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Hot fantasy topics: Rinne, Shattenkirk shining

by Matt Cubeta / NHL.com

Here's a look at five of the hottest topics in fantasy hockey right now.

1. The No. 1 fantasy player

Has anyone outside of fantasy owners that have him on their teams realized that Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is the No. 1 overall fantasy player? His owners continually point out how amazing he's been, but it's been a quiet type of amazing. Rinne is the prime reason the Predators are having so much success this season, and it's his consistency that separates him from every other goalie.

Rinne has yet to lose two games in a row this season and only twice has he allowed more than three goals against (he allowed four goals against to the Calgary Flames once, and to the St. Louis Blues once). The Finnish netminder leads the NHL with 20 wins, a 1.76 goals against average, and his .937 save percentage is tied for the NHL lead. He's also tied for the League lead with 10 games with a .950 save percentage or better and is second in the NHL with eight games of allowing just one goal against.

It doesn't get much better than that and considering he was drafted on average with the 43rd pick in Yahoo leagues, and I think it's safe to say Rinne has delivered more than enough for his owners so far.

2. Speaking of No. 1's ...

I'll bet you also didn't realize that the No. 1 fantasy defenseman this season is St. Louis Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk. For a while it was Calgary's Mark Giordano, but Shattenkirk has actually distanced himself in the Yahoo ranks recently. He currently ranks as the No. 9 overall fantasy player and Giordano (the second-highest ranked blueliner) is at No. 17. Shattenkirk trails Giordano in goals (eight to five) and points (31 to 28), but his 18 power play points far exceed Giordano's total of nine, and that seems to be the major difference between them.

The 25-year-old Shattenkirk seems to getting better as the season progresses with two goals and seven assists in his past six games to go along with a plus-six during that time. He's on pace for an absurd 70 points and 46 power play points, and while it's highly unlikely he'll keep at that rate, it's time to view Shattenkirk as an elite fantasy defenseman.

3. Kane continues to struggle

No, I don't mean Patrick Kane. I'm talking about Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, who has just five goals and seven assists in 22 games this season. There was a time (after the 2011-12 season when he scored 30 goals, had 57 points and 53 penalty minutes) that many fantasy owners were expecting Kane to develop into a true six-category fantasy stud. Since that 2011-12 season, things have not gone the right way for Kane.

Evander Kane
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 19 GAMES
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 12
SOG: 71 | +/-: 1
Drafted on average with the 91st pick in Yahoo fantasy leagues, Kane is currently ranked 130th among all players, which doesn't seem that awful. However, most of that value comes in the form of his 44 penalty minutes. His point production has been a far cry from what owners hoped for. Kane is still capable of turning his season around, but the fact that he's skating on a line with Matt Halischuk and Adam Lowry doesn't bode well for him.

I know many of you Kane owners have been disappointed and are wondering what to do with him, and I hate to say it, but I'm not sure the rest of this season is going to get much better. See if you can ship him off in a trade to someone that still has faith he'll be a fantasy star this year.

4. Is Downie worth owning?

Twitter fans continue to wonder whether or not they should be adding the PIMs-machine that is Steve Downie, and the answer is a simple one: Yes. As long as Downie (owned in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues) can avoid injury, he will carry fantasy value all season long. Most of that is because of his penalty minutes, but he also has 15 points this season and has stepped up offensively while the Pittsburgh Penguins have been decimated by injuries.

Steve Downie
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 19 GAMES
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 15
SOG: 41 | PIMS: 118
Let's look at little more closely at just how valuable his PIMs have been. He has 118 penalty minutes, which are 42 more than Colorado's Cody McLeod. He has four fighting majors, his five game misconducts lead the NHL, and his 24 minor penalties are tied for the NHL lead with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Right now, Downie is on pace for 312 penalty minutes for an 82-game season. Not since the 2007-08 season has anyone had that many penalty minutes (Daniel Carcillo for the Phoenix Coyotes had 324) and only three players since the 2000-01 season have eclipsed the 300-PIMs mark (Peter Worrell in 2001-02, Carcillo in 2007-08 and Zenon Konopka in 2010-11).

Downie is approaching uncharted waters in terms of PIMs production and he's also on pace for 39 points. If he can keep at these rates, he'll continue to be a top-30 fantasy player (currently ranked 27th in Yahoo leagues). The key is whether or not he can remain healthy.

5. Shot blockers

More fantasy leagues have started to include blocked shots as a category, and for those of you playing daily fantasy hockey leagues with DraftKings, it's a stat that counts regularly. Here's a look at three players you should consider if you need blocked shots:

Kris Russell, D, Calgary Flames -- His 95 blocked shots lead the NHL and he also has 13 points.

Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators -- He's fourth in the NHL with 79 blocked shots, but as most of you know, he's very capable offensively as well (15 points and 73 shots on goal in 30 games).

Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks -- I'll bet you didn't know that he leads all forwards with 45 blocked shots this season, right? Well he does. And you know how good he is offensively. Daily leagues should eat him up.

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