At one point earlier this season the Carolina crease was an absolutely disaster. Cam Ward was waffling from mediocre play to time on the injured list and Anton Khudobin (1 GA, 31 SV, W) was just plain out with a bum ankle. Fast forward a few months and now the ‘Canes have another problem, they’ve got too much talent and not enough TOI to go around. Some folks just can’t catch a break, eh? Ward decided to help clarify the situation and suffered an undisclosed LBI that will keep him out indefinitely, making Khudobin the defacto starter for now. Using the term “defacto” might be a bit insulting at this point with Khudobin winning all three games he has started since he returned from his own injury, which just so happened to be on the same day Ward went down again. Is it a coincidence? Perhaps serendipity? Or maybe the universe just has an awesome sense of humor. At 5’10” Khudobin is on the smaller side, but he more than makes up for that, ahem, shortcoming, with his athleticism, good positioning, steady technique and a boat load o’ Russian brand confidence. No, not Red Army Vodka, the real stuff, and why not? Even on pretty lackluster teams in the AHL (Houston Aeros) he was able to post respectable to good numbers considering the circumstances. He’s continued that success at the NHL level, but in very limited work, first stuck behind Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding in Minnesota, then Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in Boston. Now he has his chance and he’s making good on it with a season line of 5-0-0/1.99/.940 so far. Couple that with the fact that it has become fairly clear that the ‘Canes don’t think Justin Peters is ready to take the reigns for any appreciable amount of time, and this situation becomes less muddled pretty quickly. When Ward comes back, I figure its Peters who ends up back in the AHL despite his solid season line of 7-9-4/2.38/.922/1 in 20 games, though of late he has faltered coughing up 11 goals in his last three starts, all losses. That only helps solidify Khudobin’s hold on the no. 1 spot for now, so go ahead and add him anywhere he’s available. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:
Jacob Trouba (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) was supposed to be playing for the University of Michigan but ended up with the Jets this season at just 19 years old. Obviously at 19 he’s a raw prospect but that hasn’t stopped him from making immediate contributions to the Jets with four points in his last five games. He showed serious chops in just about every aspect of the game during the World Junior Championship, putting on display every skill and size asset you’d want in a young defenseman, or really, any young hockey player period. While he can skate like the wind and dance around with the best of them, he is often slow to react and when he does, his decisions with the puck are suspect at best. That being the biggest hole in his game at 19 says this kid is something special. He’s on pace for 30 points in just 62 games so far, so he has value in all formats right now and could be huge in a few years.
James Neal (2 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, +3) is on pace to score 88 points despite being projected to play in just 62 games. If it wasn’t for the missed time due to injury and suspensions earlier this year, he could easily have breached the century mark this season.
Jussi Jokinen (1 G, 1 A, 8 SOG, +3) seems determined to make me look bad as I continue to say he won’t do much more this year than he normally does any other year. He has seven points in his last five with four of those points coming in his last two games. He’s on the Pens and he’s scoring, so he’s worth an add in most formats if you need an offensive boost, but don’t count on it lasting.
Evgeni Malkin (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) returned from injury to pot two goals picking up right where he left off. You have to love a guy like Geno, he misses almost three weeks of play and it doesn’t slow him down at all. I bet he could play with no legs and still end up with decent numbers by season’s end.
Evander Kane (2 G, 1 A, 6 SOG, +1) had a great night the moment I finally said it was okay to cut bait if you could find someone better on the wire. That being said, it’s not easy to find a guy on the wire better than what Kane, so hopefully folks weren’t rushing to drop him for greener pastures as he may just have some offensive punch left in him yet. He still isn’t on pace for 30 goals, but after three dismal months to start the season he’s showing signs of life, albeit in streaks.
Nick Bonino (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) extended his points streak to three games with a goal and an assist against the Luongoless Canucks last night. The mini-breakout season continues for Bonino who is showing the Ducks that the three-year deal they recently gave him was a great move. He’s a solid sleeper pick for next year and worth grabbing off the wire in deeper/keeper leagues.
Corey Crawford (2 GA, 40 SV, L) took his second tough-luck loss in as many games since returning from injury. I don’t think either loss hurts Crawford’s value or TOI as he competes with Antti Raanta for starts. Deploy him as you normally would, he’ll be back to his winning ways sooner than later.
Jeff Skinner (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) continues to dominate with points in five straight and six of his last seven. The best part is he’s powered this streak mostly with delicious goooooals, and that’s what we love to see.
Daniel Sedin (3 A, 4 SOG, even) and his days of point-per-game production are mostly over, but he retains significant value regardless. He has six points in his last five, but three of those came in yesterday’s game.
Henrik Sedin (1 G, 2 A, 1 SOG, even) won’t be outdone by his twin brother and scored three points himself. With that both Sedins are on pace for exactly 73 points and their peripheral stats are also very close to parity as well. You figure if one gets hurt, the other will too? I think we should try it out, as an experiment, for science! Yeah, science.
