David Desharnais has five goals and 11 points in 18 games with Montreal this season. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
You see it all the time in the NHL. A player doesn’t get drafted because of his small stature, or if he is drafted it’s during the late rounds. If a smaller player is drafted he has so many more hoops to jump through to get a shot at the NHL than a bigger player. The latest name on fantasy radars is a direct example of this: Montreal center David Desharnais.
Long-time readers of my column know I have a soft spot for these smaller players. The reason for this is simple - it’s black or white. That is to say, either a small player becomes a top-six producer who notches anywhere from 60 to 90-plus points or he won’t be in the NHL for very long. Generally speaking, a 5-foot-7 forward will not make the jump to join the checking line.
Placing high value in these small, skilled forwards has its drawbacks. Actually, there are far more fantasy failures than successes. But give me a player with a 10 percent chance of becoming a 75-point NHLer over a player with a 30 percent chance of becoming a 40-point NHLer and a five percent chance of becoming a 75-point NHLer.
This strategy has led to many players like Brandon Reid, Simon Gamache and Brett Sterling being selected. But it has also led to Martin St-Louis, Steve Sullivan and Brian Gionta. The thing is, the smaller player generally does nothing to impress a fantasy owner until he’s 26 years old. So how frustrated do you think a fantasy owner gets if he drafts a small player at the age of 21? By the time he’s 25 or 26, it seems as though he’s taken up a roster spot forever.
But remember - St-Louis had his first fantasy-relevant season at the age of 27. Before that, his career high was 40 points. Sullivan’s NHL best was 40 points until he turned 26. For 5-foot-7 Gionta, his best was 29 points before he tallied 89 at the age of 27.
So it’s forgivable if you haven’t had the 5-foot-7 Desharnais on your radar until now. He was never drafted. Not only was he too small, but he lacked defensive acumen. But what he did do – and did well – was score at every level. He led the ECHL in points in 2007-08 and wasn’t given much of a chance to make a splash in the American League. But his numbers that season caught everyone’s attention and he was in the AHL the following season. More than two seasons later, he has 181 points in 172 games with Hamilton.
And now he’s in Montreal - possibly for good. His ice time has crept up near 16 minutes per game and he has been the only Habs forward to produce consistently over the past few games. I’m not suggesting he’s a point-per-game star, but things are definitely looking up. Historically speaking, if he finishes the year with 25 points (he is sitting at 11 right now) he’ll be under everyone’s radar at the summer draft table. I have some confidence in him managing 45 points next season. It’s the 2012-13 campaign that I would be watching for.
That season Desharnais will be 26 years old and we should see a signal about what’s to come.
I call them the Windex Wonders - the streaky players of the NHL. The guys who bang out 10 points in six games and then zero in the next eight. Mikael Samuelsson of the Vancouver Canucks is one such player. After posting 15 points in 12 playoff contests last season, he kicked off the 2010-11 campaign with 25 points in 47 games. However, he has 14 in his past nine, making him one of the hottest players in the league right now.
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. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.