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:
Josh Harding was put on waivers this morning. Panic and rage ensue. The chances he’s claimed by another team are slim, but it could happen. Really this is about getting Harding an extended conditioning stint in the AHL. Remember, he’s missed nearly a year of hockey on big ice and a normal conditioning stint is limited to a maximum length of two weeks and that isn’t going to be long enough for him to get back up to speed apparently. So for now that means he’s going to lose his IR eligibility and should be dropped until there are signs that he’s ready to return to the NHL.
Adam Henrique is set to return to tonight, so those of you enjoying his faceoff wins and general solid play should get him back in your lineups.
Ryan Johansen was apparently banged around enough that he might sit out his next game. It sounds like he’s fine, but could use a rest.
Pavel Datsyuk is questionable again, but is he ever anything but questionable? I swear he’s played his entire career hurt.
Corey Crawford, G – (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%) – After 12 starts Crawdad sports a season line of 7-4-1/1.88/.929% and I see no reason why he can’t keep it up over the course of the season. His GAA is going to go up, but I doubt it will go much higher than 2.15-2.25 tops. He should be a contender for the Vezina this year.
Kari Lehtonen, G – (41 SV, 6 GA, .872%) – Ugh, this rollercoaster of a season is getting infuriating for Lehtonen owners (myself included). This is half his fault and half the fault of the Dallas D. Everyone involved needs to get it together and fast. I benched Lehtonen for this one and I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing through an injury given his history, but until I see more consistent play from him I don’t think he’s a no-doubt starter. Tread carefully.
Brad Richards, C – (2 A, 5 SOG, +3) – This is the first time all season I’ve mentioned Richards and I’m not surprised. Actually, check that, I’m surprised I had reason to mention him at all. He has five points in his last five games and he’s been spending time playing pivot with Kris Vertseeg and Patrick Kane, RW – (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, +3), so he’s worth owning while that’s the case. Don’t be surprised it if all comes crashing down sooner than later, though. Richards is slow as molasses.
Jonathan Toews, C – (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – It really doesn’t matter what line he plays on, he’s a beast and he’ll always produce. That said, he’s currently the pivot for Marian Hossa, RW – (2 A, 7 SOG, +2) and Brandon Saad, LW – (1 G, 3 SOG, +2) and when he’s not, he plays with Kane and Versteeg.
Brent Seabrook, D – (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – He’s on pace for 40-plus points, a mark I think he will at the very least flirt with by season’s end, but that minus-three rating makes me sad. In leagues that count blocks and hits Seabrook is going to be one of the most valuable guys you could have grabbed but slept on during the draft and now regret if he gets that plus/minus going in the right direction, anyway.
Troy Grosenick, G – (W, 45 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – What is it about Sharks netminders and debut shutouts this season? Is there something in the water in San Jose? If so, maybe they should bottle and sell that shiz to Mike Smith in Arizona. I hear it’s pretty dry down there. Anyway, Alex Stalock will push Gross back to the AHL when he returns from his minor knee operation so don’t get too excited here.
Anton Khudobin, G – (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) – Dobby hasn’t been getting many starts this year due to the solid play of Cam Ward so far, but he held up fairly well against a high powered Sharks offense last night. So long as Ward is playing well Dobby will continue to sit, though it’s not like he’s given the Canes many reasons to make that a difficult call with his own play this season. Ward remains the guy to own here.
Tomas Hertl, LW – (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – I read not too long ago that Hertl said he tries to emulate Jaromir Jagr’s game when he plays because Hertl has “the same big ass” that Jagr does. Well, considering this tally gives you nine points in 20 games so far this season maybe pay less attention to Jagr’s ass and more attention to the puck, eh Tommyboy?
Joe Thornton, C – (1 G, 1 SOG, +2) – I guess Jumbo Joe is trying to show Hertl how to score some goals. I figure it’s something akin to a mother cat demonstrating to her kittens how to hunt. Next think you know Joe will be leaving the headless bodies of mice and birds that he’s caught in Hertl’s locker.
Darcy Kuemper, G – (W, 3 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Wow, three saves on three shots and he gets the win? The Jets have sunk to a new low! Seriously though, Niklas Backstrom (3 GA, 22 SA, .864%) went into the third with a 3-0 lead and when the third ended it was 3-3 going into OT and Nikky was sitting in the corner with a sad face and a dunce cap on. Expect to see Kuemps starting for the Wild in their next tilt. Also, stop freaking out about Kuemper’s blip. He’s a young goalie, ups and downs, etc.
Mike Hutchinson, G – (L, 5 SV, 1 GA, .938%) – Hutch didn’t start this game, but he finished it. Ondrej Pavelec (3 GA, 8 SV, .727%) returned to his usual form and coughed up three goals on 11 shots before he was lifted at the end of the first in favor of Hutchinson, who allowed just one goal, but it sure was an important goal with Marco Scandella beating him in OT for the game winner. Despite how good Hutch has been playing in limited action, Pavs remains the starter here. The more exposure Hutch gets, the worse his numbers are going to get. He’s not this good.
Nino Niederreiter, RW – (1 G, 1 SOG, -2) – I was slightly worried about Nino after he scored just two goals and four points total in October, but I was patient and waited and sure enough those silky soft hands of his have come to life and the goals, like the spice, now flow like whoa! I’m a big fan and expect to see him pushing the 30-goal mark by season’s end.
