13 PM

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

Fantasy Spin: Subban return only a matter of time

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.

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Posted On Monday, 01.28.2013 / 3:30 PM

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

Fantasy Spin: Clowe, Simmonds top point/PIM assets

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

Ryane Clowe
Left Wing - SJS
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 3
SOG: 10 | +/-: 1
1. Ryane Clowe (LW/RW, San Jose Sharks)

2012-13 production: 3 points, 37 PIMs in 5 games

- 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.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 2:44 PM

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

Fantasy Spin: Kovalchuk surpasses Ovechkin in value

The final sequence of the New Jersey Devils' overtime win over the Washington Capitals Friday night was a microcosm of where forwards Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk stand in the fantasy landscape at this stage in their careers.

Ovechkin, trying to create a scoring chance in transition, lost his footing before losing the puck, causing an odd-man rush in the opposite direction.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 13 | +/-: -1
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.

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 2:16 PM

By Matt Cubeta -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: The impact of Jamie Benn

With hockey talk surrounding key injuries to Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartenll, fantasy owners finally received some relieving news: Forward Jamie Benn agreed to a five-year deal with the Dallas Stars.

Drafted on average with the 79th overall pick in Yahoo! Leagues, Benn will be a welcome sight for his owners after he had an extremely productive and well-rounded 2011-12 season -- 26 goals, 63 points, plus-15, 55 penalty minutes, 10 power play points and 203 shots on goal in 71 games.

Benn, center and left wing eligible in Yahoo! Leagues, is not expected to make his season debut until Monday, where he'll likely center the team's top line with Jaromir Jagr and Loui Eriksson as his wings. That's an extremely talented group of forwards and it could turn Benn into an elite fantasy player for the remainder of this condensed season.

The 23-year-old forward has all the tools to become one of fantasy hockey's most dominant players -- he has size and grit and plays a physical game, which will result in solid penalty minutes; he will see more power play time this season after averaging 2:17 last year; he has a quality team around him which will result in a good plus/minus; he has unbelievable hands which should result in plenty of points (just check out this goal from last season, and how about this pass?); and he has improved his stats every year he's been in the NHL (22 G, 41 points as a rookie in 2009-10, 22 G, 56 points in 2010-11, 26 G, 63 points last season). There's literally no flaw in his game from a fantasy standpoint.

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 12:00 PM

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

Fantasy Spin: Grabner among sizzling waiver options

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.

ALEXANDER STEEN (C/LW, St. Louis Blues)

Alexander Steen
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 4
SOG: 14 | +/-: 4
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.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:27 PM

By Matt Cubeta -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Lupul sidelined for six weeks

Last season Joffrey Lupul had a breakout fantasy season, finishing the year with 25 goals, 67 points, a plus-one, 48 penalty minutes, 21 power play points and 191 shots on goal. This year, things aren't going quite as well.

Lupul was held without a point his first two contests and then on Wednesday night he suffered a broken right forearm after his teammate Dion Phaneuf's shot struck him while camped out in front of the net. This is a rough loss for Lupul fantasy owners, as six weeks in this 48-game schedule is extremely costly.

While Matt Frattin is expected to be called up to replace Lupul's roster spot, Clarke MacArthur could be the player to see an increased fantasy role for the six weeks. If last night is a sign of things to come, MacArthur will be slated on the top line alongside Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.

In three games this season, MacArthur has one goal, one assist, a minus-one, two penalty minutes, one power play point and 12 shots on goal (last season he had 20 G, 23 A, plus-3, 37 PIMs, 9 PPP, 148 SOG). Don't expect MacArthur to produce at a level like Lupul did last season, but playing alongside Kessel could make him a nice stop-gap for the six weeks -- he's available in 89 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.

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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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NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
Pete Jensen's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Cubeta's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Sitkoff's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
30 in 30 fantasy hockey preview index
Goalie battles: SJS | ANA | STL | MIN | CAR
Offseason top 200 fantasy hockey ranks

OFFSEASON FANTASY RANKINGS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Evgeni Malkin
5. alex Ovechkin

CUBETA & JENSEN'S COMPLETE RANKINGS