The grind of a fantasy hockey season is just that: A grind. When you consider all the details, big and small, all the nuances and all the possibilities, you're still left with roster setting and juggling, trade offers and rejections and day-to-day focus and attention. But ain't it great?
To get fantasy hockey owners to where they want to be, NHL.com fantasy insider Sergei Feldman brings you his weekly piece highlighting various players who have increased or decreased their value after each week and suggesting which players to buy or sell moving forward. In the end, you'll have a clearer picture of the marketplace and be in perfect position to enhance your fantasy hockey portfolios.
The guy. Each team has one. Some have two. Few have more.
Regardless, everyone knows who those players are. It's impossible for any of them to sneak under the radar and so, ultimately, after a round or two at most they're off the board and ready to go on many a roster.
But how about the other guy? How about the diamond in the not-so-rough? With the fantasy hockey season settling in, let's look at some players who play in the shadows of bona fide superstars, but also are the ones inevitably making the difference between victories and defeats for your squads.
Chris Kunitz, LW, Pittsburgh -- When you think Penguins, you think Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Last season James Neal more than qualified as that "other" guy. Career-highs in goals, assists, points, PIMs, plus/minus, power-play goals and shots will do that for you. This season it's Kunitz, one of Crosby's regular linemates, that's making his mark in the fantasy hockey world.
At the start of the season, Kunitz was the 143rd-ranked fantasy player. Currently, he's No. 15. Through 11 games, Kunitz has been held without a point just three times. He has 10 points in his last four games, including a four-goal game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 3. He's also delivering in other categories, with a plus-7, five power-play points, 18 shots on goal and 28 hits. Kunitz's ability to perform across the board, coupled with the talent around him, should keep him as a top "second tier" fantasy option for a long time.
Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo -- As you're reading this, it's quite possible that somewhere out there Thomas Vanek is scoring a goal or earning a point -- he's been that good. And that deserving of stealing headlines in Buffalo and around the League. But 30-year-old forward Jason Pominville is carving his own niche in fantasy hockey circles.
Pominville ranks in the top 10 in the League in goals (six) and points (14). He also has 34 shots on goal through 11 games. But as promising as those numbers are, what's more impressive is the consistency with which he plays. He's played all 82 games five of the previous six seasons, and in that time, he's had a pair of 30-goal seasons and scored at least 20 in all six. It's clear that playing alongside Vanek has helped, but Pominville has proven he's a solid player with and without Vanek.
Johan Franzen, LW/RW, Detroit -- While Pavel Datsyuk can stickhandle in a phone booth and Henrik Zetterberg sprawls for empty-net hat-trick goals, rugged multi-positional Johan Franzen contributes in his own ways.
After a quick glance at his numbers, not much pops out -- three goals and six assists in 10 games. In fact, of the major fantasy scoring categories, Franzen isn't ranked higher than 37th in any of them (he's 37th in the NHL with six assists). Yet somehow he's No. 23 in Yahoo! leagues. How? He does a little bit of everything. And he does it often.
Prior to a pointless outing against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Franzen rode a six-game point streak. Through 10 Detroit games, he has thrown three or more shots on net six times. But he's helping in those hard-to-come-by categories for skilled players. The 6-foot-3, 223-pounder has 29 PIMs, 26 shots on goal and 14 hits. Extrapolating those numbers for a typical 82-game season, Franzen is on pace for 24 G, 49 A, plus-24, 237 PIMs, 213 SOG and 114 hits. Not bad for the "other" guy for a 48-game campaign.
Production for all three of the aforementioned players has been impressive. The talent around them is undeniable. Those factors make for a perfect recipe for success. Through the grind of a fantasy season players will overachieve before falling in a slump, Kunitz, Pominville and Franzen are here to stay.
The "other" guys? Buy.
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