After a rough go of it last season, Edmonton's Dustin Penner is off to a great start in 2009-10. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s still October, which means it is quite conceivable for a third-line player with moderate offensive skills to sit comfortably in the top 10 in league scoring. It also means the player who winds up winning the scoring race could currently be outside the top 50. In fantasy hockey, it’s important to separate the “streaks” from the “trends.” Here are the 10 biggest shockers of the NHL’s stat list, along with a quick thought on where the player will end up.
10. Rich Peverley, Atlanta
Lowdown: He broke out in the second half of last season once he joined Atlanta. However, the team added Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov in the off-season and it was thought this “bubble player” would struggle to post even 40 points. Sure enough, Peverley was bumped to the third line with Colby Armstrong and Evander Kane. That didn’t seem to matter, though, as he has nine points in seven games. Altogether he has 44 points in 46 games as a Thrasher.
Prediction: 62-68 points. I’ve decided to no longer bet against what this guy can do.
9. Ryan Smyth, Los Angeles
Lowdown: The 33-year-old veteran has averaged 48 points in 66 games the past two campaigns and seemed to be breaking down. Clicking with a top player on a new team is never assured – just ask Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen – but Smyth sure has hit it off with Anze Kopitar, posting 14 points already.
Prediction: Expect Smyth to miss five to 10 games, but that won’t stop him from flirting with 70 points.
8. Mikael Samuelsson, Vancouver
Lowdown: The 32-year-old is flourishing with his new team, scoring three power play goals and nine points already. After playing mostly with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, the Daniel Sedin injury has moved Samuelsson to a line with Henrik Sedin and the combo has clicked.
Prediction: He had 16 points in the first 17 games last year with Detroit and ended up with 40. He won’t slow down that much in Vancouver, but don’t expect more than 50.
7. Rene Bourque, Calgary
Lowdown: The undrafted late-bloomer started his NHL career with the Hawks in 2006-07 and didn’t look as though he would be able to translate his success in the American League to the NHL. However, last year – his first with Calgary – he had 40 points in 58 games and this campaign he has 11 in nine.
Prediction: Bourque’s production is improving as he gets more comfortable, but that doesn’t help his durability. In the past three years, Bourque didn’t even play as many as 63 games. Don’t expect more than 65 games and 55-60 points.
6. Ales Kotalik, Rangers
Lowdown: A frustratingly inconsistent and streaky player who has teased with his talent for so long, it’s surprising Kotalik is just 30 years old. He still gets a modest amount of ice time with the Rangers (about 13 minutes per game) and has 10 points in his past eight games.
Prediction: Will this be the year Kotalik gives poolies 82 solid games of effort? Don’t bet on it. His career best is 62 points, so look for him to approach that, but not improve on it.
5. Matt Carle, Philadelphia
Lowdown: The biggest and most common weakness poolies have is expecting too much, too soon from a player and then giving up on him when he doesn’t show anything for several years. Defensemen generally don’t break out until their late-20s and Carle is still only 25, so even if his nine points in seven games are a fluke, you shouldn’t give up on him for a couple of years yet.
Prediction: He’ll leave his career high of 42 points in the dust and top 50.
4. Eric Belanger, Minnesota
Lowdown: After seasons of 36 and 37 points (a career high), Belanger is out of the gates with nine points in nine games. New Minnesota coach Todd Richards seems to be having a positive impact on him.
Prediction: Belanger does this every year and his second half is always brutal. Do not, under any circumstances, expect him to best his career high.
3. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers
Lowdown: The dazzling rookie was an intriguing prospect prior to this season, but he’s clearly a prospect no longer. Having seized the role of power play quarterback on the Rangers, his ice time is slowly increasing, too.
Prediction: Dion Phaneuf was the last rookie rearguard to make a serious run at 50 points, tallying 49 in 2005-06. Look for Del Zotto to just barely beat that impressive mark.
2. Matt Moulson, Islanders
Lowdown: The career AHLer has never really been given a chance at the NHL level. Granted, he had some cups of coffee with Los Angeles and did OK, but it never won him a permanent job. Suddenly Moulson finds himself on a line with John Tavares, where he’s been since Game 1 of the pre-season. The two have done very well together and Moulson has five goals and eight points to prove it.
Prediction: I believe Tavares will flirt with 70 points, so look for Moulson to flirt with 65.
1. Dustin Penner, Edmonton
Lowdown: He has 14 points and is top five in league scoring. Going into Thursday night’s games he was fourth on this list when I started jotting down notes. As the Oilers-Blue Jackets game played on and Penner recorded his 12th and 13th points, I started moving him up. At the end of the night, he had added five points to his total and I couldn’t have been more surprised. Since that is what the topic of this piece is, Penner tops the chart.
Prediction: Penner has always had the size and hands to produce like he currently is, but he never used his size enough, so his hands didn’t have much opportunity. That seems to have changed now. This is his fourth full NHL season, which is my favorite breakout year for players. Bold prediction: 65-68 points.
Honorable mentions go to James Neal, Dallas; Kyle Quincey, Colorado; Gilbert Brule, Edmonton; Patric Hornqvist, Nashville; and Jason Demers, San Jose.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.