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Fantasy Spin: Sharks' rookie Irwin picking up steam

by Pete Jensen /

The San Jose Sharks, after a 7-0-0 start, have only won five times in their last 21 games. But despite their recent struggles, a bright spot has emerged in rookie defenseman Matt Irwin.

Irwin is riding a four-game point streak -- the longest of his career -- and has totaled four goals and two assists over his last six games. With the fantasy defenseman waiver-wire pool being especially thin these days, the 25-year-old defenseman's recent stretch of production has made him a commodity in deep leagues -- especially since Brent Burns moved from defenseman to wing on a line with Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.

Sharks' rookie defenseman Matt Irwin, despite his team's recent struggles, has burst onto the fantasy scene with six points -- three on the power-play -- over his last six games. (Photo: Getty Images)

The 6-foot-2 defenseman is operating on the team's top pairing with veteran Dan Boyle and is learning on the fly as the Sharks try to navigate through their struggles. Owned in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues, Irwin was instrumental in the Sharks' third period onslaught Monday after falling behind 4-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on the road.

San Jose ultimately lost the game, but Irwin's blast from the point cut its deficit to 4-3 early in the final period, and the composure he displayed late in the game gave his team chances to draw even.

Speaking of Irwin's resolve during key situations, Sharks' coach Todd McLellan has given him an average of 19:06 of ice time per game and nearly two minutes per game with the man advantage. He's taken more than 20 shifts per game in each of his first 19 NHL contests, and, over Irwin's last six games, he's posted the first three power-play points of his career.

Talk about encouraging signs for fantasy owners who could use a boost in the power-play department from a blueliner.

Irwin also has been a regular contributor in shots on goal, having posted a career-best eight against the Colorado Avalanche on March 10 and a total of 24 over his last six games. He has stuck with the club ever since being recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester on Feb. 26, and don't expect him to be anywhere but with the Sharks for the rest of the season if he keeps up his current rate of production.

Make no mistake, the Sharks are struggling to find their identity these days, but don't let the team's play and Irwin's rating (minus-6) distract from a productive fantasy asset on the blue line. In shallow leagues, be sure to monitor Irwin's production in the coming days and weeks, but owners in deep leagues should add this trending defenseman while his ownership is low.


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