Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Is Hartnell the Fantasy MVP?

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I’m back with another compilation of fantasy nuggets I hope you’ll find useful.  

  Craig Anderson’s torrid month has vaulted him into third place in the NHL with 25 wins. The Senators’ goaltender has made his fantasy owners smile with an 8-2-1 record for January along with a 1.79 GAA and a .947 save percentage. His stats for the season remain mediocre, but he has erased any doubts about whether he is a legitimate NHL netminder, and playing behind the surging Sens, he’s a must-play in all formats right now.  

  Speaking of goalies who have overachieved this season, Jimmy Howard sits atop the league with 29 victories, but unlike past seasons, he now has the ratios to match. The 27 year-old keeper sports a 1.98 GAA and .926 save percentage, both of which are elite by any standard.  Given the system surrounding him in Detroit, Howard should be considered one of the best keeper options around.  

  While Sidney Crosby remains on the sidelines, teammate Evgeni Malkin has exploded of late and his surge currently has him standing alone atop the NHL scoring race, despite having played considerably fewer games than his counterparts.  The Russian forward has recorded 35 points over his past 23 games and has shown once again that he plays his best hockey when the team counts on him to step up during Crosby’s absence.  

  There’s a legitimate case to be made for Scott Hartnell as the most valuable fantasy asset in rotisserie formats. With a hat trick in Sunday’s game against the Bruins, Hartnell is among the league leaders in goals (25) and power-play markers (12) and has chipped in with 71 penalty minutes and 126 shots on goal.  While he’s typically thought of as a grinder, he has provided the type of all-around production one should expect from a player drafted in the first round and since he’s riding shotgun to budding superstar Claude Giroux, there’s no reason to think he can’t keep it up.  

  I typically refrain from trying to project plus/minus ratings at the start of the season because they’re simply so unreliable on a year-to-year basis.  Sure, there are some players who consistently add value in this category, but for every Pavel Datsyuk there’s a Tyler Seguin, who notched a minus-4 rating in 74 contests last year only to post a league-leading plus-34 in 2011-12.  If you predicted prior to the season that Michael Del Zotto would be one of only 14 NHLers to register a plus-20 rating at this juncture, you’re a smarter man than I.  

  This just in from the unusual stats department:  Eric Staal is currently sixth in the league with 170 shots on goal despite having scored only 11 times. The 6.5% shooting percentage is by far the lowest of his career and gives me confidence that he’s primed to bounce back in the second half of the season.  

  Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson is currently blowing away the competition when it comes to defenseman scoring.  With 46 points thus far, Karlsson is enjoying a breakout campaign and holds a 12 point lead over the next closest rearguard, Alexander Edler of the Canucks.  Despite having only seven goals on his resume, Karlsson is far and away the league leader in shots by defensemen, which makes his performance that much more sustainable.  

  I know I’ve mentioned this already once this year, but I’d like to reiterate my feeling that Jake Gardiner will eventually be a very good player in the NHL, despite his lack of production this year.  I understand he’s only scored 11 points (0 goals) in 40 games, but it’s evident every time I watch him that he possesses the skills to excel.  I’m no scout, but his skating and passing ability remind me a little of Brian Campbell.  

  With only 17 points in 34 games to go with a minus-9 rating and just eight penalty minutes, Ales Hemsky has been virtually un-playable in fantasy leagues, but I think he’s worth targeting as a buy-low candidate.  Due to his pending unrestricted free agency he’s almost certain to be traded prior to the deadline and a change of scenery seems warranted now that the new wave of youngsters has taken the reins in Edmonton.  Don’t forget that Hemsky scored 64 points in 69 games over the previous two seasons prior to this one, so if he joins a team that allows him to operate on the power play he could be a very valuable addition to your squad.  

  After a miserable start to the season, Bobby Ryan has finally rebounded with seven goals and five assists for 12 points in as many games.  It seems this has been enough for many to reason this is the real Bobby Ryan and we should expect him to regain his top form from this point forward, but I’m not so certain of that.  During his red-hot 12 game stretch he has only recorded 23 shots on goal, so much of his production has been the result of an unsustainably high shooting percentage.  Since he remains seated for the better part of most Anaheim power plays – he has no power play goals and only three assists on the season – it’s hard to believe he’ll perform like a superstar the rest of the way.  

  I try not to spend much time discussing my own fantasy endeavors, but please bear with me as I vent about something.  After making a trade in my home league that saw me ship out keepers John Tavares and Bobby Ryan to acquire Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin in order to make a push for the title, I felt confident my team would be in the mix for the remainder of the year.  Then Black Saturday, as I like to call it, happened.  In one fell swoop three new holes were punched into my lineup as both Jaromir Jagr and Daniel Briere suffered injuries in Saturday’s game while news broke that Evander Kane is dealing with a concussion.  I know injuries are part of the game, but those three happening all together was quite the punch to the gut. Okay, end of rant. Thanks for listening.                  


Kevin Brown is fantasy hockey writer for Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter @kbrownroto.
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