I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best.

The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long.

It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

John Klingberg is a name you should know. In fact, he’s a guy you should probably add while he’s hot and hold in keeper leagues because he has all the tools to be a valuable fantasy rearguard. Before getting called up to big ice Klingy put up 12 points in 10 games (4 G, 8 A) in the AHL and in seven games since being called up he has six points, all of which have come in the last four games. The comparisons are already flying with Klingberg’s hot start. Is he the next Erik Karlsson? Do we have another Sergei Zubov on our hands? Frankly, those comparisons are unfair. There is only one Erik Karlsson and comparing the kid to a (what should be a) hall of famer like Zubov after just six games is madness. At just 22 years old he’s only started playing on North American ice last season, a season that ended prematurely with hip surgery that he’s clearly fully recovered from (There is hope, Valeri Nichushkin owners!). Still, there’s a lot of promise here. Klingberg is an offense first kind of defenseman if you hadn’t gathered already, just the type we love in fantasy hockey. He’s a bit on the small side right now at 6’1”, 181 lbs so some bulking up is in order, but the slick Swede is very adept at escaping the big hits with his smooth skating and is one of the more mobile rearguards I’ve ever seen. He has exceled with the man advantage at every level he’s played at, something the Stars obviously recognize as they’ve put him on their top unit with Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Is there a better place to be in the league to tally some sweet, sweet points? I can’t think of one. Not only that, he’s jumped right in to a top-four role and is skating for a whopping 23 minutes a game. There’s no chance he keeps up this scoring pace, but I could see him putting up 30 points or more by the end of the year. The Stars might be a bit of a mess defensively, but their offense has been clicking on all cylinders from the first drop of the puck this season, so if you’re looking for some help at the back end of your blue line, add Klingy while he’s hot and he might just stay that way. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday: 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Yesterday I brought big Anthony Mantha to your attention and said you should keep an eye on him as he’s on the rise. Well, there’s another kid you should get to know that’s already on big ice and lately his star is rising fast. Nick Bjugstad, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) is on a roll with seven points in his last three games including multiple two goal games giving him six goals in his last seven games. In fact, he has nine points in his last eight games and these totals aren’t unexpected. He started the season slowly, but at just 22 years of age and one full season under his belt that’s not surprising. It was only a matter of time before he started producing, and here it is. Can he keep it up? Absolutely. Just like Mantha he’s a big boy at 6’5”, 215lbs and he knows how to use his big frame to create space and opportunities for himself. Clearly he knows how to cash in on those opportunities as well bringing a heavy, accurate shot to the table in his big bag o’ tricks. He’s not just big; he’s strong too often winning battles along the boards. With exceptional on-ice awareness and vision he rarely finds himself out of position. Lately he’s playing with fellow prospect Jonathan Huberdeau (2 A, 4 SOG, +1) and veteran Brad Boyes (+1) so it’s a solid line for him to grow on. I don’t expect more than 50 points from Jugs, but he could beat that mark if he and Huber gel like the Cats hope they will. In any case, he should be added in all keeper leagues if he was on the wire and in deep re-drafts as well. It may not be long before he’s relevant in all leagues, so like I always say, get it while the gettins’ good, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is a pretty solid GM as far as GMs go. He always manages to pluck these unknown Swedes out of, well, Sweden and the Wings system turns them into legitimate players in fairly short order. This time he set his sights on a gifted Canadian winger out of Longueuil, Quebec by the name of Anthony Mantha and you’d do well to track his progress in the AHL because he has all the tools to be a top six player for the Wings sooner than later. Before he went down with a broken leg in the pre-season Mantha had a shot to crack the Wings’ NHL roster, alas it wasn’t meant to be, yet. Well, he’s healed up now and the 6’5” 206lb scoring threat is healthy and recently made his AHL debut and he set to work right rining the puck off two posts, but didn’t find the back of the net. No worries, he potted his first goal in his second game. That’s going to be a theme for the youngster and it can be argued that he’s one of the best pure goal scorers to come up since Steven Stamkos. Yes, you read that right. He sports a heavy wrister that he can fire off before you even considered he was going to shoot and man, it’s accurate. Beyond his ability to shoot the puck he uses his big frame to force through traffic with general ease and knocking him off the puck is no easy task. He’s proven himself to be a great positional player with outstanding on ice awareness, but there are of course some negatives as with any young player, and the big fella might be a bit too offensively focused leaving his defense as the weakest part of his game. There has also been some criticism that he lacks consistency, but hey, he’s young and nobody’s perfect (except Victor Hedman). Word has it that the Wings would rather he spend his time getting solid minutes with the Griffins than sitting on the bench for the Wings, but considering the fragility of their key top-six forwards (We’re all looking at you, Pavel Datsyuk) I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid gets a shot at big ice this year. While he’s not worth adding outside of deep dynasty leagues for the time being, keep an eye on him because he’s going to be something special. