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.
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.
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.
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:
An alarming health concern put the career of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang on hold, but his promising recovery has him back on the ice and ready to contribute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Tampa Bay Lightning will get one of the League's most prolific goal-scorers, Steven Stamkos, back in the lineup Thursday after he was sidelined for nearly four months due to a leg injury.
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.
What a way to kick off the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline. Two captains swap locations with Martin St. Louis going to the New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan headed to the Tampa Bay Lighting. Can the day's opening trade get any more dramatic than this one? Probably not.
What does this mean for St. Louis fantasy owners?
Prior to the trade St. Louis was the 20th ranked player in Yahoo fantasy leagues and I had him ranked 14th among my top 100 forwards. In 62 games, the former Lightning captain had 29 goals, 61 points, a plus-12 rating, six penalty minutes, 18 power play-points and 167 shots on goal.
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.
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).
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.
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).
When the Nashville Predators drafted Seth Jones with the fourth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, fantasy owners couldn't help but envision him on the team's top defensive unit for many years to come.
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.
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.
High expectations have followed Erik Johnson's career since he was taken with the first pick in the 2006 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues.
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.
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.
Zetterberg has been centering the team's top line of late with Pavel Datsyuk (upper-body injury) out of the lineup since Nov. 23. He doesn't touch on penalty minutes very often, but this veteran covers nearly every other major category -- making him among the more indispensable players League-wide in both fantasy and reality.
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.
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.
However, if you're searching for an efficient blueliner with a power-play presence, New Jersey Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas is as promising an option as you'll find.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
If you're a fantasy owner who witnessed Tomas Hertl's four-goal masterpiece for the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, chances are you scurried to the waiver wire to check his availability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But before breaking down the two goaltenders who will compete for crease time in Philadelphia this fall, let's break down the last six seasons of Flyers goalies.
Since the 2007-08 season, the Flyers have used 18 goalies and have had five different players lead them in victories -- including a tie in 2009-10 between Michael Leighton and Emery. The Flyers have averaged 40.6 victories in that span, which should have made their starting goalie a hot commodity in fantasy hockey.
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?
Last season was not a banner year for any goalie that manned the crease for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning finished 26th in the NHL with a team goals-against-average of 3.06 and tied for 24th in the League with a .899 team save percentage. Tampa Bay was also one of four teams to have four different goalies suit up last season, with Anders Lindback playing the most (24 games and 21 starts).
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.
Mark Streit, an offensive-minded defenseman, should fit right in with the high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers. Whether his fantasy stock will rise or fall remains to be seen.
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.
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.
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.
With the fantasy hockey playoffs in full swing, the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline comes at a crucial juncture of the season for owners around the world. As major deals are made, NHL.com's team of fantasy insiders has you covered with rapid-fire updates to guide you in the right direction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hesitate and you might just miss out on one of the hottest players in the NHL, as Calgary Flames' forward Olli Jokinen is having a stretch to remember.
Who would've thought?
Before his recent offensive explosion, Jokinen went 15 games without registering a goal. But he's turned it on as of late.
The 33-year-old is in the midst of a five-game point streak. He also has points in seven of his past eight games. In that span, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound center has five goals and is coming off a hat trick, four-point performance against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night.
Jokinen was originally ranked 229th in standard Yahoo! leagues, but has improved his ranking to 31st overall. The former first-round pick has 17 goals, 29 assists and 46 points on 157 shots. In addition, he has 40 PIMs and six power play goals.
With the way the Flame is burning up the League, he could be a fantasy player to watch down the stretch.
Not many outings will top this record-tying game for the crafty forward, but he is in the midst of a productive stretch. In the past four games, the 22-year-old has 10 points and 10 shots. This small segment of production came after a drought to forget for the former first-round pick of the Oilers.
Coming into the game againt the Blackhawks, Gagner hadn't scored a goal in 11 games and prior to the stretch of points in three of four games, he hadn't collected a point in six games.
Whether or not the 5-foot-11 forward's monster performance will prove to be a springboard to bigger and better things in the second half of the season remains to be seen. But regardless of the totals during the season, any player capable of putting up an eight-point effort is worthy of fantasy consideration.
Currently owned in 7 percent of standard Yahoo! leagues, Gagner - a dual-eligibility player - could be had and could be a sleeper as the season progresses.
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.
While that kind of evening might not become the norm for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward, it has been representative of his recent play.
In the past five games, Purcell has combined for five points, including two multi-point outings. During that same span, he has managed to tickle the twine on three occasions. For someone who sees roughly 15 minutes per night, those stats look that much more impressive.
On the season, the former Los Angeles King has himself 11 goals, 15 assists and 26 points to go along with 74 shots and 16 PIMs. Last year, albeit on a seemingly more dangerous Bolts squad, Purcell finished with 17 goals, 51 points and just under 200 shots. Again, numbers that certainly are nothing to sneeze at.
Owned in 16 percent of standard Yahoo! leagues, the crafty winger may be in play in deep leagues. If you need a steady-as-he-goes performer on your fantasy squad, Purcell could fill that role nicely and, if you're lucky, exceed expectations.
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.
The surprisingly dynamic duo has combined for nine goals, four assists and 13 points in 18 games, and both have shown a propensity to participate in the more physical elements of the game, as Shaw dropped the gloves in his first game, while Hayes has amassed six PIMs in his brief stint. Couple those hard-to-find attributes with an obvious scoring touch and knack for creativity and you've got yourself a complete NHL package.
Success at the highest level wasn't written in stone for the two youngsters, as both were selected outside the first round (Hayes, 60th overall; Shaw, 139th overall). Nowadays, both players are riding their dark horses to a photo finish of marvelous play.
In the case of Shaw (5 goals, 6 points, 7 PIMs, plus-1, 19 shots), it doesn't hurt to be playing alongside Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger in place of the injured Patrick Sharp. Shaw is currently riding a four-game goal and point-scoring streak and is recently coming off a multi-point night against Buffalo. His numbers so far are staggering, especially when compared with modest AHL outputs. In 33 games with the Rockford IceHogs, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound 20-year-old scored 12 goals and collected 21 points.
