Believe it or not, the Florida Panthers currently sit atop the Southeast Division standings. Sure, they only have one more point and one less win than the Washington Capitals despite playing in two more games, but they’re still there. That's quite an accomplishment for a team that seemingly was more about the future than the present.
Speaking of still being there, the beauty of an upstart team like the Panthers is that a lot of their top guns are available in a decent amount of leagues. On the flip side, you could get burnt if those players fizzle out after a hot run. Let’s start off this Daily Dose with a look at the players you should take a look at.
Brian Campbell – My guess is that “Soupy” is the least likely player to still be a free agent in your league for the simple reason that scoring defensemen are rare. Yes, he might not ever live up to his contract. Yet with 15 points already, he might just be worth 7.1 million fantasy dollars (which I imagine would look a lot like Monopoly money).
Kris Versteeg – The most established talent (other than Soupy) among the Panthers’ top scorers, at least as far as being dynamic is concerned. He’s been scooped up in a lot of leagues already and won’t stay this hot (18.2 shooting percentage) all year long, but he’s a great option if he’s still around.
(Again, he won’t be around for long if he still somehow is, though.)
Jose Theodore – Theo is the third of the Panthers’ fantasy trinity. He’s probably around in more leagues because there are less pieces of the rotisserie pie for goalies. Consider him a no-brainer if you even have a slight need for goaltending; as I’ve been hammering with other guys, there's nothing wrong with stocking up on netminders because an excess of quality ones could provide great trade bait.
STEADY BUT UNSPECTACULAR
Stephen Weiss – By the end of the season, Weiss will probably remain the consensus best all-around player on the Panthers’ roster. In fantasy terms, he hasn’t always been as valuable, but he has an enticing 12 points so far. Center is a position flooded with talent, so I might say “pass” on him until leagues find a better way to gauge defensive ability than plus/minus.
Tomas Fleischmann – Now we’re getting into the “intriguing gambles” category. Fleischmann’s health is harder to forecast than his last name is to spell, but the guy has legitimate talent. Like Versteeg, he’s been traded around the league but might just find a home in Florida. He also matches Versteeg’s willingness to shoot, as he already has 40 SOG this season.
Dmitry Kulikov – It looks like Kulikov has made the transformation from “promising prospect” to a legitimate NHL contributor, although it would be nice to see him add some goals. He’s all assists so far, with 12. He’s a no-brainer in deeper leagues and might be worth a short-term look if you need defense in any situation – just don’t expect him to fill up other categories.
Jason Garrison – He’s a tough nut to crack. As much as I want to dock him points because defensemen aren’t steady goal scorers, he’s gotten his six goals on 40 shots, which ties him for second place on the team in SOG with Fleischmann. Keep him on your radar, if nothing else.
Tomas Kopecky – Kudos to Kopecky for fitting in so well (I hated the amount of cash they spent on a three-year deal for him, even with the salary cap floor in mind), but I don’t think he’s a fit for your imaginary squad.
So that’s my take on the top Panthers. They’re likely to run out of some of this magic soon, but fantasy owners would be glad to get a lot of these guys at 80-90 percent of what they’re doing right now – which is possible in many cases. After the jump, check out praise for another Boston Bruins forward, the few useful players in Columbus not named Rick Nash and more.