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you drafted Mikael Granlund expecting a solid season after he burst onto the scene late last year you’re in the same boat with me so lets cry together. Eh, it’s not that serious considering his ADP, but if Mike has spurned you you might consider taking a look at his brother Markus Granlund, C (2 A, 1 SOG, +3). Markus has four points in his last two games and eight points in nine games since being called up to big ice and makes him absolutely worth a look. He’s not unlike his brother in that he’s a bit small at 5’11”, 185 lbs and generally offensively gifted, especially in dishing the puck out. He’s poised, has great hands and great vision and can be counted on for exactly what we hoped to get out of his brother Mike. The downsie is that his defensive game can make him a liability, but he wins faceoffs so that helps mitigate the problem. With sheltered minutes he could be a solid contributor while playing most of his time on a line with Johnny Gaudreau (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) and Jiri Hudler (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). That’s a unit with a solid mix of veteran stability and young talent on the rise, so it bodes well for Granlund’s continued production given he’s primarily a playmaker. That line is a microcosm of what the Flames are as a team this season and that’s not a bad thing. Moving forward I figure you can expect Granlund to keep the pace up with a bit of regression. I don’t see a 60-point season in the works, but I think around 45-50 points is definitely within reach. For those of you in deeper pools this guy has a lot of value and he’s worth taking a flier on now. If he keeps it up, those in more shallow leagues might find themselves picking him up sooner than later, so why not sooner? Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Seven years ago Kris Versteeg, RW – (1 G, 2 A, +3, 7 SOG) started his career in Chicago with high hopes and what seemed like a higher ceiling. Initially all the signs looked good; he notched 20 goals in each of his first two full seasons and ended up with 53 and 44 points in each season respectively. Despite the slight drop-off in production many expected a breakout season in 2010, but alas, it didn’t happen. In what would become a theme for throughout his young career Versteeg went down with a knee injury. Over the next few seasons he struggled with more knee problems and after failed stints in Philly and Toronto he landed in Florida where it looked like he regained his form setting a career high in goals with 23 and points with 54. Again, a breakout was expected the following season and again knee problems knocked him down, but if Kris Versteeg has shown us anything in his time on big ice, it’s that you can knock him down but he’s going to get right back up. Fast forward three more years and it’s 2014, Versteeg’s knee is doing well and since joining a line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane he’s been scoring to the tune of five points in his last four games. You might pause in terror seeing Richards’ name here, but he seems to have found a home on this line and he’s is scoring too, so worry not for now. Vertseeg might leave a lot of owners gun shy after years of disappointment, but he was battling knee issues that prevented him from, you know, skating properly. Those knee problems seem solved for now and the talent was always there, so if you want in on a guy who could score 60 points and 25 goals on the cheap, now’s the time to buy in. I already did. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in the world o’ fantasy hockey:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Back in April 2013 the Washington Capitals were interested in adding some veteran help for a playoff push. The Nashville Predators had some help in the form of Martin Erat and so they struck a deal. Erat went to the Caps and Filip Forsberg (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) came over to the Preds in a package deal. At the time no one really batted an eye, but now all eyes are wide open watching “Fil the Thrill” roll through opponents night after night on his way to one of the best starts a rookie forward has had in years. I honestly didn’t see this coming, but after he posted just 34 points in 47 games in the AHL last year, honestly, who did? His preseason was stellar, but preseason means squat and I figured he was just playing hard against weak competition to earn himself a roster spot like any respectable rookie. The last I saw of Fil he was easy to knock of the puck, undersized, lacking strength and looking overwhelmed playing North American hockey, but clearly he had some skill. Oh my how things have changed. With a deceptively awkward but quick wrister at his disposal Fil stretched his point steak to seven games with the three-point effort last night. What’s more, he has a six game goal-scoring streak mixed in and 12 points (7 G, 5 A) over that span. He’s currently on the top line with James Neal (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) and Mike Ribeiro (1 SOG, +2) and that’s a good place to be. He hasn’t just been good, he’s been dominant and his line has outscored opponents 13-1 at even strength so far. The downside here, yes there’s a downside, is that there’s really no chance he can keep this scoring pace up. You know that. You don’t want to admit it, but he will. The upside there is that he’ll fall from dominant to thrilling, retaining tons of value all season long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If I asked you who would have the better numbers after a month or so of play, Tuukka Rask (L, 12 