With the way he's dazzling night in, night out, it shouldn't be a surprise to see Shaw's ownership in standard Yahoo! Leagues to go up from his current three percent.
Hayes (4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, 6 PIMs, 16 shots), meanwhile, has points in three of his past four games, including two multi-point nights. He's getting no fewer than 16 shifts a night in his past seven games and is making the most of his opportunities.
Owned in one percent of standard Yahoo! Leagues, Hayes could be a nice addition to any roster, especially as the Blackhawks continue a strong 2011-12 campaign.
Continue to follow the unlikely story, but don't be left behind by other more active fantasy owners, as the chance to jump at both could no longer be available in short order.
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.
Just dig into the stats. Through 43 games, The Finnish Flash has collected 43 points, an unthinkable pace for an NHL elder statesman. Those points haven't been of the fluke variety, either, where Selanne has been the beneficiary merely of secondary assists. He's been a goal-scoring force too, evidenced by his goal-per-every-three game pace (15 total).
To complement his point production, Selanne brings 124 shots, 7 power play goals and 40 PIMs to his fantasy resume, too.
What's as impressive as his ability to be a factor, generally, has been his play on the ice of late, specifically. In his past five games, the right wing has seven points, including four goals and three multi-point nights.
As the Ducks and their core of offensive powerhouses continue to contribute, Selanne figures to be the man leading the charge.
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.
That's because he's done nothing but dazzle of late.
Kovalchuk is riding a four-game point and goal scoring streak.
What's more, he has collected two points in each of his past four outings. In that same span, the Russian star has thrown at least six shots toward the cage.
In short: he's been brilliant.
But his stellar play has been there for much of the season. Through 38 games, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger has 17 goals to go along with 21 assists and ranks eighth in the NHL with 159 shots.
With players like Zach Parise and youngster Adam Henrique around to complement his dynamic play--not to mention other more than capable players like Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora--Kovalchuk could see his game elevate to even a higher level for most of the second half of the season.
As the Devils continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, keep an eye out for No.-17 and his impact in your fantasy leagues.
Ryan Ellis was drafted in four percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues coming into the 2011-12 season at an average draft position of 162nd overall -- among the players taken right around him were Daniel Alfredsson, Marc Staal, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Carle. If you were one of the few people that selected him, your friends probably questioned the pick; they probably even questioned who Ryan Ellis was.
While you probably thought your pick of Ellis was a sneaky sleeper pick, you were surely devastated when the Predators decided to have the young defenseman start the season in the AHL. In fact, it seems you were all so devastated that nearly everyone ended up sending Ellis back to the waiver pool in their fantasy leagues (and rightfully so -- it's hard to sacrifice a roster spot for a player that's not even playing in the NHL).
The time has come for you to go back into the waiver wire pool and get Ellis on your team immediately. He's available in 94 percent of leagues, but that number is going to rise extremely fast based on his recent play.
Ellis made his Nashville debut on Dec. 26 against the Red Wings -- he was held pointless with a minus-one rating, two penalty minutes and three shots on goal while receiving 18:13 of ice time. Ellis struggled out of the gate with no points in his first four NHL games, but in his last two, he started to show his true talent.
On Jan. 7, Ellis recorded his first NHL points with a goal and an assist (both on the power play) and then followed that performance up with a power play goal, an even-strength assist, a plus-two rating and two shots on goal against the Avalanche on Tuesday.
Ellis is currently seeing more then three minutes of power play ice time per game, where he is known to be most lethal, and it wouldn't shock us if he ended up scoring over 10 goals from this point on. Prior to his call-up, Ellis had posted four goals and 17 points in 26 games for Nashville's AHL affiliate, but his OHL season from last year shows what you need to know about his offensive potential: 24 goals, 101 points, 61 PIMs, plus-24 in 58 contests.
The 11th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Ellis could end up being one of the top point-producing defenseman in the NHL for years to come, and now is your chance to pounce on him in the free-agent pool. He's certainly worth stashing on your bench at the very least, but you'd be wise to find a spot for him in your starting lineup, as he seems to be proving his call-up will be a permanent situation for the Predators. There is an outside chance Nashville decides to send him down, but based on his recent play, we tend to think he's here's to stay.
Now, things are put on hold, as the NHL's top scoring rookie is expected to be out of the lineup three to four weeks with a separated left shoulder.
He could miss at least 11 games.
Nugent-Hopkins' absense spells bad news bears for fantasy owners, who have benefited from his surprising stellar first season.
Through 38 games, the 18-year-old has collected 13 goals, 22 assists, 35 points and 80 shots on goal. He has also managed to be an even player on a struggling Oilers squad.
Despite the great show Nugent-Hopkins has put on most nights, he has struggled of late, at least in the goal-scoring category. Prior to the injury, he went 10 games without a goal and collected only five points in that span.
While his injury is a setback for fantasy owners, it could be a blessing in disguise of sorts. Obviously, the advice is to keep the talented youngster, but set yourselves up with a solid across-the-board performer in his absense and hope that he recovers fully from his injury and returns with a vengeance as the second half of the season approaches.
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.
The Chris Stewart of the previous two seasons and the one from this year have been two entirely different players.
In each of the past two seasons, Stewart has collected 28 goals. This year? He was on pace for 12.
In each of the past two seasons, Stewart has collected at least 53 point. This year? He was on pace for 29.
Then Monday night happened and the 6-foot-2, 232-pound right wing collected a pair of goals en route to an impressive 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. Included in those two goals was a power play tally. He also ended the night with seven shots thrown on the cage.
In short, the 24-year-old showed flashes of the 25-plus goal-scoring threat he's been in prior campaigns. In fact, the flash started two games ago when Stewart scored a goal and threw another seven shots on net. It's that kind of night in, night out effort that's been missing from Stewart for the better part of the season. For players who've shown they can score consistently at the NHL level, often times it takes just the slightest hot streak before consistent productivity occurs.
