Havlat Returns!

Kevin Brown
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Once again this week I am panning for gold nuggets that will be of most benefit to all of you: 

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After mentioning him as a value play in my last two columns, I have decided to disembark from the Carl Hagelin bandwagon until further notice, despite the fact that he has registered five points in as many games since returning from injury.  This may seem like an odd position to take, considering how optimistic I was about his prospects, but my reversal of course has little to do with Hagelin as a player and everything to do with how he is being deployed by coach Alain Vigneault. In case you haven’t noticed, the young winger is averaging a whopping 17 seconds of power play ice time per game, which ranks him 12th among Rangers forwards, behind such luminaries as Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt. The fact that Hagelin could conceivably step out for a bathroom break each time the Blueshirts get a man advantage is not something I want to see from players on my fantasy squad, especially those who don’t amass many penalty minutes. Seriously, if someone can think of a forward in recent memory who has been productive despite garnering virtually no power play time, I’m all ears. Until his role changes significantly, I simply can’t endorse Hagelin as an option in anything but deep formats. If you see an opportunity to sell high on his hot start, I’m fully behind it.

Sticking with the Rangers, part of the reason there hasn’t been enough premium ice time to assign to Carl Hagelin is the fact that 22-year-old Chris Kreider has forced coach Vigneault to give it to him, thanks to his strong play.  The 19th overall selection in the 2009 Entry Draft, the Boston College product has recorded seven points in eight games since joining the team and sports peripheral numbers (3:14 of power play TOI per game, 22 shots on goal) that make his performance appear very sustainable.  It’s clear the team views Kreider as a special offensive talent, something that can’t be said of their stance on Hagelin.  The fact he’s owned in only eight percent of Yahoo leagues is downright criminal.

In a column earlier this month, I suggested the performance generated by most NHL enforcers followed a non-linear pattern and Chris Neil’s stat line in Tuesday’s win over Columbus seems to have proven my point.  The Senators tough guy racked up a goal, two hits, one shot, 12 penalty minutes and a plus-one rating in a 4-1 victory after a relatively silent first month of the year.  In the end, Neil will probably end up with somewhere in the area of 10 goals and 150 to 200 PIM, which is exactly what you paid for if you own him, so don’t be concerned about when or how those stats are accumulated.

Although I sang the praises of Calgary’s Jiri Hudler in last week’s column and I still believe he’ll be a useful asset for the entire season, I was surprised to see some of the questions I’ve received from readers about trades involving the former Red Wing.  It seems some of you have been offered some fairly significant players in exchange for Hudler and I would advise you to sell high if this opportunity is available.  If the messages in my in box can be believed, shopping Hudler while his value is at its apex could net you players like Jordan Eberle or Mike Ribeiro.  It should go without saying I’m fully in favor of selling him to buy low on some of these proven commodities.

While things could certainly change as the year progresses, at this point in time it’s safe to say the Buffalo Sabres are the worst team in the league and I don’t think it’s particularly close.  Some of you may point to their 5-4 shootout win over San Jose as a sign they’re beginning to right the ship, but that game is a red herring.  Not only did the Sabres give up 51 shots to the Sharks in the contest, but they would have lost the game in overtime if not for a goal scored by San Jose that went undetected by both the on and off-ice officials.  I’m officially scared of all things Buffalo right now, though I’ll make an exception for chicken wings.

Bargain Bin Finds (Yahoo ownership percentage below 20 percent)

When I introduced this segment about a month ago, my list of undervalued assets included Martin Hanzal (6 percent) and Alex Chiasson (eight percent). Not only have both of these guys continued their strong play, but their ownership rates have climbed to 28 and 30 percent, respectively. Here are a few more underrated commodities I’m a fan of:

Brenden Dillon (18 percent) – The fact that he remains unheralded in most circles is partly due to the fact he was not drafted by an NHL team and partly because he plays in Dallas, but Dillon is legitimate. He may not be a power play contributor, but he manages to generate a decent amount of offense anyway, thanks to his high shot totals, and his propensity for mixing things up helps him amass a valuable amount of penalty minutes.

Martin Havlat (seven percent) – He didn’t play his first game of the season until last week due to offseason hip surgery, which is surely keeping his ownership rate down, but early returns from his limited action have been positive.  He’s no longer a member of San Jose’s top power play group, but with some time on the second unit he can be a valuable addition in medium and deep leagues.

Valeri Nichushkin (five percent) – The name of this game is to pick up useful assets before they begin a hot streak and the 18-year-old rookie could be on the verge of doing just that. Shifted to Dallas’s top line two games ago, Nichushkin has directed seven shots on goal and recorded two points in that span and seems primed for a breakout.