So much has happened around the NHL over the past 72 hours that to effectively analyze the impact on fantasy-relevant players, I’ll be breaking it into three columns.
Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning
Callahan has been playing on a line with Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards. With Tampa, he could get an early look with Steven Stamkos. But the consolation prize is either Val Filppula or Tyler Johnson at center and Alex Killorn or Ondrej Palat on the far wing. Either way, I consider it an upgrade offensively. His current pace this season suggests that he will post 11 points in the final 20 games. Instead, look for 13 or 14 plus a big bump in hits. My guess is that Callahan will play with Stamkos and Killorn, with Palat and Johnson staying together on another line. Read more
The Olympic break was a great opportunity for some injured players to rest up. Here is a look at some key names expected to be back in the post-Olympic lineup and what the fantasy impact of these returns will be.
Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks - For the second time this year, Fasth has been sent to the American League on a conditioning stint. The first one didn’t go so well as he managed just one game before being sidelined again with a lower-body injury. Last year, Fasth established himself as an above-average NHL-caliber goaltender who was giving starter Jonas Hiller a run for his money. This season, rookie Frederik Andersen is doing the same thing. A healthy Fasth makes this situation very interesting, but it will be Andersen who eventually gets sent back down. The Ducks won’t want to enter the playoffs without Hiller being on a roll. So expect Hiller to get the bulk of the starts, regardless of the status of Fasth.
Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets - When Nathan Horton returned to action, Cam Atkinson was pushed down the depth chart. But that was probably better for Atkinson, who wasn’t ready for top ice time and responsibility. In a secondary role, Atkinson has shown to be a tremendous asset capable of 45 to 50 points. Gaborik’s return could go one of two ways. It could push one of he or Atkinson to the left wing, something that was done in pre-season games when they were linemates. Or it could push Atkinson down the depth chart even further. Although Atkinson now carries a bit of a risk as a result of this circumstance, I like the first scenario better – look for the two to be linemates, which actually helps Atkinson’s potential production. Read more
This year’s trade deadline lands on March 5, which is just over a week away. There are a lot of names being churned through the rumor mill right now, but you and I both know that once the player is dealt your odds of acquiring him from a fellow owner start to become slim. And even if he’s still available, the price of said player goes up.
So you have to roll the dice a bit and try to land the player before he gets traded. But that’s not without its risks. First of all, he’ll actually need to be traded. Secondly, he’d need to go to a team that would actually help his production (i.e. linemates and ice time). Read more
If you’re in a keeper league and first place is out of reach, it’s always a good idea to look ahead to next year and position yourself for victory in 2015. The best way to do that is not only smart drafting and off-season trading, but also in-season trading. In fact, the time to get the best return for an asset who is producing well is now because the contenders are getting desperate to get an edge that will put them over the top when the dust settles.
Star players are usually pretty hard to acquire, especially when you don’t want to give up a star yourself. Often targeting an underachieving star is much easier. After all, other owners may be reluctant to go after the underachiever, fearing the decline is a sign of things to come. So the trade market for that player isn’t as much of a boom as it should be.
Here are my picks for underachieving star players you should target.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton
Eberle is on pace for 62 points, which is the same production rate as last season. But in 2011-12 he was nearly a point-per-game player and next year he’ll be 24 years old. He still hasn’t hit his prime and frankly neither has the rest of the young Oilers. If you could trade an overachieving Joe Pavelski or David Krejci and get Eberle and a good draft pick in return, that’s the way to go. Read more
On Thursday I looked at five rookies who are flying under the radar with modest point totals now – but who will be good bets to do well in 2014-15. Keeper league owners should target those players now while their price is low.
In keeping with that theme, I looked at some sophomores who either took a step back this campaign (a polite way of saying “sophomore jinx”) or they have yet to really get things rolling in the NHL. Right now these players can be acquired for a quarter of the price their fantasy owner will ask for a year from now if (when?) they break out as third year NHLers.
Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins
There aren’t a lot of skilled wingers in the Penguins’ system, but as you know they aren’t lacking in skill up the middle. So for a first round pick such as Bennett, the opportunity is huge. However, he gets injured. A lot. If that turns into a trend we may never see this guy reach the 50-point mark. However, if it’s just a couple of setbacks early in his professional career, he could still be everything Chris Kunitz and James Neal are and then some.