Still, even with his strong play of late, on the whole, Stewart has been a disappointment for fantasy owners, so caution should be taken when thinking about adding him to your squads. However, it's equally as important to consider taking a risk on a player who has proven to be successful in consecutive seasons and has show that he may be on his way for number three.
The Chris Stewart of the previous two seasons and the one from this year have been two entirely different players.
In each of the past two seasons, Stewart has collected 28 goals. This year? He was on pace for 12.
In each of the past two seasons, Stewart has collected at least 53 point. This year? He was on pace for 29.
Then Monday night happened and the 6-foot-2, 232-pound right wing collected a pair of goals en route to an impressive 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. Included in those two goals was a power play tally. He also ended the night with seven shots thrown on the cage.
In short, the 24-year-old showed flashes of the 25-plus goal-scoring threat he's been in prior campaigns. In fact, the flash started two games ago when Stewart scored a goal and threw another seven shots on net. It's that kind of night in, night out effort that's been missing from Stewart for the better part of the season. For players who've shown they can score consistently at the NHL level, often times it takes just the slightest hot streak before consistent productivity occurs.
Still, even with his strong play of late, on the whole, Stewart has been a disappointment for fantasy owners, so caution should be taken when thinking about adding him to your squads.
However, it's equally as important to consider taking a risk on a player who has proven to be successful in consecutive seasons and has show that he may be on his way for number three.
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.
Anyone can step in and have a good night or two, but Emery has been a consistent stabilizing force in his 11 appearances so far. Consider the numbers: the 29-year-old has a 7-1-2 record with a 2.70 GAA and .904 save percentage. While the latter two statistics aren't mind-boggling, his record certainly is.
Emery can be the perfect complement to your fantasy squad's goaltending crop, if only because the Blackhawks are among the stronger clubs in the NHL and the likelihood of a victory is strong.
Also consider the reason for the seemingly high goals against average: he allowed more than three goals in a game three times in his first five outings. Since then? He did it just once.
As you consider your options between the pipes, don't lose sight of a perfectly nice option in Emery.
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.
When Jarome Iginla heats up, there’s no stopping the 6-foot-1, 210-pound right wing. Calgary's captain has scored at least 30 goals in each of his last 10 seasons and the recent roll he’s been on could help him make it 11.
In 29 games this season, Iginla has 11 goals and 10 assists, but a majority of those 21 points have been earned since the start of December. So far this month, Iginla has notched four goals and nine points in just five games. Prior to this streak, Iginla seemed to be struggling to score consistently just notching a point here and there save for a three-point game on Nov. 3. The good news for fantasy owners, though, is that history is in Iginla’s favor.
Iginla scored a point in every game in last December except for one. That’s a point in 13 out of 14 games. Not too shabby for a 34-year-old playing on one of the oldest teams in the NHL.
With two goals against the Oilers on Saturday night, Iginla finishes the fantasy week with two goals, five assists, a plus- 4 rating, two PIMs, 2 power-play goals, 1 game winning goal and an impressive 18 shots. Iginla is an elite player who is stepping up his game yet again.
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.
Wednedsay night, the 21-year-old Minnesota Wild netminder stepped in for his first NHL appearance when goalie Josh Harding went down with an injury. The result? Hackett stopped all 34 shots faced his way en route to a solid Wild win.
The following night, with both Nicklas Backstrom and Harding on the bench with day-to-day injuries, Hackett earned his first NHL start. The result? A 42-save outing en route to a 4-2 Wild win over Los Angeles.
If you've never heard of the guy before, you might want to listen up.
With the Wild's top goalies sidelined, Hackett figures to see consistent playing time moving forward. This could mean good things for those fantasy owners crafty enough to jump in and snag the up-and-coming beast between the pipes.
Despite the limited experience, the third-round selection of the 2009 NHL Draft has stopped 76 of 78 shots, while collecting a .974 save percentage and a 1.01 GAA. Moreover, he's 2-0-0.
The Hackett train could be leaving the station sooner rather than later, but wise fantasy owners should enjoy the ride while the opportunity is there.
Fantasy owners take notice: Sidney Crosby will not join the Pittsburgh Penguins for a two-game road trip, which begins Thursday night against Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia. While the specifics are unknown, Crosby did suffer a "stinger" after colliding with teammate Chris Kunitz Monday against Boston.
His absense was described as precautionary by general manager Ray Shero, after it was made clear that the ImpACT tests Crosby took with Dr. Micky Collins--which help monitor concusssions--"showed no problems."
Even though early reports don't suggest a serious setback, Crosby's fantasy hockey impact ought to be carefully reviewed.
One can't knock his debut performance against the New York Islanders Nov. 21 where he finished with a four-point outing and followed it up with his most productive five-game stretch of his career. And, of course, nobody ought to forget his talent and production since breaking into the NHL.
The guy's an absolute stud.
But while Crosby's arguably been the best player in the League, one option for fantasy owners might be to seek a trade and get a lot back while setting aside the day-to-day worries of the superstar center's health.
Recent injuries should have Sidney Crosby owners considering the unthinkable; contemplating trading the great No. 87. (Photo: Greg Shamus/NHLI)
Think about it.
As the Penguins figure to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, it's possible that the team will treat Crosby with caution more so than they might in years past. Moreover, if you're able to land solid pieces in the trade, you'll need not worry about relying on stellar performances from "Sid."
The key, of course, will be bringing back more than complementary pieces to your team in a trade. But as you debate to keep or to trade, consider this:
Of his seven seasons in the League, four--including this season--have seen the 2005 first-overall selection play in at least 77 games. In 2007-08, Crosby missed 29 games with an ankle injury and, of course, everyone recalls his recent recovery from a concussion.
When he returned to the lineup, he did so at 100 percent health. This recent two-game absense may come and go as quick as Crosby disspelled speculation of potential rust before scoring on his first shot against the Islanders. Still, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound talent's durability ought to be considered.
