As we hit the last full week in March, the talk of brackets are floating around the water cooler as both the NCAA hits its yearly tournaments. Let's look at some Fantasy Hockey players that are making an impact Bracketology style.
The Sweet 16 PIMs that Sidney Crosby has given fantasy owners this season, an added bonus to his NHL-high 53 points. The Elite Eight goals Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi has scored during March Madness already marches his career high for goals in a month, and he has four games remaining. The Frozen Four straight shootouts that Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had in a stretch from March 10-16, winning two of them -- part of eight wins for the hottest goalie this month.
Last, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz is the Cinderella Story of this fantasy season. Who would have guessed the 33-year-old forward would be the second ranked Yahoo! player and be ranked second in both points (40) and goals (19). This was a guy that was drafted on average of 140th overall in Yahoo! leagues and is leading the charge on most fantasy teams' run toward a championship.
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Brenden Morrow (owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- The Penguins traded for the Dallas Stars captain and now he has become a must-own in all fantasy leagues. The 34-year-old is expected to play top-six minutes for the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, and don't be surprise if you see Morrow on a line with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin when Malkin is healthy again. The winger does have 107 career points in 171 games against Eastern Conference opponents with about 33 percent of those goals coming against teams currently in the Atlantic Division. A pending UFA at the end of the season, Morrow only has 17 goals and 37 points in his last 86 games played but should get a boost in his production playing with a team that has a League-high 3.46 goals per game.
Matt Cullen (owned in 8 percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- Playing on one of the hottest lines in hockey with Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the 36-year-old center is still proving he is a fantasy asset with 11 points in his last 12 games. The veteran is playing in all situations for the Wild and leading the team in faceoff win percentage (56.2 percent). With four games scheduled this week (@DAL, PHX, @DAL, LAK) it seems likely Cullen will become the 37th American-born NHL player with 200 career goals this week, as he is sitting at 199.
Jake Gardiner (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs have finally #FreedJakeGardiner, and that should be music to fantasy owners looking for a boost from their backline. The 22-year-old, who had 30 points last season as a rookie, had a rough start to his sophomore season as he suffered a concussion while playing in the AHL during the lockout. Now, as both Korbinian Holzer and Michael Kostka have hit their first-year wall, in steps the 6-foot-2 first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. Gardiner has averaged over 20 minutes played in his first three games back and is playing on the top power play unit. The Leafs have four games scheduled this week (@BOS, FLA, CAR, @OTT) and we expect the big defender to return to the form that made him a top fantasy option last season.
Rumors, rumors, rumors -- Make sure you are checking NHL.com on the latest buzz around Trade Deadline, as we see each year the deadline brings some life to players who can make an impact on their new team. We also can't forget it brings open spots on the team that makes the trade. We only saw 16 trades the last two seasons and the player who factored the most last season was Jamie McGinn, who had 13 points in his 17 games played with Colorado after being traded from San Jose. Keep an eye on the big fish, but don't forget the other guys can also help your team.
Johnny Gaudreau --The march toward the Frozen Four begins this week as Boston College looks for back-to-back championships, and leading the charge is Johnny Hockey. The Calgary Flames' fourth-round pick (No. 104) in the 2011 NHL Draft finished his sophomore season leading Hockey East with 50 points (20G-30A) and has 95 career points (41G-54A) in 78 games for B.C. A star for the USA gold medal-winning team at the World Junior Championship now takes his talents to another big stage, where last season as a freshman he had five points for the national championship team. Soon he could be on a run for your fantasy team.
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