I certainly didn't think I'd be writing about Peter Budaj at any point this year. After all, he played in a whopping one game over the past two seasons combined. Alas, we're here in December with Budaj being a major talking point of the NHL season. After Jonathan Quick went down, the expectation was that offseason signing Jeff Zatkoff would get the majority of the starts but when he went down as well, Budaj stepped in and has kept the job. He had arguably his best two performances over the weekend. Budaj posted a 39 save shutout in the 1-0 OT win over the Penguins before making 29 saves on 30 shots in the 1-0 loss in Boston. Budaj is currently #12 in the ESPN player rater among goalies making him a bottom end #1 or elite #2. With the news that Quick is going to be out until at least March, it's Budaj's job going forward. Despite that, Budaj is still available in over 40% of leagues. Can I explain it? No, not one bit. If you don't already own him and he's available in your league, grab Budaj. Let's take a look at everything that happened around the league the last three nights:
Kyle Okposo is a player that tends to get overlooked despite becoming an elite scorer in the NHL. In his last 3 seasons with the Islanders, Okposo played well over a 60 point pace per 82 games including 2013-14 when he had 69 points in 71 games. Even now that he's in Buffalo, Okposo is still looked at as a complimentary piece even though he's a bonafide first liner. In Tuesday night's 6-3 win over the Kings, Okposo moved onto Jack Eichel's wing and immediately delivered with three assists and a shot. That gives Okposo 21 points in 27 games with elite power play points and strong shots. Yes, the penalty minutes have dried up for now, but with how well he possesses the puck plus his scoring prowess, Okposo is on his way to another 60+ point season. Even if the penalty minutes don't come back, he's looking at another top 100 overall fantasy season. Pretty, pretty good . Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
Holy smokes, over 5000 words! This is quite the recap of the last 5 days of hockey. I had a introduction all set to go around Milan Lucic but I had to erase it and give the lede to Michael Cammalleri. Cammalleri mysteriously missed six games in a row before returning on Wednesday night. It turns out that his 5 year old daughter Chloe had severe pneumonia which eventually required surgery. On this Thanksgiving weekend, we're thankful that she's going to make a full recovery. Dad returned and had a three game stretch for the ages. He started with a remarkable goal and three assists with 9 SOG in the 5-4 shootout win over Toronto. Cammy followed it up totaling a goal, assist, four shots and two PIM in the 5-4 loss to Detroit before scoring 2 goals on 4 shots in the 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. Just a measly 8 points in 3 games, no big deal. He's almost back to a point per game (just like last season) with three shots per game and solid penalty minutes. Cammalleri is still available in over 50% of leagues and to be blunt, that's a huge mistake. If you're in one of those leagues, go grab him now. Here's a look at the last five days around the league. I'm going to go through day by day but in the format most people like; just note that a player may be mentioned multiple times.
First off, I'd just like to apologize to everyone for not having daily notes on Monday morning. I wasn't feeling too well Sunday night; one minute I'm watching the beginning of the Seahawks game and the next thing I know it's 10 AM! Thankfully there was only one game on Monday night so it wasn't the end of the world. Anyways, Sebastian Aho scored his first two NHL goals on Saturday and added an assist in Carolina's 5-1 win over the Capitals. That brings Aho's totals to 2+7 in 14 games which is great for the 19 year old. Unfortunately, that's accompanied by exactly 2 shots per game and only 2 PIM on the season. Add in the fact that the minutes are low (12:13 in this one) and I don't think you can hold onto Aho in standard 12'ers. That said, he's going to remain a great streamer for assists and is a Razzball favorite for dynasties. Let's take a look at what happened over the weekend plus the one Monday night game.
Yikes. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of the Vancouver Canucks. After years of making the playoffs and being one game away from a Stanley Cup, the Canucks are starting a rebuild. Granted, they still have a very good first line but otherwise the roster is full of young guys and players who aren't fantasy relevant. My early pick to finish last in the NHL, there are no teams in the league with fewer fantasy assets than the Canucks. That said, there are still some guys worthy of being drafted in standard leagues so let's take a look at what they're working with:
For the past week plus, every time that the Blues played I bring up a solid performance from Colton Parayko.  His role was increased with the injury to Kevin Shattenkirk and he's run with it ever since.  Yesterday, he scored another goal getting an absurd 10 shots on goal with 2 blocked shots.  Shattenkirk is going to be back soon but Parayko has solidified himself as a top 4 option on the blueline with power play skills.  Again, go grab him where you can. Here's what else happened the last two nights:
I’ve been weaving a theme through most of my posts over the last week or so and today isn’t the day to try something new because baby, my words of wisdom are still hella applicable in a big way. What's that maxim everyone? It doesn’t matter what’s happened to this point in the season, it only matter what’s happening right now. What's happening right now is two guys who haven't done a ton on offense this season are blowing up, and who helps you win your league title? Those guys, that's who. So who are those guys? Brandon Pirri, C (1 G, 10 SOG) and Justin Abdelkader, RW (2 PIM, 2 SOG, +1) are those guys and they're both putting the biscuit in the basket at a high rate lately, didn't you know? Well, now you do. You might go to the wire to add either, see their overall offensive numbers for the season and shy away, but you’d do yourself and your chances of winning a serious disservice if you do.
