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Fantasy Hockey: Why John Tavares is a stud, Ryan Kesler 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 and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this rollercoaster world and is unable to escape.

That initial surge or slump that you see in players every October has evened out and we can now look at these midseason stats as a more realistic gauge as to the type of players we have. You remember October? When Marc-Edouard Vlasic had 10 points in 13 games and skewed his stats enough to get onto Team Canada? Or how about Derek Morris, with his nine points in 12 games (but just six in 18 since)?

But at the same time, defensemen such as Matt Niskanen and Jason Demers got off to hot starts and are still doing well. Halfway through the season, we can be a little more comfortable with the numbers we're seeing. But one thing 40 games does is it hides some of the recent trends. It's hard to see which players have been doing well lately if their overall stats are buried among the rest. That's why it's good to run reports looking at shorter, recent timeframes to find temporary injury replacements or potential second-half help.

Here is a look at the top defensemen (straight points) over the last month, pulled from Frozen Pool:

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Demers is producing at the same pace this past month as he did in the first month. You can trust him, he should be fine (if you were hesitant, that is). But look at his teammate Matt Irwin. On one hand, he's a risk to be scratched about once every 10 or 12 games. On the other hand, when he's in he's putting up points. But the diamond in the rough here is Islanders rearguard Andrew MacDonald, who sits seventh in scoring among defensemen over the past month.


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

John Tavares, New York Islanders (6-7-8-15, plus-8, 2 PIM, 25 SOG, and 7 PPPts) - Tavares missed the Dec. 28 game with a lower-body injury. As you can see from his six games since then, he obviously underwent surgery to attach bionic limbs.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes (4-6-3-9, plus-6, 0 PIM, 17 SOG) - It took nearly three years, but maybe the awesome rookie Jeff Skinner has finally pounded the mediocre injury-prone Jeff Skinner into submission. Hopefully it's the last we'll see of him. He has 22 points in his last 16 contests.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators (13-3-13-16, minus-6, 4 PIM, 34 SOG, 7 PPPts) - It's gotta be frustrating for a star player like Shea Weber to look behind him and see the hot dog vendor in net for the Predators. Here he is putting up points like nobody's business, yet he's still a minus-6. Pekka Rinne can't return soon enough.

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators (5-0-0, 1.99 GAA, 0.937 SV%) - Even if Anderson's having a bad season - and he seems to have them every other year a la Vinny Prospal - it wasn't going to be that bad. I mean, for a while there his numbers were making Carter Hutton look good (see what I did there?). So this market correction fixes things, but there's still a ways to go and I would expect Anderson to be a pretty good goalie in the second half and thus a solid 'buy low' option.

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

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks (10-2-1-3, minus-7, 8 PIM, 30 SOG) - Kesler leads all Canucks forwards in ice time this season and is a member of the top PP unit. Prior to this cold streak, he was on pace for 60 to 65 points and was plus-4. That's probably where he'll end up when he turns things back around, but for now you should see if his owner is having a fire sale.

John Carlson, Washington Capitals (17-1-2-3, minus-3, 6 PIM, 40 SOG) - I don't know how much longer keeper leaguers need to wait for Carlson to have that breakout that we thought was coming, but one-year league owners don't have that problem, having dropped his ass weeks ago. Carlson is doing his best Jason Garrison impression with the lengthy hot and cold streaks. Except Carlson's doing it wrong - he needs more than just the one hot streak.

Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings (13-2-2-4, minus-1, 4 PIM, 46 SOG) - Coach Darryl Sutter found some chemistry with the line of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Dwight King, but shuffling lines around does have its drawbacks. Williams is on a line with the equally snakebitten Dustin Brown (and by "equally" I mean far, far worse), as well as the third-line plugger Jarret Stoll. The trio gives impotence new meaning. The Kings as a team have scored just 10 goals over the last seven games and the Kopitar line accounts for five of them.

Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators (3-3-2, 3.73 GAA, 0.868 SV%) - This is Nashville's best option in net right now, folks. But surely it's not yours. Drop him and move on.

The Wire...

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

Benoit Pouliot, New York Rangers (11-5-4-9, plus-1, 0 PIM, 22 SOG, 5 PPPts) – Since lining up with New York's leading scorer (yep, look it up) Mats Zuccarello and the similarly red-hot Derick Brassard, Pouliot has taken off. He's suddenly gone from "Well, at least we didn't invest much in him" to "Hey, let's put him on the top power-play unit".

Craig Smith, Nashville Predators (10-6-3-9, plus-3, 2 PIM, 31 SOG) – About the only thing going right for the Preds is Smith, who is rebounding nicely from his ridiculous sophomore slump. He leads the Preds in goals and is second in shots - but 13th in average ice time.

Sean Bergenheim, Florida Panthers (6-6-0-6, plus-2, 4 PIM, 19 SOG) – Bergenheim has seen a marked increase in ice time and is suddenly on the top power-play unit. It's probably due to Jesse Winchester being injured…or…something. No, Bergenheim has shown a hot stick in the past, and when he's in the zone the goals start to pile up. Remember the playoffs back in 2011 with Tampa Bay?

Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators (6-4-6-10, plus-6, 9 PIM, 20 SOG) – We hate it when players do this. Useless all season and either dropped early or not owned at all…only to explode with some incredible production. And it is clustered within such a small amount of games that it happened to quickly for any fantasy owner to react to and enjoy.

Brian Gibbons, Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1-2-3, plus-1, 0 PIM, 5 SOG) – Not a lot of data here to go with, just the Dobber gut. Gibbons is playing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and the line has stuck together for several games now so it looks like he gets that sweet job for another few weeks. At least until Beau Bennett returns. I don't know how much production that will translate to, but if you're in a deep league and desperate, he's worth a flier.

Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks (9-3-5-8, even, 0 PIM, 15 SOG) – With six injuries over the course of his first three years in the NHL, Demers was never able to get into any kind of offensive groove. Now finally healthy for a lengthy portion of the calendar, we're seeing what he can do. On pace for 39 points in a season in which pending UFA Dan Boyle has really slowed down.

Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-2-4, plus-4, 0 PIM, 6 SOG) – Undefeated this season, Khudobin would have been on all fantasy teams by now had he not suffered a lower-body injury in early October that wiped out 32 games. He's the real deal, with potential to impact fantasy hockey the way Martin Jones did. The best thing the Hurricanes can do is keep Cam Ward on the IR. An interesting note - Khudobin is 19-5-1, 2.02 and 0.935 in his NHL career for Minnesota, Boston and Carolina.

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:

Jamie McGinn, Colorado; Calvin de Haan, NY Islanders; Adam Henrique, New Jersey, Dougie Hamilton, Boston; Mathieu Perreault, Anaheim; Zack Kassian, Vancouver; Ryan Strome, NY Islanders; Sean Monahan, Calgary

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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