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Fantasy Spin: Vanek regaining form as top-tier LW

by Pete Jensen /
The Buffalo Sabres are off to their best start since 2008-09, and Thomas Vanek is a huge reason why.

After his second two-goal performance of the season in Buffalo's 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, Vanek has shown a knack for thriving in front of the net -- and his fantasy owners have rejoiced on a nightly basis as a result.

The 27-year-old sniper is far from unrecognized as a standout goal-scorer in his career, but the past two seasons have seen his fantasy stock take a slight hit.

After 40-plus goal seasons in 2006-07 and 2008-09, the Austrian-born left wing has averaged 30 goals over the past two seasons, with average PIM totals and plus-minus outings.

Vanek is now anchoring the Sabres offensively with 10 points through 6 games (6G, 4A) , only trailing Toronto Maple Leafs' forward Phil Kessel (12 pts) for the League lead. Vanek also sports a plus-5 rating and 8 PIMs so far this season.

Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 10
SOG: 27 | +/-: 5
What's more, he has displayed the ability to shine amongst a deep arsenal of forwards for Buffalo. His ability to mesh well on the Sabres' top line with captain Jason Pominville (2G, 7A, plus-6 in '11-12), together with the team's prowess on the back end, could be a lethal combination moving forward as Vanek enters his prime.

While the 2011-12 season is still young, Vanek's production leads one to believe that he may be on his way to another eye-opening campaign for Buffalo. Vanek's strong start is giving fantasy owners a flashback to his 43-goal, 41-assist, plus-47 season for the President's Trophy-winning Sabres back in 2006-07.

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