The fantasy return for a Crosby trade could provide balance in many positions and categories for your squads. As crazy as the notion might appear to be, your duties as fantasy team owners is to think about it.
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.
It's fun being the center of attention. Even more fun when you're doing it at right wing.
Chicago Blackhawks playmaker Patrick Kane spent all of 2011-12 playing the center position until Friday night, when he joined teammate Jonathan Toews on the right side of the ice - the side of the ice he's been accustomed to playing since breaking into the League in 2007-08.
The result: a solid two-assist, two-shot outing in what was a winning effort in the shootout for the Blackhawks over the New York Islanders.
For the most part, fantasy owners should've been pleased with Kane's production this year. After all, he ranks third in the NHL in assists, 10th in points and is a top-20 shot producer. Those are more than respectable numbers for any fantasy contributor. But Kane has never finished a season with less than 70 points and 21 goals.
Leading up to Friday's til, though, Kane went six games without registering a goal. Dig deeper and you'll notice he has scored just seven goals in 26 games this year.
Project jumpstart is underway. So despite the goal-scoring dry spell,which has now reached eight games, Kane appeared to be more than comfortable playing alongside captain Toews.
If the two can develop some chemistry, Kane could see a huge jump in production, which would only mean good things for your fantasy squads moving forward.
It was a pretty good month for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins and their rugged left winger Milan Lucic. With a 6-3 win over Toronto Tuesday night, the Bruins capped an incredible 12-0-1 November. As he has done all season long against the Leafs, Lucic was dominant once again, scoring a pair of goals in the B's latest victory.
Toronto shouldn't feel singled out as Lucic has made life difficult on most of the teams he has faced over the span of November. In 13 games this month, Lucic has scored seven goals, including three on the power play, while also chipping in four assists, 15 PIMS and a plus 4 rating. When Lucic gets on the type of run he is currently on, the 23-year old is fantasy gold as he can contribute to categories across the board. There are few players in the NHL who have the ability to score 30-plus goals a season while racking up well over 100 PIMs as Lucic did last year. If you are in a league that counts hits as a category, Lucic is even more valuable as he has 51 on the season.
When taking into consideration his age, potential to improve, and the skill around him in Boston, Lucic is the kind of force fantasy GMs should be salivating over. Of course Lucic is well regarded in the fantasy world but not probably to the extent he should be. If Lucic is putting the puck in the net on a consistent basis, then his all around game makes him one of the top left wing options in the entire League. Both the B's and Lucic had November's to remember and it looks like nothing but blue skies ahead.
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.
The always dangerous Blackhawks, winners of two in a row heading into Tuesday's contest, couldn't get anything going offensively against Smith until finally breaking through against him until Patrick Sharp scored in the final minute of regulation. Smith improved his record to a stellar 12-4-3 on the season while boasting an impressive .935 save percentage.
Few could have predicted this kind of success for Smith, who the Coyotes signed on July 1 of this year to replace Ilya Bryzgalov after the latter signed with Philadelphia. But to this point, Smith has outplayed Bryzgalov and many of the other more marquee goalies across the League. If you were shrewd enough, or more likely lucky enough to draft Smith or perhaps scoop him up off the waiver wire in shallower leagues, you are certain to be one happy fantasy GM.
The question facing all Smith owners now is, can he keep up his surprisingly hot play? At 29 years old, Smith has never played more than 42 games in a season. But it is possible Smith has found a home in the desert. Smith seems to be a strong fit in Dave Tippett's system and might be finally ready to prove he is capable locking down a No.1 goalie job in the NHL and on your fantasy squad. Even if you are convinced that Smith is the real deal and won't come crashing down to Earth, don't be afraid to sell high on him if the right opportunity should present itself. Goalies can always command a pretty penny on the trade market and Smith's value might never be higher.
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.
Smith is quietly having a reliable campaign for fantasy owners. The best way to break him down is to say that he does a little bit of everything, which is a compliment in the world of fantasy hockey.
Through 24 games, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound center has six goals, seven assists, 13 points, a plus-6 rating, 34 PIMs and 41 shots on net. If you're in need for depth, Smith can be a solid option.
Although he's been held pointless for three games twice this season, Smith has otherwise been consistent. Particularly of late, as the 23-year-old has points in four of his last seven games. In that span, Smith has two multi-point nights.
As you seek depth and complimentary options on your fantasy squad, keep Smith on your radar and benefit steadily along the way.
Will a coaching change in Washington be the thing to snap Alex Ovechkin out of his scoring slump? Ovi's fantasy owners sure hope so.
On Monday, the Capitals made the decision to dismiss coach Bruce Boudreau and replace him with Dale Hunter. In the past two seasons, Boudreau had his team shift to a more defensive style in the hopes of better equipping Washington for an extended playoff run into June. Unfortunately, while that approach never did yield the postseason results Boudreau had hoped for, it did appear to hold down the club's premiere offensive talents, none more so than the Capital's captain.
Though he has not performed up to expectations this season, a coaching change could be just the spark Alex Ovechkin needs to return to his dominant form. (Photo: Getty Images)
After a 50-goal campaign in 2009-10, Ovechkin scored a career low 32-goals in 2010-11. Though he seemed poised for a bounce-back year this season, the Russian superstar has only lit the lamp eight times in 22 games. Ovechkin had not scored a goal at home until this past Friday, and though he is one of the game's biggest impact players, he has been invisible out on the ice for stretches this season. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has two goals and seven points in three games since his return to action, taking a clear edge over Ovechkin as the NHL's premiere fantasy player.
Though times have been tough, there is plenty of hope on the horizon for the Great Eight. A coaching change might be exactly what he needs to get his game going. The relationship between captain and coach appeared to have been strained at times this season, and a new face behind the bench could go a long way in helping Ovechkin regain his focus.
