This past offseason there was plenty of intrigue and surprises to go around for everyone; however, the biggest fantasy news and most intriguing of all surprises was Phil Kessel getting traded to Pittsburgh. The rich got richer, and the immediate benefactor of Toronto ridding itself of its "problem children" is the Penguins' power play unit. It was only 8th in the NHL last season with a 19.3% conversion rate, but that was a down year in the Steel City after finishing in the top position the previous year. This could be a flashback from the 2000-01 Penguins team, which had five of the top 29 league scorers with Mario Lemieux at #29 tallying (76) points and (16) power play goals in 43 games. Go ahead and get 76 points in today's game and you'll get $8 million per season for your troubles. That first power play unit consisted of Mario, Jagr, Kovalev, Martin Straka and Robert Lang. While the thought of this year's version has me at half mast already, the proof will be in the pudding or net. With all the options available to head coach Mike Johnston, he has to be tent pitching as well, while opposing coaches are having nightmares on trying to figure out how to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz and a healthy Kris Letang as a possible power play unit one, if they stay healthy for once. That was the Penguins' Achilles Heal last year, man games lost, but a return of Pascal Dupris from blood clots, a healthy Patric Hornqvist and steady David Perron makes this one very skilled and very scary team. Anyway let's get to the business of my 2015-16 Fantasy Hockey Top 12.
Hello, everyone! It’s LackeyDrinksOnMe! This is a column dedicated to week-long streaming opportunities. Some days have only a few teams going, and rather than picking up players for a single night I’ve identified teams that are playing on those short-slate days and some players you can grab, who will be able to give you an extra three or four starts every week. More players on the ice means more opportunities for counting stats and the chance to take your matchup.
We are in the stretch run of the fantasy hockey season and there's some exciting action in the RCLs. Let's take a quick look at who is at the top of each league as they battle it out for the title in each individual league and then the overall RCL champion:
At this point in the season the wire has been picked clean and then picked clean again like so many bones days after Thanksgiving. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and an owner who dumped some key guys who had no games remaining last week but lost so they’re still sitting there for you to bolster your roster with in the championship round, but normally there isn’t much to work with. Given that, the emergency recall of high scoring prospect Stanislav Galiev might be worth your attention. A former third round pick in 2010, Galiev posted 45 points (25 G, 20 A) in 64 games with the Hersey Bears this season and gets a chance late this season due to the mounting injury woes the playoff bound Caps are facing. They’ll want to rest some of their key guys and that gives Galiev a chance to play a couple games on big ice. You can’t expect a ton from the kid given his past struggles; he bounced back and fourth between the ECHL and AHL in two seasons prior to his successful campaign this year, so he hasn’t exactly torn it up and skyrocketed to big ice as a result, but like I said to open this little blurb, it’s slim pickings right now and you can expect Galiev to get decent minutes and maybe pot a goal or two over the next two games and at this point in the season that can make all the difference. If you’re in a deep league he’s absolutely worth streaming. If you’re in a more shallow league I might hold off, but not too long as the Caps only play two more games this week and if you’re going to get anything from this kid you’ll need both games to make it worth your while. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Through nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres Drew Stafford has mostly been a yawnstipating, forgettable skater that shows intermittent flashes of solid play but quickly regresses to his usual bleh. He did have a couple 20-goal seasons and even a 30-goal year back in 2010 when he potted 31 goals in just 62 games and it seemed like he might be poised to take a step to the next level. Alas, he never did and the Sabres didn’t help much by getting worse and worse until they hit rock bottom in 2014. Luckily for Staff he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in the Great Tank for McDavid campaign and with 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in his last 11 games he’s playing at a level that he may never have achieved before on big ice.
Yesterday I wrote at length about the possibility that Henrik Lundqvist was poised to miss significant time with a mysterious neck injury that the Rangers were saying very little about. They didn’t have much to say about it this morning, either, other than the fact that Hank is out for at least a month, perhaps longer. The exact nature of the injury has not been disclosed and honestly, I wouldn’t expect to hear much about it for at least a few more days. All that is known is Hank did not develop a blood clot, suffer nerve damage or, despite the reports of intermittent headaches, he is not suffering from post-concussion syndrome either. This changes everything for the Rangers and Lundqvist fantasy owners. It goes without saying that Cam Talbot is now a must add everywhere as he is now the undisputed starter for the high powered Rangers with the 20-year-old, unfortunately named and wholly unproven MacKenzie Skapski getting recalled from the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL to serve as Tablot’s backup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were in search of a steady hand to back up their new star netminder Ben Bishop and when they signed Evgeni Nabokov to handle the duties it seemed like a good call at a bargain basement price. Really, what could go wrong? Nabby could go wrong and man alive did he go wrong. In 11 games and nine starts this season he posted a record of 3-6-2 to go with a 3.14 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage. Ugh, gross. I think I should shower now. Anyway, in a move that was only surprising because it took so long, the Bolts sent Nabby packing and recalled stud prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy from the Syracuse Crunch. Despite the promotion Big Ben retains full control of the Tampa crease moving forward, but he has been shaky at times this season and could definitely benefit from some rest moving forward. Enter Vas, who now becomes one of the more valuable backups in fantasy hockey for the remainder of the season.
Marred by injuries and a general inability to put the biscuit in the basket the first half of the 2015 season has been a huge disappointment for the Boston Bruins, but all that may be changing with the arrival of their newest weapon David Pastrnak, RW (2 G, 7 SOG, +4). They call him Pasta but he should be called butter because he’s on a roll (R.I.P Stuart Scott, you will be missed.) with five points (4 G, 1 A) in his first eight games on big ice including back-to-back two goal games. Not only that, the Bruins have one all three games that Pasta has suited up and he has a plus-5 rating over that span. It sure seems like the Bs have found their spark, but given the kid is just 18-years-old and he’s about to burn a year of his entry-level contract, fantasy owners and the Boston brass alike aren’t entirely sure what to do with him. Luckily for you, dear readers, I do! Pick him up, now.
Johan Franzen can’t go very long without getting hurt and he kept the streak alive last night after hitting the IR with what the Wings are calling an “upper-body issue.” An issue? Like he has emotional baggage from his childhood issue? It’s an injury, call it what it is. Does calling it an “issue” make it seem less severe? Even if it did, why bother? Franzen’s 22 points in 33 games aren’t exactly bringing the house down, eh? Anyway, the point of this anti-Franzen rant is that his absence frees up an opportunity for AHL goals leader Teemu Pulkkinen and his cannon of a shot to get a chance on big ice and it will be exciting to see what he can do.
Kris Versteeg did his best impression of Dan Boyle the other night and blocked an Eric Fehr shot with his hand. It didn’t work and predictably his hand is broken. Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s doubtful that the injury will require surgery, so that’s good, but Steeg is down for a month or so. That’s bad. Despite the recent slow down in production, Steeg hits the IR third in points for the Hawks with 27 in 34 games played. He was on pace for 65 points, 20 goals and a plus-32 and considering his 10.8% shooting percentage is right in line with his career average of 11.5%, it’s a safe bet that he’d have hit all those marks. All this from a guy you likely picked up for nothing. Sadface. There’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, though, and his name is Teuvo Teräväinen.