Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Kassian/Hodgson on the Rise

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


With only four weeks to play in the NHL season, I hope you’ll find this instalment of nuggets useful in your charge to a fantasy title.  

  Now that he’s been held without a point in his first eight games as a Sabre, I think it’s a great time to buy low on Cody Hodgson.  Coach Lindy Ruff has shown his trust in him by giving him a significant amount of time on the first power-play unit and Buffalo paid a high price to acquire him so they should be willing to be patient with a player of his talent level.  I view his initial stretch as a Sabre the same way as James Neal’s first 20 games with the Penguins last year, during which he amassed a whopping six points.  That adjustment period certainly didn’t hinder Neal’s ability to produce this season and I expect Hodgson to be a valuable player next year, regardless of how he finishes this one.  

  While Hodgson has rightfully generated a lot of buzz within the fantasy community after being traded to Buffalo, it’s interesting that one of the players he was traded for, Zach Kassian, might actually offer more fantasy value in the current season.  Kassian has been an asset in leagues that reward penalty minutes as,, in addition to his one goal and  one assist, he’s also registered 17 PIMs in six contests with the Canucks.  Due to his limited ice time, he shouldn’t be expected to produce a ton of offense, but there’s no reason he can’t be a Brandon Prust-like contributor in deep leagues.  

  From the ‘Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut’ category, I’d like to remind readers I’ve been a big advocate of P.K. Subban for much of the season and it seems my faith is finally being rewarded, as Subban caught fire during the month of March.  In six games this month, the ultra-talented blueliner has recorded three goals (all on the power play), four assists and six penalty minutes, bringing his totals to 31 points and 84 PIMs for the campaign.  The return of Andrei Markov can only help his offensive prospects (while simultaneously crushing those of Tomas Kaberle) and set him up for a monster 2012-13.  

  By recording 43 points and 39 penalty minutes in 54 contests this season, Curtis Glencross has already provided more value to his fantasy owners than they could ever have expected prior to the season, but I think there’s going to be some significant regression from the winger coming soon.  A shooting percentage of 26.9% is simply unsustainable for any player, especially one whose career-scoring rate was 12.8% prior to this season.  

  Just as I preached it was a good strategy to load up on Winnipeg Jets prior to their extended homestand in February, it’s nearly time to jump off the bandwagon.  Very few players on the Winnipeg roster have offered much in the way of production away from home this season, so unless you’ve got Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane or Blake Wheeler on your team, I would suggest parking your Jets in the hangar after Sunday’s game against Carolina as the team plays seven of its final 10 games on the road.

  One of the players who certainly passes the eye tiest for me each time I catch him on television is Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. The second overall pick of the Avalanche in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft already leads the team with 19 goals, a plus-20 rating and 235 shots on goal in his rookie campaign and looks like a franchise cornerstone.  Early in the season, I called Landeskog the best player in last year’s draft and although Ryan Nugent-Hopkins threatens to make me look foolish, I stand by my statement because of the young Swede’s immense upside.  

  Sticking with the Avalanche, newly-acquired Steve Downie has taken very well to his new surroundings with 11 points and eight penalty minutes in 10 games with his new club.  If the noted pest can score at even a 40-point pace next season, he could be an extremely valuable fantasy commodity in rotisserie formats, thanks to his propensity for spending time in the penalty box.  

  Since becoming a member of the Blue Jackets, Jack Johnson has been firing the puck with abandon, racking up 24 shots on net through his first eight games.  All caveats regarding small sample sizes apply, but if Johnson continues to shoot the puck this often while playing with offensive talents Rick Nash and James Wisniewski on the Columbus power play, he’ll be worth starting in fantasy leagues of all sizes.  

  Lost amidst the fantastic seasons being enjoyed by Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek in Ottawa is the fact that Nick Foligno has finally developed into the well-rounded fantasy threat poolies have been waiting for.  With 12 games remaining in his fifth NHL season, the former first round pick has already reached career highs with 41 points and 91 penalty minutes.  With a strong finish to the campaign, Foligno could top 50 points and 100 PIM, a combination that was only reached by five NHL players last season.  

  While perhaps not a disappointment on the same level as Alex Ovechkin, the poor showing put forth by Lubomir Visnovsky has to rate as one of the larger failures of the season.  After leading all NHL blueliners with 68 points last year, Visnovsky has slumped his way to just 22 points in 57 games this season. The largest drop-off can be seen with the man advantage, where he has racked up a mere nine points this season after amassing 31 points in 2010-11.  It’s difficult to imagine the veteran rearguard experiencing similar troubles again next season, but as a rule I prefer not to bank on drastic improvements from 36 year-old players so consider my enthusiasm tempered.



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