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Sell high – it’s a fantasy obsession, isn’t it? I haven’t met a fantasy owner who doesn’t dream of fleecing a fellow owner on a one-sided deal. Just like that deal back in 1996 when the Penguins picked up “power forward” Alex Stojanov. And for who?
That’s right – Markus Naslund.
The Canucks probably still snicker over that one. Stojanov retired with seven points in 107 games. Nazzy? He never won a Cup, but he did have a 100-plus point season, 869 career points and his mug on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 2005. It’s a little like the time in 2007 when I traded the then Isles’ Marc-Andre Bergeron after he picked up 21 points in 25 games.
My haul? Jonathan Toews.
Yes, it was a major sell high. And I still feel a little dirty about that one. He was a friend. And he was desperate. But all is fair in love and fantasy hockey. My point? I didn’t go into talks specifically targeting Toews – I found him on the roster of the owner I targeted.
Yes, I targeted the owner. I don’t just analyze player performances and trends – I do the same with owners. In fact, I might actually spend more time profiling the owners than I do on the players.
Profiling isn’t just for marketers. Or agents on Criminal Minds.
Pay attention to how owners react and what words they use. Become an observer of habits during the draft, other trades, waiver transactions and more. Understand which owners make decisions based on feeling instead of thinking, and those who rush to judgment instead of showing patience. Spend more time listening (and observing) than talking.
Call it your little fantasy black book. Then any target becomes possible – even a Henrik Lundqvist – if you’ve profiled your opponent and packaged up an offer that fits with what makes him or her tick.
Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Mikkel Boedker, LW, Phoenix (18 percent owned) – The window to snag this great Dane is closing fast. His ownership spiked by 11 percentage points mid-week – it might have to do something with his near point-per-game pace. It doesn’t surprise me or those of you who followed him during the lockout – his 33 points, including 21 goals, in 30 games in the Finnish league were a premonition of things to come. Get him now or you won’t get a shot.
Zach Boychuk, LW/C, Pittsburgh (1 percent owned) – Boychuk has never lived up to his so-called potential. But Thursday, he clearly found an immunity idol hidden in his jock – he got picked up off waivers by the Pens. Yes, the same Pens who need help on the wings … How’d you like to go from the AHL to the wing beside Evgeni Malkin. Cha-ching! Grab him and hold – he needs to learn how to go to the net, but if he does, he’ll get a shot with an Emperor Penguin. He’ll get points if Malkin bounces pucks off his butt.
Cody Eakin, C, Dallas (1 percent owned) – Derek Roy is on the IR with a wonky groin so Eakin has a shot to slip into his skates on the second line. Eakin is fast and quite brave in traffic for his size (5-11, 187). And he has very good hockey IQ. He’s the perfect third-line checker, but his skill set can withstand second-line pressure, at least for a short while. He could surprise in the short term, particularly with proven offensive players like Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder beside him.
Marcus Foligno, LW, Buffalo (5 percent owned) – Foligno is the third Foligno to hit the NHL. And thankfully he’s more like his daddy than his brother (no offense, Nick, but you’re not in my sights). Marcus is big and strong with fairly soft hands. His feet are still a titch heavy, but he flies once he gets going. And hit – man, does he hit. I’m not sure he’ll ever get to his daddy’s near-point-per-game pace, but he’ll score his share. And he could very well deliver PIMs like good ol’ Pop.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal (3 percent owned) – I love this little guy. He continues to play much, much bigger than his size (5-8) and he does it at breakneck speed. Oh yeah – don’t forget the supreme hockey smarts, twine-ripping shot and agility that let him handle the puck in spaces smaller than a Tardis (at least the outside dimensions). He injects major electricity into the game when he’s on the ice and he has a rep for being “clutch,” at least when it comes to sniping. I was surprised, but pleased, the Habs kept him with the big club, but four points in five games would certainly be enough. Little guys do well in Montreal; just ask Brian Gionta. They might do well on your roster, too.
Tom Gilbert, D, Minnesota (11 percent owned) – Ryan Suter cannot do it all. And he hasn’t. But I really like Suter’s influence on Gilbert, who is no longer miscast as a top two-way defender. The pressure is off and I think Gilbert has taken the reins and run – his production sure has. Don’t be surprised if he and Suter end up with similar points, blocks and shots on goal by season’s end. And he sure does come a whole lot cheaper. Just keep an eye on Jonas Brodin, who’s getting time on the PP instead of Gilbert. That could seriously curtail Gilbert’s production.
