At just 18-years-old Aleksander Barkov, C (1 A, 4 SOG) was the selected second overall in the 2013 draft by the Florida Panthers with high expectations. The hulking play making pivot out of Tampere, Finland did not disappoint in his first season on big ice putting up a line of 8/16/24/+10 in 54 games. That might not sound great but given the team he played for you could probably adjust those numbers up to something in the ballpark of 12/25/37/+15 in 54 games on a decent team. Fast forward to this season and he opened up with lots of injuries and garbage play posting just six points (2 G, 4 A) over the first three months of the season. Don’t let that deter you from adding him for scoring help down the stretch, though; he’s white hot lately and only getting better with each passing game.
Even before the All-Star Break there were signs that Aleks was going to break out sooner than later and with six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last five games and, even better, 10 points in his last 10 games, he has done just that. Yeah, the sample size is low, but he’s just 19-years-old now playing on a team full of guys his own age trying to find an identity as a team. That can hurt a young player’s offensive production early on, but it will be a boon once they start finding themselves, and the Cats are doing just that. They aren’t going anywhere this season, but Florida’s front office is building a contender for the future and Barkov is a centerpiece of that effort. Can he be a centerpiece for your fantasy team down the stretch? Probably not, but he definitely has the upside to be a solid contributor.
Make no mistake; Barkov is an all-world skater with incredibly hockey sense, poise and patience with the strong, soft hands and vision to bring it all together. He hasn’t exploded on the scene like Filip Forsberg, but how often does that really happen? Barkov had dealt with nagging injuries in the first half, but there is an immense amount of talent here and lately he looks like he’s finally 100% healthy and ready to live up to expectations. If you need scoring help down the stretch you’d be foolish not to take a flier on him. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Tuukka Rask, G (W, 34 SV, 2 GA, .944%) – The B’s are finally settling into a groove and so is Tuukka as he reeled off his fifth straight game allowing two goals or less. That improves his season line to 20-11-7/2.35/.919 as he tries like hell to get his numbers back into Tuukka territory. Given that territory has been around a 2.00 GAA and .930 save percentage, the chances of him getting there are beyond slim, but he should finish the season strong. That being said, he’s waffled from awesome to awful month-to-month, and January as been his best month yet. Lets hope February isn’t his worst.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – There’s that post ASB rust! You know, it still blows me away that Halak sports a season line (26-9-0/2.37/.913) almost identical to Rask’s at this point in the season. Who would have guessed that?
John Tavares, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – One thing is for sure, JT doesn’t need Kyle Okposo on his line to produce. In fact, I wonder if Okie’s absence will spur JT on to another level to keep the Isles from sinking in the standings. He has the talent and the heart, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the NHL in scoring over the next few months.
Michael Grabner, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Believe it or not, Isles are worth owning so long as they’re skating in the top nine and that’s exactly where Grabner is. He’s in the bottom of the top, but he’s there and he’s scoring right putting up four points (3 G, 1 A) over his last five games. He hasn’t played much this year due to injury, but he’s healthy now and skating on the third line with Brock Nelson, C (3 SOG, -1) and it seems there’s a bit of life there. Fresh legs are hard to find down the stretch, so consider adding Grabner if you could use some supplementary goal scoring and a bit of depth in the playoffs. He won’t win it for you, but he can definitely contribute.
Milan Lucic, LW (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG) – After three games o’ goose eggs Cheech got back on track with a three point effort last night. He’s in the midst of his best month of the season with 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in his last 11 games besting the last three months of the season that saw him put up eight, four and six points respectively. Not only that, he has a whopping 43 hits over the last month, too! About the only thing he’s doing is not going to the box, but if he’s going to keep scoring and hitting everything that moves, I’m fine with that.
Torey Krug, D (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Tiny Torey is smoking hot right now with six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last six games and I see no reason why the mighty mini rearguard won’t keep putting up solid numbers down the stretch.
Steve Mason, G (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Is there some hope for a late season surge from Mason? It’s possible. Historically Mason has performed slightly better after the ASB and after his second straight stellar start, there is hope for Mason owners! I can’t say how much hope, I still think he’s bleh, but the numbers don’t lie and the Flyers seem to be gradually getting better defensively as the season goes, and that only bodes well for Mason’s prospects down the stretch. Don’t trade for him or anything, though.
