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Fantasy Spin: Loktionov builds trust with new team

Thursday, 04.03.2014 / 12:18 PM | Pete Jensen  - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

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.

It's pretty safe to say Loktionov was not expected to produce points among those high-profile players who changed area codes on deadline day.

Loktionov has been most effective since seeing a jump to a top-six forward role centering perennial fantasy asset Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty, who was on that unit before missing a game Tuesday due to injury. Staal was previously playing alongside Alexander Semin and Tlusty, a line that worked magic in 2012-13 but regressed significantly this season.

As Loktionov has become more and more acclimated to coach Kirk Muller's system in Carolina, he has earned a role on a second power-play unit that has seen quite a bit of action over the past few weeks. During the shortened season of 2012-13, Loktionov was acquired by the Devils from the Los Angeles Kings and ultimately saw 1:27 per game with the man advantage, producing three power-play points in 28 games with New Jersey. This season, he took a big step back with a total of 26:31 in 48 games with the Devils. He had no power-play points to show for himself -- that is, until after he was traded.

He has since built a rapport with Muller in Carolina that has led to a total of 34:38 of power-play ice time over 14 games with the Hurricanes, and he has answered the call nicely with four power-play points over that short span. Considering Loktionov had only five points with the man advantage in 135 career NHL games prior to this year's deadline, this is a development worth monitoring as the fantasy season comes to a close.

Owned in only one percent of Yahoo leagues, Loktionov could be seen as a shot-in-the-dark waiver-wire addition as Carolina still has six games remaining this season, including two left this week. But if you look at the fact that he has had productive stretches alongside fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk in 2012-13 and with Jaromir Jagr for a stint in 2013-14, there's no question his upside was intriguing in the past and is still worth your attention.

The bottom line is that, based on his play over the past two weeks, Loktionov's new coaching staff wants him to put those pointless streaks and the healthy scratches from New Jersey behind him and focus on the present. Loktionov is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, so it only makes sense to see a team that will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs experiment with such a skilled forward down the stretch to see what they have in him.

Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen

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