Top Coattail Riders
Brad Boyes has benefitted big time from playing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Top Coattail Riders
Sometimes, when you're scanning through the top scorers, a player catches your eye. He stands out because you are certain he's not yet ready to be such a force, or perhaps he doesn't have the talent to hold such a lofty position. Whatever the reasoning, you're surprised to see him there. Nine times out of 10, the reason for the elevated status is simple: linemates.
That's not to say the player doesn't have skill. There are a lot of coattail riders with tons of skill. Pittsburgh's James Neal is a great example. He has the talent to become a steady 70-point player. But because he plays with Evgeni Malkin (and Malkin's injury 'substitute' Sidney Crosby), he could very well produce 90. With the right combination of chemistry and talent, a player's linemates could mean the difference between 30 and 40 points this (shortened) season. Here are my picks for the biggest coattail riders for 2012-13:
10. Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay
The NHL's leading rookie scorer is the reigning American League MVP and could very well win back-to-back rookie of the year awards (AHL and NHL). That being said, without Steven Stamkos on his line, he would be on pace for 20 points instead of 45-plus.
9. Brad Marchand, Boston
A probable 50 or 55-point player over 82 games, were it not for Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron as his linemates. This kind of chemistry could see him become a 70-point player, if they stick together.
8. Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh
The founder of this list? No, let's give that honor to former Joe Thornton, Peter Forsberg and Alex Ovechkin linemate Mike Knuble. But still, Kunitz has become a legend in fantasy circles thanks to his lottery win. As a staple on Sidney Crosby's line, this 45-point player posted 61 points last year and is on pace for 53 in 48 games in 2012-13. Is 80 in the cards for next year?
7. Jiri Tlusty, Carolina
The Maple Leafs' castoff has nine points in his past seven games and is looking pretty good to finish up at 35 or more on the campaign. His key linemate? Eric Staal. The 24-year-old is finally taking that next step.
6. David Clarkson, New Jersey
With his latest slump, one point in five games, Clarkson's numbers have come back to reality. But for a while there he was looking like the next Jonathan Cheechoo (the Rocket Richard winner, not the minor-leaguer). He can thank star forward Patrik Elias for every one of his 10 goals.
5. Jamie McGinn, Colorado
This potential 40-point third-liner is looking like he could be a 60-point second liner. It must be great to play with a talent such as Matt Duchene.
4. Damien Brunner, Detroit
Brunner oozes skill out of every pore, but he still needs a season or two to get acclimated to the NHL, or else he needs a patient coach who will play him for 18 minutes a game with his linemate from the Swiss League, Henrik Zetterberg. Yeah, that will speed up the process some.
3. Benoit Pouliot, Tampa Bay
In your keeper league, how many of you know a GM who drafted this guy as an 18-year-old and then wouldn't trade him for the world? And how many of you were able to grab him for free from the waiver wire last week? Pouliot is playing with Martin St-Louis, a player who plans to be among the scoring leaders until he's well into his 50s.
2. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia
Voracek has the talent to become a 70-point player, but with the right linemates he could be an 80-point guy. However, at just 23 years of age it will probably take a couple more seasons yet. Alternatively, put him on a line with Claude Giroux and he can do that right now. Sound good? OK.
1. Brad Boyes, NY Islanders
Last summer, Boyes must have tripped over the dining room chair in his haste to get that Islanders' contract offer sitting on the table. Play with a potential 100-plus points player who is still on the rise? Yes, please. John Tavares and Matt Moulson are getting better every year. And Boyes has now salvaged his career.
Players to Watch: Los Angeles forward Trevor Lewis has been playing with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. He's always had upside, being a first round pick (17th overall in 2006), but he's been buried in a deep Kings lineup. He has four points in his last three games…Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey has been lining up with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, resulting in four points over four games.
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