Its well known for those who read this blog that I don’t have a very high opinion of hockey in South Florida. In fact, I often call it “hockey hell” and for many years that’s been pretty accurate. I mean hell is hot, right? And it’s muggy, and it rains like a bastard for all of four minutes a day without warning and then stops. Does this sound like a place for hockey?! I don’t think so. Despite that the Florida Panthers have been slowly trying to build a decent hockey team from the ashes of years past when they actually contended for the cup and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve finally hit on a solid combination of guys that might actually turn this team into a winner and could help you do the same with your fantasy squad.
We are all aware of Aaron Ekblad (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) and his talents, but there are a handful of other guys on the Cats that are worth cashing in on now before they blow up. Leading the pack right now is Vincent Trochek, C (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, +3). I’m a big fan of Trochek, who at 5’ 11”, 190lbs is a slightly undersized but can bulk up and fix that sooner than later. Trochek has peerless on-ice vision and excellent puck handling skills that he’s putting on display on a nightly basis since joining the Cats on big ice this season. His passes are crisp and his hockey IQ is high, but he needs to work on his skating and back checking, so he’s bound to be a healthy scratch now and then until he cleans up those aspects of his game. Still, the kid skated with Team USA in the World Championships this year and he’s not going back to the AHL anytime soon. So far this season he has 11 points in just 14 games and while he doesn’t get much time on the power play, while he’s clicking with Jimmy Hayes he’s worth streaming. He’s absolutely worth owning in most keeper leagues.
Speaking of big Jimmy Hayes, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2), he’s a guy who should be on your radar as well, at least for now. At 6’ 4”, 210lbs Hayes doesn’t lack for size, but he definitely lacks in skating ability. He tends to labor and lumber around the ice, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring as he continues to play well with 12 points in 16 games so far, but he’s limited to around 13 minutes of ice time right now, so that keeps his value down. He’s an underrated playmaker with solid passing ability and decent vision, but his shooting percentage is slightly inflated at 14.6% too, so expect the rookie to regress a bit sooner than later. Still, he’s worth streaming while he’s clicking with Trochek. So don’t be shy, pick one or both of these guys up and cash in on the Cats’ recent success. It might not last long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Darcy Kuemper, G (W, 18 SV, 1 GA, .947%) – There have been a lot of hard splits over the first two months for a handful of netminders and Kuemps is definitely among them. He opened his season with a month of stellar play posting a line of 5-2-0/1.70/.927/3 in October and followed that up with 5-5-0/2.91/.900/0 in November. I’ve encouraged patience with Mr. Darcy and I’m going to continue to do so and last night’s performance is a good example why. He didn’t face many shots, but he didn’t let many in, either.
Carey Price, G (L, 33 SV, 2 GA, .943%) – Price didn’t allow many goals in either, but he still took the loss. It wasn’t his fault, though.
Alex Galchenyuk, LW (1 G, 1 SOG) – I’m always happy to see a goal, but I always cringe when I see it was scored on a single shot. Maybe it was a sick shot that had almost no chance of not going in, but that doesn’t matter much in the end. Lets see more shots on goal, Gally.
Jason Pominville, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Ah yes, Pompom. For some reason I habitually doubt his ability to produce and he habitually scores 20-30 goals. Oddly enough I don’t mind never drafting him, mostly because he’s super streaky. At his current pace he’s going to pot less than 20 goals this year and if that holds almost all his value is gone. I have to think on a powerful offensive squad like the Wild he’s going to at least get to 20 goals, but much more than that is starting to seem like a bonus.
Jeff Zucker, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Now this is more of what I like to see from my goal scorers, a solid amount of shots on goal and a goal for the effort. Zucker has been pouring the shots on goal this year; he recently logged nine against the Cats scoring two goals in the process. He’s at 12 goals on the year and while I don’t see him scoring 40 goals, he does have solid sniper credentials and could very well be making up for the lack of Pompom’s goals so far. He’s worth adding in deep leagues for those delicious goooooals.
Antti Raanta, G (W, 40 SV, 1 GA, .976%) – With Corey Crawford down for 2-3 weeks with an LBI Raanta takes over as the starter with Scott Darling making another appearance as the under study, for now anyway. Earlier in the season when Crawdad went down Darling out played Raanta leading many to speculate there would be a backup controversy when Crawford returned to action. No such luck for Darling fans as he was sent back down to the AHL as soon as Crawford was set to return. I think that’s likely the case again here if Crawford returns on time. That being said, Darling should be added everywhere while he’s on big ice as it could be a fairly even split in starts between him and Raanta.