The hiring of Hunter in Washington could have a far greater impact on the team's offensive output than your typical coaching shakeup. It is logical to assume the front office would like to see Hunter open up the offense and allow the Capital's impressive offensive talent to return to wreaking havoc on the rest of the League. Take note, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin owners.
At just 26-years-old, there is no reason to doubt that the uber-talented Ovechkin could in a moment's notice return to his elite status as one of the top players in fantasy hockey. Could the coaching change be the the spark needed to get one of the NHL's most gifted scorers back on track? Only time will tell, but if you have any hopes of landing Ovechkin in your league now is the time to strike. An Ovi hot streak could be just around the corner so fantasy GMs would be wise to put together a package and see if they could land him for reasonable value. Even with his recent struggles, Ovechkin will surely come with a very high price tag but don't forget what No. 8 has done or more importantly what he is capable of doing still.
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.
If Sidney Crosby's return to the lineup from a concussion Monday against the New York Islanders played out like a Hollywood movie, Friday night's performance against Ottawa was a blockbuster sequel.
Crosby added a three-point night to his resume against the Senators, all of which came by way of assist. In his three games since joining the club, he has amassed two goals, five assists, eight PIMs and fired 12 shots on the not. Add to that a plus-5 rating and three hits.
What's been as impressive as his individual efforts has been impact he's had on teammates.
Pascal Dupuis, riding a strong season without Crosby already, is looking like more than a complimentary piece on Sid's line. Meanwhile, Chris Kunitz is adding points to his hits and shots, too. What's more, Crosby's return allows the Penguins to move Staal up to the second line alongside Evgeni Malkin.
Simply put, Crosby's return is altering the fantasy landscape. If you can't get your hands on #87, consider guys like Dupuis or even Steve Sullivan, both of whom are more-than-adequate beneficiaries of Crosby's productin.
Radim Vrbata is known as a streaky scorer, and boy, is he streaking right now. For the fourth time in the last 10 games, Vrbata recorded a two-goal night. as the Coyotes doubled up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Wednesday night. The red-hot Vrbata now has 5 goals in his last three games.
Vrbata is a perplexing fantasy case. Sure, he has 10 goals in his last 11 games, but he also had just one in his first nine. The 30-year-old right-wing has always had the ability to score, but has never reached the 30-goal or 60-point plateau over his nine-year NHL career. Vrbata is also a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to fantasy, as he only tends to contribute to the goals categories.
Despite his shortcomings, Vrbata has been so hot as of late that he is forcing the fantasy world to take notice. Could this offensive outburst be more than just a hot streak? If your squad could use some help in the scoring department, you might want to give Vrbata a look. Owned in just 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Vrbata is still ripe for the pickings.
If you have the roster room, taking a flyer on Vrbata is your typical low-risk, high-reward move. Worst-case scenario, you can ride out the rest of Vrbata's scoring frenzy and part ways once he cools. But there is always the chance that Vrbata is a late bloomer and this could finally be the year he breaks out and becomes an above-average scorer with a respectable plus/minus rating to boot. Now that would be a worthwhile waiver pick up, wouldn't it?
Alexander Semin is expected to be back in the Washington lineup Wednesday as the Capitals host the Winnipeg Jets. Semin was a surprise healthy scratch Monday in the Caps win over the Coyotes. Both Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and Semin owners will be eager to see how the enormously talented but notoriously inconsistent winger responds to the benching.
After a one game benching, Alexander Semin is expected to return to the Washington lineup Wednesday and both Capitals fans and his fantasy owners are eager to see how he will respond. (Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI)
In his latest aggressive coaching tactic, Boudreau decided to sit Semin in an attempt to send a message to his underperforming Russian star. Semin possesses the type of scoring touch about which most NHL players only dream. He has had one 40 and two 30-plus goal seasons in Washington, but his explosive skill is often subdued by frequent injuries and a mercurial scoring touch.
So far, Semin looks in need of a Boudreau wake-up call more than ever. On top of instances of undisciplined play, Semin's production has been middling at best with nearly a quarter of the season gone. In 18 games this year, Semin is averaging only 2.3 shots per game for a total of four goals. He still has not cracked the double-digit mark in points, with only nine so far. That is a far cry from what many fantasy GMs expected from a 27-year-old entering what should be the prime of his career.
Which Semin takes the ice Wednesday against Winnipeg is anybody's guess. He will likely need a few big-effort games to prove to Boudreau that he is deserving of playing the minutes necessary to be a fantasy force. If Semin does put a hot streak together off his benching, it could be a great incentive to try and sell high on him. While it’s probably unrealistic to think that one healthy scratch will be enough to correct years of maddeningly inconsistent play from Semin, if you strike when the iron is hottest you should be able to offload Semin in exchange for good value. By marketing him to your league as the attacking force he can sometimes be, you will be able to discard him well before his next cold spell inevitably arrives.
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.
In his first 14 games with the Kings, Richards scored only two goals. Not exactly the kind of production most fantasy owners envisioned when they rushed to draft him.
Whatever worries you may have had ought to be brushed away, as it appears that the Richards you've grown accustomed to seeing is back.
The 26-year-old center has collected five goals in his past four games and has points in six of his past seven games. That's not all. Richards has thrown 24 shots on the cage during his recent hot streak and hasn't been a minus player, either. If you're inclined to think fluke as it related to his recent stats, then merely rely on precedence.
Not only does he have two 30-plus goal seasons on his resume, as mentioned, Richards has amassed at least 62 points in four straight seasons. Moreover, he's hasn't finished with less than 184 shots since 2007-08. Whatever the scoring category, the former first-round selection has delivered and has been a fantasy stud.
Richards appears to be feeling very comfortable in a Kings sweater these days and you will be feeling just as comfortable with your fantasy team if you're able to snag him.
To this point, the highly-touted Turris -- Phoenix selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft -- has had a tough time living up to his high billing. Since being drafted, Turris has only appeared in 131 NHL games and totaled just 19 career goals and 46 points. His lengthy holdout will only add to the obstacles he must overcome to reach his potential.