Michael Hutchinson, G (L, 27 SV, 4 GA, .871%) – Hutch got worked by the Flyers in this one and the game illustrates pretty clearly why the Jets are keeping Ondrej Pavelec in the mix in a bigger way than most of us want to see to this point. Hutch is a rookie, and rookies aren’t ready to take the reigns and run with a starter’s job. That said, Hutch will continue to be an extremely valuable goalie to have in a time-share with A Clockwork Ondrej. I own him. You should, too.
Mathieu Perreault, C (2 G, 6 SOG, -2) – Welp, Perrier’s arm is clearly okay after Dan Carcillo nearly chopped it in half with that blind-side cross check a few games ago. That’s hyperbole, but whatevs, Car Bomb is a douche. In either case, you can expect another 10-15 goals out of the little guy with about 20-25 points total down the stretch. If you were smart (and quick) enough to grab him off the wire, hold on tight, he looks like he’s in for another strong finish this year.
Brayden Schenn, C (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, 4 Hits) – To really have value Schenn has to push 200 hits by the end of the year and considering he’s sitting at 105 hits in 49 games, I don’t think he’s going to get there, but he should end up in the 180s or so. Pair that with 50 points and 20 goals and you have yourself a valuable skater and I expect him to hit both of those markers. He’ll try to match last year’s 21 goals, but he will definitely top the 41 points he put up last season. The hype was huge on this kid for years and he’s taking longer than expected to live up to just some of it, so bring down your expectations a bit and you’ll be happy you own him in deeper leagues.
Michael Del Zotto, D (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) – MDZ has been a POS for a bit now, but for the moment he’s scoring with five points (2 G, 3 A) over his recent four game points streak. I wouldn’t expect a ton from him moving forward, but he’s scoring and contributing in other categories too with 15 hits, 8 blocks and a power play point over the last few weeks. Oh, did I forget to mention he’s seeing time on the power play now, too? Yeah, he’s worth a flier in deep leagues.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM, 4 Hits) – Is there anything Simmonds didn’t do last night? Maybe knit the opposition some nice quilts to keep warm on the bench, otherwise, no there really isn’t anything he didn’t do last night. Just look at that glorious line. Beautiful.
Mike Smith, G (W, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – Wow, great game for Smith! What? It was against the Leafs? Oh.
Jonathan Bernier, G (L, 42 SV, 3 GA, .933%) – So last game Bernie sees 23 shots and stops 22 and the Leafs can’t get him any offensive support, so he loses. In this game he gets peppered to the tune of 45 shots and stops 42 of them and takes the loss anyway. Anyone want to start putting money on when he’ll lose his mind? I’m willing to be he snaps before the end of the season.
Phil Kessel, RW (1 G, 6 SOG) – Kessel pots the only goal for the Leafs last night a game after James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 A, 3 SOG) and Tyler Bozak, C (1 SOG) hooked up on a nice stretch play for a goal. Now all they need to do is bring it together in the same game and the Leafs might actually win one. That being said, if you need one line to do all the work your team is in deep doodoo, and that’s exactly where the Leafs are. Randy Carlyle got a raw deal.
Leo Komarov, C (4 Hits) – Early in the season Komarov was a hit machine contributing offensively, but he hasn’t been right since Alex Ovechkin gave him a concussion and then he hurt his shoulder after that, I’m not sure how. Suffice it to say he’s more than droppable now; though keep an eye on him down the stretch. He’s clearly still good for hits help.
Joffrey Lupul, RW (zip, zilch, nada) – First game back and he did absolutely nothing in 10 minutes of ice time. Pay me to do that. I can totally go skate out there for 10 minutes a game and do nothing.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (1 G, 8 SOG, +1) – With another goal last night OEL continues his march towards a Brent Burns-esque 20-goal season. This goal wasn’t just any goal, though, he scored it off the faceoff from around 140 feet away. No joke. He’s going to have a minus-20 rating and fewer than 40 points, but hey, 20 goals from a blue liner aren’t easy to come by. I’m trying to look on the bright side here.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Another three goals allowed, like clockwork. Yeah, he got the win, but come on.
