Like I’ve said a few times, I’m usually cautious with young Russians. They tend to dominate overseas, come to the NHL over confident and get spanked. Well, Vladimir Tarasenko (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) is a bit different, and he’s something special. Yet another weapon in the deep quiver of the St. Louis Blues, the 23 year old Russian winger has points in four straight with six points (2 G, 4 A) over that span. What’s more, he’s on pace for around 30 goals and 50-plus points by season’s end. That’s a very nice rookie year for a kid who is considered the best Russian talent of the 2010 draft, who after solving some contract issues with his father’s team in the KHL, has come over to the NHL and made an immediate impact. He has incredible hands, as is often the case with these dynamic young Russians, a lightening quick release and a good nose for the back of the net. He uses quick bursts of speed to get into position to either score or help create opportunities, so he isn’t one dimensional in the offensive zone either. Considering he’s been playing professional hockey since the ripe old age of just 16, he’s more ready than most kids his age to adapt to the speed and physicality of the game at the NHL level, and it’s showing. Given all that, I’m happy to throw caution to the wind and get on the Tarasenko express! He should be owned in every keeper league and warrants consideration in deeper standard formats as well. Come next season, everyone will be talking about this kid. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Martin St. Louis (2 G, 6 SOG, +1) responded to his Olympic snub by snapping a four game scoreless streak with two goals to help his team beat the Jets 4-2 last night. I guess the obvious reason he was left off the Canadian roster is size and fit, but come on, Rick Nash over Marty? Madness! He’s currently on pace for 76 points powered by 36 goals and he does this with or without Steven Stamkos.
Shane Doan (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) has five points in his last five games and doesn’t let his age slow him down one bit. He seems to be a bit more injury prone than in season’s past, but he’s on pace for a 30 goal season and 60 points in 69 games. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Brayden Schenn (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) scored the game winning goal in OT last night to help the Flyers beat the Devils 3-2. That makes goals in back-to-back games, four in his last five and he’s on pace for 20 with 50 points this season. He’s going to break out in a big way next year, so get in on him where and when you can.
Jussi Jokinen (2 A, 5 SOG, +2) keeps on scoring with his third straight two point game. That gives him six points over his last five. Add him while scoring, feel free to drop him when not.
David Legwand (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) is headed towards a horrible season in general, typified by an expected -20ish plus/minus and it seems the former second overall pick is about done with his NHL career.
Jonathan Quick (1 GA, 16 SV, L) only had to face 17 shots, but let one in and took a hard luck loss 2-1 in the shootout against the Wild last night. Quick has returned to action and allowed just two goals in two games and should be deployed with confidence moving forward. Like I said a billion times while Quick was hurt, Ben Scrivens or Martin Jones, it doesn’t matter, Quick owns the LA crease.
Mikkel Boedker (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) is having the best season of his short career so far beating his previous season bests in goals, assists and points. He’ll also manage more shots on goal than ever before and his TOI is hanging around 17 minutes per game, which is actually about a minute less than last year. Either way, Boedker was showing signs of life last year and this year he’s taking another step forward. While he isn’t on Brayden Schenn’s level, he has a decent ceiling and should be targeted in next year’s draft as a sleeper/breakout candidate. This year? Eh, he has some value in deep leagues, but unless he really goes on a tear, meh.
Michael Grabner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) tallied a few very rare points and since putting up 34 goals in 76 games in his first full season back in 2010-11 he has done squat. He isn’t worth owning anywhere, probably isn’t anyway, and won’t be moving forward.
Chris Higgins (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +1) closed out the month of December on a four game scoreless skid that he halted with an assist against the Bolts on New Year’s Day. He looked good again against the Pens last night with a pretty goal and, despite his low point total, seems to be getting back on track. The start of last month was either a step in the right direction or just a flash in the pan; his performance in January will tell us which.
Jonas Hiller (2 GA, 30 SV, W) just keeps on winning with his 12th win in a row, a streak that dates all the way back to Dec. 6, 2013. Holy hell has this guy locked up the no. 1 job in Anaheim. If they were ever going to trade him, this is the time, but until then it doesn’t matter who sits behind him, with a season line of 21-4-4/2.40/.912/2, he’s untouchable. He could, however, get hurt at any moment. That’s true for anyone, but it’s kind of truer for Hiller.
Brian Elliott (2 GA, 16 SV, W) is doing his best Jonas Hiller impression stretching his own win streak to seven games. He has nine wins in his last 11 starts dating back to Dec. 7, 2013 and his season line now sits at a ridiculous 13-1-2/1.86/.926%/3. I doubt he’s available anywhere, but if he is, grab him. It appears no matter what Jaroslav Halak does, he can’t keep Elliot at bay for long.
Mathieu Perreault (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) remains a potential golden keeper, but isn’t ready to be owned anywhere outside of deep, deep keeper leagues.
