This is a tale of two Kozlovs. Both are veteran NHL forwards, Slava with the Thrashers and Viktor with the Capitals, and both are from Russia. Any other similarities end right there, particularly on draft day in fantasy hockey leagues.
Slava has been the big star and a high pick in most pools, especially coming off back-to-back 71-and 80-point seasons as he was this year. Viktor, on the other hand, has averaged only 36 points the past three campaigns and in most drafts would have only been selected in the last round or two, if at all.
Current play suggests that might very well change next year.
Slava Kozlov is having a simply terrible season. He has only five points in 12 January games and, with 27 points before the all-star break, is on pace for just 42 on the season. Perhaps this tumble relates to the off-year his illustrious linemate Marian Hossa is having. Or maybe the 35-year-old is just starting to feel his age.
But as Slava's star is fading, Viktor's is now on the rise.
He's scored five goals and added an assist in a modest four-game point streak going into the break. Three years younger than Slava, Viktor Kozlov now has 32 points on the season and could easily top his career best of 56 points four years ago.
What's worked in his favour is the shoulder injury that put centre Michael Nylander out for the year. Viktor is getting serious ice time with the Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. That makes him a prime poolie pick now, and perhaps with a newfound value that will stick until the next draft.
First it was Scott Niedermayer ditching retirement and now Teemu Selanne is ready to return to the Anaheim Ducks.
"Right now, I feel there's a very good chance I'm going to come back," he said recently, playing it coy about lacing up the blades again.
Don't kid yourselves, boys and girls. Selanne has been skating for three weeks and the Ducks can use his offence. He'll be back.
Grab him right away and expect a point per game when he returns.
Obviously, it's not always the young phenoms who draw attention from poolies now and in keeper leagues. A number of other veterans, under-valued in the last draft, will be much more valuable next year.
J.P. Dumont of the Predators is on a tear that will eventually net him 30 goals and a career-high point total. Look also for career years from Shane Doan of the Coyotes and Matt Cullen of the Hurricanes.
In spite of missing seven games, Cullen is on pace for 60 points which will easily top his high-water mark of 49 two seasons ago.
While news that Sidney Crosby will be out until mid-March is a body blow to poolies, Ryan Malone of the Penguins has become hot commodity among free agents.
His 74 PIM are enticing enough in leagues that reward penalty minutes. But an opportunity to play alongside Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora - and Malone's four points in his last two games - should have all poolies taking note.
Alexei Ponikarovsky's roller-coaster season with the Maple Leafs came completely off the rails when he dislocated his shoulder last Wednesday against the Capitals. Ponikarovsky opened the season with 20 points in his first 28 games and then pulled the rug out from under his pool owners with a 12-game point drought. Now he's out of the lineup for six weeks and might as well be dumped in all fantasy leagues.
The dismal season in Toronto got worse the next night when Alex Steen hurt his shoulder and will be out two weeks. Signs of rebuilding in Leafland should clearly be on the wall for new GM Cliff Fletcher.
Greg Dennis can be reached at theCanadianpress.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some players to watch in your hockey pool
Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:
1. RW Drew Stafford, Sabres. Eight points in four games put the sophomore on pace to double his rookie total.
2. C Mike Fisher, Senators. He's emerging from the shadow of more visible teammates with a career year.
3. D Braydon Coburn, Flyers. Six points in four games before the break for the former first-round draft pick.
4. C Bryan Smolinski, Canadiens. After 19 straight games without a goal, the veteran bags three in his last two.
5. G Jose Theodore, Avalanche. Five wins in 10 straight starts includes a shutout and an impressive .910 save percentage.
1. RW Mark Recchi, Thrashers. Slams the brakes on a hot streak with one assist and a minus-7 in five games.
2. C Kyle Wellwood, Leafs. Only two assist in the New Year and not a single goal since before Christmas.
3. D Scott Niedermayer, Ducks. Five straight games without a point doesn't keep him out of the all-star tilt.
4. C Doug Weight, Blues. Five points in four games earlier this month, but doodly in seven since then.
5. G Tomas Vokoun, Panthers. All-star allows 15 goals in last four games and is 2-8-2 in past 12 contests.