Robin Lehner, G (L, 35 SV, 4 GA, .897%) – And this is why I couldn’t force myself to tell you to pick him up when Craig Anderson went down with his hand injury. It doesn’t sound like Anderson is going to miss significant time, so it doesn’t really matter, but you should avoid Lehner. That hurt to write. You’re killing me kid!
John Klingberg, D (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Come next season Klingy is going to be a beast. There will be ups and downs, cold streaks and hot streaks, but one thing is for sure, Klingberg is a top tier keeper with a sky-high ceiling for next season. This year he retains solid value down the stretch as well and you can expect another five goals and 15-18 points from the talented Swedish rearguard.
Mika Zibanejad, C (1 G, 5 SOG, -2) – I’ve been mentioning Zibachmadenijad more and more as the season goes on and there’s a reason for that; he keeps doing more and more. There was some solid hype around him as he came into the league and even though it died down a bit, there were fairly lofty expectations for him this year that he’ll fail to meet. That being said, he’s scoring at a decent clip lately and currently skates on the Sens’ top line and power play units, so he’s worth owning in deep leagues. I’d say he has aboot 20 points left in the tank this year.
Bobby Ryan, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Here’s another reason why I think Zibanejad is going to have a decent second half; Bobby Ryan is scoring again! Last night marked Bobby’s third straight two-point game giving him six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last three games. If he can keep putting the biscuit in the basket it will free up space for Zibanejad and give him a guy to feed the puck to for helpers. The Sens are meh, but this duo could finally be gelling and if so, they could continue their recent strong play for a bit.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 27 SV, 1 GA, .964%) – The rust has been knocked off and Big Ben put up a solid effort last night pushing away 27 of 28 shots to down the Wings 5-1. Now if he can post a month of games in this ballpark he’ll be right where we expected him to be by season’s end. Believe it or not, it’s possible. Please let it be possible.
Petr Mrazek, G (L, 37 SV, 4 GA, .902%) – After Pete’s last rough game Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock gave him a vote of confidence in the post game interview saying that he finds a way to win games, and that’s what counts. Indeed, Mrazek and the Wings won six straight before the Bolts so rudely interrupted the streak, but Mrazek has been roughed up in three straight games now and has crossed into droppable territory now. Jonas Gustavsson will be starting an AHL conditioning stint soon and it’s expected that he’ll only be in the AHL for a few games before returning to big ice and, I would imagine, quickly usurping Mrazek as the starter while Jimmy Howard is out.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 31 SV, 2 GA, .939%) – Lu needs to get back on track. He looked solid in this one, but his GAA has risen to nearly 2.45 and his GAA is down to .920. The save percentage dip is an expected correction, but he needs to get his quickly ballooning GAA down and fast.
Curtis McElhinney, G (L, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – I don’t really need to mention McSuck again, but every start of his is just another reason why you shouldn’t own him if you own Sergei Bobrovsky. It’s just not worth it.
Aaron Ekblad, D (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Can Ekblad put up 50 points in his rookie season? Yes, yes he can, and he’s on pace to do just that.
Nick Foligno, LW (1 A, 2 SOG, 4 Hits) – Believe it or not, Foggy and Ryan Johansen, C (6 SOG, 2 PIM) have nearly the same season line right now; Foggy sits at 18/27/45 in 46 games and Joey clocks in at 18/26/44 in 46 games. Joey has a minus-9, though, while Foggy sports a plus-6. Is Foggy actually more valuable than Joey? I doubt it, but it has been an impressive season for Foggy that I don’t think he’ll repeat next year.
Brian Elliott, G (W, 37 SA, 4 GA, .892%) – Oh man, he coughed up six goals in the All-Star Game?! What a hack! But seriously, with the retirement of Martin Brodeur he’s the starter for the remainder of the season unless he gets hurt. We won’t get to see if he can handle a full 60 start workload because he missed a month with a bum knee, so there shouldn’t be any fatigue issues to be concerned about down the stretch. Start him with confidence.
