Alexander Steen currently has 17 goals while Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin and Joe Thornton have COMBINED for seven. Other than that, everything is happening exactly as planned. Let’s jump right into this week’s nuggets.
Most of your league mates probably haven't caught on to this yet, but Ryan McDonagh is certainly in an excellent position to succeed this year. The fact he has recorded 11 points in 21 games this year is a good start, but what's more important is how those stats have been achieved. Consider that McDonagh was on the ice for just over 12 percent of the Rangers' power play time last season while that number has jumped all the way up to 41 percent this year. With an offensive role on a Blueshirts' team that just welcomed Rick Nash back into the fold, McDonagh stands a good chance of surpassing the 40-point plateau this year and will almost certainly beat his career-best of 35, barring injury.
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With five points over his past five games, Claude Giroux is beginning to find his stride, but that may have gone unnoticed since his full season numbers still look a little unsavory. He has consistently been generating scoring chances and much of his trouble has been the result of poor luck, as evidenced by his miniscule 4 percent shooting percentage, which is a far cry from his career rate of 11.5. I'm not optimistic about many of the Flyers this season, but this team leader is one player I'd be willing to bet on a rebound for.
I often use this space to discuss some of the more unheralded players in the league with the knowledge that some of you play in deeper formats and can use this information to your advantage. This week's selection is St. Louis forward Ryan Reaves, who is proving that he can value beyond penalty minutes, which happen to be his specialty. I have suggested many times that the challenge with employing enforcers is that many of these one-dimensional players struggle to remain in their team's lineup on a consistent basis, but that's no issue for Reaves, who has been active for all 20 games this year and has racked up 60 PIM in the process. Although the four points he has recorded have been a nice bonus, he has only directed nine shots on goal so scoring isn't something you should expect from him. What's most interesting is the fact he has managed to deliver 65 hits, which place him just outside the top 10 in the NHL, despite playing less than eight minutes per night. Don't overestimate the impact he can provide, but he could be a sneaky add in deep leagues where his contributions can be appreciated.
It's a risky practice to identify one of the league's top stars as a good sell-high candidate, but that's exactly the advice I would give to Ryan Getzlaf owners right now. The Ducks forward is coming off a brilliant 2012-13 season where he amassed 49 points in 44 contests and is off to a similarly great start to this year, though he has enjoyed quite a bit more luck than should be expected. The player with a career 12.2 percent shooting percentage has seen better than 21 percent of his shots beat the goalkeeper this season, which is an unsustainable pace for anyone. There's no questioning Getzlaf is a terrific player and one of the league's more consistent scorers, but fantasy owners should expect about 80-85 points rather than the 98 he's currently on pace for.
Long known as one of the more overrated commodities in fantasy, I think Brad Richards is actually one of the more reliable players around right now, due in no small part to the situation he has been afforded by coach Alain Vigneault. Get a load of these stats, all of which place him among the league leaders. Richards has started less than 20 percent of his shifts in the Rangers defensive end, has been on the ice for over 65 percent of his team’s power play minutes and has been lined up against a relatively easy group of opponents, as measured by the Quality of Competition stats tabulated by the informative website www.extraskater.com. Given that he has improved his shot rate from 2.4 to 3.7 shots per game and has actually been unlucky in terms of his shooting percentage, I would be happy to acquire Richards from a fellow owner attempting to sell high.
Bargain Bin Finds
As usual, I have identified three players I feel are being undervalued by the general public by virtue of the fact they are owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Kris Versteeg (15 percent) - He appears rejuvenated now that he’s playing for a winner in Chicago and has picked up three points and eight shots on goal in three games with the Blackhawks.
Steve Ott (15 percent) - The goals haven’t been going in for the renowned agitator and his plus/minus on the lowly Sabres might be a drag, but he’ll always get his penalty minutes and hits while contributing a little offense in the process.
Nathan Gerbe (12 percent) - I have stopped waiting for him to hit the wall, as his high shot total should be enough to prop up his value. The injuries to Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner will only serve to increase his ice time.