All it takes is a little time for early-season anomalies to work themselves out. In the month of November, a rejuvenated Evgeni Malkin dominated the league by racking up 25 points in 15 games and the Calgary Flames proved they are who we thought they were, winning just four of their 14 contests. Joffrey Lupul even got injured. Sorry, Joffrey.
There may not have been a player I touted as being underrated prior to the season more than I did Mikhail Grabovski. With 22 points in 28 games, he has definitely lived up to my own expectations after posting just 16 points in 48 games last year, but the key to succeeding in this game is knowing when to take profit and that’s exactly what I’m recommending to owners of “Grabo”. I’ll admit I’m concerned about the fact he has directed only 37 shots on goal all season, which is a rate of just 1.32 per game. Thinking it would be rare for a forward to continue scoring at such a pace while generating so few shots, I delved into the stats and found an example of a player who defied conventional wisdom just one season ago. Mike Ribeiro, playing for these same Capitals last year, registered 49 points in 48 games while recording a measly 63 shots on goal (1.31 per game). Considering Ribeiro accomplished this feat while playing almost the same role as Grabovski does now, we might be tempted to point to this as an argument favoring the current Capital, but the major distinction between the two is the amount of premium ice time each received. Ribeiro amassed 27 of his 49 points last season with the man advantage, and tied teammate Alex Ovechkin for most in the NHL, thanks mainly to the fact he was on the ice for 64.3 percent of Washington’s total power play time www.extraskater.com). Contrast that with the fact Grabovski has been on the ice for just 28.3 percent of Washington’s power play minutes and I just don’t see how his pace is sustainable.
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Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are often discussed in the same breadth because they both broke into the NHL as rookies last season (though Gallagher is two years older), but when we compare the two players and the skill sets they possess, we uncover a number of differences. Both have suited up for what amounts to almost one full season in the league and during that span, here are their stat lines:
Galchenyuk: 77GP; 16G-30A-46P, 34 PIM, plus-14, 133 shots, 6 PPP
Gallagher: 72GP; 24G-19A-43P, 53 PIM, plus-16, 203 shots, 9 PPP
Let me start by saying I think the upside possessed by Galchenyuk is far greater than Gallagher’s, simply because he has been producing at a similar pace despite being two years younger and has a more impressive pedigree as a former first round pick so he’s my preference in keeper leagues of any size, shape or form. That said, I would prefer to own Gallagher in redraft leagues since he has more of a propensity to accumulate shots on goal and penalty minutes. In points-only formats, where Gallagher’s stronger peripherals don’t add value, I’d prefer to take my chances with the Russian-American phenom.
I took a little bit of heat a few weeks ago when I surmised that the injury to Steve Stamkos would drag down the value of Martin St. Louis, which seemed to me to be quite obvious, and I took some more flak when St. Louis picked up three points in a 5-1 win over Anaheim in the Lightning’s second game sans Stamkos. Well, the veteran has been held without a point in his last three contests and in 10 games without his trigger man he has posted eight points, but these have been accompanied by a minus-6 rating and zero penalty minutes. I certainly don’t derive any satisfaction from the struggles of a particular player, but this is another case in which jumping to conclusions based on a small sample could have been dangerous.
I drafted Cory Schneider on the team I manage in Yahoo’s Friends and Family League and while I haven’t been impressed by the returns I have received on this pick, I also feel like I’ve been the victim of some bad luck. Despite the fact he holds an edge over Martin Brodeur in both GAA (1.81 vs. 2.25) and save percentage (.925 vs. .907), Schneider has only received 13 starting assignments this year as compared to 16 for Brodeur. This probably has more to do with the veteran’s 7-7-2 record, which is slightly better than the 4-5-4 mark held by Schneider, but it stands to reason the better netminder will eventually be given the larger share of playing time. It’s true New Jersey hasn’t been a good team this season, but I expect Schneider to greatly outshine his older teammate the rest of the way and I plan to make moves to capitalize on this prediction wherever possible.
The groin injury suffered by Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to keep the reigning Vezina Trophy winner on the shelf for about a month and while it seems probable that backup Curtis McElhinney will step into the starting role in his absence, things don’t always play out that way. In cases such as this one, wherein the incumbent starter is no more of a known quantity than the promoted AHL goalkeeper (in this case, Mike McKenna) the team is usually open-minded about who will play most and willing to go with a hot-hand approach. I agree with the idea that McElhinney will get the first crack at the role, but if you’re in a deep league in which he has already been snatched up, speculating on McKenna could yield dividends.
Bargain Bin Finds
I have done my best in this space to avoid identifying the same players more than once, even if I continue to believe in them as solid value plays. This week I’m going in a different direction and giving you three players I have mentioned in the past. As usual, these players are owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Mikkel Boedker (15 percent) – He continues to get overlooked by the fantasy community, but that’s mainly because he plays in a different time zone than most fans. The numbers he’s putting up right now would be career bests for him, but should really be treated as his floor going forward.
Patric Hornqvist (13 percent) – I’m feeling a little nostalgic about this one, as Hornqvist was mentioned in my first column of the season. Since that time, he has posted a very Hornqvist-like season, amassing a lot of shots on goal and scoring at roughly a 50-point pace, which includes a healthy dose of power play points. He’s not flashy, but nothing has changed here.
Tyler Toffoli (11 percent) – Toffoli’s continued availability in most leagues is mystifying to me, considering how quickly the fantasy community likes to uncover the “next big thing”. He’s put up 11 points, 36 shots and a plus-7 rating in 15 games. What’s not to like?