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Fantasy All-Access: Early underachievers, revelations

by Matt Sitkoff /

Halloween is almost upon us, and hockey fans around the NHL, young and old, will celebrate by going to arenas dressed in their favorite costumes. Here at the All-Access, we'll celebrate by handing out some fantasy hockey tricks and treats.

Claude Giroux
Center - PHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 22 | +/-: -5
The tricks start with Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who was selected on average with the 15th pick in Yahoo leagues and has yet to score a goal. Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was the fifth defenseman off most draft boards in Yahoo leagues but is not even in the top-30 ranked defenseman. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was a first-round pick in most Yahoo leagues and is not in the top 400-ranked players.

The treats belong to New York Islanders forward Frans Nielsen, undrafted in most Yahoo leagues and a surprise in the top-five of League scoring. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison was picked in the 13th round in Yahoo leagues but is third in the NHL in defense scoring. And what a reward Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov has been for owners who picked him on average 130th overall.


Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 11 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The Blackhawks' playoff hero started the season with no goals in his first seven games but has been brought back to the fantasy hockey map with goals in four straight. The Blackhawks have four games this week (at MIN, OTT, at WPG, CGY) and although the 6-foot-4 wing is not playing with Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews anymore, he has great chemistry with Andrew Shaw and should continue his hot scoring touch.

Paul Martin
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 14 | +/-: -3
Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins (owned in 31 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The return of Kris Letang boosts the fantasy value of all the Penguins defensemen, but none more than this 32-year-old. Martin, who tied his career-high with six goals last season, has played the most minutes of any player on the Penguins (286:16) and already has half of his points on the power play. Pittsburgh has four games this week (at CAR, BOS, CBJ, at CBJ) and with Letang added to the dangerous power play, expect the points to flow from Martin.

Carter Hutton, Nashville Predators (owned in 26 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The big news of Pekka Rinne being out at least a month shocked the fantasy world, but if you weren't one of the lucky ones to pick up the 27-year-old goaltender, go and get him. Despite the five goals against in his last start vs. the St. Louis Blues, the Thunder Bay native is playing in front of one of the best defenses in the League. It's showed in him stopping 114 of the 123 shots he's faced this season. The Predators have a light schedule with only two games (at PHX, at LAK), but both at the end of the week, perfect for a push for a victory.


Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 9
SOG: 50 | +/-: -5
Big trade - We already had our first blockbuster deal of the season as potent left wings Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson switch teams. Vanek owners are jumping for joy as the soon-to-be 30-year-old with 497 career points in 598 games played will now be playing alongside John Tavares. Moulson, who turns 30 on Friday, moves from a place where he was a consistent 30-goal scorer to a team that is last in the League with 1.46 goals per game. Moulson owners shouldn't fret, though, as the pending unrestricted free agent could be moved again later in the season. For a full analysis of the trade, check out Matt Cubeta's 'The Front Line' on Tuesday.

Busy schedule -- The hectic schedule this week will cause fantasy owners to make tough lineup decisions. Five teams play four games as the Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, Rangers and Penguins are the busiest teams. This week will also see 21 instances of back-to-back games, the most scheduled so far this season. Goalies are 5-6-2 this season in the second game of back-to-backs, but also keep an eye on backup goalies like the Canadiens' Peter Budaj and the Blackhawks' Nikolai Khabibulin, as those teams have two scheduled.

Alexander Steen
Center - STL
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 15
SOG: 26 | +/-: 7
Sell high -- We've talked about players to buy low, but a good fantasy owner also knows when to sell high on an investment. We already mentioned him as our treat, but the Islanders' Nielsen is already at 30 percent of his career-high in points for a season (47). While in St. Louis, Alex Steen's 10 goals in his first nine games put him only 14 away from his career-high. Both of these players are on their way to career years, and as they light up the scoreboard early could get you a much-needed depth player at a position where you are lacking.


Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Last year's recipient of the Les Cunningham Award for the AHL's most valuable player is showing he belongs in the NHL. Playing on a line featuring another rookie, Ondrej Palat, and Teddy Purcell, the 23-year-old has 12 points in his 25 career games played over two seasons. Jon Cooper has coached many of the current Lightning down in the AHL and trusts the one-time 100-point producer for his hometown WHL Spokane Chiefs in all situations. He has played the fifth-most minutes among Lightning forwards (180:34 total minutes), averages 2:33 per game on the man advantage and even has created a great rookie shorthanded duo with Palat. The rookie has also won a team-leading 56.8 percent of his faceoffs while starting 52.3 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone according to


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