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Fantasy All-Access: Niemi headlines October awards

by Matt Sitkoff

One month is down but there's six to go in the fantasy hockey season. Championships are not won or lost in October but we are here to give out our best of October Fantasy awards.

Antti Niemi
Goalie - SJS
RECORD: 9-1-3
GAA: 1.74 | SVP: 0.925
Fantasy MVP of October easily could have gone to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, but people who drafted them should have expected this output from these superstars. This is why this award goes to San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who was selected on average at No. 16 in Yahoo leagues. In a season where goalie play has been hard to predict, the Finnish netminder far and away has been the best of the bunch.

Category Hog Award, or the player that has exceled in many fantasy categories this season, goes to St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, who is ranked in the top 25 in points, penalty minutes and power-play goals, and has a plus-7 rating.

Who Would've Thunk It Award goes to Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler. With all due respect to the offensive outbreak of the Blues' Alexander Steen and Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders, but if you were told Hudler would be the last player to be held pointless in a game, the reaction would be shock and awe. The 29-year-old started the season on a nine-game point-streak, not bad for someone drafted in three percent of Yahoo leagues.

Alex Killorn
Center - TBL
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 12
SOG: 30 | +/-: 4

Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The latest candidate to play alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis has been the most successful one this season. The second year forward has five points in the past two games, giving him 12 points in 14 games this season. The Lightning have two games this week (Edmonton Oilers at home, at the Detroit Red Wings) which doesn't make him a great play this week. But if the chemistry continues, he will be a great asset to your fantasy team for the rest of the season.

Kris Russell, Calgary Flames (owned in four percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- With the injury to captain Marc Giordano, another fantasy surprise this season, in has stepped Russell to fill his offensive shoes. He has five points, a plus-4 rating and 11 shots on goal in his past four games while playing more than 25 minutes in all of them. The Flames have three tough games on the schedule this week but all are at home (Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche).

Josh Harding
Goalie - MIN
RECORD: 7-2-1
GAA: 1.10 | SVP: 0.950
Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild (owned in 59 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- It is time to declare the Wild goaltending as an official time share with Harding starting nine of the Wild's first 15 games. The benefit of this setup is the 29-year-old goalie, who is 7-2-1 with a 1.10 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. Minnesota has three games scheduled this week and all are against opponents with under or at .500 record (Calgary Flames at home, at the Washington Capitals, at the Carolina Hurricanes). If Harding gets two or three starts expect them to be good ones. He should be owned in 100 percent of Yahoo leagues right now.


The off nights -- This week 30 of the 47 games scheduled fall on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, making lineup decisions on those nights very difficult. The opposite side of the equation is the teams playing on those high-value off nights gaining fantasy points while other players are not active. The Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets play all four of their games this week on these off-nights (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators play all three of their games this week on these slow hockey days, and the New York Rangers play three of their four games when others don't. The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks play two of their three games on these off nights. Target these teams for an added fantasy bonus during this busy week of hockey.

When to drop an injured player -- Out indefinitely, out three-to-four weeks and day-to-day are phrases fantasy owners are getting used to hearing as the season rolls on. With most leagues having one or two injured-reserve positions, some fantasy owners are dealing with the dreaded question of whether to drop a player not knowing what their future holds. My advice is to use IR if you can but be smart about it. With points at a premium if you play in a daily league, the difference in not starting an extra forward for a week is huge. If a player is day-to-day and misses two games, you could have filled another category by picking up a player with a heavy schedule this week. You can take the superstars that would not survive a waiver wire and put them on IR, but if a fringe player is dealing with an ailment drop him immediately. Be a smart owner and monitor his status and be the first to pick him back up but do not leave points off the board by hoping the player heals quickly.

Tyler Toffoli
Center - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 5 | +/-: 0

Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings -- The time finally has come for this talented scorer as the Kings have recalled Toffoli from the minors as Jeff Carter was placed on IR. In his first game the Kings rookie had an assist, five shots on goal and played 19:23, with 2:23 coming on the man-advantage. The American Hockey League rookie of the year last season continued to produce even with the disappointment of not making the NHL roster out of training camp with 12 points in his first 10 AHL games. The 2010 second-round pick (No. 47), who had six points for the Kings in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, should be back on the fantasy radar.

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