With 21 goals and 42 points, Matt Moulson is on pace for a 39-goal, 78-point season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
He was a 25-year-old, ninth round pick who had 29 NHL and 188 American League games under his belt. And even though he had 160 points in his AHL contests, Matt Moulson was looking like one of hundreds of other players throughout history – a career minor-leaguer. But on July 6, 2009 his life changed forever.
The Islanders made a “minor” signing on that day, but Moulson turned out to be one of the biggest signings in recent franchise history. In training camp, his career turned on a coach’s whim.
Then-coach Scott Gordon decided to try Moulson on a line with John Tavares just to see what would happen.
Moulson tore up training camp with a scoring pace that forced the team to keep him with the big club and caught the attention of diligent poolies.
His start to the regular season that year – eight points in seven games – extended his little trial with the team. By the 21-game mark he had 18 points, pretty much cementing his roster spot for the campaign. He did slow down, but not enough to stop him from reaching the 30-goal mark and earning the first one-way contract of his NHL career.
In his second year, Moulson upped his production from 30 goals and 48 points to 31 goals and 53 points. Much of that was due to riding shotgun with future superstar Tavares. If Moulson could hold onto that plum spot when Tavares “arrived,” the sky would be the limit.
Well guess what? JT has arrived. And the sky really is the limit.
A little more than halfway through the season Moulson already has 21 goals and 42 points. If Tavares gets 80 points this year, Moulson will get 70. And the fact Moulson’s numbers have steadily risen with each NHL season, there is reason to be optimistic about the 70 turning into an 80 in 2012-13.
Two and a half years ago who would have mused, in a sober state, that Moulson could be an 80-point NHL player?
One has to wonder if more NHL teams should look closer at the AHL, especially when the Islanders pulled the same trick again with P-A Parenteau. These are players who are supposedly missing a key tool that scouts deem imperative. Moulson would never have had a chance like this in 29 other NHL cities. “Too slow,” they would have said. But a player can move like a glacier for all I care, as long he can put the puck in the net.
And judging by Moulson’s 82 goals in his past 208 games – he can do just that.
The Hawks have a pair of rookies suddenly making an impact. Kyle Beach? Nope. Brandon Saad? No. Jeremy Morin? Negative. Brandon Pirri? Try again.
How about Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw?
Hayes, a giant of a power forward, isn’t supposed to be doing this until he’s 25 or 26. But the 6-foot-6, 221-pound Bostonian has seven points in 10 games with five of those points coming in his past four. This is all while still seeing about 11 minutes of ice time. At this point, what I expect this season and next from him is the latest version of Troy Brouwer and Bryan Bickell. Those two players were 40- or 45-point guys when they emerged on the scene. But long term I like Hayes a lot better. Just be patient and don’t let his torrid pace make you think he’ll be an immediate star.
In the case of Shaw, he has six points in eight games and five in the past four. He was just drafted this summer as a 19-year-old, if you can believe it, a fifth round pick who got by all NHL teams in 2010 and again in 2011. Shaw saw 20 minutes of ice time Wednesday and is getting a regular shift in the top six. He is more of an agitator, but he has some scoring upside. In the end, his value in fantasy hockey will lie in his penalty minutes, but a 20-goal, 120-plus PIM player is still a great coup.
One of the most highly touted defenseman prospects in the world is Nashville’s Ryan Ellis and now fantasy owners are getting a glimpse of what he can do. First Shea Weber went down and now Ryan Suter. All this leads to Ellis seeing decent PP time and moderate ice time. It should be enough to keep him with the big club for good, as he has displaced Jonathan Blum on the depth chart. It won’t take long for Ellis to become a 50-plus point guy. Not long at all. He has five points in 10 games and is plus-4 - all of that coming in his past six games. He’ll have his off days, but is a must own in all fantasy formats.
If you’re looking for more help in your fantasy hockey league, pick up my Mid-season Fantasy Guide – second-half projections, prospects to watch down the stretch and more! To see everything that’s in it, I’ve released last year’s edition for you to check out for free.
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