Note: With the 2012 NHL All-Star festivities beginning on Thursday, Matt Cubeta's regular Center Stage, Turn Left Here and Right of Way fantasy stories will return next week.
Last season James Reimer came out of practically nowhere to take the NHL and fantasy leagues by surprise. After making just seven starts prior to last season's All-Star Game, Reimer went on to make 28 starts for Toronto after the break. He finished with a 16-7-5 record to go along with a 2.69 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and three shutouts while powering the Maple Leafs to a second-half surge that would give them hope heading into the 2011-12 season.
Reimer is the ultimate example for a player fantasy owners hope to snag up around the midway point of the season. We're all in search of that unknown guy that gets called up and produces at a high level when his team is willing to give young players a chance -- this is the time for coaches to see what kind of talent they have in their minor league systems.
Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was a similar story last season, emerging as a major fantasy difference-maker on the blue line. Hamonic was called up early last season (Nov. 24), but turned out to be extremely valuable in the latter part of the season, finishing with 5 goals, 18 points, a plus-11 and an amazing 78 penalty minutes in 33 contests after the All-Star break.