We are only a few games into the season and it is a great time to roll the dice on a few intriguing players who slipped through the cracks in most fantasy drafts. This week’s list runs the gambit from established veterans to fresh-faced rookies, but they all have a couple things in common: they all are available in a large majority of fantasy leagues and they are all in attractive positions with their respective teams.
Ryan Malone-LW-Tampa Bay Lightning If you’ve soured on Malone because he can’t seem to stay healthy for an entire season, I advise you to change your perspective. I’m not saying he’s going to play 82 games for the first time in his NHL career, but he is healthy at the moment and he is a free agent in a whopping 87% of most fantasy leagues. As long as he’s playing, Malone is good for about 0.7 points and a penalty minute per contest. If your league includes shots on goal, he’ll also provide you with about 3 per contest. Those aren’t bad numbers and seeing as you’re spending next to nothing to get him, the risk is minimal. At a worst, if he suffers a major injury, you can just put him on the injured reserve list or dump him.
Vaclav Prospal-C/LW-Columbus Blue Jackets To me, Prospal’s value is fairly obvious. He hasn’t been consistently good throughout his career, but at his best, he’s about a 60 point player and there’s every reason to believe he’ll be at his best this season. He had 58 points in 75 games with the Rangers in 2009-10 and 23 points in 29 contests in an injury-shortened 2010-11 campaign. The Rangers decided not to retain him for another season, but instead he ended up on a dream line with Jeff Carter and Rick Nash in Columbus. Carter and Nash have both breached the 30-goal barrier in each of their last three seasons and they should be just as good in 2011-12. As long as Prospal can stick on a line with them, he’s worth owning in all formats. To be honest, I almost didn’t include him on this list because I figured he’d be scooped up in most drafts, but to my surprise he’s only owned in 33% of Yahoo! leagues. If you’re in one of the vast majority of leagues he’s available in, you should seriously consider picking him up.
Luke Adam-C-Buffalo Sabres Adam is perhaps the biggest benefactor of the Sabres’ decision to go with three roughly balanced scoring lines. It’s provided him with the opportunity to play alongside Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville and so far he has thrived in that role. Obviously the four points he recorded in his first two contests aren’t a good indication of what he’s capable of, but he should average about 0.6-0.7 points-per-game as long as he stays with his current linemates. That being said, we do recommend keeping a close eye on his situation as he could end up being moved around as the season progresses and he might become less desirable when/if the Sabres juggle their lines. In particular, we’d pay close attention to how coach Lindy Ruff alters his lines once Jochen Hecht (concussion) returns.
Craig Smith-C-Nashville Predators Like Luke Adam’s, we care less about Smith’s hot start and more about the opportunity he’s been given. The rookie forward required no time to earn the trust of coach Barry Trotz, as Smith already ranks second amongst Nashville forwards in power-play ice time. Smith only has a handful of NHL games under his belt, but he did have 43 points and 87 penalty minutes in 41 NCAA contests last season. If the Predators continue to lean on Smith with the man advantage then we could see him getting 40-55 points and 70-90 penalty minutes this season.
Steve Ott-C-Dallas Stars There are a couple reasons to be interested in Steve Ott. For one, he’s playing as a left winger and should he become eligible as one in fantasy leagues, it will give him much more versatility. The other is that he’s playing on the same line as Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, which gives him a great opportunity to surpass the 40-point barrier for the first time since 2008-09. With Ott, you’re practically guaranteed 150-200 penalty minutes a season, barring a major injury, but this season he might chip in across the board.
Tommy Wingels-C-San Jose Sharks Wingel should be regarded as more of a short-term option than the other players on this list. He’s available in almost every league, but for the time being he’s playing on a line with Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture. His fantasy value is directly tied to Martin Havlat’s health, as that spot will go to Havlat once he’s recovered from a shoulder injury. It’s also worth noting that Wingel is playing on the right wing, despite the fact he’s currently only eligible to serve as a center in Yahoo! leagues.