Jake Allen, G (L, 29 SV, 4 GA, .879%) – After starting five of the last seven games for the Blues and looking good doing it Allen finally had a bad game. That’s to be expected from any goalie, especially a rookie, so it’s probably time for him to get a rest. And like clockwork it looks like Marty Brodeur is slated to start tonight for the Blues. I have no idea what to expect form the 42 year old legend, so we’ll all have to watch and see. It’s an important start for both Marty and Allen as it may well determine the course of things to come while Brian Elliott heals up.
Patrick Kane, RW (2 G, 4 SOG, +3) – After a somewhat sluggish start to the season tallying just seven points in 10 games he’s really turned it on to the tune of 16 points over his last 14 games. That gets him back to a point-per-game pace and I fully expect he’ll continue that for the rest of the season. His scoring surge has a lot to do with the surprisingly amazing second line of Brad Richards (1 A, 3 SOG, +1), Kris Versteeg and himself. Have you seen this line on the ice? It’s like poetry in motion, but with skates and ice and violence. It’s beautiful. *wipes a tear from his eye*
Kris Versteeg, RW (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG) – Speaking of really turning it on, Versteeg has eight points in his last six games as he continues to thrive on that sexy second unit for the Hawks. As long as his knees hold up he’s going to be a deadly top-six forward all season long and could very well end up posting the best season of his career. I’d say he’s good for around 70 points and 30 goals if healthy. Yeah, he really is that good.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%) – It must be tough to be a Jets fan. You suffer through years of Pavs being mediocre to downright awful and then finally there’s a light at the end of the tunnel named Michael Hutchinson. He shows up, plays better than expected and you think to yourself “Hey now! We’ve got ourselves an actual goalie now! Things are looking up!” and now, after all that suffering, is when Pavs decides to play well enough to keep his job. My sympathies, y’all.
Ben Scrivens, G (L, 23 SV, 3 GA, .885%) – It doesn’t matter who starts for the Oil, it’s always brutal. Poor Scribbles.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (1 G, 4 SOG) – The Nuge isn’t having a bad season, but it hasn’t been as good as I hoped for, either. None of the Oil are having the seasons I would have hoped for. If you just looked at their roster before the season it seemed as if they had finally assembled a team that could at least help them climb out of the league’s basement, but alas, not so much. I’d say Nuge has a 60-point ceiling this year and that will come with an unhealthy dose of minus on the plus/minus scale.
Evander Kane, RW (1 A, 1 PT, 1 SOG, +2) – The PIM are there for Kane but not much else is. Despite four points over his last four games he’s only on pace for 40 points by season’s end, and worse, fewer than 20 goals. He’s been pretty banged up this season, but is that any different from season’s past? Honestly, I’m about ready to give up on the guy.
Dustin Byfuglien, RW (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Big Buff has had an abysmal start to the year but it seems like he might be waking up a bit with goals in back-to-back games and four points over his last four. At this rate he’s looking at finishing the year with around 40 points, which would be great if he was still a rearguard. Why did they move to wing again?
Jacob Trouba, D (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) – Last night’s three point display gives Tuba six points over his last four games and puts him on pace for 32 points by season’s end. That’s a number I think he can reach, but it’s going to be a streaky ride to the finish.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 31 SV, 4 GA, .886%) – He may have picked up the W here, but it wasn’t pretty. Freddy pushed 31 of 35 shots the Flyers sent his way, but this is a discouraging effort after a solid game in his last start. Ilya Bryzgalov has been invited for a tryout with the Ducks because Jason LaBarbera is down with an LBI and he was the emergency backup plan after John Gibson went down a month ago. Expect Breezy to earn himself a contract, but I doubt he’ll play well enough to supplant Freddy and he’ll likely find himself in the AHL when Gibson returns in late December, early January.
Steve Mason, G (L, 29 SV, 4 GA, .879%) – Heh, Steve Mason.
Michael Raffl, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Oh sure, I drop the guy and he scores a goal. I didn’t expect him to rejoin the top line with Claude Giroux (1 A, 1 PT, 6 SOG, +1) and Jakub Voracek (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) so quickly, but the Flyers haven’t found anyone that really gels well on that line yet. I would have thought Brayden Schenn (1 A) would have made a good addition to that line, but the Philly coaching staff disagrees and refuses to give him a shot in that slot. Sadface. As long as Raffl is playing on that line he should be owned everywhere.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (2 G, 7 SOG, 2 PIM) – The PIM are lacking this year, but I figure a few good fights and a game misconduct will change that sooner than later. Otherwise its all systems go for a guy you want 100 PIM and 30 goals from. He’ll offer some help with hits, too.
