On the world stage, hockey remains a niche sport. One country adores it while another right next door remains indifferent (settle down Gary, we mean Sweden and Norway).
But we've never seen a more barefaced example of this phenomenon than the 2011 World Junior Championship. Holy Hawerchuk, did you follow what happened in Buffalo?
Ironically, by temporarily absorbing Buffalo into Ontario, the rabid canucks made 2011's tourney a greater financial success than last year's made-in-Canada edition. But that's only because the HSBC Center can hold thousands more howling, red-decked Canadians than the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon.
So congratulations Buffalo
for being close to Canada!
If you'd like to see some diversification in your fantasy squad, consider these folks to prop up your weak spots (very few of whom played in the World Juniors). Yep, that was a very weak segue. Moving on...
It was a great week for Upshall to say the least - three goals, four assists, nine shots, and six penalty minutes to boot. Sadly, few of us benefited from this bevy of production because he's only owned in 5 percent of Yahoo! leagues. A one-off week from a bit-player you say? He's no Jarome Iginla(notes), but Upshall is a player who improves in the second half, so this won't be the last you hear from him.
Not to be completely outdone by his lower-paid teammate, Whitney also had a bumper week with a trio of red lights, an assist, and 12 shots-on-goal. It's been a solid year for the veteran so far, and he's on pace to finish with 60 points, and he's produced five multi-point games so far this season. His ownership is hovering around 35 percent.
With their category's inherent depth, centers are relatively less valuable than wingers, but Helm suddenly increased his point output by racking up four assists and a goal last week with 15 shots-on-goal. How did he do it? All together now, class ... ice time! With Pavel Datsyuk(notes) out for another three-to-four weeks with a broken hand, Helm has seen his ice time steadily climb since the talented Russian has been sidelined. Helm is owned in 1 percent of leagues.
The Islanders are a hockey travesty
thanks to the firm of Wang, Snow and Idiocy, Inc., but there are undeniable bright spots for the future. MacDonald might be one of them. He contributed four assists last week (almost doubling his assist output for the season so far), and all on the power play. His time on the man-advantage hasn't increased, but with talent returning to the Isles' lineup, there is a surge in Long Island's collective fantasy value, and young MacDonald may be finding his groove. He's owned in 5 percent of leagues.
Vancouver has been bringing the heat lately, and its paying off for its defensemen's plus/minus. Bieksa's playing about as well as he ever has and leads his team in plus/minus. He also led the league over the past 14 days with a plus-nine rating. Tossing in a couple of goals, three assists, and 15 shots over the same period, and you'd think he'd be owned in more than 40 percent of leagues.
In good leagues you can't snag Bieksa off the wire, but you might grab the discount version in Hamhuis, who's only owned in 6 percent of leagues. He's earned a plus-seven in the past 14 days and added a couple of assists and 14 shots.
It hasn't exactly been a banner year for the veteran, but his scoring, and in particular his shots have increased in the wake of the coaching change in Jersey. Last week he earned you 18 SOG, and a goal. He's well past his scoring prime, but the 35-year-old is still skating 18 minutes a game and unless your name is Phil Kessel(notes), an increase in shots often leads to an increase in scoring.
Neil is a scary man. Last week he was particularly scary, twice chalking up double-digit PM nights, and leading the league with 29 minutes. He added an assist for good measure. Maybe don't go into business with Neil, but consider grabbing the 8 percent-owned winger for a nice revenue stream of penalty minutes.
The terms 'Toronto Maple Leafs' and 'fantasy hockey' don't go together too often these days, but if you're looking for some penalty minutes, consider hard-nosed Orr. He accumulated 24 minutes last week and jumped into the top-ten of PIM-men this season - vaulting over sexier (and more talented) selections like Brandon Prust(notes). Orr's owned in 3 percent of leagues.
There probably isn't much that you haven't scrambled to dig up on Mr. Roloson since his dubbing by Emperor Yzerman on Jan. 2. We recognize that. We respect that. So we won't patronize you by telling you what you should already know about Roli. We won't even mention the five-goal disaster in Pittsburgh. Instead, we'll pass along this absolute gem for your consumption...drum roll, please ... Roloson's first name is Albert. Yup, you can't make this stuff up, folks. And yes, in case you were wondering, he did play in the WJC (way back in the same year that "Braveheart" made us question our staid, suburban lives).
Middle-of-the-Pack Jack Says ...
"I watched the World Juniors, I did my homework. Now it's time to fleece my competition by getting my hands on some of that young talent. I mean, I was floored when Columbus took Ryan Johansen fourth overall in June, but now I know why. And did you see Brayden Schenn(notes)? The guy beat Gretzky's total for points!"
Hold up, Jack. Every year, guys get stoked about the young guns at the WJC, and yes, it is an unbelievable talent pool to watch in action. But most of these guys will need years to become fantasy stars, if ever. Worse, their value in your pool is sky-high right now because of the hype, so don't lose perspective. The cliché is true - the NHL is a man's game, and most teenagers need time to make an impact. If you want someone like Brayden Schenn, do yourself a favor and do your homework so you know what you're getting, and then wait a bit for the hype to die down before making your move.
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Brent Lemon enjoys sharing his thoughts on hockey, good, bad, or outrageous. Somewhat surprisingly, his work has appeared in several places, including USA Today publications, and his fantasy hockey column, Lemon Aid, appears every second
Wednesday at DobberHockey.com.
- fantasy hockey