Adam Henrique and Zach Parise have found much chemistry playing together with Ilya Kovalchuk on the first line. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Excuse Zach Parise for not flying out of the gate this year after missing the majority of last season with a knee injury. And excuse Ilya Kovalchuk for…well, OK, there’s no excuse for Kovalchuk. But the two of them are starting to roll and one contributing factor is the emergence of a rookie.
Adam Henrique, suddenly tied for second among rookie scorers, has done nothing but perform every time he’s stepped onto an NHL ice surface. Poolies always knew he had potential, but were unable to put their finger on exactly how much. After all, he played second fiddle to the likes of Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz and Andrei Loktionov, among others, during his Ontario League days with Windsor when his best totals were 77 points in 54 games. On most other teams, for all we know, he could have been a 100-point player.
Now, in just his second pro season, Henrique is in the NHL to stay. His 23 points are actually ahead of Kovalchuk and tied with Parise, while his PPG average is the highest on the team. I had him pegged at an upside of 65 to 70 points, but as long as he plays with those two superstars, the sky’s the limit.
And speaking of superstars, Parise and Kovalchuk are back, baby. Parise has 12 points in his past nine contests after starting with just 11 in 21. He is now on pace for 62 points and I think he’ll come close to 75 by the time the season is done.
Kovalchuk hasn’t impressed me quite as much. He does have 10 points in his past nine games, but it should be a lot more given his eye-popping ice time. Consider…
He played 28:14 against Florida Dec. 13.
He played 30:28 against Ottawa Dec. 8.
He played 27:04 against Winnipeg Dec. 3.
This ice time is what impresses me more. It tells me that, although he’s not the Kovalchuk of old, at least they’ll give him all the minutes he needs to produce big numbers. For that reason alone I think he’ll get back up over 70 this campaign.
One big change ahead for the Devils is the return of Travis Zajac, who is targeting Friday for his season debut. Indications are Patrik Elias will remain at center because he’s been very good there and Henrique has made such a splash on the first line that taking away both of his star wingers would be folly. But one of them could go, thereby creating a third scoring line. That would bode well for depth scorers such as Petr Sykora, David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus. Splitting Parise and Kovalchuk up would put them on a line with one of the above three, which naturally gives the lucky lottery winner a bit of a boost.
The offense on this team is finally starting to gain steam. Now if they could just get their hands on a youth-injection pill for Martin Brodeur…
WHAT’S GOING ON IN PITTSBURGH?
For the past six years, I’ve been a very vocal proponent of building your fantasy team around the Pittsburgh Penguins. And sure enough, they are in the conversation when you’re talking about Cup favorites. But at some point we have to ask – is this still a wise strategy?
It looks as though Sidney Crosby is going to play 65 games a season (and right now, that’s a positive outlook), Evgeni Malkin 70 and now Jordan Staal and Kris Letang seem to be on a similar track. If you’ve built your team around a couple of them, you did it planning for 75-80 games. Is this 65-70 stuff becoming the rule and not the exception? Maybe I’m a sucker for punishment, but I’m giving it until next season to see how this shapes up. In two of my three keeper leagues I have employed this strategy and those pools have a post-season component.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.