This is the last All-Access until the New Year, so we decided to give our fantasy holiday gifts.
For owners of the top three players, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane, we give the gift of an iPad Air to watch all the amazing highlights they have been providing your fantasy team this season.
For Steven Stamkos owners we give the gift of an Elf on the Shelf to monitor his recovery and return back to the top of the fantasy charts.
Lastly, we give the gift of a carousel to all the goalies in the NHL as that symbolizes the state of fantasy hockey goalies at this point of the season.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets (owned in 52 percent of Yahoo leagues) -- The hottest fantasy player not named Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Kane is the No. 4 pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-3 center with right wing eligibility has points in eight straight games with 10 points (six goals, four assists) during the streak. He now is the team leader in points (26), goals (12), faceoff wins (288) and power-play points (10). The Blue Jackets have three games this week (WPG, @PHI, PHI) and Johansen has arrived as a fantasy must-own.
Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 9 percent of Yahoo leagues) -- Since being a healthy scratch on Nov. 27, the often criticized defender has been contributing offensively with five points in eight games. The 23-year-old is second on the Maple Leafs in total minutes played (707:03) and anchoring the second power-play unit for most of the season. The Maple Leafs have a busy schedule this week with four games (@PIT, FLA, PHX, DET) ending with the big preview matchup of the Winter Classic with the Detroit Red Wings, and with the return of Dion Phaneuf expect a big week for this American defender.
Antti Raanta, Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues) -- We mentioned the 24-year-old as a possible sleeper this season and now the former Finnish Elite goalie of the year will be the primary starter for the best team in the NHL for the next couple of weeks. The 6-foot netminder has stopped 125 of the 137 shots he has faced since taking over as the Blackhawks starter five games ago. Chicago has a light schedule this week with only two games (@NSH, VAN) but the rookie goalie should be owned in 100 percent of Yahoo leagues at this point.
Coming back -- We focused on all the major injuries plaguing the NHL last week but in the next couple of weeks we could see the return of some major fantasy contributors. A pair of Blue Jackets are getting closer to returning, as Marian Gaborik (knee) and Nathan Horton (shoulder) continue to skate with the team. The Anaheim Ducks are getting healthy and that is a good sign for fantasy owners as Francois Beauchemin (upper body) has returned and Jakob Silfverberg (hand) and Viktor Fasth all are getting close. Keep coming back to NHL.com for updates on these players as they will bring a big boost to your fantasy team.
Career years -- We already focused on one player having a career year as Johansen already has passed his career highs in goals and points. Here are some other fantasy players already having career years that should continue their upward swings this season: Mats Zuccarello's comeback to the New York Rangers has been a successful one, as he has already tied his career high in goals (six) and is only two points away from his top point total (23). Andrej Sekera of the Carolina Hurricanes has already passed his career high in goals (six) and should pass his points high of 29 this season.
Cody Ceci, Ottawa Senators -- The 19-year-old made his NHL debut after an emergency recall and played 20:40 against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 12 with a plus-2. He followed that up with a solid 17:57 in his second NHL game. His stay could be short this time around, but the 15th pick in the 2012 draft is giving fantasy owners a glimpse into the future. The 6-3 offensive defenseman is following up his great Ontario Hockey League career with 17 points in 24 games played with Binghamton of the American Hockey League. Keep an eye on this talented prospect as his time to contribute is coming very soon.
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