Kris Versteeg has five goals and 11 points in six games. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
This is the player the Leafs went after last summer. This is the player the Flyers went after in February. Kris Versteeg showed hustle, tenacity and, more importantly for poolies, production during the 2008-09 campaign when he was with the Blackhawks. His game picked up even further when the post-season rolled around. And he was doing all that with secondary ice time and power play time.
When the Leafs acquired him for a package that included Viktor Stalberg, the hope was Versteeg would develop into a first-line player and click with Phil Kessel. He was given plenty of opportunity on that line to start, but they were trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It just wasn’t working and Versteeg had only two points in his first nine games despite topping 20 minutes of ice time in six of them.
When the Flyers paid a first and third round draft pick for Versteeg in February, they were hoping for the playoff stud they saw in Chicago. He didn’t perform terribly, but he wasn’t great either. Again, it just wasn’t a fit.
So Versteeg was dealt for the third time in 366 days, this time for a third round pick and a conditional second-rounder. Once again, he’s been tried on the first line. And wouldn’t ya know it - chemistry! The two most talented forwards on the new-look Florida Panthers are Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss and the tenacious Versteeg has slotted in perfectly on the wing. In fact, he has more points than his linemates.
The 25-year-old Versteeg averaged roughly six power play goals in each of his first three NHL seasons, but he already has three this year. Six of his 11 points have come with the man advantage; that’s what separates him from Fleischmann and Weiss.
This kind of chemistry, combined with the fact both Weiss and Fleischmann are in their prime, will see the two of them set career highs. Think 65 points each. Versteeg may not have enough steam to keep up with that, but he will keep it close…
ANOTHER “V” THRIVES
Thomas Vanek has found some of the magic he had as a sophomore when he tallied 84 points and an absolutely sick plus-47 rating. He’s been matched with Jason Pominville plenty of times in the past, but his usual linemate - Derek Roy - has been replaced by Luke Adam. The difference between the two? About five inches and 25 pounds. While I obviously don’t believe 120 points (Vanek’s current pace) are in the cards, it’s looking like – barring injury – Vanek will flirt with his career high. For what it’s worth, when this line finally cools off, I think the likes of Derek Roy, Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino or Nathan Gerbe will pick it up…
NEAL BEFORE THE MASTER
Pittsburgh right winger James Neal is second in the league in goals (nine). And while he has seen some time on a line with Evgeni Malkin, he is still awaiting the arrival of Sidney Crosby. If Neal is scoring nearly a goal per game now, I shudder to think of how he’ll do alongside the top setup man in the league. In 13 games this season, Neal has 52 shots on goal. That’s how many he took in his 20 games as a Penguin to end last season…
Buffalo prospect Jerome Gauthier-Leduc had 56 points in 61 games for Rimouski of the Quebec League last season. That’s more than enough to justify their drafting the offensive rearguard in the third round (68th overall) in the 2010 draft. But this year he has really taken off, tallying a team-leading 11 goals and 26 points in just 14 games. Obviously one to watch in fantasy leagues, but given the depth and skill set of the Buffalo defensemen already on the roster, it will be a couple years before he gets a fair shot.
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.