Though Kyle Turris may not warrant much fantasy attention right now, his talent makes him worth keeping an eye on. (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI)
Though his NHL career has been somewhat rocky to this point, there is no denying Turris posses plenty of talent, specifically the ability to put the puck in the net. The 22 year-old showed significant improvement last season with the Coyotes notching new career highs in games played (65), goals (11), assists (14) and points (25).
Upon his return, Turris does not warrant much if any fantasy attention, at least for the time being. There is little doubt he will be plenty rusty and playing minimal minutes after missing training camp and the first 19 games of the regular season. Also, the fact that Turris is only center eligible, the deepest position in fantasy hockey, does not help his worth either.
Though he may not have much immediate value the undeniable potential Turris posses makes him a player worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of months, however. The Coyotes are not exactly a high-octane offensive unit, so if Turris can quickly shake the cobwebs while continuing to develop his game, Phoenix would likely to be eager to reward him with top six forward minutes as well as time on the power play.
With the heart of the winter right around the corner injuries will inevitably begin to pile up and could coincide with the time Turris really begins to hit his stride. Going forward, as the waiver wire continues to increasingly dry up, Turris could be the kind of pick up that helps bolster your roster depth for a playoff push, particularly if your team is in need of scoring.
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.
Carey Price earned the NHL's top star of the week and is proving that he belongs among the League's best fantasy goalies. (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/NHLI)
Price was more then deserving of the top star honor as he stopped an eye popping 72 of the 74 shots he faced over a three game stretch. On top of that, the red-hot Hab is currently enjoying a two-game shutout streak after blanking the Hurricanes and Rangers. Price has put his rough patch behind him and now sports a very respectable 2.16 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
The fantasy world is also taking notice of Price's hot play as of late. In his latest 'In the Cage' segment, goalie specialist Justin Goldman moved Price up two spots to fifth overall in his weekly rankings of NHL netminders. Price clearly has the ability to maintain that lofty standing. At just 24 years-old, Price has continued to show improvement throughout his brief career. He is surrounded by a solid defensive core and a Canadiens team that is talented enough to help provide him with plenty of wins.
Though the fantasy masses can't expect Price to perform week-in and week-out the way he did to earn top star honors, they can count on him to be an upper echelon No. 1 goalie going forward. Those lucky enough to have Price on their rosters should be able to ride the work horse goalie and only have to worry about rounding out their goaltenders behind him. Unfortunately for many fantasy GMs, that is something that is likely to be easier said than done.
To say the Penguins, their fans and fantasy owners have been eagerly awaiting Crosby's return to action may be the understatement of the hockey season. Sid has been sidelined since Jan. 6 when he was diagnosed with a concussion following a pair hard hits in successive games. Since that time, there has been constant speculation as to when Crosby would be cleared to play. All of that is now in the past, however, with Sunday's big news that Sid is ready to return.
When he was abruptly forced from the lineup last season, Crosby was having an MVP-caliber campaign. In 41 games Crosby had 32 goals and 66 points. He compiled 19 points on the power play, totaled 161 shots and was a plus-20 for good measure.
If Crosby can come close to producing the type of numbers he had prior to getting injured, then fantasy owners who took the risk of drafting or dealing for Sid will be ecstatic. Once Crosby shakes off the rust, there is no reason to believe he can't return to his elite status as one of the best -- if not the best -- players in the League.
The only concern the Pens and Sid owners should have is keeping him healthy and on the ice. In addition to the fear of Crosby suffering another concussion. The 24 year-old superstar has also been dinged up a few times with other various ailments. Injuries have been the only thing capable of slowing Sid down during his short career.
The fantasy impact of Crosby's return goes far beyond his giddy owners jumping for joy. Upon his return, Crosby will be reunited with the linemates he had most of last season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. To date, Kunitz has been a steady fantasy contributor with 7 goals, 11 points, 60 shots on goal and an impressive 42 hits. Dupuis, not known to be as fantasy relevant as Kunitz, has opened some eyes this season with 4 goals, 14 points and 54 shots on goal with a plus-7 rating. But now back with Crosby, both players should see their production experience a big boost that should continue as long as they keep reaping the benefits of skating alongside one of the NHL's most dynamic playmakers.
Between Kunitz and Dupuis, Kunitz is the better play at this point due to his track record as a perennial 20-goal scorer who can be counted on to be a consistent contributor to the shots on goal and PIMs categories. Since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2008-09, Kunitz has shown the ability to elevate his game when paired with Sid. Dupuis might not have quite as a high a ceiling as Kunitz, but the underrated veteran left winger is a reliable fantasy option who, if not spectacular, can contribute to fantasy categories across the board for teams in deeper leagues.
With Crosby sidelined to this point, both Kunitz (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and Dupuis (owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) are both undervalued. That won't last for long once Sid returns and inevitably boosts the play of both of these wingers. Go ahead and grab Kunitz off the waiver wire now in leagues where he is available and keep a close eye on Dupuis to see if Crosby's return allows him to keep performing over his head.
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.
While the club is not quite there yet, the two fresh faces of the franchise are taking major strides in their pursuit of becoming elite players night in, night out. Saturday night, the two spilled oil all over the Chicago Blackhawks, combining for three goals, five assists, eight points and seven shots. Not a bad night.
The tough part is deciding which player had the better night. Hall collected a hat trick, but Nugent-Hopkins amassed five assists. Let'Tyler s call it a tie.
This year, fantasy owners have seen unexpected greatness from Nugent-Hopkins, a small-framed, inexperienced rookie. Through 19 games, RNH has 19 points on seven goals and 12 assists and has thrown 40 shots on the cage. Fellow stud Hall, meanwhile, has 14 points in 18 games and has 52 shots thrown on net.
The dynamic duo in Oil Country could be emerging as the next Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin or Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane. Fantasy owners are taking notice, too. Nugent-Hopkins is owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! leagues and has jumped from an original ranking of 244 to 93, currently. Hall is owned in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
While you search for the next long-term solution for your fantasy teams, look no further than the two headliners in Edmonton.
