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U.S.-born players delivering fantasy value

by Bill Dean /
In tribute to Hockey Day In America on Sunday, this week we'll look at some under-the-radar U.S.-born players to keep your eye on for this season and the future.

It's easy to write about top-flight stars like Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny, Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller. Other players, such as Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Quick, have broken out in the last few seasons and could become future stars as well as reliable, if not extraordinary, NHL fantasy players.

There are a lot of young Americans that have excelled this year on the ice and in the fantasy stats column. Rookies like Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, Kevin Shattenkirk of the Colorado Avalanche and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals have made huge contributions to their respective teams. Stepan entered the weekend fifth in rookie scoring with 33 points, while Shattenkirk is second among rookie defensemen with 26 points.

Stepan has played most of the season with star sniper Marian Gaborik; Carlson has been part of a successful pairing with fellow rookie Karl Alzner; and Shattenkirk has played a lot with fellow American John-Michael Liles. All have shown nice offensive upside and should be on your fantasy radar for the immediate future.

Some other Americans, such as forwards James van Riemsdyk, Colin Wilson, Max Pacioretty and Jack Skille, have shown that they can contribute to playoff teams and are looking for top-six minutes. Pacioretty had been paired with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez to form a formidable all-American line in Montreal, but he now flanks Gionta and Tomas Plekanec. He has produced very well of late and would be a nice addition to your forwards corps. Van Riemsdyk and Wilson have both grown into key offensive pieces in their second NHL seasons with the Flyers and Predators respectively. Skille was improving with the Chicago Blackhawks before being traded to the Panthers for Michael Frolik. In Florida, he will continue to grow and likely will receive more ice time.

Defensemen Alex Goligoski has shown he can be a top offensive blueliner and a power-play producer for a very good Pittsburgh Penguins team.

In goal, Jimmy Howard leads the League in wins and has solidified Detroit's crease. Cory Schneider has become a very reliable backup for the Canucks.

Top Pick-Ups (owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

1. Mike Fisher, C, Predators (23 percent) -- This recommendation has more to do with his trade then with stats for the season. He's likely to see a noticeable upswing in plus/minus playing with a better defensive team in Nashville than he was with Ottawa. While receiving top minutes on a line with Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat, he will play in all situations, which only can improve his fantasy value. In three games with the Preds, he has a goal and an assist and is a plus-2. With 26 points, 35 penalty minutes, 9 power-play points and 140 shots, he has had a nice season and likely will see an increase in all categories with a much better Nashville squad.

2. Max Pacioretty, LW, Canadiens (18 percent) -- In 12 games since Jan. 21, Pacioretty has 12 points (6 on the power play), is a plus-2, has 14 penalty minutes and 39 shots. With 19 points on the season, one can definitely tell he is feeling more at home in the NHL. He contributes in many categories, so if available, make the right play and pick him up.

3. Drew Stafford, RW, Sabres (37 percent) -- Playing with Tim Connolly and Tyler Ennis, Stafford has been on fire the last six games, with 9 goals (two hat tricks), 2 assists, 4 points on the man-advantage, 19 shots and is a plus-3 rating. His four hat tricks are tied for the League lead. For the season, he has 35 points, 14 on the power play, and 116 shots. Pick him up.

4. Michael Grabner, RW, Islanders (43 percent) -- Speaking of a hot streak, Grabner is on a tear. Since Jan. 13, he has 16 goals, 7 assists, 68 shots and is a plus-14. He's been playing on a line with Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo. With 25 goals this season, it's not out of the realm of possibility for him to score 35. Get him while he's hot.

5. Johan Hedberg, G, Devils (26 percent) -- With Martin Brodeur hurt, Hedberg has been given the reigns to New Jersey's net. Over the last four games, he is a perfect 4-0, has allowed only six goals and has a very good .947 save percentage. Expect him to continue to get the majority of the starts until Brodeur's knee is 100 percent.

Offensive Schedule Strength
RANK TEAM 2/21 2/22 2/23 2/24 2/25 2/26 2/27
1 Off vs. PHX Off @NYI Off @OTT Off
2 Off Off vs. PHX Off vs. NJD Off @NYR
3 Off vs. SJS Off vs. DAL Off @BUF Off
4 Off vs. MTL Off vs. STL Off vs. BOS Off
5 @STL Off Off @NSH Off Off vs. PHX
6 Off @CBJ Off vs. CHI Off @DAL vs. CBJ
7 @PIT Off Off Off vs. NYR @NYI Off
8 Off Off vs. LAK Off vs. MIN Off vs. COL
9 Off Off @CGY Off Off @VAN @EDM
10 Off @VAN Off vs. TOR Off vs. CAR Off
11 Off Off @ANA vs. MIN Off vs. COL Off
12 Off Off vs. EDM Off Off @LAK @ANA
13 Off @DET @PIT Off @CGY Off Off
14 Off @CAR Off Off @WAS Off vs. TBL
15 Off Off @BUF Off vs. FLA Off vs. TOR
16 Off vs. NSH Off Off vs. PHX Off @NSH
17 Off vs. NJD Off @DET Off vs. NSH Off
18 Off vs. NYR Off Off vs. PIT @MTL Off
19 Off Off vs. ATL Off vs. OTT vs. DET Off
20 vs. CHI Off Off @VAN @EDM Off @CGY
21 vs. WAS Off vs. SJS Off @CAR @TOR Off
22 Off Off vs. BOS Off vs. SJS Off vs. STL
23 Off vs. EDM Off @LAK @ANA Off Off
24 Off @DAL Off Off @TBL Off @FLA
25 Off Off vs. FLA Off @BUF vs. PHI Off
26 Off @PHI @TBL Off @CBJ Off @CHI
27 vs. FLA @TOR Off @PHI Off vs. WAS Off
28 Off vs. NYI Off @MTL Off vs. PIT @ATL
29 @NYI Off @OTT Off @STL Off vs. NJD
30 Off @MIN @COL Off vs. STL Off vs. BOS

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