When last I left you, I was trumpeting a handful of lesser-valued fantasy players who were lucky enough to play on the top line - and it was showing up in their numbers. However of the four players only the reliable Pascal Dupuis remained in his plum spot on the first line. As for the rest, well - Mark Arcobello was bumped due to Sam Gagner's early return, Tyler Bozak was injured and Rich Peverley was knocked from his perch for no particular reason other than line juggling. Hey, if we knew in advance how things would turn out, fantasy hockey wouldn't be fun. Well, yes it would. It just wouldn't be challenging.
For this week's report, I ran the Roto Ranker from Frozen Pool, but this time I used Hits as sixth category instead of PIM. For the last two weeks, here's how the skaters shook out:
|3||VAN RIEMSDYK, JAMES||L||TOR||11th||66th||17th||37th||28th||114th||273|
These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (4-4-4-8, plus-3, 2 PIM, 15 SOG) - For three years now, Toews has hovered around a point per game. He's pretty consistent that way, among the best, in fact. But where he's not consistent is the week-to-week stuff. He's prone to hot streaks and cold streaks, but he's in the zone now.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (4-4-4-8, plus-1, 4 PIM, 13 SOG) - Not even a month in and Stamkos has already had two four-point games. A slump for Steven Stamkos is when he goes 10 shifts without a point.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes (5-1-5-6, plus-1, 0 PIM, 10 SOG) - He's tied for third in scoring among NHL defensemen, so yeah - O.E.L. has arrived. He leads the Coyotes in ice time and has taken Keith Yandle's job as the top power-play quarterback.
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues (10-11-5-16, plus-7, 4 PIM, 31 SOG) - The league's leader in goals sits fifth in points - and yet he's still not owned in all Yahoo leagues (88%). Steen has been on the scoresheet in nine of his 10 games and while a slowdown is inevitable, I don't see it happening anytime soon. Of greater concern is his proneness to injury. He's like clockwork in his consistency there, missing 10 to 15 games every season.
Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...
Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues (8-0-0-0, minus-1, 26 PIM, 17 SOG) - From a (pro-rated) 30-goal scorer in 2012-13 to shooting blanks in 2013-14. Unless a player has a track record of working hard without ever getting his ice time cut (like a David Backes or T.J. Oshie), then I don't trust him in the Ken Hitchcock system. Stewart is just plain unreliable as long as he is under this coach. He needs a coach who can put up with the shortcomings - kind of like the way Cody Franson needed out from under Ron Wilson. Same idea. Except there's a noticeable lack of "Fire Hitchcock" chants at the Scottrade Center, so all you can do is hope he gets dealt.
Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens (8-0-2-2, minus-1, 6 PIM, 19 SOG) - It's Tomas Plekanec's turn to be hot right now. I mentioned in the October 3 edition of this column that Coach Michel Therrien would go with the hot hand when it comes to his four talented centermen. Said pivot would get the ice time and quality situations. This was Eller for the first four games and it's Plekanec now. It will come back to Eller again eventually, but watch for this cycle to continue all season long.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers (4-0-0-0, minus-9, 0 PIM, 11 SOG) - The Oilers have been horrible on defense lately and Eberle is as guilty as anyone when it comes to defensive gaffes. He can produce without Taylor Hall around, but he would certainly prefer that Hall be there. Right now, Nail Yakupov is looking about as comfortable on a line with him as Gary Bettman does on a podium.
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers (11-0-0-0, minus-1, 10 PIM, 16 SOG) - It was a good run for Kimmo - 1000+ games, 100+ goals, 500+ points. But that's pretty much done now. At 38 and with Mark Streit in town and with the Flyers sucking Timonen is no longer a fantasy asset.
Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...
Kris Russell, Calgary Flames (7-1-5-6, plus-1, 0 PIM, 13 SOG) – If you're looking for a replacement for your injured Mark Giordano, why not his actual PP replacement? Russell saw over eight minutes on the power play and over 29 minutes overall in the Wednesday game against the Leafs.
Radko Gudas, Tampa Bay Lightning (6-1-3-4, minus-1, 33 PIM, 11 SOG) – Gudas also has 42 hits this season, which puts him eighth in the league. How 77% of Yahoo leagues have him available on the wire right now I have no idea.
Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning (10-1-6-7, plus-3, 24 PIM, 24 SOG) – Malone's time in Tampa has been filled with one injury after another, so at this point fantasy owners are sick of him. Just 18% owned in Yahoo leagues, he's probably available and is a solid add for your team until the inevitable next injury. Here are Tampa Bay's line combinations from the last three games:
|#1||39.6%||MALONE,RYAN - ST. LOUIS,MARTIN - STAMKOS,STEVEN|
|#2||24%||JOHNSON,TYLER - PALAT,ONDREJ - PANIK,RICHARD|
|#3||23.3%||FILPPULA,VALTTERI - KILLORN,ALEX - PURCELL,EDWARD|
|#4||13.1%||JOHNSON,TYLER - PALAT,ONDREJ - PURCELL,EDWARD|
His linemates aren't too bad.
Alex Tanguay, Colorado Avalanche (3-1-2-3, plus-5, 0 PIM, 6 SOG) – Tanguay is looking like at least a 60-point player again this year and yet he's owned in just 16% of leagues. Sure, he sucks in the "goals" department, but he'll compensate with assists and plus/minus.
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild (3-0-4-4, plus-1, 4 PIM, 3 SOG) – The youngster is still thinking "pass first", but lately he's been on a line with Jason Pominville whose shooting enough for both of them. Just 5% owned right now.
Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers (3-3-1-4, plus-3, 0 PIM, 9 SOG) – Last week I pushed for some 'buy low' action on the Flyers and we're starting to see results there. Read is too good a hockey player to continue on his pace of, ah, zero points. So four in his last three games is a good start. More to come.
Michael Bournival, Montreal Canadiens (7-3-4-7, plus-3, 2 PIM, 18 SOG) – The 21-year-old prospect has come from out of nowhere to capably replace the injured Max Pacioretty in the lineup. His ice time has increased with each passing game. Pacioretty still has another week or so to recover from his hamstring injury so you can still squeeze some production out of your LW position by adding Bournival.
Bonus: In light of the recent Semyon Varlamov stuff, your fellow poolies would have already scrambled to pluck J-S Giguere off the waiver wire. If you have room however, you may want to consider Colorado's No.3 goalie Sami Aittokallio, a talented youngster who got into a game late last season (gave up two goals on 25 shots) and is close to being NHL ready. He's 2-2-0 for Hershey (AHL) so far this year.
Here's where I'll fire off a few names of players who may be at the very beginning of a nice little run. Just a gut feeling, but worth looking into and/or taking a chance on:
Mats Zuccarello, NY Rangers; Andrej Sekera, Carolina; Adam Henrique, New Jersey; Steve Ott, Buffalo; Paul Ranger, Toronto;
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