Hi everyone. I’m back with my first instalment of Fantasy Nuggets of the season. Let’s dive right in! The one breakout forward I think I like more than any other this season is Jamie Benn. The 22-year-old finished last season with 22 points over his final 20 games and with Brad Richards having taken his talents to Broadway over the summer, a prime chunk of ice time has suddenly become available. He’s a complete package of size, strength and talent and I’m already regretting not getting may hands on him in a number of pools I participate in. This year I have tried to acquire a large number of unheralded defensemen instead of paying full price for veterans with limited upside potential. For example, in rotisserie leagues I’m loading up on players like Grant Clitsome, Travis Hamonic, Theo Peckham and Adam McQuaid rather than investing in the likes of Tomas Kaberle or Jay Bouwmeester. I can’t promise all of the players I’ve listed will outperform their veteran counterparts, but in leagues that reward penalty minutes I’m comfortable going cheap with the youngsters and focusing more attention on scoring forwards.
After three consecutive 50-point seasons in San Jose, Milan Michalek has failed to top 34 in two disappointing campaigns with the Senators, but if his first few games this year are any indication, he’s back on the right track. All disclaimers relating to small sample sizes are applicable here, but in three games this season Michalek has scored two goals and two assists while firing 13 shots on goal. It’s important to note that three of the winger’s four points thus far have come with the man advantage. Ottawa’s lack of depth up front virtually guarantees he’ll be a fixture on the power play.
Count me among the few people who weren’t overly excited about what the move to Philadelphia would mean for Wayne Simmonds, but after watching a couple of early-season Flyers games I worry I may have underestimated the hard-nosed forward. To my surprise, Simmonds has received a significant amount of power-play ice time and is being used primarily to cause traffic in front of the net. If he retains this role throughout the season there’s no reason he won’t be able to surpass 50 points despite never amassing more than 40 prior to this year.
Sticking with the Flyers, it has become evident that this team’s offense now runs through Claude Giroux. He is easily the team’s brightest offensive star and while I recognize that pointing out the fact that he’s good doesn’t exactly constitute actionable advice for most of you, I’m saying the consensus on him is too low. If I had to bet right now, I’d say he’ll finish the season in the top 10 in league scoring.
With apologies to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who appears to be adjusting to the NHL game just fine, I think we may eventually look back at the 2011 Entry Draft and realize that Gabriel Landeskog was the best player selected. He has been as impressive as any young player I have watched so far and it’s unbelievable that he’s only 18. If you’re in a keeper league and can acquire him without ponying up too much to do it, I suggest you stop reading this and do so right away. His stock will only go up from here.
If you’re already searching for help to fill the goaltender spot on your fantasy squad I’ve got a name for you to think about – Mark Dekanich. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets’ new backup goaltender is expected to miss about a month with a high ankle sprain, but he’s worth stashing if you can spare the room on your roster. Coming out of the goalie factory in Nashville that has already produced the likes of Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, Dekanich possesses the skill to be a threat to Steve Mason’s playing time once he’s healthy. Mason has now experienced two consecutive sub-par seasons, but this marks the first time he’ll have a worthy opponent on the roster to battle against. The nucleus of talent on the Jackets is actually pretty good so Dekanich represents a ton of potential upside if he can manage to snatch the starting gig.
There seems to be some consternation in Edmonton about how playing time in goal should be split up between Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubynk, but in my opinion there should be no debate. Using last year’s statistics as our basis, it’s clear to me that Dubnyk is younger, cheaper and better! What’s to think about here? I foresee Dubnyk eventually outplaying Khabibulin and starting 50 games this season.
I’m not sure where they’ll finish in the standings, but fans in Winnipeg should be treated to some high-scoring affairs this year. From a fantasy standpoint, I’m a big fan of numerous Jets (Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Brian Little), but I’m not so certain the team is going to do a very good job keeping the puck out of their own net. I’d advise everyone to check the upcoming schedule throughout the year and attempt to get your players in the lineup against Winnipeg wherever possible.
Finally, since we’re only about a week into the new season, I wanted to take this opportunity to put in writing the players I most strongly like and dislike for the coming season, relative to the consensus opinion of them. I call it plus/minus and I present them without comment: Plus – Jamie Benn, James van Riemsdyk, Blake Wheeler, Ryane Clowe, Max Pacioretty, Mark Giordano, Alex Pietrangelo, Travis Hamonic, Semyon Varlamov, Devan Dubnyk Minus – Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Ville Leino, Drew Stafford, Nathan Horton, Brent Burns, Jordan Leopold, Tomas Kaberle, Nikolai Khabibulin, Steve Mason