Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen provides in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top-100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen is your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.
So much more was expected of the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
But there is at least one bright spot: Brandon Saad, one of my preseason fantasy breakout picks, is in line for the best regular season of his career (82-game pace: 60 points, 10 power-play goals, 238 shots on goal) and has established chemistry with a young center who's flying under the radar.
Alexander Wennberg, a 21-year-old Swede who has been playing alongside Saad at even strength in recent weeks, has shaken off his quiet, injury-plagued start with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and 21 SOG in 13 games since Dec. 5. Wennberg has three multi-point outings in that span, thanks to an elevated power-play role (four PPP), averaging 2:15 per game in those situations (second among Blue Jackets forwards in past month).
But it was the most recent of those multi-point games that Wennberg's chemistry with Saad was on full display. Ryan Johansen was a healthy scratch Dec. 17 for Columbus' road game against the Arizona Coyotes, and it prompted a line change that has clicked ever since. Wennberg and Saad, who have been playing mostly with Scott Hartnell, assisted on each other's goals as part of a seven-goal explosion for the Blue Jackets in the game, and that duo has connected on a team goal on three different occasions since that outburst.
Saad is in the midst of a seven-game point streak (six goals, five assists) with four or more SOG in six of those seven games since Johansen was scratched, a testament to the quality chances he's gotten alongside the underrated Wennberg. Saad and Wennberg have combined on five team goals in that seven-game span.
Saad is owned in the vast majority of Yahoo fantasy leagues (82 percent), yet Wennberg's fantasy ownership remains extremely low (two percent) for a number of reasons. First, he plays for a wildly inconsistent team, one that sits in last place but is capable of beating the top teams in the NHL in consecutive games; the Blue Jackets defeated the Dallas Stars on Dec. 29 and Washington Capitals on Jan. 2 at home. Second, he's only center-eligible in Yahoo, and, third, he only had 20 points in 68 games as a rookie and one point in his first 15 games this season.
But as we see so often in fantasy hockey, it's not how you start, but how you finish. If he sticks with Saad on a long-term basis, Wennberg could end up forming the line of the future with the two-time Stanley Cup champion and being a staple in fantasy lineups for years to come. It's never too early to take a shot on Wennberg in a deep and/or keeper league, especially if there's not much on your waiver wire.
Read all of this week's Fantasy Top 100 by clicking HERE