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Fantasy All-Access: Second-half stars to watch

by Matt Sitkoff /

Every Monday, contributor Matt Sitkoff identifies waiver wire pickups, roster trends, schedule notes and a prospect to watch in fantasy hockey.

The NHL's best will assemble in Columbus this week for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), but some past all-stars will not be there and those players could give you fantasy value down the stretch.

Jason Spezza of the Dallas Stars is a two-time all-star (2008, 2012 for the Ottawa Senators) and his career points per game go from 0.97 before the All-Star Game to 1.09 points per game after the game.

The recent hot play of the Colorado Avalanche's Jarome Iginla should continue as he has 416 points in 440 games (0.95 points per game) after the All-Star Game.

Finally, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes has struggled this season but he has historically raised his point-per game-average (0.88 to 0.93) after the All-Star Game, which was last played in 2012.

Target these players in trades for a second-half boost.


Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes (owned in 16 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The 25-year-old is continuing his ascension as a consistent goal scorer in the NHL with 14 in 45 games. The eighth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft is already five goals away from his career high set last season. He has five goals in eight games in January. Even with the continuing struggles of the Coyotes, we expect the Denmark native to continue to produce and be a perfect candidate for your team.

[Editor's Note: Boedker (spleen surgery) has been placed on injured reserve and is week-to-week.]

Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators (owned in 1 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The Predators rely heavily on their top four defensemen for minutes and Ekholm, third on the depth chart with 818:09 minutes played this season, is starting to produce. With four goals in eight games in January, the 24-year-old has passed his career highs in goals (five) and points (13). The injury to Ryan Ellis has also opened the door for the 6-foot-4 left-handed defenseman to gain more time on the second power-play unit. The Predators were the best story of the first half of the season. Expect the Swedish defenseman to join the list of players who will continue their success in the second half.

Joni Ortio
Goalie - CGY
RECORD: 3-0-0
GAA: 1.33 | SVP: .953
Joni Ortio, Calgary Flames (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- Much has been written about the carousel of goalies this week from the trade of Devan Dubnyk and injuries to Pekka Rinne and Carey Price, but a 23-year-old is making the most noise in Calgary. The Finnish netminder has 82 saves on 86 shots while going 3-0-0 to start this season. With Karri Ramo now practicing with the team, Ortio's time in the NHL might be limited, but the rookie is making Bob Hartley's job hard. Expect the Flames to run with the hot hand for as long as they can to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs hunt.


AHL All-Stars -- The AHL All-Star Game is set for Monday, Jan. 26 in Utica and some future fantasy contributors will be playing in that game. Nick Shore already made his NHL debut this season with the Los Angeles Kings, but it was because of his scoring with the Manchester Monarchs (20 goals in 37 games) that he got the call-up and will be one of the forwards to watch. On defense, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who had three points in his seven game call-up with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, will look to impress. Even though goalies are usually left out to dry in All-Star games, one to watch is Connor Hellebuyck of the St. John's IceCaps. The rookie, who won the inaugural Mike Richter Award as the NCAA's most outstanding goalie, is proving the Winnipeg Jets have a good pipeline of talent available at the position.

Clutch is everything -- Game-winning goals (GWGs) are quickly becoming a favorite fantasy stat, and this season some players have been clutch in providing a boost in this category. Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had three GWGs in his first three NHL seasons and has blown up with 12 GWGs in his past two, including an NHL-high six this season. New York Islanders forward Anders Lee has 12 goals this season, with five of them being game-winners. Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller has eight goals this season and five GWGs.


Melker Karlsson, San Jose Sharks -- On May 30, 2014, the Sharks signed Melker Karlsson from Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League. This was after he contributed 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 14 playoff games as Skelleftea won their second consecutive SHL Championship. Flash forward to now and the unheralded signing is playing on a line with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. The 24-year-old has seven goals and 11 points in 17 games. Not bad for a 6-0, 180-pound forward who did not score more than 13 goals in the SHL. If Karlsson stays in the top six for the Sharks, his fantasy stock will continue to rise.

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