Every Monday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey contributor Matt Sitkoff will provide you with fantasy hockey advice in his weekly piece: "Fantasy All-Access." From the waiver wire watch to roster trends and prospect rumblings, Sitkoff is here to help you all season long.
After action is finished on Monday, 19 of the NHL teams will have played a quarter of their games this season. With that in mind, here at All-Access we would like to hand out some quarter-mark Fantasy Awards.
Conacher and Vanek are among the most notable fantasy performers at the quarter mark of the 2012-13 season. (Photo: Getty Images)
Fantasy MVP goes to the Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek. This was an easy one, as he has points in 10 of the 12 games he has played in and already has two five-point games. He has factored in 23 of the 38 goals scored by the Sabres -- what a dominant first quarter.
Category Hog Award, or the player that has excelled in many fantasy categories this season, goes to the New Jersey Devils' David Clarkson. The sixth-year pro has nine goals, 15 points, 19 PIMs, seven power-play points, 50 shots and two game-winning goals already this season.
Who would've thunk award goes to the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cory Conacher. The 5-foot-8 reigning AHL MVP was only drafted in six percent of Yahoo! Leagues, and all he has done is lead rookies in points (12) while playing solid two-way hockey (plus-5), and two of his five goals have been game-winners.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Patrik Berglund (owned in 28 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- The 25th pick in the 2006 NHL Draft has alternated successful statistical seasons (47 points in 2008-09, 26 points in 2009-10, 52 points in 2010-11, 38 points in 2011-12) and already has started this one off on the right foot (5G-2A in 11 GP). The Blues have four games this week (LA, @DET, @CGY, @VAN), all against teams struggling on the PK, and the 6-4 center who already has four power-play points could benefit from this.
Defense - NJD
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 8
SOG: 16 | +/-: 6
(owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- No defenseman is hotter than the Devils' Greene, who has eight points (2G-6A) in his last six games. The 30-year-old missed 26 games last season due to injuries, but does have 109 points in 359 career games. The Devils have three games this week (CAR, PHI, @NYI), and we fully expect the meteoric rise of Greene to continue.
Alex Tanguay (owned in 28 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- Lost in the early goal struggles of Jarome Iginla has been the hot play of his linemate. The 33-year-old leads the team with nine points in the team's first nine games, played the most power-play time for forwards (37:30) and has played the most forward shifts (246). This week the Flames have a busy schedule with four games (MIN, DAL, STL, @DAL), and if he can stay healthy Tanguay is a must start this week.
Instant line chemistry -- We have already seen what instant line chemistry can do for our quarter season MVP as Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson have combined for 22 of the Sabres' 39 goals this season (56.4 percent). Who your fantasy players play with is important and can help a fringe player become a fantasy stud overnight, if the chemistry is right. Here are some lines that are riding high right now: Stars -- Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow; Maple Leafs -- Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk; Canadiens -- Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Rene Bourque.
How many goalies to carry --
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 7
SOG: 21 | +/-: 2
A big question plaguing fantasy owners all over is how many goalies to carry this season. The facts are eight teams have played their starting goalie under 70 percent of the time and seven teams have played their starter over 90 percent of the time, including the Kings, who are the lone wolf to have started Jonathan Quick
every game this season. Our advice is to target handcuffs by trades or waiver wires. Think of it this way, if you have three goalies but one handcuff that guarantees you all scheduled starts that week, that could be the edge as your opponent has to hope his guy starts a majority of games.
Charlie Coyle -- We have all waited patiently for uber-prospect Mikael Granlund from the Wild to break out, but as he spent some time in the press box this week it might be another hot prospect drafted in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft that steals his spotlight in Minnesota. Charlie Coyle's road to the NHL has gone thru San Jose (which made him the 28th pick, then traded him in the Brent Burns deal), Boston University, Team USA in the World Junior Championship, Saint John of the QMJHL and Houston of the AHL. His first professional season started off well in the AHL with 24 points in 44 games for Houston, and with the Wild's offensive struggles he got the call to the make his NHL debut this week. He has now seen time playing on the top line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, and should be on your fantasy radar.