Mike Ribeiro (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) might finally be leaving behind the days that he was a reliable source of secondary scoring. He still holds marginal value with 31 points in 42 games so far, but don’t expect much more than 60 points from him this season, and I wouldn’t recommend drafting him at all next year.
Radim Vrbata (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) is poised to have his best season with 31 points in 40 games so far. He’s on pace for 63 with a career season high of 62 in 77 games set two years ago. Again, marginal value, worth a look in deep leagues.
Martin Hanzal (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +2) also remains on pace for around 60 points this season. So, does the Coyotes’ front office figure if they don’t have a superstar scorer or two at the heart of their team they should get every 50-60 point guy in the league at a discount? Well, if so, it seems to be working as they’re sixth overall in scoring with 3 goals per game. Now if Mike Smith could just stop a few pucks, they might just become the most boring playoff team in a few decades.
Thomas Greiss (0 GA, 27 SV, W) took advantage of a rare start and shut down the Flames 6-0 last night. I hope Mike Smith was taking notes. There is no controversy here, Smith will have to play worse than he has so far and Greiss would have to be white hot for there to be much hope of a switch here.
Roman Josi (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) looks like he’s taking another step forward this year with a solid first half putting up 14 points in 34 games so far. Unfortunately he sports a minus-13 rating to go with that, but as of right now he’s on pace for 30 points and easily avoiding that nasty sophomore jinx. Josi is a solid two-way defenseman with a good overall came. He’s more of a playmaker than a shooter, but what he does he does well. Josi could be an awesome value grab in later rounds to help fill out the back end of your blue line next season, but while the Preds struggle offensively he has little value outside of keeper leagues.
Michael Stone (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +1) is actually a lot like Roman Josi. He’s a solid two-way defenseman with great passing ability. He plays a calm game that relies on good positioning, but he has the size, strength and reach to make up for the few mistakes he makes. His offensive ceiling is somewhat low, however, and he’s probably more of 3rd or 4th pairing guy.
Alex Killorn (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) might not have put on the show he hinted was a possibility when Steven Stamkos initially went down with his injury and Killorn found himself skating alongside Martin St. Louis on the top line. Still, for a rookie season 25 points in 43 games so far isn’t bad at all. That puts him on pace for around 50 points, and I like any rookie that can hit that marker. He has value in deep keepers right now, but meh in standards.
Vladimir Sobotka (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) has seven points in his last five games, but six of those are assists. It’s not that I don’t list assists, a point is a point, but I just feel better when goal scoring drives a player’s value. Sokotka has never been much to consider and the only reason he’s doing as well as he is this season is due to the ridiculous offensive firepower around him. He has never played a full season and even when he came close, only posted 20 points. Meh.
Ray Emery (2 GA, 31 SV, W) has absolutely zero chance to do anything to challenge Steve Mason for the starting job in Philly.
Nick Bonino (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, even) extended his points streak four games with seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. I mentioned him a few days ago and my analysis remains the same, literally! “He’s a solid sleeper pick for next year and worth grabbing off the wire in deeper/keeper leagues.”
Shea Weber (2 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) has seven points in his last four games and, in terms of scoring, has restaked a claim to elite status this season. His plus/minus, however, tells a different story sitting at minus-12. I hate hate hate a great blue liner with a terrible rating, but I wouldn’t kick Weber off my team if I had him. That being said, I’d use his name value and solid offensive production to shed that nasty rating, especially while he’s streaking.
Teddy Purcell (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) now has assists in five straight and seven of his last nine games. Notice I said assists, not points, because there’s no gooooals in dar at all! At least he’s scoring, but when it’s nothing but assists, you can’t expect it to continue.
Darcy Kuemper (1 GA, 39 SV, W) is the Wild’s top goalie prospect and is really only up because Josh Harding is down dealing with his MS issues. That being said, if Nik Backstrom keeps struggling Kuemper might quickly become an option worth looking at. Kuemper has a problem with rebounds, his positioning needs work and he’s a big guy at 6’4” but moves well despite the size. There’s a lot of work to do here, so proceed with caution if you brave adding him. It could get ugly quickly and he’s going to end up back down in the AHL as soon as Harding is healthy.
Anders Lindback (2 GA, 12 SV, W) took advantage of a rare start to say “Hey, remember me?!” No, no we don’t, Anders. Despite the good game for Lindback, Ben Bishop just needed a rest and remains the start for Tampa Bay.
Eddie Lack (4 GA, 31 SV, L) has not looked very good allowing four goals in three straight games, all losses, and three goals in the game prior to that, also a loss. Granted he faced the Ducks then the Pens, and last night the Canucks had the lead 3-2 late in the third, but then Sidney Crosby happened and they scored two quick goals to force OT, the SO, and eventually took the W. Lack is young and raw, but with Lu down he remains the guy to own in Vancouver.