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Kessel leads fantasy fast-starting performers

by Matt Cubeta

Getting off to a good start in fantasy hockey always is important, especially in rotisserie leagues where it's harder to make up ground as the season progresses. It doesn't hurt to have a strong beginning in head-to-head leagues either, but in this format there is a lot more luck involved and you typically see larger swings in the standings on a week-to-week basis.

Having a strong start won't just help you in the standings; it also could lead to you making trades that improve your roster. Last October St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen was one of the best fantasy players in the game, posting an NHL-best 11 goals, as well as five assists, a plus-7 rating and five power-play points in 10 games. He then had 22 goals and 46 points in his next 58 games; still very productive but not nearly as dominant as his October was. Steen could've fallen into the well-known "sell high" group after his fast start and you probably could've gotten a lot in return via trade if you sold him at the right moment.

Heading into this season let's see if we can find the next Steen for you. Here's a look at some interesting October stats and some players that have been known to be dominant forces during the early parts of an NHL season.

Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel
Right Wing
GAMES: 66 | GOALS : 39 | ASST: 24
SOG: 216 | PIMs: 16 | +/-: 6
* Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel loves the month of October. He has 39 goals and 63 points in 65 career October games. Despite the 65 games being the second-fewest of any month he's played in, those 39 goals are the most he has in any month during his career. To put that in perspective, Kessel's next most productive month in the goals category is March, where he has 38 goals in 117 games.

* Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is someone to have. Among active goalies since 2008 with at least 30 games, he has the highest save percentage during the month of October at .924. As I've written in the past, I believe Lehtonen has the potential to be a top-five fantasy goalie this season. Get on board, folks.

* Minnesota Wild newcomer Thomas Vanek should get off to a hot start if history repeats itself. His 29 goals during the past five Octobers are the fifth-most of any player.

* If it's assists you're after, then look to Vanek's teammate, Mikko Koivu. His 41 assists during that same timeframe also ranks fifth among all players. Vanek and Koivu are expected to start the season on the same line. If you can get the both of them on your roster, you could start piling up the points this season.

* Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson led all players at his position with 11 points in 14 games last October. Ekman-Larsson is poised for a big season and should be a top-10 fantasy defenseman.

* If it's penalty minutes you're after, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas, available in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues, is someone to grab. Gudas had a good start to last season with one goal, three assists and 55 penalty minutes in 12 October games. His 55 penalty minutes were second to then-New York Rangers forward Derek Dorsett, who had 62.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury
Record: 42-24-3
GAA: 2.41 | Sv%: .918 | SO: 5
* Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has proven to be a dominant performer during the regular season, and even more so during October. During the past five Octobers, no active goalie has more wins (30) or a better goals-against average than Fleury (2.17). He is an amazing goalie to own in fantasy hockey and you should expect him to start the season strong.

* Matt Moulson, then with the New York Islanders, was the only player to record five power-play goals during October (all five power-play goals came in 11 games with the Islanders). He also played for the Buffalo Sabres and Wild last season but had four more power-play goals during the next 64 games. Moulson will be a key component to the Sabres' power play this season, and if he gets off to a good start like last season you might be wise to sell him high.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, here are the category leaders for the past five Octobers.

Note: These lists span six seasons (2008-2013) due to the shortened season in 2012-13 that had no games in October.

Ovechkin: 38 H. Sedin: 52 H. Sedin: 67
Stamkos: 36 J. Thornton: 50 Stamkos: 66
Kessel: 32 Backstrom: 44 Crosby: 65
Marleau: 30 Kopitar: 42 Ovechkin: 65
Vanek: 29 Getzlaf: 41 Kopitar: 64
Sharp: 27 M. Koivu: 41 Marleau: 63
Crosby: 26 Malkin: 41 J. Thornton: 63
Parise: 26 Crosby: 39 Perry: 61
Perry: 26 Ribeiro: 39 Getzlaf: 58
Semin: 26 M. Richards: 39 P. Kane: 57
Fleury: 30 T. Thomas: 2.12 T. Thomas: .932
Quick: 29 Fleury: 2.17 Lehtonen: .924
Anderson: 24 Quick: 2.20 Miller: .922
Luongo: 24 Miller: 2.41 Quick: .920
Lundqvist: 24 Backstrom: 2.44 Vokoun: .920
Price: 23 Price: 2.44 Lundqvist: .920
Kiprusoff: 22 Halak: 2.47 Fleury: .919
Miller: 22 Rinne: 2.49 Rinne: .918
Halak: 21 Lehtonen: 2.50 Ward: .918
Nabokov: 20 Lundqvist: 2.50 Price: .917
*Minimum of 30 games played
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