Today, I would have trouble getting a good prospect straight up for Bennett in the keeper league I own him in. So I know his current value. But if he can stay out of the injury ward next season, his value will be sky-high in a matter of eight or 10 months. Read more
Nathan MacKinnon, Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Tyler Johnson are four of the most “in demand” rookies in fantasy hockey. January rookie-of-the-month Ondrej Palat is another name rapidly gaining respect in fantasy circles. Chris Kreider, Valeri Nichushkin – I could go on and on about this year’s rookie crop. But if you want to nab an unproven youngster for a cheap price in hopes of big dividends in 2014-15, you have to look further down the scoring list.
And I don’t mean “known” names such as Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Seth Jones. Those guys were coveted in fantasy circles as soon as they were drafted last summer. Nor am I referring to Mr. Four Goals Tomas Hertl, who has slipped down the scoring race thanks to an injury that ended his season in January. And not even Tyler Toffoli, who has already garnered a ton of respect when he was scoring at a torrid pace during Jeff Carter’s recovery from an early-season injury.
Digging deeper still, I’ve plucked five interesting names. Players who I think are overlooked and undervalued, yet stand a reasonable chance of posting very fantasy-worthy numbers in 2014-15.
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
One of my favorite young players in the league, the 20-year-old Kucherov is doing everything right. I love it when dominant players from junior make a splash at the American League level and then make the most of a cup of coffee in the NHL. Kucherov was brought up to “temporarily” replace Ryan Malone, who was out with a bruised foot. Well, he scored on his first NHL shift and hasn’t been back in the AHL since. His ice time has been kept low and he’s playing depth-line minutes, but that hasn’t stopped him from posting about a point every two games.
Next year he’ll be sure to force his way onto a scoring line and the upward trajectory of his career path will continue. Star upside.
Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
This is another case of a young player taking advantage of minimal opportunity. In evaluating a young prospect for fantasy hockey, this carries a lot of weight with me. I value these guys more than I value a struggling, but very highly touted prospect who has the red carpet rolled out for him. Maatta earned his spot on a Penguins team that really didn’t have room for him. And then he earned more ice time and responsibility with every game. This was helped along even further by the injury-prone Kris Letang, who can’t stay in the lineup. Read more
Team Sweden and fantasy hockey are, quite clearly, vastly different animals. While Victor Hedman’s stock in fantasy circles is soaring higher by the day, the Swedes don’t deem him fit to play on their Olympic team. Nor does he even deserve the opportunity to sit by the phone waiting for a call as a reserve player. Nor join them as honorary stick boy.
Alright, so I made that last part up. But the fact remains: Hedman is a seriously underrated player in both the real and fantasy worlds. And he’s not the only one. How many of you fantasy owners are waiting for this Lightning team to come down to Earth? I mean, Steven freakin’ Stamkos hasn’t played for them in nearly three months and the team is still flying!
I’ve always had a soft spot for teams who develop their players rather than load up on free agents. This soft spot grows when the players they develop are focused on offense. That goes without saying, since I’m in the fantasy hockey biz. So it’s been a real pleasure to follow this Lightning team and watch how things develop over the months. They have so many potential top-sixers at varying degrees of development, yet as the name indicates, there are only six spots. We’ll touch on that later, but first back to Hedman. Read more
Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba is just 19 years old, yet he’s probably going to top 40 points this year. Poolies who didn’t think a season like this was possible from him so soon are starting to come around.
But how is he doing this? After all, 99.9 percent of defensemen take several years to really find their groove offensively. A teenager putting up 40 points from the blueline is as rare as an Eric Nystrom four-goal game. A teenager doing it in an organization that already boasts Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and decent puck-movers such as Grant Clitsome and Paul Postma on the blueline seems, well, downright impossible.
We knew Trouba was a stud prospect, especially after his dominant performance a year ago at the world juniors. But this kind of impact, this quickly, behind so many established NHLers on the depth chart? No way. And he’s doing it without any first-unit power play time, too. Just three of his 18 points have come on the power play. Read more