Dustin Byfuglien started at forward, shifted to defense and now it looks like he’s back at forward for the foreseeable future again. Leafs sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) has taken the opposite path, having shifted from wing to defense, but lets hope the comparison stops there and the back and forth that the Jets are forcing on Buff doesn’t end up happening to Gardiner. Regardless of what might happen, it was a good call to shift Gardiner because before the move he was a middle-tier forward at best, but on the blue line he’s got some serious offensive upside. What’s that sound I hear? The ring rang o’ the cash register, because this kid’s going to be money for fantasy owners very soon. Of course the big question is how quickly can he adapt to the new position at the NHL level? The answer is quickly! Even better, he already has! It helps that he was a good two-way forward to start, so he already had solid defensive chops or this experiment would likely have never taken place this late in a guy’s career, even though his NHL career has basically just started. But I digress, Gardiner is adapting quite well to his new role as evidenced by a solid rookie campaign back in 2011-12 when he put up 30 points (7 G, 23 A, -2) in 80 games. So far this season he has 16 points in 49 games and sits even with plus/minus. Not bad at all! When you project out over 80 games he’s looking at 26 points powered by seven goals, which is actually slightly lower than what he put up as a rookie, though I think he’ll have a minor surge sometime in the second half that gets his points total over his rookie season benchmark. The bottom line is this kid is good and getting better and he could be a top-four defenseman as early as next season, so if you are looking to plan ahead for your keeper league consider keeping Jake the Snake in your plans. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Philipp Grubauer was sent back down to the AHL yesterday in a surprise move from the Caps that solves their logjam at goalie, anyway. After a really nice stretch after making his NHL debut this season Grubi’s wheels started to come off over the past week and Braden Holtby had to come in to clean up the mess a few times. Caps head coach Adam Oates said that those games weren’t really Grubi’s fault, but if that’s true why exactly was he yanked from both then sent down to the minors shortly after? It probably has more to do with solving their roster problems and not making the same mistakes they made with other young netminders in the past. Grubi will avoid having his confidence trashed getting lit up in the NHL and Holtby gets a chance to reestablish himself as the no. 1 goalie he showed he can be. It works out well for the Caps, but it leaves fantasy owners scrambling. With Grubi gone Holtby is the likely no. 1 but it’s anyone’s crease in Washington right now. I’d add Holtby first, then Michal Neuvirth, and not expect much from either. But hey, we can hope, right?
Petr Mrazek (1 GA, 13 SV, L) came in to spell the newly injured Jimmy Howard after Howard re-injured his knee. Jonas Gustavsson will be the starter in Howard’s absence and is slated to start tomorrow’s game coming off the IR. That being said, the Monster was having some issues before going down with his own LBI, so if he falters out of the gate, Howard misses significant time and Mrazek shines, you know what to do.
Alexander Steen (2 A, 7 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) looked pretty damn solid out there last night with seven shots on goal and two helpers tallied in his second game back from a long stint on the IR with a concussion. This is a great sign for Steen who was producing at a ridiculous rate before going down with the injury. I’d like to say you can expect him to return to form and crank out a point-per-game, but I was hard pressed to think he would do that before this injury and I’m in the same place since his return. If he strings together a bad week or two, start considering him for a trade before the deadlines while you can still get good value.
Roman Josi (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +3) had a goal and an assist for the second straight game and now has six points in his last four games. His plus/minus is terrible, but he’s scoring, so if you need some points from your fourth D-man, Josi could definitely help!
Matt Read (2 G, 3 SOG, +2) is having a down sophomore year, but everyone on the Flyers has been having a down year so before this point it was hard to say whether Read was just suffering from his team’s woes or his own. Given that he has nine points in his last 11 games while the Flyers, as a team, get back on track, I feel safe saying Read wasn’t the problem. Hell, Wayne Simmonds is scoring like mad right now, and if that isn’t an indication that your team is on an upswing, I don’t know what is.
Wayne Simmonds (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) just keeps on scoring and is now on pace for 28 goals and 61 points. I think he’ll hit both those marks, or pretty damn close to it. You know, looking at his projected season line of 28 G, 33 A, 61 PTS, -2, 126 PIM I can’t help but think this is what we all expected from Evander Kane. If you haven’t gathered, that’s very valuable, so add Simmonds wherever he’s available.
Joe Pavelski (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) has six goals in his last three games. He’s got a hatty in there, a few game winners, some power play goals, goals he helped your mom score and a few goals for Joe Thornton, because he doesn’t have many and Pavelski has a soft spot for guys named Joe.
Shea Weber (1 G, 3 SOG, +3) will score his 50 points this year but the Preds are so bad he might do it with a minus-21 attached. Ouch!
Brad Marchand (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) is doing his best Joe Pavelski impression with six of his own goals in his last four games. Pavelski could score 50 goals; Marchand will be lucky to top 30.
