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Fantasy trends: Five up, five down this preseason

Thursday, 09.26.2013 / 10:20 AM
NHL.com Fantasy Hockey Staff

Anyone who has played fantasy hockey in the past can attest to how drastically the landscape can change in a short timeframe.

Injuries, holdouts, line changes, signings and tryout contracts, suspensions and preseason performance need to be taken into account leading up to fantasy drafts. If you have already drafted a team at this point, these factors can give you a reason to take an early dive into the waiver wire pool.

NHL.com fantasy insiders take a look at the latest upward and downward trends over the past few weeks and determine the potential fantasy impact of these developments -- for better or worse.

FIVE UP

- Cory Schneider: Talk about a positive first impression, as the goalie acquired in the offseason started his New Jersey Devils preseason career with two straight shutout appearances and a scoreless streak of 158:22. He is 3-0-0 this preseason with a miniscule 0.38 goals-against average and .986 save percentage. On the other side of the goalie tandem Martin Brodeur is 0-2-0 with a 4.24 GAA and .816 save percentage. Although Brodeur has been already named the opening night starter, with those numbers and talent Schneider is now the Devils goaltender to draft.

- Jussi Jokinen: The fantasy world wondered who would get that spot in the Pittsburgh Penguins' top six playing with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. In steps the 30-year-old veteran, who had a hat trick against the Columbus Blue Jackets where two goals were assisted by Malkin and the other by Neal. Jokinen did have a career-high 30 goals and 65 points in 2009-10 with the Hurricanes, so he has the talent. His stock is skyrocketing while the stock of Beau Bennett, who lost on out the coveted top-six spot, is dropping.

- Mikhail Grabovski: Just missing out on the NHL.com's top 200 rankings because he was unsigned at the time, he is now a must draft in all leagues. In his first preseason action as the Washington Capitals' second-line center he chipped in with two assists, three shots, won 50 percent of his faceoffs and saw 19:15 of ice time. The 29-year-old will flourish in an offensive role with Washington and could be a real sleeper in your draft board.

- Tomas Hertl: We featured the San Jose Sharks rookie in our fantasy rookies to watch piece and he has not disappointed in the preseason. The 6-foot-2 forward has three goals, four points, a plus-3 rating, a game-winning goal and 10 shots. He is playing with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns which makes him now one of the favorites for Fantasy Rookie of the Year.

- Tim Thomas: We have yet to see him in preseason action, which could come as early as Thursday, but a two-time Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner cannot be ignored in fantasy hockey. The 39-year-old has proclaimed himself "energized" after taking a year off and could very well end up the Florida Panthers starter when it is all over. Jacob Markstrom, the supposed No. 1 goalie, is 0-0-2 giving up eight goals on 80 shots this preseason. Watch Thomas' first start closely; if he looks like himself, scoop him up late rounds and reap the benefits.

Follow Matt Sitkoff on Twitter: @MSitkoffNHL

FIVE DOWN

- Marc-Andre Fleury: Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely due to a blood clot, meaning fantasy owners who selected the Pittsburgh Penguins tandem are in a bind. Fleury has more wins than any other goalie since 2010-11 (101) and warrants top-15 consideration among goalies with such a high-scoring offense in front of him. But while he's in position to start a ton of games, there's no fallback option if his playoff and preseason struggles carry over to the regular season.

- Derek Stepan: Ranked 50th overall in NHL.com's top 200, Stepan continues to plummet fantasy-wise due to an ongoing contract dispute with the New York Rangers. Brad Richards is playing on the top line for now with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, so Stepan should no longer be drafted over proven commodities in the top 75. That said, he's still worth a top-100 pick because everything changes if he puts pen to paper.

- Oilers centers: Edmonton's depth down the middle has been decimated by injury, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) is expected to miss the first month of the season and Sam Gagner (broken jaw) could miss six to eight weeks. Nugent-Hopkins' rookie numbers in 2011-12 (52 points, 23 PPP, 134 SOG) are still fresh in everyone's minds despite a down year last season, but he still shouldn't be targeted before the 10th round. Gagner, on the other hand, suddenly has very low draft stock and is likely to go undrafted in standard Yahoo! leagues.

- Suspended players: This preseason, David Clarkson (10 regular-season games) and Zack Kassian (five) were suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety. Clarkson, a fringe top-100 player before the ban, is still capable of 40 points, 90 PIMs and 175 shots on goal, but is likely to fall outside the top 175 overall in drafts between now and the start of the season. Kassian, a deep-league sleeper pick, was seeing time with the Sedin twins on the Vancouver Canucks' top line but will now start the season on the waiver wire in most leagues.

- Jeff Skinner: Skinner's spot in the Carolina Hurricanes' lineup looks to be on the third line with rookie Elias Lindholm and offseason addition Nathan Gerbe. While this combination could eventually pay dividends, the former Calder Trophy winner is only being drafted in the 11th round on average in Yahoo! leagues. Skinner has only one point this preseason and has totaled a minus-29 rating over last two campaigns. If Carolina's offensive production doesn't go beyond its explosive top line again in 2013-14, Skinner's plus-minus could again overshadow strong point and shot totals.

Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen

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