If The Skinny has learned one thing in the early going of the 2006-07 fantasy hockey season, it's that goalies are the new running back. In the post-lockout, high-octane NHL, point-per-game scorers are scattered around the free agent pool like discarded betting slips at the racetrack. But a productive No. 3 fantasy goalie? Forget it. A quick scan of two expert league available player lists reveals a total of three goalies with wins available in one league and four in another.
Fantasy owners have their hands forced, really. Goalie platoons are all the rage these days. Both Anaheim and San Jose are employing 1, 1a rotations, and both are Western Conference favorites. Montreal hasn't named a No. 1, Boston isn't sure who will go from night-to-night and all around the league guys not named Martin Brodeur or Marty Turco are realizing that a night off every now and then isn't a bad thing. Through the Goalie Hot Seat, The Skinny will try to keep you in the know on all the goalie developments. There's more going on outside the pipes, of course, and it's all covered in our weekly roundup.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
The best player in the world not in the NHL appears to be ready to shed that title. According to Monday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will make his NHL debut Wednesday when Pittsburgh faces New Jersey. The talented Russian center just recently began absorbing contact in practice for the first time since dislocating his shoulder in a preseason game on Sept. 20.
You can't just run out and grab Malkin. He was drafted in about 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues. But you can activate him for Wednesday's start. And though there's no official word on how Malkin's return will affect Pittsburgh's line pairings, keep an eye on guys like Nils Ekman and John LeClair. Malkin is a dynamic playmaker who can invigorate the guys surrounding him.
Another talented Russian with an equally compelling story of flight to the United States is Alexander Semin. It's been quite a ride since the left wing debuted with the Capitals with 22 points in 52 games as a rookie in 2003-04. Since then he has split two seasons between two Russian teams while riding out a messy contract dispute with his NHL employers. Wiggling out of his agreement with his Super League team proved to be equally tricky, but he's back with the Caps now to provide a secondary scoring complement to countryman Alexander Ovechkin.
After all he's been through, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Semin is just 22 years old. The 2002 first-round draft pick should just now be coming into his own. So it should be no surprise that through four games the winger already has a hat trick and a four-game point streak to his credit. He has a three-game power-play point streak, no surprise when you consider he logged more than eight minutes with the man advantage Saturday, almost a full minute more than teammate Ovechkin. Semin remains available in roughly 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues and is a solid No. 2 option at left wing.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Milan Michalek, RW, SJ – He's a former first-round draft pick (No. 6 overall). He's in his second year back from a serious leg injury. He's playing alongside one of the NHL's top young centers. All these factors add up to scream "breakout year," and so far Michalek hasn't disappointed. The speedy yet bulky winger (available in 62 percent of Yahoo! leagues) has six points in five games. Linemate Steve Bernier is also bargain-eligible and has accounted for a goal and five assists in six games.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Chris Kelly, C, Ott – Kelly scored his first goal of the season Saturday, then found himself between Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley at practice on Sunday. No telling whether the trio will stay together when the team hosts Colorado Thursday, but it's a development worth watching.
Mark Hartigan, C, Clb – Today, he's centering Columbus' top line between Rick Nash and David Vyborny. That's prime real estate, but his hold on the position is tenuous at best with Sergei Fedorov not far from a comeback. Consider Hartigan a short-term option in deeper leagues.
Radim Vrbata, RW, Chi – Coach Trent Yawney tinkered with his lines prior to Thursday's game against Nashville, and Vrbata found himself on Chicago's top line in the shuffle. He's got himself a four-game point streak to go along with some growing chemistry with linemate and fellow Czech Martin Havlat.
Jason Blake, LW, NYI – Blake found the back of the net twice during a three-point night Saturday, an explosion that coincided with his move alongside Alexei Yashin and Viktor Zozlov on the Islanders' primary scoring line.
Jon Sim, LW, Atl – Sim has been logging plenty of minutes on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk, a curious pairing of two players prone to lapses of concentration on defense. Sim is a bit of an enigma to say the least. He usually displays a scorer's touch – five goals in six games this season isn't too shabby – but never does enough of the little things to stick around in one city for very long.
Eric Lindros, C, Dal – Lindros recorded three assists Thursday while playing a full compliment of minutes on a line with Mike Modano. He's been held off the scoresheet in the two games since, but fantasy owners will be happy to know that Lindros is throwing his weight around to the tune of 14 PIMs in his last four starts.
Matt Carle, D, SJ – Carle remains available in roughly 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is puzzling considering the offensive potential this rookie has displayed in his brief time with San Jose. Folks close to the Sharks are already calling him the best all-around defenseman in team history.
Joe Corvo, D, Ott – Somebody needs to replace the 22 power-play points that skipped town when Zdeno Chara bolted for Boston. Might as well be Corvo, who has missed time with a broken foot but who, according to the Ottawa Sun, may return Thursday to assume point duties on special teams.
Alex Tanguay, LW, Cal – So much for Tanguay being the spark that would ignite Jarome Iginla's Rocket Richard campaign. Tanguay was banished to Calgary's No. 2 line after just three games. He has yet to score in two games since the demotion.
Brent Seabrook, D, Chi – Last year's pleasant surprise hasn't amounted to much in the early going this year. Seabrook lost the bulk of his power-play minutes to Duncan Keith. He has just one even-strength assist in four games.
Anson Carter, RW, Clb – After enjoying a career year on the Three Brothers line in Vancouver, Carter inked a deal with the Blue Jackets as a free agent. So far, not a good fit. Carter has just one goal in four games and is toiling in relative anonymity on Columbus' third line.
Nils Ekman, RW, Pit – The draft logic was simple: Ekman had a career year in 2005-06 playing on Joe Thornton's wing, so owners could expect more of the same from the Sidney Crosby effect in Pittsburgh. Decent thinking, but trouble is Pittsburgh has paired Crosby with Colby Armstrong and Mark Recchi.
Mark Smith, C, SJ – Normally a fourth-line center, Smith briefly shot to relevance when he replaced Mark Bell on the left wing of Joe Thornton's line. That stint appears to be over. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Bell has declared himself fit to return to the lineup after missing three games with a groin injury.
Francois Beauchemin, D, Ana – Playing alongside Scott Niedermayer was a huge boost for Beauchemin when he came over from Columbus in the Sergei Fedorov deal last season. He's still getting even strength time with Niedermayer, but his power-play minutes are way down this year and his overall production (0 points, 2 shots through 5 games) is suffering as a result.