Dmitry Kulikov (1 G, 2 SOG, +4) has goals in back-to-back games but he plays for the Panthers and hasn’t ever done a ton before this anyway, so don’t get suckered, avoid this schmo.
Phil Kessel (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +1) posted 13 points in 14 games in December, not bad! He’s put up 13 points in 11 games so far this month, even better! That’s powered by 10 points in his last five games (3 G, 7 A) and he seems to have settled in quite nicely with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak on the Leafs’ top line.
Drew Shore (2 G, 2 SOG, +2) is more of a two-way guy than anything else, though he does have some decent offensive upside with good hands and an accurate shot. He’s not worth owning this year though he may develop into a guy to own in deeper leagues over the next few years.
Kevin Shattenkirk (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) quietly remains on pace for a 60 point season. How exactly does a defenseman have a “quiet” 60-point season? Well, have you seen what the rest of his team are doing? He’s not even the best fantasy defenseman on his own team!
Nazem Kadri (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) started the season with very high expectations after a stellar, albeit lockout shortened campaign last year. He’s been making up for that blech play with a stellar start to the second half after he was pushed down off the JVR/Kessel line. If his owners got sick of waiting and he’s available, grab him.
Patrice Bergeron (2 A, 1 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) stretched his points streak to four games and he has three two point games mixed in there to boot! He swears he’s going to make a fool out of me and score 60 points this season, but I still don’t buy it, not even for a dollar.
Kyle Okposo (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, even, 7 PIM) still hasn’t settled down since his Sochi snub riled up him up something severe and he started scoring points like it was going out of style.
Sean Couturier (1 A, 3 SOG, +2) might be worth something next year in deep keeper leagues, but he remains without worth, or “worthless” if you’re in an insulting mood. Anyway, stop being so worthless, Couturier!
Jonathan Bernier (2 GA, 39 SV, W) won his fourth straight start and continues to defy logic standing up to a ridiculous amount of shots and not getting worn down doing it. I’m afraid he’ll hit a wall and his numbers will fall off the table fast, but until then he’s shown himself to be an excellent goaltender worthy of the no. 1 job just about anywhere.
Jaroslav Halak (1 GA, 22 SV, W) is probably definitely the best goalie in St. Louis.
Ray Emery (3 GA, 40 SV, L) is awful, just awful. Holtby owners can thank this schmuck for Holtby’s crisis of confidence that has lead to his rough year this season. That’s Emery’s only contribution to fantasy hockey.
Roman Polak (1 A, 5 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) is Czech, not Polish. Go figure! Either way his value is nil. Still, I saw the name on the scoring sheet for this game and thought, “If this guy is Polish he has a really funny last name.” But he’s not, so it isn’t. Sadface.
Antoine Vermette (1 G, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) had a nice run to start the season and I bet he was streamed by many a team (including one of mine) but has since returned to his normal, e.g. not, scoring ways. He won’t top 50 points this season and that’s not a surprise.
Barret Jackman (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) is still alive? And playing hockey? Professionally? You could have fooled me, what with his non-existence on the scoring sheet more often than not. Jackman might have good value in the real hockey world, but in fantasy world? Meh, blech.
Nick Bjugstad (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) is yet another young hockey player with some promise stuck down in the hockey hell of South Florida. Is Florida’s roster entirely made up of first and second year players or what? Either way, Bjugstad has some decent upside though he’s not worth owning this season. Moving forward he’s a physically dominant, good skating, scoring center with a big shot that won’t be a defensive liability. He could do some real damage in the NHL, but probably not until he leaves the Panthers for slicker ice.
Scott Clemmensen (1 GA, 35 SV, W) was given his first start in nine days and did what he did the last time he was asked to tend net, he let in one goal and won the game. Tim Thomas has been solid so don’t expect Clemm to get much action moving forward. It’s not like anyone hopes for that, because if you are your team is likely in a world of hurt right now.
Carter Hutton (1 GA, 35 SV, W) won his third straight game and looked pretty good doing it, but it doesn’t matter because Pekka Rinne is getting close to returning. The only question about the goalie situation in Nashville that anyone should be asking is “Who will Rinne’s backup be?” and you can bet your bottom dollah it’s going to be Devan Dubnyk.
Chad Johnson (2 GA, 21 SV, W) got the win giving Tuukka Rask a bit of a rest. Rask has hit a rough patch (for him) and it’s giving the Bs a chance to let Johnson get some starts in and he’s making good on his chances. This mostly has to do with keeping Niklas Svedberg at bay in the AHL, and with more performances like this, Johnson will continue to do just that.
Anders Nilsson (3 GA, 26 SV, W) won, but does it really matter? You shouldn’t own any Isles goalie at this point. Nabokov has name value so he might entice me if I was really desperate, but his injury woes make his value almost nil and the rest of this motley crew is blech. You’d think Isles GM Garth Snow would be better at building a better goalie corps than this, but alas, not.