Jiri Hudler, LW, Calgary (16 percent owned) – Hudler is streakier than a European football fan, but that doesn’t mean his stuff is junk. He had two goals and an assist Thursday night against the Avs and has four points in two games this season. Sure, he delivers in fits and spurts, but he’s golden when he streaks – he still managed to deliver 25 goals last season after starting the year with a 20-game goal drought. Timing his activations will always be a bit tough, but he’s worth rostering.
Chad Johnson, G, Phoenix (11 percent owned) – He’s no Ochocinco, but at least this Chad Johnson has a job … for now. On Monday night, Johnson made his first NHL start in close to three years and what a start it was. He pitched his first NHL shutout in a 4-0 win, albeit against the offensively-starved Predators. ‘Yotes coach Dave Tippett seems to be willing to roll either of his backups while starter Mike Smith tends to his tweaked groin. So that means you need to own Johnson and Jason LaBarbera (6 percent owned). Sorry, I know that sucks, but goalie points are hard to get.
Jamie McGinn, LW, Colorado (3 percent owned) – Opportunity is knocking for McGinn who was a hot waiver grab after his arrival in Mile High last year. He’s off to a sluggish start, but I still think he bears watching. Gabriel Landeskog is out with a head injury and Steve Downie is gone for the year with torn knee ligaments. The left side is wide open and at worst, he should settle in to the second-line gig. There has to be some kind of value in that – he showed signs of life on Thursday when he delivered two assists against the Flames. Be prepared to pull the trigger.
Frans Nielsen, C, NY Islanders (4 percent owned) – Nielsen has to be one of the most underrated second-line centers in the NHL. He’s talented, smart and industrious, and that netted him a career-high 47 points. And so far, he has seven assists in his last five games and he provides sneaky value in deep leagues.
Taylor Pyatt, LW, NY Rangers (2 percent owned) – Welcome to the second line, Mr. Pyatt – who else are the Rangers going to roll there now that Ryan Callahan is hurt? Arron Asham? I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Pyatt has skill and a big body, and 10-14 days to show what he can do. He can score and help Callahan owners in deep leagues hold their rosters together. He’s more than just spit and baling twine. Now go look up that reference.
Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, Calgary (11 percent owned) – Earlier this week, Stempy was owned in only four percent of leagues. But he has five points, including three goals, in five games since Jan. 20. He’s versatile and playing under the radar on a horrific Flames squad. This pace will soon disappear, but he might be worth a spot start next week against a team like the Jackets.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, San Jose (8 percent) – Vlasic will never be a big offensive guy, but he’s kicking it in the plus-minus category. He’s already plus-7 in seven games and that number will only increase while the Sharks gnaw their way through opponents. Defense is a position where you can absorb a single-category player so stream Vlasic now to get a head start on that crazy category.
Joel Ward, RW, Washington (6 percent owned) – Every season – at least when he was in Nashville – Ward ended up in one of my columns. Sure, he’s streaky. And yes, he had a bad year last year. But as much as I think the Caps are in real trouble this season, I still think there are a few guys from that roster who can deliver some fringe fantasy value to you. Ward has six points, including four goals, in seven games. I know, I know – there’s no way he keeps that pace. But here’s the interesting part – his shot totals, which sank like a stone last year, are already at a pace similar to his best years as a Pred. I tell you – there’s sneaky value in this guy.
Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa (2 percent owned) – Baptism by fire – that’s what is about to happen to Zibanejad now that Jason Spezza is on a backboard. The Sens are shaky down the middle and Zibanejad will get every opportunity to strut his stuff there. He’s strong with good size and smarts, and he has delicious hands. His skating can look a little wide and gangly, sort of like a baby giraffe that’s new to the world. But he’s pretty fast at top speed and he can play both ends of the ice. He’ll be streaky. And I’m worried about his concussion history. But he has a goal and assist in his two games this season, and could deliver value in bursts.
Back to profiling.
You can’t read your competitors’ minds, but you can start to anticipate their patterns. And if you get good at profiling, you might just hand out that fleecing you’re just dying to deliver.
At minimum, you’ll have a pretty interesting little fantasy black book.
Until next week.