With Thanksgiving upon us, I thought it might be appropriate to see which players fantasy owners should be most thankful for (apologies to all haters of “theme” columns). To keep it fun, I’ll go team-by-team and limit it to one or two players. The key is that, in most cases, these performers were pleasant surprises. Many owners probably feel gratitude for what the Sedin twins have accomplished, but since they both went in the first or second round, it just doesn’t have that same punch.
Anaheim – Teemu Selanne: OK, this is a partial cheat, but the bottom line is that Selanne still tends to fall too far in fantasy drafts. Call it “ageism” if you want, but he’s ahead of the Ducks’ big three with a team-leading 19 points.
Boston – Tyler Seguin/Brad Marchand: Seguin is exploding in a Stamkos-as-a-sophomore kind of way, with an impressive 23 points. Meanwhile, Marchand’s stats are nearly identical to those of Milan Lucic, yet he was (and maybe still could be) available as a free agent instead of a costly draft pick.
Buffalo – Jason Pominville: His talent was no secret, but I can’t say I expected him to be at 24 points already.
Calgary—Alex Tanguay: Jarome Iginla goes high in drafts, but his playmaking partner is leading the Flames in scoring. Maybe that contract won’t blow up in Jay Feaster’s face like expected?
Carolina – Jeff Skinner: For whatever reason (maybe because of the crowd-pleasing 2011 All-Star selection), I expected Skinner to slide a bit. That hasn’t happened; instead, the crafty winger has been far more valuable that Eric Staal.
Chicago—Nick Leddy: So much for being an afterthought in that cap-clearing Kim Johnsson deal. Leddy has more points (15) than Duncan Keith (12).
Colorado—Kyle Quincey: The slick blueliner is the Avalanche’s second-leading scorer at 14 points, with 20 PIM and a nice amount of shots on goal (57) to boot.
Columbus—Vinny Prospal: Is he the most underrated free agent signing of 2011? Prospal – not Rick Nash – leads the Blue Jackets with 19 points. Curtis Sanford might make a few digi-GMs thankful in the next month, too.
Dallas – Sheldon Souray and Kari Lehtonen: Souray’s soaring slapper earned him 13 points already, although his production might flatten out. Lehtonen earned a ton of wins already and should be a boon in leagues with saves for the rest of the season.
Detroit—Jimmy Howard: How, exactly, is that guy not on the All-Star Game ballot? If Johan Franzen stays healthy for the rest of this season, his owners will likely be as shocked as they would be happy.
Edmonton – the two Ryans (Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins): The Oilers’ top two scorers have paid dividends on what were likely to be frugal draft picks. Nikolai Khabibulin has also been phenomenal, although that might be running out.
Florida—Kris Versteeg: 26 points already. I thought Versteeg(!) would be good, but not this good.
Los Angeles—Anze Kopitar: Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising, but the “underrated star” has justified his raised fantasy profile this season.
Minnesota—Both goalies: It’s crazy, but if you decided to invest in the Wild’s goalie platoon, you already have 13 wins and a bunch of great performances. Each netminder’s GAA is below two goals. We'll see how much longer Josh Harding can challenge Niklas Backstrom for starts going forward, but it's working out incredibly well for Minnesota so far.
Montreal—Max Pacioretty: The budding power forward went from what looked like a career-ending injury to being one of (if not the) most valuable fantasy scorers for the Habs. My favorite part is his 82 shots on goal, which makes me think that the good times won’t go away soon.
After the jump: the rest of the NHL’s gratitude list, plus injury updates.