Carter Hutton, G (L, 31 SV, 4 GA, .886%) – Remember what I said about McElhinney and Bobrovsky? The same exact strategy applies to the Hutton, Pekka Rinne situation. If you own Pekka, don’t bother with Hutton unless you have no other choice. What? No other options? You’re telling me Devan Dubnyk wasn’t available? Come on. You dun’ goofed.
Paul Stastny, C (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) – It’s safe to call Stas a bust for this season, but hopefully he can stay healthy next year and get back on track. As for the remainder of this season, he could put up as much as 25-30 points if he gets hot, but he’s more likely to end up giving you around 15-20. Sad days for his owners, I know, but then that’s nothing new this season.
Filip Forsberg, C (1 G, 5 SOG) – Like Nathan MacKinnon last year, you can expect Fil the Thrill to slow as the season comes to a close. He remains the ultra-talented Calder favorite, but he is young and he’s not used to the rigors of a full NHL season. I imagine he’ll finish in the 60-65 point range.
Roman Josi, D (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) – I feel a new man crush coming on.
James Neal, RW (1 G, 1 SOG) – I wasn’t a huge fan of Neal’s coming into the season, in fact I actively deterred peeps from drafting him because I expected a huge drop off in production after leaving the fertile scoring fields of the Pens’ top six, and sure enough, here we are. He’s been so woeful that even a spot on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro, C (1 A, 1 SOG) hasn’t done much to spur him on. He might score 30-goals, might. But he won’t go very far beyond the 50-point mark doing it.
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 30 SA, 1.000%, SHO) – Since getting traded away from the woeful ‘yotes to the goalie friendly Wild Dubs has been pretty fantastic. In five games with the Wild he’s 3-1-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .911 save percentage. It’s a small sample size, I know, but this is the kind of success his deeper number suggested he could put up if he was in the right system, and clearly he is now. Dubs is the undisputed starter for the Wild for the remainder of the season. Darcy Kuemper will come up in a backup role if he can do well in the AHL, but that’s about all you can expect from him now that Dubs is in town and owning it.
Jonas Hiller, G (L, 32 SA, 1 GA, .969%) – For the third straight game since returning from injury Hills has held the opposition to just one goal a game. Granted, Buffalo was one of those teams, but the other two; the Wild and Ducks, have some offensive punch worth noting, so it seems like Hiller has regained his spot as the top goalie for the Flames. Yay?
Thomas Vanek, RW (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) – I can’t say you should pick up Vanek and expect to get the Vanek of old, but he has five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last six games and seems to be finding some semblance of his old scoring touch now that his off-ice troubles are, for the most part, behind him. He’s worth a flier, but don’t expect much and take whatever you get as a bonus, but there is some upside here for the remainder of the season.
Ben Scrivens, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – It’s rare that I can write about Scribbles and say that he won, so I’m throwing him in here. Yay Scribbles! It’s not all bad! Just 99.9% bad.
Matt Beleskey, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – He keeps popping up on the score sheet with goals, so he keeps getting mentioned, but unless he does something awesome moving forward this is probably the last time. He’ll give you goals and a solid plus/minus with a heaping helping of shots. And that’s it. Yeah, he can put up another 12 goals down the stretch to hit 30 before season’s end, so there’s value here.
Patrick Maroon, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – With six points (3 G, 3 A) over his last four games Maroon is jumping on fantasy radar’s everywhere since being promoted to the top line along side Ryan Getzlaf, C (1 SOG, -3) and Corey Perry, RW (2 SOG, -1), not to mention he’s getting time on the team’s second power play unit, too. So long as he’s on that top line he should be owned everywhere. Frankly, anyone occupies his slot on that line should be owned if they’re producing, and just about anyone who slots in there does.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G (L, 25 SA, 6 GA, .760%) – I’m sad to say it, but I think Breezy’s time in the NHL is coming to a close after this season. If John Gibson hadn’t hurt himself I doubt Breezy would have been signed anywhere and given how awful he’s been since taking over as Frederik Andersen’s, G (8 SA, 0 GA, 1.000%) backup, I doubt he’s going to get many calls this off season.