Dobber checks in every Thursday to force-feed you the latest fantasy hockey trends. The founder of DobberHockey.com and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this rollercoaster world and is unable to escape.
Just a few days into the season, but since the schedule is condensed, most teams are already approaching their 27th game, or something. It's early, so the fantasy league standings are all over the place. For what it's worth, here is a snippet of Frozen Pool's RotoRater, which ranks players in every category and then weighs them against the average by position.
These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo (2-2-4-6, plus-3, 2 PIM, 12 SOG) – This is on the strength of a five-point game, but two things are clear. One, this guy always gets off to hot starts (he had 39 points in 38 games to start last campaign). Two, he is clicking with his linemates. In a shortened season, this could be a huge one.
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis (3-0-5-5, plus-1, 4 PIM, 7 SOG) – Third-year defenseman could earn his 100th career point before playing his 170th career game. He needs nine points in his next 13 games to do it, and he's certainly playing like he will.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis (3-3-2-5, plus-3, 2 PIM, 12 SOG) – A talented, super-hyped Russian playing under Ken Hitchcock is bound to thrive. Well, maybe not. But Tarasenko sure is. And the way he's playing right now, it's impossible to see him Nikita Filatoving his way back to Russia. Ever.
Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay (3-2-3-5, plus-3, 4 PIM, 5 SOG) – For the past year I've been calling this guy a feistier David Desharnais. But not because he's 5-8, undrafted, with high-end hockey sense. Actually, yeah, that's exactly why. He is in the top six for good. He'll go through his slumps, but on the whole he's a safe own in all fantasy formats for the long term.
Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary (0-2-1, 3.59 GAA, 0.867 SV%) – I could carve out a couple of pages here listing just goaltenders. The likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Kipper, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk, Cam Ward, Ilya Bryzgalov, etc. are pushing a lot of fantasy owners to the bottom of the list. I'll single out Kiprusoff and Smith as the worst of the group. But give them time, it's early yet.
Mike Smith, Phoenix (0-2-0, 4.62 GAA, 0.836 SV%) – The reason why Smith will bounce back is because of personnel. The Coyotes didn't lose any defensive juggernauts in the offseason. They lost Adrian Aucoin, Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt. But they added Zbynek Michalek, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is further along the road to awesomeness. If anything, their defense is better. Expect a market correction soon.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles (2-0-0-0, minus-4, 0 PIM, 5 SOG) – After 45 points in his last 43 regular season and playoff games, more was expected of this guy. Let's chalk it up to a lack of a healthy Anze Kopitar. And since Kopitar is back now, we can safely assume that Kyle Clifford won't lead the Kings in scoring for much longer.
Ryan Suter, Minnesota (3-0-0-0, minus-3, 4 PIM, 4 SOG) – Some people find $100 million relaxing. Others find it stressful. Suter may be in the latter group and if so, who knows how long it will take him to climb out of his swimming pool full of money calm down.
Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota (3-1-1-2, plus-2, 4 PIM, 7 SOG) – The only danger with PMB is injury. And that's what the IR spots are for. He's playing like his old self, which is three points for every four games and he's playing with quality linemates.
Patrick Wiercioch, Ottawa (2-0-2-2, plus-1, 2 PIM, 5 SOG) – The 22-year-old is still seeing under 13 minutes of ice time per game, so be cautious. But at this point, he's showing that he can take on more responsibility and if so, this may be your only time to get him off the wire uncontested.
Michael Grabner, NY Islanders (2-1-1-2, plus-1, 0 PIM, 8 SOG, 1 PPG) – Grabner made the Panthers look like idiots for waiving him when he scored 34 goals and tallied 52 points, with a plus-13 as a rookie. Then Grabner made the Panthers like geniuses when he followed that up with 32 points and a minus-18 as a sophomore. So how will he do this year? The Panthers don't care, that was like two years ago.
Matt Niskanen, Pittsburgh (3-1-1-2, Even, 0 PIM, 7 SOG) – We've been waiting for Niskanen to show his potential since he teased us with 35 points in 2009. It's now pretty clear he'll never be a top-scoring blueliner, but with Crosby and Malkin healthy, a lot of collateral points will be credited to him almost by accident.
Guillaume Latendresse, Ottawa (2-0-1-1, plus-2, 4 PIM, 4 SOG) – As with Bouchard, Latendresse can be safely added because of your IR spots. If healthy, he should give you decent depth numbers in multiple categories, and there is a lot of upside for goals and shots on goal.
Johnny Boychuk, Boston (3-1-0-1 plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 SOG) – Boychuk was a big-time producer in the AHL, once chalking up 65 points for Providence. His role is different in Boston, but that doesn't mean he can't improve on the 15 or 16 points he's been managing each year. At worst, he's still a stud for plus/minus and pretty good for penalty minutes.
Daniel Winnik, Anaheim (2-4-1-5, plus-5, 0 PIM, 6 SOG) – No, Winnik isn't a future Rocket Richard winner. Nor will he be a 10-goal scorer this year. But he's the hottest player in the NHL this side of Vladimir Tarasenko. Worth picking up for two or three games and then dropping at the first sign of reality setting in.