Jordan Staal has 12 assists and 20 points through 31 games. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
When Jordan Staal was drafted second overall in 2006, I had him pegged as a potential 75-point player who plays an all-round game. After seeing him post 29 goals and 42 points as a rookie, it seemed as though his potential was even a little higher.
Just three-and-a-half years later many fantasy owners have passed judgment - and the verdict is not good.
He managed just 126 points in 246 games in the next three seasons, which is 0.51 points-per-game. But this season, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sidelined, Staal is the main man in Pittsburgh - the go to guy. And he has 20 points in 31 games to show for it. Judgment passed - write him off, right?
Not so fast.
I take the opposite stance. I think he’s showing promise and makes for an excellent “buy low” candidate in most fantasy leagues.
Let’s get some perspective here. First of all, the guy is 22 years old. Secondly, he is coming off a couple of serious injuries that wiped out the first half of his season. Upon his return, Staal was pointless in his first five games. Can we give him that? Can we allow a guy to take five games to get a feel for things and get his timing back? If so, he basically has 20 points in 26 games, which is a 63-point pace.
How many pivots in the NHL can get 63 points playing with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy? Which brings me to my next point revolving around Malkin. The talk in Pittsburgh throughout September was how Staal was going to center Malkin. Injuries, of course, derailed those plans, but you know coach Dan Bylsma was serious when, at the Winter Classic, Staal made his season debut in that spot. A couple of weeks later, knee problems took Malkin out of the mix.
In October, a healthy Staal and a healthy Malkin will really begin to play on a line together, a full 13 months after it was planned. Which brings me to my logical conclusion...
Wait for it...
Next season, Staal will be a healthy 23-year-old coming off a season in which he produced at a 63-point pace and will be playing with one of the three best players in the game. Write him off? Go ahead and do just that.
So...what do you want for Jordan Staal?
The Caps are mum when it comes to ball-parking center Nicklas Backstrom’s return from his broken thumb, but as long as he’s sidelined they have a pretty decent replacement. Rookie Marcus Johansson has points in each of the three games Backstrom has missed. Johansson, a first round pick in 2009 (24th overall) is highly regarded in the organization and will get every opportunity to succeed there. As long as Backstrom is on the shelf, Johansson should continue posting close to a point per game. He has a long-term upside of somewhere in the low-70s.
KEEPING WITH THE THEME
Still on injury replacements: how about Niklas Kronwall for Brian Rafalski? In the 19 games Rafalski has missed with back and knee injuries this season, Kronwall has 11 points (0.58 points per game). That’s a healthy jump from his 23 in 50 (0.46) he has with Rafalski in the line.
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