SV, 4 GA, .750%) or Jonathan Bernier (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%), I’m willing to bet a case of beer and a back of pucks you’d snap back with Tuukka as your answer pretty quickly. To be fair so would I, and we’d both be wrong. To this point Bernier’s sports a season line of 5-3-2/2.58/.917% while Tuukka is sitting ugly at 8-5-0/2.69/.901%. Believe it? You best. It seemed as though Tuukka was getting his act together after a rough October until he was bombed for four goals on 16 shots last night by a team that he has completely dominated in the past. When I say completely dominated, I mean never allowing more than two goals against them before last night completely dominated. To be fair, the Leafs are on fire right now so this is a different Toronto team that Rask has owned in the past, but still, I’m starting to worry about Rask’s overall play this season. My gut says he’ll be fine, but his stellar play this month comes against teams like the Cats, Oilers, Devils and Sens. That’s not exactly the cream of the offensive crop, so it’s expected that he’d handle them with general ease. It was also expected that he’d handle the Leafs in a similar fashion, too. If it makes Rask owners feel any better, he was pulled in the second for rookie Niklas Svedberg (2 GA, 15 SV, .882%) who promptly coughed up two of his own on 17 shots. At the heart of the matter here is Boston’s decimated defense and most notably the absence of its heart and soul Zdeno Chara, so these struggles aren’t wholly his fault. You can’t trade Tuukka because his value is far, far below his ADP, so you’ll just have to stick it out. This is yet another example of why you shouldn’t be taking goalies in the first two rounds. If you own Tuukka, you most likely did just that. Well, while you took Tuukka I drafted Tyler Seguin and I couldn’t be happier with my pick, how about you? Goalies are too unpredictable to justify taking that early, even the elites, and they often fail to live up to their ADP. It’s not about what your early goalie grab gives you or doesn’t, it’s what you left on the board while doing it that’s at the heart of the matter. Always remember my mantra; skaters first. Skaters first. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

By the end of October it looked as if the opportunities for Alex Stalock to carve out the 40 or so starts I predicted he’d get this season were dwindling fast. Antti Niemi (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) was rolling strong on five straight starts, it seemed like the deal was sealed and Stalock would have to wait until next year to get his chance. Luckily for us Stalock owners, Niemi has provided ample opportunity once again for Alex to get back in the picture. Last night’s loss marks three in a row and four of his last five for Niemi who now owns a yawnstipating 6-5-1/2.79/.911% season line. Those numbers look like they belong to Ondrej Pavelec, and before this season that would be a grevious insult, but hey even Pavelec is looking better than Niemi this year. I digress, I was never a huge fan of Niemi’s so this doesn’t surprise me one bit. Alex Stalock is the goalie of the future in San Jose and despite some early struggles in limited work (that game against the Sabres haunts me still) I still believe he’s going to get his starts and Niemi may not even finish the season as the Sharks’ starter. During his current losing streak Niemi has coughed up 15 goals and the Sharks have lost four of those five contests. By contrast, Stalock sports a 2-2-1/2.38/.925% line is looking a hell of a lot better than what Niemi has offered up despite the fact that it has been built over seven fewer games. Stalock was supposed to start last night against the Cats but at the last minute the call was made to start Niemi. Bad call, San Jose. Lets get with the program and get Stalock so more starts, eh? If he’s healthy and he performs well in his next few games I’d say Stalock would be well on his way to making this thing a fight again. If that’s the case, he’s worth adding. If you still own him, hold him for now. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In October Cam Ward (W, 22 SV, 1 GA, .957%) started four games. In those four games he allowed 16 goals on a 100 shots, good for a .840 SV%. I suppose saying it was “good” for anything is a lie, as that kind of effort is good for nothing. Flip the calendar over to November and Ward is a different man all together. In five starts this month he’s faced 130 shots and pushed 123 of them away, good for a .946 SV%. That’s not just good, that’s absolutely sparkling and wholly unsustainable for most, especially Ward. Still, a five game win streak while allowing no more than 2 goals in any tilt while mixing in a shutout cannot be ignored. So, is Cam Ward in danger of becoming a good goalie again? I doubt it. If you take a look at what he’s done it’s easy to say yeah, he’s getting back on track, but when you look at whom he’s doing it against, then the cracks start to appear. He’s compiled this run against the likes of the ‘yotes (25th in Goals Per Game), the injury devastated Blue Jackets (18th in GPG) twice, the Kings (24th in GPG) and the Flames (8th in GPG). Of all those teams the Flames are the only team clicking on offense right now. By contrast, in his opening four games in October the Isles, Sabres, Flames and Canucks spanked him. Yeah, those Sabres, from Buffalo. I’ve seen a lot of peeps talking about adding Ward because he’s suddenly found his form again. I won’t deny that he looks good right now, and if you need goalie help you should add him, but don’t expect this to last. Yeah, the Canes’ defense doesn’t help his situation much, but that only lends credence to the assertion that the well will dry up sooner than later with Ward. Ride him while he’s hot and drop him like a bad habit when he gets blown up, because he will. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?