Eddie Lack (4 GA, 45 SV, L) was peppered with 49 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Ducks last night. Roberto Luongo didn’t even serve as Lack’s backup and the Canucks signed little-known tender Rob Laurie to a professional tryout to back up Lack. That’s not a good sign for Luongo owners, but regardless while Lu is hurt Lack is the man in Vancouver. If you haven’t added him yet, or dropped him because Luongo was back, go grab him before someone else does.
Alexander Semin (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) has come back to life recently after turning from an injury a month ago and doing squat the whole time. His start to the season has been terrible but he’s such a dangerous offensive threat you can’t ever count him out and he’s likely to show that in the second half. Add him where you can.
Jordan Eberle (2 G, 6 SOG, even) would be worth so much more if he played elsewhere. I thought that huge offensive outburst by the Oil a few months ago was the signal that their young, talent laden lineup was coming together and about to gel into something special, but they’ve sputtered out in typical Edmonton fashion ever since. Eberle is on pace for just 60-some points and that’s disappointing for a guy slated to flirt with a point-per-game pace coming into this season. The Oil will get it together sooner or later, but as the games go by it looks like this year isn’t the year.
Taylor Hall (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +1) could care less where he plays, he’s so nasty he does it all by himself. John Tavares can relate (with all due respect to Kyle Okposo), maybe they should demand trades to end up on the same team, that’d be a special line to watch fo’ sho’. Still, that’s probably not a fair comparison because Hall has a ridiculous amount of talent around him while Tavares, well, yeah.
Corey Perry (1 G, 6 SOG, even, 2 PIM) scored the game winning goal and remains on pace for 40+ goals, 82 points and many, many elbows to the face for anyone who gets within reach. Seriously, he’d probably give Ryan Getzlaf one to the chin if he didn’t pay close enough attention to what he’s doing. It’s a reflex for Corey at this point.
Tuomo Ruutu (2 A, +2) has four points in his last five games all of which are the table scraps from Semin, Skinner and co. You know the ‘Canes are clicking when Ruutu’s name shows up on the scoring sheet this often.
Matt Niskanen (1 G, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) is currently on pace for his best season since his sophomore campaign with the Stars back in 2008-’09 when he put up 35 points. He’s actually flirting with a 40-point season and though he’s owned in 100% of ESPN Leagues, he’s available in 39% of Yahoo! Leagues. There’s absolutely no reason he should be available in more than 20% of leagues, if that, so if you need help on the blue line go looking for Matty, he might just be available.
Patric Hornqvist (1 G, 6 SOG, even) has three point so far this month and that’s about half the production you can expect from him if, for some insane reason, he’s on your squad. Point totals by month: 7, 7, 7. Hey, at least he’s consistent.
Kyle Palmieri (1 A, 3 SOG, +2, 5 PIM) has a good speed, playmaking ability, good vision and a quick release. He’s a scorer, plain and simple, and he’s a future top-six guy. All of that makes him absolutely worth owning in keeper leagues. The Ducks are absolutely loaded with young talent, aren’t they? If half their kids pan out at all they’ll be set for years to come.
Mark Scheifele (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is another talented youngster worth keeping on your radar. He is a five-tool guy with speed, size, vision, skill and smarts and, like the rest of these kids, is worth owning in keeper leagues. The Jets have almost no one with his kind of talent at the center position. If he progresses normally he’ll be their top center in a few years. Or, since it’s the Jets, next month.
Zach Bogosian (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) was once considered a top defensive prospect, mostly for his goal scoring ability. Yeah, what happened to that?
Logan Couture (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) started the season on a tear that surprised no one with 16 points in 13 October games. He had been in a steady, and now rapid decline since, scoring 11 points in 13 games in November and then a horrible 5 in 14 last month. Obviously you do nothing but start him and ride it out, he’s just too good to do anything else. Don’t sell low, either, he’s showing life again with points in five straight after a seven game drought dating back to last month.
Matt Carle (2 A, 1 SOG, even) has points in four straight, but they’re all assists. There aren’t many guys in the league that can push 40 points with less than 5 goals on the year unless you’re Ryan Suter or Duncan Keith, so I don’t really expect Carle to get there.
Brent Burns (1 G, 5 SOG, even)’s beard continues to dominate the league with more goals and really, did you expect anything less? Probably, but whatever, he’s scoring like whoa!
Blake Wheeler (1 G, 4 SOG, even, 2 PIM) has joined the Bobby Ryan All Parity team with 16 goals and as many assists so far this season. He could score 30 goals for the first time in his career and has a shot to post his best overall season to date. He still misses playing on the Bs, though, and don’t let him tell you otherwise.
Patrick Sharp (1 A, 5 SOG, even) continues his own career year flirting with the chance for a 50-goal season. Yes, you read that right, 50 goals. Do I think he gets there? No, but he’ll come close. The Hawks are so stacked that Marian Hossa is their fifth leading scorer with 35 points in 40 games this season, sandwiched between two defenseman (Keith and Seabrook). There should be a law against such things, someone ping Gary Bettman and, well, actually no one should because nothing would get done if you did. No one likes you, Bettman. No one.