Cam Fowler, D (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – He might not be scoring like Sami Vatanen but Fowler is still on pace for 45 points by season’s end and that puts him in the upper echelon’s of fantasy rearguards. He does this on the low, too. I’m surprised how few people are fully aware of just how talented Fowler really is. He has points in three straight games and his plus/minus is slowly pushing towards the plus. He also plays on the top power play unit along side Sami, so no you shouldn’t drop him for that guy on the wire.
Sami Vatanen, D (1 G, 5 SOG) – Speaking of Sami, here he is with another goal. I’m hesitant to put a ceiling on this guy at all; he’s blowing away every expectation I had and, really, even the expectations of his pre-season supporters, too.
Ryan Getzlaf, C (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Last year I was able to draft Getz in a bunch of leagues with an ADP that really made no sense. I had no such luck this year and this is why.
Josh Jooris, RW (3 G, 3 SOG, +2) – This hatty gives Jooris eight goals and 12 points on the year. I’m not a huge fan of him scoring the 30-plus goals he’s on pace for, he only scored 11 goals in 73 games at the AHL level last season and has never really been much of a goal scorer. Still, he plays on a line with Johnny Gaudreau (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) and Jiri Hudler (2 A, 3 SOG, +2) so he’s worth owning in deep leagues while that unit is clicking. There is a risk he could lose his spot on big ice when Mason Raymond returns from his shoulder injury, but given how well he’s played so far he’s definitely earned the right to stay.
John Carlson, D (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +3) – Carlson has six points (4/2) over his last three games putting him on pace for a very beastly 62 points by season’s end. For a guy who was long touted as an offensive force on the blue line his career high of 37 points in 82 games hasn’t exactly turned heads, but it looks like he’s finally living up to the hype this year. I doubt he hits 62 points, but he could finish with around 50.
Brock Nelson, RW (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – It was inevitable that Nelson would fall off his point-per-game pace, but he’s still keeping the blood flowing with another two points on Tuesday. I figure he finishes the season around 30 goals and 55-60 points, so he’s worth owning in all formats.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG, even) – He’s still scoring and the goals should continue to flow for a guy who put up a career high 35 playing for the hapless Coyotes a few years back.
Mike Santorelli, C (3 A, 1 SOG, +3, 2 PIM) – Despite the seven assists over his last five games I don’t expect this streak to continue for Santorelli, a journeyman who has spent time on four teams in five seasons in the NHL. That said, he’s the pivot on the Leafs’ second line between Joffrey Lupul and Nazim Kadri, so if you’re in need of some scoring help, he’s worth a look to stream for a while. Don’t hesitate to drop him if he goes cold, though.
Joffrey Lupul, RW (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Yeah, Lupul has four points over his last two games. Yeah, he’s going to get hurt again sooner than later. Stream him while he’s healthy.
Antti Niemi, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, 96.6 SV%) – The Sharks seem pretty hell bent on rolling with Niemi no matter what. He coughs up four goals, they start him in the next game. Then he does this, so they figure why not? And he’s slated to start in favor of Alex Stalock yet again tonight. Ugh.
Jeff Skinner, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – There hasn’t been much reason to mention Skinner this season and while that’s usually due to the fact that he’s hurt, this year it’s due to the fact that he isn’t scoring. Skinner has just 13 points and six goals in 20 games so far this season with a minus-three rating. The only good thing I can say about him is that he’s on pace to play in 78 games, so that’s good. He’s incredibly talented so if he stays healthy it should only be a matter of time before the puck starts finding the back of the net for him.
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 35 SV, 5 GA, .875%) – At this point you have to bench Kari until he gets his shiz straight. His GAA is over 3.00, his SV% is just barely over .900 and he’s allowed 17 goals in his last five games.
Mike Smith, G (L, 19 SV, 4 GA, .826%) – After finally snapping his long losing streak he snaps back to reality. Mike Smith, lady and gentleman!
Karri Ramo, G (W, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – Ramo has started three straight over Jonas Hiller and is slated to start again tonight against the Avs. He’s white hot right now and running away with the starting gig for the Flames. He should be owned everywhere.