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Crosby among midseason fantasy award winners

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Crosby among midseason fantasy award winners
As we get set to start the stretch run, NHL.com looks at the biggest fantasy surprises, disappointments and more from the first half of the season.
With the official midway point of the 2010-11 season here, it's time to hand out our first-half fantasy awards. We've seen numerous surprises this season, but we also still see plenty of our usual suspects leading the way in fantasy leagues.

Last year it was Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby battling it out for the top fantasy rank at season's end. This season, Sid the Kid still remains at the top, but instead of Ovi, it's Steven Stamkos trying to chase down the top fantasy spot at the end of the first half.

From the midseason MVP to the midseason underachievers and comeback players, we'll take a look at everything that surrounds the fantasy hockey world we live in. Away we go...

Midseason MVP: Sidney Crosby
Honorable Mentions: Tim Thomas, Steven Stamkos
No surprise here. Could it really have been anyone else other than Sid? Through 41 games of action the Pens captain has 32 goals and 66 points, putting him on pace for 63 scores and 130 points over the full season. Crosby has been everything any of his fantasy owners could have possibly hoped for. Let's also not forget he's currently a plus-20 with 31 PIMs and his 161 shots on goal rank among the top-10 in the NHL.

Thomas, one of the bigger surprises in the NHL has been even better than he was when he won the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago. The Bruins netminder is the clear-cut No. 1 fantasy keeper at this point, leading the League with a sparkling 1.80 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and five shutouts. Continue to roll him with confidence the rest of the way if you were smart enough to land Thomas back in October.

Stamkos continues to prove he is one of the most elite players in the NHL. Stammer is the only player close to Crosby's status this season. He trails Sid for the League lead in goals by one with 31, and is second with 56 points. His notorious one-time slap-shot has him tops in the League with 13 power-play goals and 25 points while on the man advantage. Stamkos is a true superstar and should keep this up for many years to come.

Midseason Underachiever: Ilya Kovalchuk
Honorable Mentions: Martin Brodeur, Sergei Gonchar
Poor Kovalchuk owners. Typically one of the best fantasy players year-to-year, Kovy has completely lost his touch in New Jersey. He has just 10 goals and 21 points in 39 games, but that's not the worst part. The Russian forward is an NHL-worst minus-30 on the season. He has been the exact opposite of what we all expected after signing a long-term deal with the Devils.

Brodeur finishes right behind his teammate as the biggest underachiever because of the fact that he spent some time dealing with injuries this season. The future Hall of Famer has just five wins in 27 games and has recently lost playing time to Johan Hedberg. It's simply not good for Brodeur owners -- he might go down as one of the worst first-to-second round draft picks in the history of fantasy hockey.

Gonchar has just not performed up to the level we had hoped. After signing with the Sens in the offseason, Gonchar was expected to take over as their No. 1 d-man and lead their power play unit. While the veteran blueliner has done a solid job running the power play (14 of his 18 points have come while on the man advantage), he has really struggled at even strength with a minus-20 rating. Perhaps Gonchar's best days are behind him -- sorry, Ottawa.

Midseason Biggest Surprise: Dustin Byfuglien
Honorable Mentions: Ondrej Pavelec, Patrick Sharp
Enough can't be said about the performance of Big Buff in Atlanta this season. Switching from forward back to his original position of defense has clearly done wonders for Byfuglien -- he leads all NHL d-men in goals, points and shots on goal; he is tied for fifth in assists and tied for fourth in power-play points among blueliners, and also has a solid plus-7 rating and 43 PIMs. Simply put, Byfuglien has done it all this season.

Pavelec edges Thomas and Carey Price among netminders in this category because he has literally come out of nowhere in 2010. Thomas has won a Vezina Trophy and Price has always had plenty of hype surrounding him, but not Pavelec. Prior to this season the Atlanta goalie had appeared in just 61 games in his career. Now he has a 15-8-4 record with a 2.14 GAA, .936 save percentage and 2 shutouts.

Despite having an ugly minus-11 rating on the season, Patrick Sharp has still turned heads for the Hawks this season. He is third behind Sid and Stammer with 23 goals and is on pace for a career-high 80 points. Sharpie also loves to fire the puck on goal -- he trails only Alex Ovechkin with 171 shots.

 
Midseason Comeback Player: Justin Williams
Honorable Mentions: Johan Franzen, Milan Lucic
Having played in less than 49 games in each of the last three seasons between Carolina and Los Angeles, Justin Williams has had an outstanding 2010-11 season. The Kings forward has 33 points in 40 games so far with a great plus-11, 45 PIMs, 8 PPP and 120 SOG.

Franzen appeared in just 27 games last year for the Wings before making a heroic return during the playoffs. This season Franzen has stayed healthy and has produced 31 points in 39 games. Both Williams and Franzen have been even more valuable to their fantasy owners because of their RW position -- which seems to be the weakest among forwards this season.

Lucic, the Bruins' left wing, has bounced back to have a very solid overall fantasy season so far. Lucic recorded just 20 points in 50 games for the B's in 2009-10, but this campaign the big power forward already has 28 points, a plus-11 rating and 58 PIMs in 39 games for Boston. He's one of the few fantasy players that can produce for you in every category.

Midseason Rookie Standout: Logan Couture
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Skinner, Sergei Bobrovsky
Couture easily leads all rookies with 18 goals this season and is second with 27 points. Couture has been a major sparkplug for the Sharks and has a plus-8 rating to go along with 25 PIMs, 6 PPP and a whopping 134 SOG. The former first-rounder should easily clear the 30-goal plateau.

The only rookie Couture trails in points is Skinner, who has 28 points in 39 games for Carolina. Skinner has smooth hands and great playmaking abilities, which is why he is averaging over three minutes of power play ice time per game. The League's youngest player (18 years old) scored 50 goals and 90 points for the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL last season, so it's no surprise he's having such great success in the early stages of his NHL career.

Bobrovsky got off to a great start in the Flyers' goal, but has really cooled off lately, and has even lost a bit of playing time to Brian Boucher of late. Bobrovsky has just one win since Dec. 6 and has seen his Yahoo! League ownership decline to 67 percent. He still sports a solid 2.57 GAA and .915 save percentage, but you can expect his numbers to decline just a little as the season wears on him.

Midseason MVP -- Defense: Dustin Byfuglien
Honorable Mentions: Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Letang
Just Missed: Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle

Midseason MVP -- Goalie: Tim Thomas
Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Quick, Carey Price
Just Missed: Henrik Lundqvist, Ondrej Pavelec

Midseason MVP -- Center: Sidney Crosby
Honorable Mentions: Steven Stamkos, Brad Richards
Just Missed: Henrik Sedin, Anze Kopitar

Midseason MVP -- Left Wing:
Alex Ovechkin
Honorable Mentions: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg
Just Missed: Dany Heatley, Patrick Sharp

Midseason MVP -- Right Wing: Corey Perry
Honorable Mentions: Martin St. Louis, Alexander Semin
Just Missed: Jeff Carter, Loui Eriksson


NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
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Matt Cubeta's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Sitkoff's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
30 in 30 fantasy hockey preview index
Goalie battles: SJS | ANA | STL | MIN | CAR
Offseason top 200 fantasy hockey ranks

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