It’s the greatest time of the year for hockey fans and I have certainly consumed my share of playoff action this spring. During the many hours I have spent glued to the tube I have seen a number of players increase their stock for next season. Here are five such cases:
With nine points in eight playoff games so far, Voracek is finally displaying the creativity that led made him the seventh overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. If you’re like me, you may feel as though you’ve been down this road with the Czech forward in the past only to be disappointed with the results. But you may be surprised to find out he is still only 22 years old despite having four full NHL campaigns under his belt. There’s certainly no doubting his talent, but if we’re picking nits we can point to the fact that he simply doesn’t shoot the puck enough to be an elite goal scorer, although he is a fantastic playmaker. We saw a similar breakout from James van Riemsdyk
last spring that didn’t carry over into the following year, but I think Voracek is a different case and I’m expecting 60 points in 2012-13.
Due to a combination of injuries and intermittent bouts of ineffectiveness, the Capitals flip-flopped between Tomas Vokoun
and Michael Neuvirth all season only to find themselves riding the hot play of a third goaltender into the second round of the postseason. What Holtby lacks in excitement, he makes up for with sound positioning, which often makes his work seem effortless. Don’t be too concerned about the mediocre numbers the rookie posted in the AHL this season, as Hershey was among the worst defensive clubs in the league. In fact, among playoff teams, only Syracuse allowed more goals than the Bears. When you consider that Vokoun is a virtual lock to sign with a different team this summer, Holtby should be in a battle with Neuvirth for the starting goaltending gig in training camp and it’s logical to think he should start by holding the upper hand.
The former first round pick of the Blues in 2006 has shown flashes of brilliance in the past and after amassing a career-best 52 points in 2010-11, he seemed to have finally arrived. While this led to him becoming a trendy sleeper selection in drafts this season, he turned out to be quite the disappointment, registering only 38 points despite suiting up for all 82 contests. Many of his troubles this season can be attributed to the fact coach Ken Hitchcock
didn’t assign him very much power play time, leading to a paltry four points with the man advantage all year. Something must have changed of late as Berglund has recorded seven points in as many games during these playoffs with three of them coming on the power play. If he can maintain the trust of his coach enough for him to remain a mainstay on the Blues’ top unit, he definitely has the pedigree to reach new career highs next season.
Fantasy players accustomed to the rotisserie format are already very familiar with Clarkson, as his abilities to score goals in bunches and spend a considerable amount of time in the penalty box have made him an undervalued asset in leagues that reward PIMs. Those who traditionally play in points-only pools have likely not spent much time thinking about the New Jersey power forward in the past, but I have a feeling that may change next year. He already set a career high with 46 points during the regular season, but he has taken his production up another notch during the playoffs with seven points in nine games. With Zach Parise
likely to leave the Garden State this summer and Patrick Elias not getting any younger, it’s reasonable to think Clarkson could take on an even more important role offensively while still spending enough time in the sin bin to watch a full-length feature film. Not bad for someone who went undrafted after a mediocre junior career.
Despite being a first round pick of the Rangers in the 2009 draft and one of the most promising players in the team’s system, Kreider’s name wasn’t mentioned much throughout the season, as he had committed to spending the year as a member of the NCAA’s Boston College Golden Eagles. After a fantastic season that saw him amass 45 points in 44 games, the talented winger signed an entry-level deal with the Blueshirts and was immediately inserted into their playoff lineup. Despite being thrust into action so quickly, he hasn’t looked out of place thanks to a unique combination of size and speed. He’s likely a few years away from reaching his full potential, but the sky is the limit when it comes to his ceiling. It likely is little premature to select Kreider in redraft leagues, but he’s a player I’ll be targeting in all my keeper league drafts next fall.