This week, The Real Spiel breaks down the first quarter of the NHL season and the fantasy studs that made it exciting for all involved.
The Real Spiel on Claude Giroux as Top Center:
SOG: 68 | +/-: 3
Giroux is the top-ranked center-eligible player in standard Yahoo! Leagues and his 13 goals and 16 assists are a major reason why. While those stats are understandably eye-popping, Giroux's real value as a fantasy beast is a byproduct of great across-the-board production. Consider his 68 shots thrown on net, 14 PIMs, plus-3 rating and 11 power play points and you can't help but place the gifted playmaker at the top of the list of fantasy centers. Even with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup and names like Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin and Jonathan Toews still out there, Giroux has earned his spot as Top Center going into the second quarter of the 2011-12 season.
The Real Spiel on Kris Versteeg as Top Left Wing:
SOG: 61 | +/-: 12
The season is long and a lot could happen, but up to this point, Versteeg deserves props as the main man on the left side of the ice. He currently sits fifth in total points (26) in the NHL and has been held off the scoresheet just eight times all season. What's been just as impressive as his individual numbers has been his ability to lift the play of his Panthers teammates. Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss each have 20-plus points and Versteeg is a big reason why. He's delivered night in, night out for your fantasy club and, seeing as how nicely he's been able to fit in with a newly constructed Florida club, the same discussion could be have come the midway point of the campaign.
The Real Spiel on Phil Kessel as Top Right Wing:
SOG: 80 | +/-: 4
The Maple Leafs haven't been the only ones benefiting from Kessel's dominance, as your fantasy clubs undoubtedly have, as well. And how about the rub-off impact on teammate Joffrey Lupul? The other star in Toronto has arguably been as impressive as Kessel so far, but the man opponents are focusing on each night is the one with No. 81 on his jersey.
The Real Spiel on Kris Letang as Top Defenseman:
SOG: 64 | +/-: 5
While Crosby sat out for the better part of this season, Letang has consistently remained atop the League's most prolific defenseman. So far, the former third-round selection has three goals, 16 assists (good for sixth best in the NHL), 19 points, a plus-5 rating, 12 PIMs and 64 shots on net. With Crosby back in the fold, Letang's production could see an increase, which means so can your fantasy team if you've got him as an option.
The Real Spiel on Tim Thomas as Top Goaltender:
GAA: 1.86 | SVP: 0.937
Thomas is owned in 99 percent of standard Yahoo! Leagues. No surprise there. The 37-year-old is fourth in the League with 11 wins, second in the League in save percentage (.937), third in the League in GAA (1.86) and he has three shutouts, too. Those are the numbers of a top notch goalie. Those are the numbers of Tim Thomas, the top goalie through the first quarter of the season and likely beyond.