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Fantasy Hockey: Why Claude Giroux is a stud, Radim Vrbata is a dud

Dobber Hockey
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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.

How hot was the top line of Toronto? Between January 10 and February 1, Phil Kessel (23 points, 12 games), James van Riemsdyk (14 in 12) and Tyler Bozak (12 in 12) combined for 49 points - 45 of them while playing as a trio. They were by far and away the hottest line in the league, with Boston's David Krejci line coming a distant second.

From a fantasy hockey standpoint, we look at these hot lines and try to pick out the unexpected name. Because those are the players who are picking up the phantom points. The points that wouldn't be there for them if they were playing on their usual lines. Here are the hottest lines of the past month. Courtesy of Frozen Pool:

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Of note, Justin Abdelkader, Carl Hagelin, Jamie McGinn, Jussi Jokinen and Benoit Pouliot are all somewhat valued in fantasy hockey to varying degrees right now. This is thanks, in whole or in part, to their linemates.

Studs...

These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...

This week, it's the All Olympics-snub edition!

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (9-5-8-13, plus-1, 2 PIM, 20 SOG, and 5 PPPts) - As we all gather around the interweb today in eager anticipation of who the Steven Stamkos replacement will be for Team Canada, Giroux throws his hat into the ring. He has 48 points in his last 42 contests.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning (14-8-8-16, plus-4, 2 PIM, 47 SOG, and 5 PPPts) - (UPDATE: Snub no more!) The top-scoring Canadian since not being announced as part of the Team Canada roster. Looks like he's taking it well. And that attitude bodes well for him now that a spot on that roster has opened up.

Victor Hedberg, Tampa Bay Lightning (31-9-20-29, plus-7, 22 PIM, 86 SOG) - Hedman didn't make Team Sweden because he wasn't really "on top in any direction", which means he is a great all-around player but not particularly elite at one end or the other. Find another Swedish defenseman with 31 points in 29 NHL games and I'll buy into that reasoning. And I guess the reason he didn't make the reserve list was because he's pretty good at answering texts and decent at answering the phone, but doesn't excel in either area.

Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils (6-2-4, 1.51 GAA, 0.941 SV%) - If Schneider loses his next game in overtime, his record will be 10-10-10 and that would be the first time I've seen a goalie do that. That's all I got.

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Duds

Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...

Still with Olympic snubs - these guys didn't take it so well.

Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes (12-2-1-3, minus-4, 2 PIM, 39 SOG) - Vrbata's slump is so bad that Martin Erat is actually more appealing to the Czech Republic. You see, when Vladimir Sobotka had to bow out due to injury earlier in the week, the country turned to Erat, who is still looking for his first goal of the season.

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators (15-2-4-6, even, 8 PIM, 36 SOG) - As Wyshynski says, he's proving Brian Burke right. Ryan made the U.S. Olympic team in 2010 as a 22-year-old, but now that he's in his prime he not only does not make the team, but responds to the news with a horrible month.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals (13-0-4-4, minus-4, 4 PIM, 13 SOG) - Leaving Johansson off the team isn't overly controversial, but facts are facts and in this case the fact is that non-NHLer Jimmie Ericsson made the team in his place. Before this slump, his 30 points in 44 games wasn't all that bad.

Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers (19-0-4-4, minus-7, 4 PIM, 39 SOG) - After 96 points in 130 games for the Panthers, Flash has really struggled in Year 3. But one three-point game and he would be back leading the team in scoring. The Panthers won't have any 40-point players this year and that's a tough supporting cast for any player to play with.

The Wire...

Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings (9-8-5-13, plus-5, 2 PIM, 26 SOG) – Nyquist was in this section two weeks ago, but he's back again because I'm pretty stubborn about guys when I feel strongly about them he's only owned in 28% of leagues. He doesn't have the name or the season-to-date stats of a star, but he's producing like a star and feel good about him keeping it up.

Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (5-5-3-8, plus-1, 6 PIM, 16 SOG) – Besides all the accolades coming out of Calgary about this guy's play, Backlund is finally showing us what we all hoped (five years ago) he could do. His eight points come from four consecutive two-point efforts. He's even somehow found a way to post a positive plus/minus on a team that has Mike Cammalleri (minus-21) on it. Just 8% owned.

Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets (3-1-3-4, plus-4, 9 PIM, 9 SOG) – Boone "Don't Call Me Bruce" Jenner is on a line with breakout player Ryan Johansen and Nathan Horton to form a solid line that does a little bit of everything, including score. I don't see this line breaking up anytime soon, though Marian Gaborik's return after Sochi could muddy things up a bit.

Lee Stempniak, Calgary Flames (5-1-5-6, plus-2, 2 PIM, 13 SOG) – Riding the coattails of the red-hot Backlund, as well as leading scorer Jiri Hudler. That's as good a spot as you can find in Calgary. Prior to this line being put together, Stempniak's overall numbers were horrendous. Calgary line combos, last three games:

#1 34.3% BACKLUND,MIKAEL - HUDLER,JIRI - STEMPNIAK,LEE
#2 31.3% BOUMA,LANCE - JONES,DAVID - STAJAN,MATTHEW
#3 23.3% CAMMALLERI,MIKE - COLBORNE,JOE - MONAHAN,SEAN
#4 11.1% GALIARDI,T.J. - MCGRATTAN,BRIAN - WESTGARTH,KEVIN

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets (11-3-6-9, plus-14, 8 PIM, 15 SOG) – If you want to single out one player as the reason for Paul Maurice's turnaround of the Jets, look no further than this guy. Plus-14 in 11 games? It's hard to remember that Trouba is still only 19 years old.

Raphael Diaz, Vancouver Canucks (1-1-0-1, plus-1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG) – He played over 25 minutes in his debut and with Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev sidelined, Diaz will continue to be a productive option on the blue line. In fact, with the new team and no PK Subban/Andrei Markov ahead of him, he's probably going to be a pretty good option even with Bieksa back.

Carter Hutton, Nashville Predators (8 GP, 6-1-1, 2.40 GAA) – Although Hutton has cooled off a little over the last four games, he has the advantage of head coach Barry Trotz wanting to stick it to Poile having little faith in newcomer Devan Dubnyk. So while the $1.75 million contract warms up the bench, the $550,000 two-way deal gets all the starts.

Heating Up?

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:

Brian Gibbons, Pittsburgh; Martin Havlat, San Jose; Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota; Matt Read, Philadelphia; P.A. Parenteau, Colorado; Jeff Petry, Edmonton.

For more fantasy hockey tips, take a gander at DobberHockey. And while you’re at it, follow Dobber’s fantasy hockey musings on Twitter.

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