Zach Parise, LW – (2 G, 4 SOG, +2) – If only every player who suffered a concussion came back like this. Zach’s a beast.
Jason Pominville, RW – (3 A, 3 SOG, +3) – Pompoms made the most of the return of Parise to the lineup and cashed in with three helpers. It looks like his days of scoring 25-30 goals are probably coming to an end, but so long as he skates on the top line for the Wild; he’s going to retain solid value.
Marco Scandella, D – (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – He’s not going to give you a ton of points, but PIM, Blocks and some hits give Scandella value in deeper pools. With all the injuries and mumps going around, I’m willing to bet you need a defenseman fill-in or two. He’s worth a look.
Evander Kane, LW – (1 G, 5 SOG, -1) – This tally gives Kane two goals on the year. Wow, that’s awful. He needs to score 28 more and we’ll be cool.
Andrew Ladd, LW – (1 G, 4 SOG, 7 PIM) – Ladd has 12 points in 19 games so far and he’s on pace for 30 goals and 50-plus points. No, you shouldn’t drop him for some schmo on the wire.
Dustin Tokarski, G – (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – Toker provided a respite for starter Carey Price and looked stellar yet again. So long as Price is alive and well in Montreal, however, he’ll remain the understudy and get about a start a week or so.
Jimmy Howard, G – (15 SV, 4 GA, .789%) – Howie had to come back down to earth eventually, and that’s happening now. Petr Mrazek was called back up and I wouldn’t be surprised if he started the next game to give Howie a chance to catch his breath and get back on track.
P.K. Subban, D – (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – There was a mild panic when Subban started slowly, but he’s picking it up and now has 12 points in 18 games. He’s on pace to net over 20 goals and 50-plus points, and while that’s a bit below what most of us expected I’m still confident he can end up in the high 50s.
Tomas Plekanec, C – (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Not since the 2009 season has Plekanec looked this good. After last night’s two-point show he’s on pace for around 65 points and 30 goals. The 30-goal mark is going to be difficult to hit, but it seems at this point 20-plus is a lock.
Al Montoya, G – (W, 33 SV, 2 GA, .943%) – Just like when he was backing up Ondrej Pavelec in Winnipeg there is little to no chance Montoya gets more than 20 starts this year. Roberto Luongo owns the starting job in South Florida and it’s long been known that Montoya can’t handle a starter’s workload.
Brad Boyes, RW – (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – A lot of the youth in Florida are coming up well short of the hopes of both Cats faithful and fantasy owners alike, but Boyes is exceeding expectations on pace for 50 points and 20 goals. Maybe he’s just exceeding my expectations because I expect so little from most Panthers, but you can’t deny a guy who’s going to pot 20 goals for you. He’s worth owning in deeper leagues.
Nick Bjugstad, C – (2 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) – Jugs is one of the guys I mentioned not living up to expectations, but he’s young like most Cats and he showed what he’s capable of last night. I don’t expect him to do much more than score 20 goals this year, but he could at least flirt with that mark by season’s end. Moving forward he has a ton of upside, but this season he’s best left on the wire in most leagues.
Frederik Andersen, G – (L, 11 SV, 4 GA, .733%) – Ach, that’s another bad game for Andersen and it came against the Cats. For shame, Freddy, for shame. It’s easy to forget that he’s only in his second season at the NHL level so, like I always say, there are going to be some ups and downs. This is a down. He’s going to come back up for air sooner than later; he’s too good to not so be patient.
Hampus Lindholm, D – (1 G, 4 SOG, +2) – I haven’t heard Hamper’s name much this season, but that’s because he’s quietly doing nearly exactly what he did last year. That’s a good sign for a young defenseman. His TOI is up about 3 minutes per game over last year and while his offensive numbers are on pace to end up just shy of the 30-point mark he hit in his rookie campaign, he’s developing nicely and is a great keeper option. In two or three years he could be a premiere scoring defenseman in the NHL.
Devan Dubnyk, G – (W, 33 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – I guess the Coyotes are finally getting sick of running Mike Smith out there every game and getting rocked, so they turned to Dubs and he’s repaid their trust with back-to-back solid efforts. In fact, he’s allowed just one goal over these two contests. I don’t think he can maintain this sort of play, but he has to be better than Smith. Who isn’t?
Ben Scrivens, G – (L, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929%) – Oi, poor Scribbles, he holds the opposition to two goals and his team still can’t deliver. I feel as bad for you if you own him as I do for the man himself. That’s pretty bad. Your team is probably pretty bad too, but hey, at least they’re not as bad as the Oilers! Unless they are, then that’s pretty bad.
Mikkel Boedker, LW – (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Everyone was getting all upset about Boedacious’ lack of production after a hot start. I preached patience (What else is new?) and sure enough, if you listened, your newly acquired virtue has paid off. Boedker has four points in his last three games and is on pace for 30-plus goals an around 55-60 points. That’s pretty much exactly where I said he’d end up by season’s end. Don’t drop him because he hits a cold spell. He’s not going to give you a point-per-game, but he is absolutely worth owning in all leagues.
Taylor Hall, LW – (1 G, 5 SOG) – After missing about a month of action with a LBI he returns and pots a goal in his first game back. Nice. He has 11 points in 12 games so far, and that’s not the Taylor Hall I expected, but he didn’t look like he missed any time at all last night so I think it’s safe to assume he’s going to keep cranking away and scoring like whoa. Get him back in your lineups and keep him there.