The Carolina Hurricanes are two points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference entering Wednesday, but an even bigger surprise is the player who's now tied for the team lead in scoring.
Jordan Staal, who has 34 points in 57 games, drew even with injured defenseman Justin Faulk for the Carolina lead in points with a power-play goal and four shots on goal Tuesday at home against the Winnipeg Jets. Staal is playing on the Hurricanes' third line and second power-play unit, yet continues to produce for deep-league fantasy owners with at least a point in eight of his past 10 games.
Staal, C/LW eligible and 24 percent owned in Yahoo, is ranked 172nd among all players based on standard-category performance but is tied for 10th in the NHL in scoring since Jan. 6 with 19 points in 17 games. The 27-year-old is far from a high-volume shooter (28 SOG in span; 100 this season), but five of his eight power-play points this season have come in that timeframe. He also has two overtime goals.
He's having his best season since his first with the Hurricanes in 2012-13, when he had 31 points in 48 games (.65 per game). His past two seasons have seen his points-per-game average dip to .49 in 2013-14 and .52 in 2014-15. This season it's back up to .60, an encouraging sign for a team that needs to make a decision on his brother Eric Staal (C/LW, 65 percent owned), a pending unrestricted free agent.
Video: WPG@CAR: Staal sneaks goal past Pavelec on power play
According to war-on-ice.com, Eric's salary cap figure is 8.25 million in the final year of his contract, while Jordan's is $6 million. As mentioned in my fantasy column on pending UFA forwards who could be traded before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, Eric has underachieved to an even greater degree than last season -- putting the Hurricanes, whom he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006, in a bind.
Jordan, under contract until 2022-23, has yet to mirror his 2011-12 production with the Pittsburgh Penguins (25 goals, 25 assists in 62 games; .81 per game) since being traded to Carolina, but he has at least turned the corner after a rocky start to his Hurricanes' tenure. He's actually been more valuable in fantasy to this point in the season than Eric (174th in Yahoo's rankings).
The longer Jordan sustains his production since the turn of the calendar year, the more he will surface in the fantasy realm. He doesn't cover penalty minutes (12), but is plus-137 in Shot Attempts percentage (fourth on Carolina) for the possession-driven Hurricanes. For such a high cap figure based on his performance at large, his long-term fantasy value is questionable as he enters his prime. That said, he has been able to sustain top-notch production for more than a month and can certainly help your squad in Carolina's final 25 games of the regular season.