With about a month’s worth of action, we’re starting to notice some trends forming. Here’s what I’ve seen:
Maybe Evander Kane just needed new linemates. After going pointless in his first five games of the season and routinely garnering less than 15 minutes of ice time, the 20-year-old has scored four goals and two assists in five contests since joining a line with Alexander Burmistrov and Nik Antropov. The young winger oozes potential and with 37 shots on goal through 10 games, he should continue to score his share of goals while amassing a decent number of penalty minutes.
No player has benefited more from the departure of John-Michael Liles than Kyle Quincey and I have to admit I did not see it coming. The rugged blueliner has stepped in as a member of the first power play unit and has taken advantage of the opportunity to the tune of eight points in 12 games to go along with 16 penalty minutes. Quincey was a player I touted two years ago when he arrived in Denver, but after he was relegated to a defensive role entering this season, and fell of my radar. A final stat line of 40 points and 100 PIM is reachable.
The stats may not show it, but 21-year-old Jake Gardiner certainly looks poised for success at the NHL level. He’s a smooth puck handler who sees the ice well and creates opportunities for his teammates. The breakout may not happen this year, but I think it’s coming eventually.
If you’re looking for a great buy-low candidate, I think Adam Larsson is your man. With just one assist in 10 games, it’s likely he’s already out of the minds of most of your league-mates, but nothing has really changed about his situation over the past month. He plays on a Devils power play that boasts Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias and there’s no reason to think he’ll be replaced in that role anytime soon. The key to fantasy success is accumulating players in a position to succeed and I think Larsson is exactly that.
Despite the early-season performances by the likes of Nikolai Khabibulin, Kari Lehtonen and Brian Elliott, my list of top five netminders for the rest of the season isn’t significantly different than it was a month ago. I’d rank them in this order; Tomas Vokoun, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury. Tim Thomas was difficult to leave off the list, but I think his reduced workload drops him just outside the top five.
Another notable omission from my list is Roberto Luongo, despite the solid performance he turned in against the Flames on Tuesday. Maybe I’m overreacting and this could turn out to be the ultimate buy-low opportunity, but I just don’t have a good feeling about him. The team has already made it clear Cory Schneider will play more than a typical backup so Bobby Lu’s margin for error is that much narrower and with Schneider outplaying him statistically in the early going, I worry he could see more time on the bench if his play doesn’t improve.
Amidst the widespread struggles in Columbus, Vaclav Prospal has quietly amassed 10 points in 12 games to lead the team in scoring. The center has been given the opportunity to play between Rick Nash and Jeff Carter (when he’s been healthy) and is taking advantage of his role on the team’s top power play unit. The veteran forward is a reliable point-getter and although he doesn’t receive much fanfare, he should be good for 55-60 points.
I write a lot about buy-low options in this space, especially early in the season, but equally important is recognizing sell-high candidates and I believe Marc-Andre Bergeron is a good example. He’s a gifted player who has parlayed a spot alongside Steve Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier into 13 points through 12 games. Although I believe the talent is real, he found a way to wear out his welcome in five different cities before arriving in Tampa, due to his sub-par defensive play. The way I see it, he’s unlikely to continue scoring at a league-leading pace for defensemen, which is what he has to do in order to compensate for the fact that he’ll offer no help to your fantasy team in the way of plus/minus or penalty minutes. If you can find someone willing to give up an underachiever such as Alex Goligoski, P.K. Subban or Mark Giordano, I’d advise you to jump at the chance.
I’m not convinced that either the Maple Leafs or Senators can keep up the high-scoring tendencies each has displayed so far this season, but I think their collective inability to keep pucks out of their own net is a real concern. Be sure to get as many of your players into the lineup when they have Toronto or Ottawa on their upcoming schedule.
In another example of how fantasy leagues differ from reality, Sheldon Souray should be one of the most sought-after defensemen in rotisserie formats. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read my column that I’m a sucker for scorers who can accumulate penalty minutes, but I challenge anyone to name a more likely candidate to score 20 goals and rack up 100 PIMs than Souray. Despite his current plus-8 rating, I think this could be an area of concern for him, but notwithstanding that, he’s an across-the-board contributor.