Dustin Byfuglien is having a November to remember after experiencing an October to forget.
Byfuglien had another big game Saturday, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Winnipeg's 6-4 win against Philadelphia. That makes three goals and seven assists for Byfuglien in nine games this month. During that span, the 26-year old defenseman has totaled 30 shots on goal while racking up 20 penalty minutes.
With 10 points in nine November games, Dustin Byfuglien appears to have put his slow start to the season behind him. (Photo: Getty Images)
Byfuglien's impressive month is quite the turnaround from his lackluster October in which he posted a meager seven points and was a minus-5 in 11 games. Concerns by the Jets and fantasy owners about Byfuglien in the season's opening month were only compounded by a disappointing finish to the 2010-11 season and growing concerns about his weight. However, Big Buff's strong November performance seems to indicate that he has put all his issues behind him and is ready to return to his elite status among fantasy blue liners.
In his latest On the 'D'-Fence segment, Brian Metzer moved Byfuglien up two spots to No. 12 in his weekly rankings. If Byfuglien can continue to produce up to his potential, then the offensively-gifted defenseman could easily crack the top 10 and even has the ability to soar into the top 5.
Unfortunately, fantasy GMs looking to buy low on Byfuglien may have missed their opportunity. However, if you are still looking to target Byfuglien in a trade, then you should feel confident Byfuglien is back on track and poised for his typical all-around stellar production at the always-thin defenseman position.
With his recent hot play, Giguere seems destined to wrestle plenty of playing time away from starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Avs paid a steep price to acquire Varlamov in the offseason and are committed to making the twenty-three year old their franchise goalie for the long term. All seemed to be going according to plan as Varlamov came out of the gates looking incredibly sharp while leading his young team to a surprisingly fast start. Things quickly cooled for Colorado and Varlamov however. Varlamov has not posted a win since October 30th and has lost his last six starts, erasing any remembrance of his hot start. Varlamov now has an ugly 3.30 GAA and .890 save percentage for the season.
Meanwhile, Giguere has taken advantage of his latest opportunity to play while the struggling Varlamov sits. In his start prior to shuting out the Stars, Gigure stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced in a tough 1-0 loss to Minnesota. Make no mistake, Varlamov is clearly the goalie of the future in Colorodo. However, the youthful Avs have played above expectations to this point and as long as they stay in contention in the Western Conference, coach Joe Sacco is likely to stick with the goalie that gives his team the best chance to win. At least for the time being, it seems like that guy is Giguere.
Giguere is currently owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If you are a Varlamov owner or are in need of some help in goal, you might want to consider taking a flyer on Giguere as it appears the savvy veteran still has something left in the tank.
Rick DiPietro appears to be in line for an increased work load in net for the Isles with Evgeni Nabokov sidelined indefinitely. (Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI)
DiPietro stepped in admirably for the injured Nabokov on Thursday night, stopping 24 of 27 shots against the Montreal Canadiens for his second win of the season. With Nabokov expected to miss a stretch of games, DiPietro should have the opportunity to seize the No.1 job on the Island.
Nabokov owners, or any fantasy GM in need of help in goal, should scoop up DiPietro, who is owned in just six percent of Yahoo! leagues. DiPietro posseses plenty of talent, but an injury plagued career has prohibited him from reaching his potential. However, DiPietro is still just 30-years old and should be as motivated as ever to live up to lofty expectations and his hefty contract.
Don't forget about Al Montoya, too, as there is always the potential DiPietro will falter or once again get bitten by the injury bug. But for now, DiPietro appears to be the goalie in line to benefit the most from Nabokov's absence. As previously noted, no Islander goalie can be considered a very strong fantasy option at this point. However, the goalie pool is always shallow, and though DiPietro is a risky play, he could give fantasy owners some solid production, at least for the short term.
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.
Wrong. Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jaromir Jagr has surprised many with his consistent play through 18 games, in which he's amassed 17 points, a plus-7 rating, 10 PIMs and 44 shots.
Given his unlikey production, Jagr has evolved into a fantasy hockey gem for many owners or, worst case, a more-than-capable complimentary piece for many rosters. The Cinderella story took an unfortunate turn Thurdsday night, as the future Hall-of-Famer suffered a lower-body injury early in the game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The good news is that the injury is not believed to be serious, at least according to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. However, Jagr has dealt with lower-body injuries in the past and they tend to be nagging. Moreoever, Jagr is 39 years old.
Fantasy owners need not panic and should remain patient while the injury becomes more clear. Sooner rather than later the early exit from the game could be but an afterthought.
It had appeared that Nabokov had established himself as the primary starter in what has been a crowded Islander net all season long. Nabokov, DiPietro and Al Montoya are all currently up with the club. Despite his starting status, Nabokov's numbers have not been very impressive. Thanks in part to a weak Isles offense, Nabokov had only recorded one win in his seven starts leading into Thursday night's tilt. In those starts Nabokov has posted a mediocre 2.89 GAA and .910 save percentage
Groin injuries can be tricky, especially for goalies. If Nabokov is forced to miss an extended amount of action, DiPietro and Montoya would see increased time in net. As of late, DiPietro has primarily filled the role of Nabokov's backup so logic would dictate he would get the first opportunity to claim the starting gig for however long Nabokov is sidelined. Obviously, DiPietro has had his own difficulties staying on the ice while battling a variety of injuries throughout his career, making him anything but a reliable replacement.
Meanwhile, Montoya is a journeyman who did a nice job for the Islanders last season after coming over from Phoenix in a February trade. In fact, Montoya served as the Islanders opening night goalie this season and stated the first three games of the year for the Isles. If given the opportunity, Montoya has proved that in spurts he can be a serviceable goalie.
It is still way too soon to know the extent of Nabokov's injury so his owners should keep a close eye on any news coming out of the Islanders camp on Friday. In deeper leagues with limited goalie options, it might be wise to be proactive and go out and grab DiPietro for insurance, especially if you have the roster flexibility to do so.