By the end of October it looked as if the opportunities for Alex Stalock to carve out the 40 or so starts I predicted he’d get this season were dwindling fast. Antti Niemi (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) was rolling strong on five straight starts, it seemed like the deal was sealed and Stalock would have to wait until next year to get his chance. Luckily for us Stalock owners, Niemi has provided ample opportunity once again for Alex to get back in the picture. Last night’s loss marks three in a row and four of his last five for Niemi who now owns a yawnstipating 6-5-1/2.79/.911% season line. Those numbers look like they belong to Ondrej Pavelec, and before this season that would be a grevious insult, but hey even Pavelec is looking better than Niemi this year. I digress, I was never a huge fan of Niemi’s so this doesn’t surprise me one bit. Alex Stalock is the goalie of the future in San Jose and despite some early struggles in limited work (that game against the Sabres haunts me still) I still believe he’s going to get his starts and Niemi may not even finish the season as the Sharks’ starter. During his current losing streak Niemi has coughed up 15 goals and the Sharks have lost four of those five contests. By contrast, Stalock sports a 2-2-1/2.38/.925% line is looking a hell of a lot better than what Niemi has offered up despite the fact that it has been built over seven fewer games. Stalock was supposed to start last night against the Cats but at the last minute the call was made to start Niemi. Bad call, San Jose. Lets get with the program and get Stalock so more starts, eh? If he’s healthy and he performs well in his next few games I’d say Stalock would be well on his way to making this thing a fight again. If that’s the case, he’s worth adding. If you still own him, hold him for now. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
What is it with Russians named Evgeny? Is there some sort of magic in the name? Maybe it’s the Vodka? Either way, Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 2 SOG, even) has arrived and y’all best take notice as the kid has four points in his last two games and now plays on the second line for the Caps alongside Casey Wellman and Troy Brouwer. I know, those names don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of their opponents but when you consider he just left the fourth line with Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle, it starts to sound a lot better, right? Either way, the initial chemistry Evgeny has with his teammates can’t be denied after back-to-back solid games on his new line. What’s better, he’s getting time on the Caps’ second power play unit and saw time with Alex Ovechkin. The only limit on Kuzentsov is Kuzentsov, and like many young Russians he’s passionate and highly skilled but who knows what that translates to over time. His weakness as defensive liability can cost him TOI at times, but most young offensively minded players suffer there and he’s improving steadily. His playmaking skills, however, are on par with Nicklas Backstrom’s (sans the PEDs, err, allergy meds!) and his wicked fake-slapper, slap-pass to Tom Wilson for a goal a few days ago against the Stars is evidence of that. He's wildly creative with the puck, has soft hands, great vision and is an all around offensive force. He lacks strength, but that's something he can improve on over time. It’s crunch time and there’s no reason to overthink snatching up a guy like Kuznetsov, so go get while the gettin’s good! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
We the fantasy playoffs starting next week for most of us it's time to make those last grabs before the dance that make all the difference. Over the last week I've been pushing Anders Lee and I'll continue to do so, but if you can't get on board with Lee because he plays for the Isles (I understand, we all do) you might find some love for Bs rookie  Carl Soderberg (1 G, 3 SOG, +1), or at least I think you should. Soderberg is another one of the many talented young Swedes flooding in to the league in recent years and like many of his countrymen, he's pretty damn solid! He's been labeled "explosive" by many and when you watch him play it's pretty clear that's accurate. He can do just about anything you want in the offensive zone and baby, we want it all! Carl can shoot, pass, skate and chew gum, rub his stomach and pat himself on the head all at the same time! He's a big, strong guy that moves like greased lightning with a puck taped to its stick and frankly, I'm bullish on him for next year's drafts. Overall this season he's been limited by limited playing time, but lately he's getting it done with five points over his last four games. This isn't a wholly recent phenomenon for the rookie who has been putting it home fairly often over the last month and change with 11 points over his last 12 games. So that begs the question, who do you have on your bench that’s scoring like that recently? If you’re just starting blankly at screen trying to come up with an answer the answer is probably no one, so stop drooling and staring blankly, you look ridiculous. Soderberg is owned in just ~15% of ESPN leagues and %9 of Yahoo leagues he's an easily obtainable commodity, so if you're wondering how you're going to shore up your bench for the playoffs, consider Carl! Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey last night: