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Fantasy Five: The start of normality

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Fantasy Five: The start of normality
With the regular season settling into rhythm, big-name players are starting to make their move toward the top of the scoring race.
With a full week of head-to-head action now in the books, the Fantasy Five welcomes you to Week No. 2. Things are slowly starting to return to what we expected. If you glanced at the League leaders last week you saw names like Derek Roy, Josh Bailey and Jordan Leopold at the top of the points charts. Take a look now and you'll see a lot more familiar players -- Tomas Kopecky and John-Michael Liles are probably the only two outliers among the top 10 points leaders.

Marian Hossa leads the league with 7 goals and 11 points; Brad Richards is tied with Liles for the League lead in assists with 8; Steven Stamkos is off to another great start to the season; Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf also find themselves among the top of the points column. Things are starting to return to normal. As stated several times in just about every fantasy story, you need to give your players time to get going. While it is possible some of them might never break out of their early-season struggles, in all likelihood, the good players will eventually be among the leaders -- 10-15 games is usually a good gauge on whether a player is in a slump or might just end up having a bad season.

1. Let's take an early glance at how accurate NHL.com's rankings have been after almost two weeks of action. The season is still young and you can expect most of these elite players to finding their stride some time soon, but here's a look at how we did with our top 50 overall up to this point:

Right on the money: Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jimmy Howard, Brad Richards
Off the mark: Martin Brodeur, Steven Stamkos, Eric Staal, Duncan Keith, Vincent Lecavalier

While Ovechkin and Sid the Kid are clearly doing just fine, a lot of our other usual superstars are off to slow starts. The three Devils players (Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur) in our preseason Top 10 are all off to sluggish starts, but it's still safe to expect all three of them to return to their usual fantasy-stud-like form. Getzlaf was held pointless in his first three contests, but he has responded flawlessly with 8 points in his next three games. Howard is playing as if he's already the No. 1-ranked fantasy goalie (only Tomas Vokoun, Tim Thomas, Brent Johnson and Jonathan Quick rank ahead of Howard in standard Yahoo! Leagues) -- expect much of the same throughout the season. Stamkos clearly should have been a Top 10 player, as he's producing just like he did last season -- 5 goals and 9 points in five games. Lecavalier is battling injuries, but two points and a minus-four rating in four games just isn't what we expected.

2. The Stewart brothers need some fantasy love. We all know Colorado forward Chris Stewart after his breakout performance last season, but older brother Anthony has been opening some eyes early on in 2010 for the Thrashers. A first-round pick by the Panthers back in 2003, Anthony Stewart has 4 goals in his last two games -- including a hat trick against Anaheim on Oct. 15. While you might think you should rush to the waiver wire to grab the 25-year-old, take a little bit closer look. Anthony spent last season in the minors with the AHL Chicago Wolves and notched just 31 points in 77 games. He has never recorded more than 7 points in any of his four shortened NHL seasons, so this hot start might not be what to expect going forward. He's only averaging 14:10, of ice time which shows he could easily slow down in the near future. For now, just keep your eye on him.

On the other hand, Chris Stewart is doing the exact opposite of what he did last season. After scoring just 2 goals in the first two months last season, Chris now has 5 goals, 2 assists, 3 power-play points, 20 shots on goal and 9 PIMs in six contests for the Avs. Perhaps Stewart will build off last season's 28-goal, 64-point season.

3. Alex Goligoski. Stepping in as smoothly as possible for former Penguin Sergei Gonchar, Goligoski has 3 goals, 4 assists, 5 power-play points, a plus-4 rating and 18 shots on goal in seven games. The 25-year-old is currently the No. 1-ranked defenseman in Yahoo! Leagues and owned in 95 percent of the leagues. He's doing exactly what we all hoped he would -- now we just need him to keep it up and stay healthy for the full season.

4. Tim Thomas vs. Tuukka Rask. The Bruins played their fourth game of the season on Tuesday at Washington, and Thomas made his third start. Rask was named the No. 1 goalie at the start of the season, but he struggled in his first and only start of the season. On the other hand, Thomas was electric in his first two games: 2 wins, 0.50 GAA, 60 saves on 61 shots and a shutout. With Thomas starting Tuesday, it seems safe to say the tables have turned in Boston -- as of this moment, Thomas is your new No. 1. Now that the Bruins have decided who it's new lead goalie is, it's time for you to make the change as well: Rask is owned in 96 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, while Thomas is only at 57 percent. Make the call.

5. For those of you who play in leagues that contain Yahoo!'s new hits category, here's a look at three players you might want to add:

Dustin Brown, RW, Kings (owned in 69 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) - Brown is currently tied for the League lead with 24 hits -- and he's only played in four games. The two forwards he's tied with have played in seven contests. The Kings' captain also has three goals and a helper to go along with 12 shots on goal. He is always among the League leaders in hits and should be again this season.

Chris Kunitz, LW, Penguins (owned in 43 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) - Kunitz is one of the three players tied for the League lead with 24 hits (teammate Matt Cooke is the third). Kunitz could be extremely valuable in a hits league because he'll also chip in a healthy share of points while skating alongside Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. The gritty winger had 112 hits in 50 games last season, but a whopping 207 in a full season in 2008-09 -- expect something closer to the latter assuming Kunitz stays healthy.

Cal Clutterbuck, RW, Wild (owned in 3% of Yahoo! Leagues) - Clutterbuck is your true energy player. With 19 hits in four games this season, Clutterbuck is among the hits leaders in the early parts of the 2010-11 season. While he has just one point this season (a goal), Clutterbuck is a fantasy asset in the hits department only. He led the NHL with 318 hits last season (31 more than Brown, who ranked second) and 356 in his rookie season in 2008-09 (47 more than runner-up Brooks Orpik). The 22-year-old loves to throw the body and will probably single-handedly win you the hits category each week in head-to-head leagues. He also has some potential to score a few points -- he's currently playing on Minnesota's second line with Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen -- and is seeing a career-high 15:33 of ice time in the Wild's first four games.

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OFFSEASON FANTASY RANKINGS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Evgeni Malkin
5. alex Ovechkin

CUBETA & JENSEN'S COMPLETE RANKINGS