The NHL schedule is just 73 games young, so it’s hardly fair to judge a players fantasy potential on such a limited body of work. There are an obvious group of players (see: Ovechkin, Alex) who are guaranteed to post consistent numbers throughout the year. But there are a few one-night wonders (see: Kontos, Chris) whose value can spike early based on a quick start out of the gate, then drop off quicker than the Price is Right’s yodeling mountain climber.
A few names have jumped out at me so far, so let’s take a closer look at some players who will merit watching throughout the season:
Patrick Sharp: His OT winner last night was his third straight game-winning goal, and gives him 8 points (6+2) in Chicago’s first eight games. However, this is eerily reminiscent of Sharp’s quick start last season when he had 9 points in his first six games -- and then posted just five in his next 10. And don’t be fooled by his league-leading 30 shots on goal, because 20 of them came in two games.
John-Michael Liles: The Avs blueliner is tied for the league-lead with eight assists in six games – including one in each game to tie the franchise record for longest assist streak to start a season. Liles is due for a rebound campaign after posting a career-low 31 points last season, albeit in just 59 games. Watch his ice time though, because if it starts to drop, his point production normally follows suit.
Matt Cullen: Cullen has started fast with 6 points (2+4) in four games for his hometown team – after finishing last season with 8 points in 21 games after being dealt to Ottawa from Carolina. Cullen’s fantasy value is going to come from his assists, and those could come in bunches if he remains on a line with the enigmatic Martin Havlat.
Phil Kessel: If he plays all 82 games, this former first round pick could challenge for the league’s goal scoring title. Kessel scored 30 goals last season, despite missing the first 12 games following shoulder surgery. After a summer spent working on his overall fitness instead of concentrating on rehab, a more fit Kessel has jumped out of the gate with five goals in five games. Kessel has never met a shot opportunity he didn’t like, and should top 300 shots on goal for the first time in his career.
Kari Lehtonen: Lehtonen is enjoying new life in Dallas where he has backstopped the Stars to a 4-1 start. But it may be too early to jump on this bandwagon because been plagued by injuries (groin, back) that have limited him to 106 games over the last three seasons. Lehtonen will see his share rubber behind the shaky Stars defense. He’s faced the second-most shots in the league (190), and the Stars have allowed 40+ shots in three of his five starts.
My name is Kevin Snow, and I have a fantasy hockey problem.