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Going Deep: Making a case for Raphael Diaz

Scott Pianowski
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Hab or Hab not? (USAT)

One size never fits all when it comes to fantasy pickup advice. If we go with the well-established names around the 50-percent ownership tag, we're sure to hear "long gone" refrains from the Yahoo! readers. If we go too deep with the recommendations, we're likely to hear "why would I want those scrubs on my team?"

It is what it is. Today's assignment is deep league pickups, so go ahead and throw these players under the Zamboni if that's what you do. Sometimes we're going to focus on deeper league with these columns.

Here are five possible tire-kicks in those challenging, deeper pools:

-- Nazem Kadri, C, Leafs (two-percent owned in Yahoo!): Kadri didn't do a lot in his first two go-rounds in Toronto, but we're still talking about a first-round pick (seventh overall in 2009) who's only 22 years old. He's registered a point in every game this year (and goals in three of his four starts), and he piled up six shots on goal in the Islanders loss on Thursday. Currently he's been a staple on the team's second power-play unit, but an increase in work there wouldn't be a surprise. This looks like a young, talented player blossoming in his third year.

-- Raphael Diaz, D, Canadiens (one percent): The Habs are holding firm in their standoff with holdout P.K. Subban, and the fine play of blueliners like Diaz are making it an easy decision. Diaz has collected five assists in the opening week, with three of them coming during PP time. Diaz cut his teeth during nine years of play in Switzerland (he's 27 now), and he didn't look out of place last year in a 59-game NHL trial. He's firmly entrenched as a Top 4 defenseman in Montreal, and one of the regular options on the power play. He'll never be a star, but smart puck movers will always have a role in this league.

-- Michael Grabner, RW, Islanders (seven percent): Obviously you're living right when three of your first ten shots find the back of the net, but it's not like Grabner's scoring chops haven't been on display before. He potted 34 goals back in 2010-11 (despite very little power-play time) and he managed 20 last year. The Islanders are finally incorporating Grabner into the power-play cycle (he's in the second unit), which means he'll probably split the production difference between 2010-11 and 2011-12. He's also worth considering if short-handed goals are a major bonus in your pool; he bagged six of them back in the breakout year, and he already has one this winter.

-- Alex Steen, C/LW, Blues (14 percent): We've spent plenty of blog and Twitter time discussing the joy of Vladimir Tarasenko, but let's also give some props to Steen, his heady linemate. Steen has collected 14 shots and four assists in the opening week, he covers two positions, and he's still capable of a career year in his Age 28 campaign. Steen also figures to help anyone looking for a plus-minus boost; he was plus-24 last year for the Blues (in just 43 games), and he's off to a plus-four start in the fresh season. St. Louis appears to have the deepest roster in the league, a team that could easily lead the NHL in regular-season points. Get on board where you can. (And yes, Andy McDonald also makes sense here, for most of the same reasons.)

-- Kurtis Foster, D, Flyers (one percent): Here's a Hail Mary type of play, a speculative call on someone who might be in line for a bigger role. The snake-bitten Flyers just lost two pieces of their power play rotation (forward Scott Hartnell and defenseman Andrej Meszaros); the second injury in particular might push Foster into more special-teams play. Foster will never get into the NHL Hall of Fame without a ticket, but he does have offensive chops if you're willing to look back far enough (note the 8-34-42 line he posted with Tampa Bay back in 2009-10). Shoot the puck, big guy.

Follow me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski

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