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Fantasy Hockey: Why Eric Staal is a stud, Dion Phaneuf 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.

Cody Franson isn't exactly following up on the promise that he showed last season. Currently, he's on pace for 37 points and he has four points in 10 games over the last three weeks. But those in fantasy leagues that count hits are actually doing well by him. His 119 hits sit him fourth in the league behind the usual names you see there - Dustin Brown, Matt Martin and Chris Neil. And drilling down to the last three weeks, Franson sits third in the league.

Here is a look at the top hitters over the last three weeks, courtesy of Frozen Pool.

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Of note, Cal Clutterbuck is quickly climbing the chart, giving the Islanders two of the best hitters in the game. Los Angeles rearguard Jake Muzzin sits 68th in the league in hits - but has really stepped it up lately. And one other interesting find is Florida rookie Jimmy Hayes, acquired in the Kris Versteeg deal, has been throwing his 6-5 frame around a lot - 28 times in 10 games, to be exact.

Studs...

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

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (4-2-8-10, minus-1, 2 PIM, 10 SOG, and 6 PPPts) - With Alex Ovechkin back to his old self, that means Backstrom can be, too. Maybe he's an 80-point player when Ovy's a mere mortal, but he's a 100-point guy when Ovy's Ovy.

Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (16-6-13-19, plus-1, 14 PIM, 38 SOG) - Staal is good for 70 to 80 points, year in and year out. And that almost always breaks down to 10 points in his first 20 games and then 65 points in his last 60.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (19-7-12-19, plus-6, 10 PIM, 65 SOG) - Fantasy owners are still calling this a lost season for Giroux and many question if he's the superstar we thought he was. But hidden inside the ugly year-to-date stats is the fact that he's been a point-per-game player for 19 games now. It took him 15 games to score his first goal of the season, but once he got the monkey off his back he's been back to his old self.

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks (5-0-1, 1.78 GAA, 0.939 SV%) - Hiller is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer, so I'm surprised the Ducks haven't played the Frederik Andersen card more. You know, pump up the player who will still be with the organization for the foreseeable future and get him ready for a bigger workload next season, rather than help the pending UFA beef up his value. But that's how it is and Hiller's numbers are getting better with every game.

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Duds

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

Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers (7-0-0-0, even, 0 PIM, 11 SOG) - Three of those seven games saw Campbell on the ice for at least 31 minutes. That's amazing, considering he could have been in the press box and given us similar fantasy numbers.

Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs (4-0-0-0, minus-4, 2 PIM, 7 SOG) - I'm not saying that these numbers are the result of HBO bringing the cameras around and filming Phaneuf and his wife Elisha Cuthbert doing day-to-day tasks, but this slump really did begin the moment the cameras arrived. So yes, I'm saying that.

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (5-1-1-2, minus-1, 0 PIM, 10 SOG) - I'm not saying that these numbers are the result of HBO bringing the cameras around and filming Phaneuf Datsyuk and his wife teammate Elisha Cuthbert Daniel Alfredsson doing day-to-day tasks, but this slump really did begin the moment the cameras arrived. So yes, I'm saying that.

Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks (9-1-1-2, even, 2 PIM, 27 SOG) - The right winger is shooting the puck as much as always, but he's not getting the points. Maybe he should try another position?

The Wire...

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

Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings (8-2-5-7, plus-4, 8 PIM, 13 SOG) – Stoll has his ups and downs, but in the end he is a 40-point player with modest stats across the board. When he's hot though, he contributes in points, plus/minus, hits and shots.

Connor Murphy, Phoenix Coyotes (3-0-3-3, plus-2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG) – The rookie Murphy is stuck behind the likes of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he's already climbed past David Rundblad and maybe even Michael Stone on the depth chart. It's his first pro season and the Coyotes were not prepared to have him log many NHL minutes. But he's not leaving them much of a choice, he's playing so well.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (4-1-3-4, plus-4, 2 PIM, 4 SOG) – Although his shots on goal - or lack thereof - leave something to be desired, the young rookie has the size, strength and talent to control the game. And these little hot streaks will grow longer as he matures.

David Booth, Vancouver Canucks (3-2-1-3, plus-3, 2 PIM, 10 SOG) – Here's a name that I never thought I'd see here again. A different player since his concussion, Booth nonetheless still has a fan in Coach John Tortorella. And as such he'll get the ice time he needs to succeed. A little disheartening is the fact that he's playing with Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson as opposed to the Sedins or perhaps Ryan Kesler.

Peter Holland, Toronto Maple Leafs (6-3-3-6, plus-1, 4 PIM, 11 SOG) – With Toronto sustaining a lot of losses injuries, the 22-year-old Holland is seeing plenty of ice time, not to mention skilled linemates. Often playing with Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond, Holland should continue to produce until either Tyler Bozak returns or the Leafs acquire another center or Randy Carlyle is fired.

Chris Higgins, Vancouver Canucks (6-3-4-7, plus-6, 0 PIM, 9 SOG) – Overall, Higgins' point total is about where it should be at this time of the season, so I wouldn't expect this hot run to last more than another few games. A short-term wire grab.

Dwight King, Los Angeles Kings (3-2-2-4, plus-4, 0 PIM, 6 SOG) – King is seeing first-line ice time and playing with guys named Kopitar and Carter. And while he doesn’t exactly have a scoring-line skill set, he's showing that he can hold his own there in spurts and can help out your team for the short term.

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:

Mats Zuccarello, NY Rangers; Carl Hagelin, NY Rangers; Damien Brunner, New Jersey; Reid Boucher, New Jersey; Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay; Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim; Mark Streit, Philadelphia; Eric Fehr, Washington; Charlie Coyle, Minnesota.

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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