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Lucic among three biggest fantasy surprises this year

Weekly Wire: March 28 -- April 3

By Bill Dean - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Lucic among three biggest fantasy surprises this year
NHL.com's Fantasy Weekly Wire is your resource for weekly pickups, offensive strength of schedule rankings and much more.
The NHL is full of players that surprise their teams and fantasy owners over the course of the year.

Last year, there was Brad Richards making a comeback, Ryan Kesler becoming an offensive force, Duncan Keith leading Chicago's Stanley Cup charge and Jimmy Howard manning a tight crease in Detroit. Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Tim Thomas could be considered the three biggest surprises of this NHL season, but Weekly Wire will pick three other deserving players that might not catch your eye at first glance.

One forward who has really stood out is Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. 'Looch' leads the Bruins in goals with 30, is second in points to David Krejci with 58 and his 106 penalty minutes are second to Shawn Thornton. Lucic is plus-29 is tied for first with two of his teammates and he has shattered his career high in shots with 160. He has found a steady set of linemates in Nathan Horton and Krejci and it has paid dividends for the Bruins.

Lubomir Visnovsky has been an absolute beast for the Anaheim Ducks. He leads all defensemen in points with 61 and is second in assists behind Phoenix's Keith Yandle with 46. Visnovsky's 26 power-play points and plus-14 rank second on the Ducks. He might not be able to eclipse his career high in points, but would reach a career high in goals with three over the course of the final eight games.

After the trade that sent him from the Oilers to the Ducks last season, Visnovsky had 13 points in 16 games, but couldn't help his team enough to get them into the playoffs. With a continued surge, the Ducks could make the playoffs this season, and Visnovsky would be one of the big reasons why. Honorable mentions to Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Letang.

There are many goalies this year that have played above what was predicted of them to begin the year. One goalie who wasn't on the radar to start the year was Chicago's Corey Crawford. After playoff hero Antti Niemi left for the Sharks, the Blackhawks signed Marty Turco. His play wasn't what the Hawks were looking for, so they turned to Crawford and the rest is history.

Crawford has led the Hawks down the stretch and has won over the Chicago fans in the process. With a 29-14-5 record, a 2.28 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, Crawford has thrust himself into the top-10 among fantasy goalies. He has been a welcome surprise.

Top Pickups (owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

1. Eric Belanger, C, Coyotes (8 percent): Belanger has been a top center since joining Shane Doan and the underrated Lauri Korpikoski on the first line. He has 5 points in the last six games and 4 goals and 5 assists in 9 games since the promotion. He has 36 points on the season and could be a solid addition in the playoffs due to his hot streak.

2. Sergei Samsonov, LW, Panthers (4 percent): Samsonov had three consecutive multi-point games from March 15-19. He is skating on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Niclas Bergfors and has been a solid addition to his new team. In 12 games since joining the Panthers, he has 9 points. He could provide a late-season burst from the left wing spot.

3. Matt D'Agostini, RW, Blues (8 percent): Injuries and trades have made D'Agostini a top-6 forward and he is definitely making the most of it. Skating with David Backes and Andy McDonald, he has 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in seven games and has enjoyed some time on the top power-play unit. He has 18 goals and 39 points on the season, along with 10 points on the power play and 142 shots. He is a fine addition to your wing corps.

4. Dan Hamhuis, D, Canucks (20 percent): Injuries to Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard (recently returned) and Lee Sweatt have ravaged the blue line. Because of solid play from Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff, the Canucks have been able to survive the massive injuries and clinch the Northwest Division title. Hamhuis, despite missing 13 games due to injury, has been a rock on the point and has contributed on the power play. The defensive-minded D-man has 23 points, 7 on the power play, and is a plus-28. He should be on your radar.

5. Cory Schneider, G, Canucks (25 percent): Schneider has been one of the best backup goaltenders in the league this year. With starter Roberto Luongo getting more rest due to the Canucks clinching their division, the first-round pick should be in the net much more to build on his 14 wins. Schneider has won five straight games and has a 1.77 GAA and a .944 save percentage. He had a 26-save shutout of the Ducks on March 10 and should be added for your playoff run.

Offensive Schedule Strength
RANK TEAM 3/28 3/29 3/30 3/31 4/1 4/2 4/3
1 Off vs. CAR Off vs. CBJ Off vs. BUF Off
2 Off @NSH Off vs. LAK Off vs. EDM Off
3 Off vs. ATL @CAR Off Off @NJD Off
4 Off vs. OTT Off vs. PIT Off @MIN @CHI
5 Off @PIT Off vs. ATL @NJD Off vs. NYR
6 vs. CHI Off vs. STL Off Off @NSH vs. MIN
7 @DET @BOS Off Off @CBJ Off vs. TBL
8 Off Off Off vs. DAL Off vs. ANA Off
9 vs. COL Off @CGY Off Off @SJS vs. DAL
10 Off @EDM Off @VAN Off vs. DAL Off
11 Off vs. PHI Off @TBL Off @FLA Off
12 Off Off vs. BUF @NYI Off Off @PHI
13 Off vs. VAN Off @COL Off vs. DET Off
14 Off vs. CHI Off vs. TOR Off vs. ATL Off
15 Off Off vs. ANA Off @STL Off @COL
16 Off vs. FLA Off @WAS vs. CHI Off vs. STL
17 Off @TOR @NYR Off Off @WAS @CAR
18 Off Off vs. NYI Off vs. PHI vs. MTL Off
19 Off vs. DAL Off Off vs. COL Off Off
20 Off @PHX Off @SJS Off @LAK @ANA
21 Off @WAS vs. MTL Off Off @NYI vs. BUF
22 Off @TBL Off @FLA Off vs. TOR Off
23 Off @CBJ Off vs. OTT Off vs. PIT Off
24 Off vs. MIN @DET Off vs. CGY Off @CBJ
25 Off @STL Off vs. EDM Off vs. TBL @DET
26 @ANA Off Off vs. NSH @PHX Off vs. CGY
27 Off @MTL Off @PHI Off @BOS Off
28 Off Off @NJD vs. NYR Off vs. CAR Off
29 Off vs. BUF Off @BOS Off @OTT Off
30 Off vs. LAK Off @MIN Off @VAN Off









NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
Pete Jensen's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Cubeta's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
30 in 30 fantasy hockey preview index
Fantasy goalie analysis: Niemi vs. Stalock
Elliott vs. Allen | Gibson vs. Andersen
Ward vs. Khudobin | Promising Wild trio

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