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Five unnoticed opening weekend fantasy storylines

by Pete Jensen

Two days of games are already in the books, so it's appropriate to quickly reflect on a few storylines following an eventful opening weekend in the NHL.

While mainstream players (Martin St. Louis, Jaromir Jagr, Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau, etc.) and highly-touted prospects (Vladimir Tarasenko, Jonathan Huberdeau, etc.) stole headlines by kicking their seasons off with a bang, here are five developments on the fantasy front that may have gone unnoticed:

Vokoun, who held down the fort as the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the New York Rangers' home opener Sunday, should be valued as the short season rolls on -- especially by fantasy owners who drafted Marc-Andre Fleury. (Photo: Getty Images)

-- Three teams (Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins) are off to 2-0 starts, with each riding backup netminders to wins Sunday. Josh Harding (owned in 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues), in his first appearance since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, stopped all 24 shots to blank the Dallas Stars. Tomas Vokoun (38 percent), who gave Marc-Andre Fleury a breather, held the New York Rangers in check by making 31 saves on 34 shots. Ray Emery (6 percent) was far from perfect against Phoenix (25 SV on 29 SOG), but still earned a victory as the Blackhawks scored five-plus goals for the second straight day.

These are small sample sizes, but this pattern indicates that backups are worth storing on your bench for these situations. Owners who drafted Fleury, Corey Crawford and Niklas Backstrom would be wise to snag their backups off the waiver wire, as this strategy can brace your team for potential injuries while also ensuring your maximum goalie starts each week.

-- Huberdeau and Alex Kovalev stole the show Saturday night in the Panthers' 5-1 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes, but Brian Campbell's outing (2 PPG on 2 SOG with plus-1 rating) also made waves. Campbell is a well-known fantasy commodity after finishing 2011-12 with 49 assists (second among defensemen), but was a one-dimensional fantasy player due to his low totals in goals (4), PIM (6) and rating (-9). If the veteran blueliner can at least find the back of the net more often this season, both on the man advantage and at even strength, his value would be cemented in the top-10 range at his position.

-- Thomas Vanek (2 G, 3 A, 9 SOG) may have posted the most explosive debut League-wide so far, but Tyler Myers (1 PPG in 3:55 PP TOI, 2 PIM, 2 SOG, 2 hits) proved he's a clear bounce-back candidate in Buffalo's win over Philadelphia Sunday. Despite Myers' 2011-12 season being mired by injury (only 55 games played), he still has averaged just a tad under 10 goals per season over his first three NHL campaigns. When you consider his 6-foot-8 frame and the sizable impact he's had in the past, his ceiling is high in a 48-game season if he's featured in power-play situations.

-- Daniel Winnik, who scored only three goals in 21 games with San Jose last year following a mid-season trade, may have already found a niche in Anaheim after notching a pair of goals along with four hits, three shots and a plus-2 rating in Saturday's win over the Vancouver Canucks. He's playing on a line with Andrew Cogliano and savvy veteran Saku Koivu, both of whom assisted on each of his goals. It's worth monitoring his production over the next few games, but it still remains to be seen if he possesses any fantasy value even in deep leagues moving forward.

-- Chris Stewart (45 percent) is another bounce-back candidate who excelled in his season debut, posting two power-play goals for the St. Louis Blues in Saturday's 6-0 romp against the Detroit Red Wings. He also added 5 SOG and 2 PIM (a category he's touched on with regularity in the past). His grit and tenacity keeps him useful in the real-time stat categories, while his continued success will likely result in him earning much time on the man advantage alongside the Blues' array of offensive weapons.


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