The season keeps chugging along as NHL teams have a couple of weeks of play remaining before the league-wide break for the Sochi Olympics is in effect. Here are a few nuggets to consider so that you can make a move in the standings before the hiatus.
The way I see it, the trade that sent Michael Del Zotto to the Predators Wednesday can only be viewed as good news for his fantasy owners. Sure, Nashville may not exactly be the Oilers of the early 80s in terms of their style of play, but the young blueliner simply wasn’t fitting in on Broadway any longer. If coach Barry Trotz assigns Del Zotto a spot on the power play as soon as he gets off the plane – and there’s every indication the Predators view him as a piece of their long-term puzzle – he could immediately see a boost in value. Given that he registered 41 points as recently as 2011-12, there’s at least reason to believe he could flourish in the right environment. He’s only owned in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues, but that number could jump dramatically if he gets off to a hot start in Music City. Get ahead of the curve and make a speculative pickup.
It’s still baffling to me that Rangers rookie Chris Kreider hasn’t received more love in fantasy circles. The blossoming power forward has been a rotisserie league darling, having amassed 30 points and 60 penalty minutes in 45 contests to go along with a plus-13 rating. His 11 power play points are proof of his prominent role in the team’s offense and the former first round pick in the 2009 draft is still just 22 years of age, which has me believing there’s still room to improve. There’s nothing about him that hasn’t impressed me. The player I liken him to most is Martin Hanzal, another criminally underrated commodity whose reputation is hurt by the fact he doesn’t excel in any particular area even though he’s above-average across the board. Owned in just 43 percent of Yahoo leagues, Kreider is going unnoticed in far too many pools.
Keeping with the theme of underrated contributors, James Wisniewski has been a solid fantasy asset for a number of years, but he somehow remains underappreciated by the fantasy community. A 70 percent ownership rate might seem reasonable, but a glance at his stats makes me think he should be rostered in all formats. In 42 games this season, the Blue Jackets’ blueliner has totaled 30 points and 37 penalty minutes; a pace of nearly 60 points and 75 PIM over a full season. Aha – therein lies the problem with Wisniewski. His penchant for getting injured seemingly cuts in his playing time every year. This season marks his ninth in the NHL and the next time he plays 70 games in a season will be his first. If you’re in a league with deep benches where you have someone at the ready to step in when he misses time, he’s just the type of player that can win you a fantasy championship.
Sticking with consistently productive rearguards, it’s interesting that the season experienced by Dion Phaneuf is one of his weaker offensive efforts, while also being one of his better ones in real hockey terms. Though he has recorded just 20 points in 50 games – a 33 point pace – the Toronto captain has kept his fantasy value afloat with 75 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. It should also be noted that Phaneuf’s role on the Toronto power play remains intact, making his poor scoring output the product of bad luck. He’s owned in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues so it’s not as though his stock has fallen dramatically, but perhaps he’ll be easier to pry from his owner’s hands than he normally would be.
Despite the widespread belief that he’ll eventually hit a wall, I think Jiri Hudler’s season is as legit as they come. Given that he’s shooting the puck at a higher rate than he ever has in the past and the fact he’s been on the ice for 65.1 percent of Calgary’s power play minutes, which is among the league leaders in this category, there’s no reason to belief his production will fall. His value in rotisserie formats is hurt by his low penalty minute total, but he’s a solid bet in points-only leagues.
Bargain Bin Finds
As usual, the players listed below are owned in fewer than 20-percent of Yahoo leagues.
Roman Josi (13 percent) – A minus-12 rating and a low number of penalty minutes drag down his overall value, but a blueliner who scores at a 40-point pace should be owned in more than 13 percent of leagues.
Cam Atkinson (14 percent) – Accusations that I have beaten this horse to death are definitely warranted, but I can’t get over the fact Atkinson is so dreadfully underappreciated. The sum of 27 points in 49 games isn’t all that enthralling, but his season totals mask the fact he has racked up 16 points in 22 games since the start of December. I own the sniper in as many leagues as I could acquire him in and I expect him to pay dividends before this season is over.
Jacob Trouba (15 percent) – It has come without a ton of fanfare, but Jacob Trouba’s rookie season with the Jets has actually been quite an achievement so far. He has notched 17 points in 34 games for a 40-point pace and only two of his points have come with the man advantage. Once coach Paul Maurice feels comfortable using the young defender on the top power play unit the sky will be the limit for him. The key to winning is buying low and selling high and now is the time to get in on the ground floor.