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Holiday Special: Giving thanks in fantasy hockey

by Matt Cubeta
While most people will be enjoying their Thanksgiving Day feast and watching some football, hockey fans will anxiously be awaiting the first-ever 2011 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins on Friday at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

Who needs football when we can sit back, digest all that food from the night before and watch a great hockey game between Original Six rivals? And while you're sitting there watching some great hockey, why not give thanks to the players that have helped your fantasy team to this point?

From the players that are performing as we hoped and expected to the guys that have surprised us all, let's take a look at what fantasy owners can be thankful of at the quarter-pole of the NHL season.

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Sidney Crosby -- For returning to the lineup. Obviously. Selected on average with the 26th overall pick on draft day, Sid's fantasy owners are finally rejoicing now that he's back in the lineup. After his monster performance Monday, it's time to start thanking Crosby for what he's going to do for your team the rest of the way.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- For being so good at just 18 years old. Drafted on average in the 13th round, no rookie has been as dominant as RNH, who currently leads all NHL rookies with 22 points in 21 games -- including 11 power-play points.

Phil Kessel -- For being the best. The top-rated player in Yahoo! Leagues at the quarter mark has been simply sensational -- his 16 goals and 30 points lead the NHL and he's been as consistent as anyone recording at least a point in 18 of 22 games.

Jaromir Jagr -- For coming back to the NHL. Not only is he producing for fantasy owners (17 points, plus-7 in 18 games), but he is still one of the most exciting players to watch in the League.

Tim Thomas -- For never saying never. Thomas just continues to surprise and deliver for his fantasy owner -- he is again the top-rated goalie in Yahoo! Leagues. And of all goalies with at least 10 starts, he leads the group with a 1.77 GAA and .938 save percentage.

Shea Weber -- For delivering as we expected. Ranked as our top defenseman coming into the season, Weber hasn't disappointed a bit -- he's currently the top-rated d-man in Yahoo! Leagues and is leading the NHL with a plus-18.

The Sedins -- For their consistent production every year. Despite their early role reversal (Henrik has one more goal than Daniel), the Vancouver twins have combined for 13 goals and 33 assists through their first 20 games. Rejoice if you've somehow managed to have them both on your team.

Joffrey Lupul -- For being the best wing-man. He's not only soaring as Kessel's right-hand scoring machine, but he's almost exceeding Kessel's production from a fantasy viewpoint. Lupul is the second-rated player overall and has 28 PIMs to go along with his 26 points.

Patrick Kane -- For being the most fun player in the NHL. Kane has been the most creative and entertaining player to watch on the ice this season. And he's also been very productive for his fantasy owners: 7 G, 15 A, plus-10, 18 PIMs, 5 PPP and 68 SOG in 21 games.

Claude Giroux -- For joining the fantasy elite. Giroux has taken his game to a new level this season and could end up as the top-rated player by season's end -- he has 11 goals and 15 assists in 20 games.

Anze Kopitar -- For continuing to be the most underrated player. Just keep doing your thing Kopitar. After 81 points in 2009-10 and 73 points last season, Kopitar is off to another excellent season with 24 points
Stephen Weiss
Center - FLA
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 21
SOG: 41 | +/-: 14
in 21 games.

Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann -- For being the most productive line in the NHL. The Florida trio has scored 28 of their team's 59 goals (47.4 percent), led by Versteeg, who has been extremely productive in all facets of fantasy hockey: 11 G, 14 A, plus-12, 12 PIMs, 9 PPP and 57 SOG.

Marian Gaborik -- For returning to your old self. After a disappointing 22-goal, 48-point campaign last season, the Rangers forward has 9 goals in 17 games, putting him on pace for 43. He also leads the NHL with 4.5 shots per game. Welcome back.

The Backups (Brian Elliott, Nikolai Khabibulin, Josh Harding, Jhonas Enroth and others) -- For being there for us when we're desperate. It's never easy determining when to add a backup goalie to your roster, but we've seen several No. 2 netminders step up for everyone in fantasy hockey this season.

Sheldon Souray -- For dedicating yourself in the offseason. After spending all of last season in the AHL, Souray has been out to prove to everyone that he can still play at the NHL level. He has been unbelievable in his first season with Dallas: 4 G, 9 A, plus-10, 35 PIMs, 4 PPP, 55 SOG in 20 games.

James Neal -- For stepping up when Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out. Neal has been the most valuable fantasy player from the Pens while their two superstars were injured. He is tied for the NHL lead with 84 shots on goal and his 12 goals are tied for second in the League.

Max Pacioretty -- For making a tremendous recovery. On Mar. 8, Pacioretty suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebra as a result of a Zdeno Chara check. None of us would have known judging by his play this season. In 21 games, Pacioretty has been Montreal's best forward with 9 goals and 17 points and an
Jamie Benn
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 19
SOG: 56 | +/-: 7
outstanding 75 shots on goal.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin -- For delivering on our sleeper predictions. Ranked as our top-two fantasy sleepers coming into this season, Benn and Seguin have been even more than what we expected. Benn is currently the 13th-rated fantasy player and Seguin is right behind him at 14.

Jonathan Quick -- For keeping your starting job. People continue to think and expect Jonathan Bernier to take over the No. 1 gig at some point in Los Angeles, but Quick just keeps trucking along with 9 wins, 2.08 GAA, .931 save percentage and 3 shutouts.

Erik Karlsson -- For improving dramatically. Sure his 18 points are tied for the League-lead among all defensemen with Brian Campbell, but his plus/minus is only minus-3 this season. After a minus-30 last season, we thank you for being better defensively this year.

Marian Hossa -- For staying healthy. After appearing in 65 games for the Hawks last season and 57 the year before, Hossa has managed to play in 20 of Chicago's 21 games this season. He has also been extremely valuable as he's rated 11th overall in Yahoo! Leagues with 9 goals and 14 assists.

Mike Smith -- For adapting well to change. Smith went from a backup role in Tampa Bay to being the No. 1 starter for the Coyotes, and he's made the transition ever-so smoothly -- in 15 starts, Smith has a 9-3-3 record to go along with an outstanding 2.16 GAA, .936 save percentage and 1 shutout.

Teemu Selanne -- For never getting too old. 41 years old means nothing to Selanne, who continues to rake for fantasy owners. Selanne has 7 goals and 19 points in 20 games and even surprised his owners with 22 PIMs in one game.


Fantasy MVP: Phil Kessel
Honorable Mention: Daniel Sedin, Tim Thomas

MVP -- Center: Claude Giroux
Honorable Mention: Steven Stamkos, Anze Kopitar

MVP -- Left Wing: Daniel Sedin
Honorable Mention: Joffrey Lupul, Thomas Vanek

MVP -- Right Wing: Phil Kessel
Honorable Mention: Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg

MVP -- Defense: Shea Weber
Honorable Mention: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson

MVP -- Goalie: Tim Thomas
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Howard, Marc-Andre Fleury

Biggest Surprise: Joffrey Lupul
Honorable Mention: Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Khabibulin

Biggest Underachiever: Roberto Luongo
Honorable Mention: Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan

Rookie Standout: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Honorable Mention: Jhonas Enroth, Matt Read
View More

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