Be sure to keep Montoya in the back of your mind as well since there is potential for him to see time in net as the situation develops. Unfortunately, no matter which goalie emerges as the No. 1, it is unlikely that they will be able to offer fantasy GMs the production they are looking for. Any of the three Islanders goalies should be used with caution going forward.
The Dallas Stars have activated center Steve Ott from injured reserve. Ott was put on IR on November 10 (retroactive to October 29) and has missed the last six games due to a lower-body injury, but he will be back in the Stars' lineup Friday night when Dallas visits Colorado.
Steve Ott's high PIMS and hits totals make him a viable fantasy option.(Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI)
Ott's return should provide a big boost for his owners who could use some help in the PIMS and hits departments. The rugged center led the Stars last season with 183 PIMS and 252 hits, and in just 11 games this season, Ott has already compiled 25 PIMs to go along with a whopping 42 hits. Ott's game is more than just grit, however. Last season he reached double digits in goals with 12, and had scored twice this year before getting hurt.
Despite his well-rounded game, Ott is currently owned in just 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If your league counts PIMS and hits as categories Ott is a must own. In fact, Ott warrants consideration in all formats, considering he is slated for top six minutes centering a line between the rising Jame Benn and offensively-skilled Michael Ryder. Now back from injury, Ott is a safe bet to keep contributing to categories across the board going forward.
In addition to activating Ott, the Stars announced they have placed right wing Adam Burish on IR with a broken hand. He is expected to miss at least four weeks with the injury. Burish had scored three goals in 16 games while adding an impressive 32 PIMS, however, his loss will not affect most fantasy teams as Burish is owned in just two percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Pick a star … any star. If you are a fantasy owner of one of the Blackhawks' big guns, chances are you had a big fantasy night.
Marian Hossa led the way by assisting on three of Chicago's five goals in its victory against Vancouver. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp all scored for the Hawks. Kane and Toews -- both of whom fantasy guru Matt Cubeta tabbed in the top 10 of his most recent Center Stage rankings -- also added assists for good measure. Kane's goal, which was assisted by Hossa, came on the man advantage serving as an extra bonus to leagues that reward power-play points.
It looks like good times are ahead for the Blackhawks, who own the League's best record. And, after easily dispensing the talented Canucks on Wednesday night, the Hawks appear to be firing on all cylinders. If you are fortunate enough to own any of the Blackhawks' big four, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Since a phenomenal rookie campaign in 2009-10, in which the gargantuan Buffalo Sabres defenseman collected 11 goals, 37 assists and 48 points in 82 games, Myers has seen a steady decline in production, leaving many fantasy owners wondering what to make of the potentially-potent blueliner.
Through 17 games this season, the 21-year-old has just two goals and six points to go along with a minus-3 rating and just 26 shots on goal.
Fantasy and reality crossed paths recently, as the Sabres opted to make Myers a healthy scratch Nov. 14. But in his return to the ice Wednesday night against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils, the 6-foot-8. 227-pounder had a huge game.
Myers tickled the twine twice, including a power play tally, and threw four shots on net. For 60 minutes, he was a factor and it appears he's ready to prove that his recent skid is behind him.
For fantasy owners, patience will be a virtue. The Sabres currently rank in the middle of the pack in goals allowed per game but are in the Top-10 in goals per game. That leaves Myers susceptible to a low plus-minus rating, but also means that Myers is in a system that welcomes defenseman jumping into the play, which means his production opportunities are there.
Give Myers time and/or use him as a complimentary piece on your roster, but don't give up on an obvious talent at a time when he's showing signs of potential big gains.
After missing five-games with a groin injury, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Devils lineup Wednesday night looking no worse for wear. Kovalchuk scored a highlight reel first period goal in New Jersey's 5-3 win over Buffalo.
Prior to getting hurt, Kovalchuk was not producing his usual high level of scoring. Heading into Wednesday’s contest, Kovalchuk had recorded just two goals in 11 games while posting a mediocre minus-4. There are no glaring reasons that would point to Kovalchuk getting off to a slow start. If anything, Kovalchuk may just be adjusting to playing for his third coach in two seasons with the Devils.
Kovalchuk owners should enjoy having their star forward back in the lineup and don’t need to worry about him getting back to his typical high standards sooner than later.
Eric Staal saw his modest two-game point streak come to an end in Carolina's 4-0 loss to Montreal on Wednesday. As reported earlier by NHL.com's Arpon Basu, this was the third game Carolina coach Paul Maurice shifted Staal from his traditional spot at center to left wing. Maurice made the move with the hope it would help jolt his star player out of a season long-funk.
At this point, Staal owners are sure to be open to any move that could spark the perennial All-Star back to his prior form. Staal has suffered through a miserable start, scoring just four goals while posting a League worst minus-18. Should Maurice decide to stick with the Staal experiment at left wing, he would be in line for increased position eligibility, giving fantasy owners if nothing else additional roster flexibility.
Staal's shift to left wing opened up a vacancy at center on Carolina's top line, which Maurice has filled with the talented Brandon Sutter. Basu points out that to this point, Sutter has been more of a defensive specialist during his brief NHL career. However, Maurice sees offensive potential in his young center and says he is committed to giving Sutter expanded minutes to show his capability to play top-line minutes.
In three games, Sutter has not produced any points while centering a line between Staal and Chad LaRose. However, the line has produced a handful of scoring opportunities in its brief time together and Staal has shown signs of life while playing with Sutter. Wednesday's loss in Montreal was clearly a step backward, but if Sutter and Staal can build some chemistry together, Sutter could become a fantasy waiver-wire gem.
Sutter is currently owned in just 4 percent of Yahoo leagues. Though we would caution running out and grabbing him just yet with the way Carolina has struggled, he is clearly a player to monitor. If Maurice is committed to keeping Sutter and Staal together, the pair has the potential to click at put up points. In that reasonable scenario, Sutter's production and value would increase dramatically -- making him an attractive option in deeper leagues.