When Jason Spezza signed with the Stars in the off-season it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars already had two superstars anchoring their top line and they needed someone to take over the second line and make it a respectable unit. Beyond that, the Stars were looking for the last piece that would help tie together what looked like the most dangerous power play unit in the league after he signed. The situation looked even brighter for Spezza after the club added Ales Hemsky, a guy who Spazz clicked with Spazz in a big way in Ottawa late last season and, again, it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars now had the core of a second line and two more key top power play pieces to help catapult them to the next level, perhaps even good enough to make a cup run in 2015. Naturally fantasy owners pounced on Spezza early in drafts looking for a big season on a high octane offense, usually somewhere in the the third, fourth or fifth rounds, but the first half of the 2015 season has been a disaster for Spezza who posted a dismal line of 6/21/27/-8 in 38 games so far and it doesn’t look like the second half is going to be any better.
When you drafted Matt Duchene in the third round this year you were drafting a guy that you expected 70-plus points and 30 goals from and given his history, his team and his expected line mates that those were totally reasonable expectations. Well, 33 games into the 2014-’15 season Duchene has just 10 goals and 10 assists and is on pace for just 50 points and 25 goals by season’s end. Currently riding a four game scoreless streak he’s slowly sinking on a team that is riddled with problems. Nathan MacKinnon has been hit by a serious sophomore slump and isn’t performing nearly up to the high expectations he set for himself after last year’s stellar performance. Gabriel Landeskog is putting up similarly weak numbers and looking just as lost as Jarome Iginla, Semyon Varlamov and Ryan O’Reilly. Lets face it, the Avs are a mess and they aren’t making any great strides to improve their situation as we approach the halfway mark of the season. Usually a dig into the advanced stats will show a star player doing everything right but getting unlucky, so the points should flow anytime, but sadly for Duchene’s owners that just isn’t the case so far this season.
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is a pretty solid GM as far as GMs go. He always manages to pluck these unknown Swedes out of, well, Sweden and the Wings system turns them into legitimate players in fairly short order. This time he set his sights on a gifted Canadian winger out of Longueuil, Quebec by the name of Anthony Mantha and you'd do well to track his progress in the AHL because he has all the tools to be a top six player for the Wings sooner than later. Before he went down with a broken leg in the pre-season Mantha had a shot to crack the Wings’ NHL roster, alas it wasn’t meant to be, yet. Well, he’s healed up now and the 6’5” 206lb scoring threat is healthy and recently made his AHL debut and he set to work right rining the puck off two posts, but didn’t find the back of the net. No worries, he potted his first goal in his second game. That’s going to be a theme for the youngster and it can be argued that he’s one of the best pure goal scorers to come up since Steven Stamkos. Yes, you read that right. He sports a heavy wrister that he can fire off before you even considered he was going to shoot and man, it’s accurate. Beyond his ability to shoot the puck he uses his big frame to force through traffic with general ease and knocking him off the puck is no easy task. He’s proven himself to be a great positional player with outstanding on ice awareness, but there are of course some negatives as with any young player, and the big fella might be a bit too offensively focused leaving his defense as the weakest part of his game. There has also been some criticism that he lacks consistency, but hey, he’s young and nobody’s perfect (except Victor Hedman). Word has it that the Wings would rather he spend his time getting solid minutes with the Griffins than sitting on the bench for the Wings, but considering the fragility of their key top-six forwards (We’re all looking at you, Pavel Datsyuk) I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid gets a shot at big ice this year. While he’s not worth adding outside of deep dynasty leagues for the time being, keep an eye on him because he’s going to be something special. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Former Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau (Yahoo – 31%, ESPN – 53.4%, CBS – 73%) didn’t start the season off well with no points in his first five games but he has come alive recently with nine points in his last six games, sporting a plus-9 rating on the season to boot! He’s little and he’s young, but you have to remember that this is a guy who put up 80 points in 40 games in his final season at Boston College, so the mighty-mini playmaker has skills to spare and it’s quickly translating into success at the NHL level. I don’t think he keeps this torrid pace up, but the Flames look pretty damn solid, a lot more so than anyone really expected going into the season. He plays on a line with Sean Monahan, another guy you should own and I touch on in this post, and gets time on the top power play unit for the Flames so the chances will keep coming so long as Johnny can keep cashing them in. The word is out on CBS and he’s gaining traction fast in ESPN leagues, but of course Yahoo lags behind at just 31% owned. Why must you plague me so, Yahoo league owners? Do you have an aversion to winning or are nearly 70% of teams abandoned already? Get with the program y’all, add this guy yesterday! What’s that I hear? You didn’t get a chance to cash in on Johnny? Well scope out the rest of these guys, maybe you’ll beat the rush:
The Los Angeles Kings are starting to look a little unbalanced. Anze Kopitar (1 SOG) has just three points in eight games. You can never really rely on Dustin Brown (2 SOG) for points and Justin Williams (1 A, 3 SOG) has just two points in eight games. Marian Gaborik did his thing and immediately got hurt and he's still not back. Slava Voynov is suspended indefinitely due to alleged domestic violence issues at home. Despite all that, the Kings are 6-1-1 and sit atop their division. Why? How? That’s 70s Line, that’s how. Jeff Cater (1 G, 3 A, 1 SOG), Tyler Toffoli (1 G, 3 A, 2 SOG), and Tanner Pearson (2 G, 3 SOG, +2) continue to light it up and have carried the Kings so far this season. When I say carried, I mean they pick up the team plane and walk it from city to city on road trips, carry everyone’s bags off the plane and to the hotel, then dress everyone for the game and then win it basically by themselves with a dash of stellar goaltending from Jon Quick (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%). But seriously, this line has accounted for 16 of 21 goals scored by the Kings this season. That’s 76% of the team’s total offense. They combined for 10 points last night and 33 points (16 G, 17A) and a plus-32 rating over the last seven games. That’s obviously not sustainable for the Kings and this torrid pace has to slow for That 70s Line, especially for Pearson and Toffoli, both of whom are more likely to finish around 50 points rather than the 90+ they’re on pace for. If ever there was a time to sell high, this is it. You can probably flip any guy on this line for a King’s ransom, so try floating some offers out there and see what you can get. You never know, you might end up with a killer package in return and when the other shoe drops and this line comes back down to earth, you’ll be laughing all the way to a playoff berth. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey this weekend:
Mathieu Perreault (1 G, 2 SOG, even) is Anahiem’s version of Martin St. Louis, the only difference is Perreault is actually scoring! It wasn’t always so, though. Maty, not to be confused with Marty, was playing really well to start the season with 11 points in 13 October games but then fell completely off the map for a few months scoring just 8 points over his next 23 games. Then January rolled around he put up 9 points in 11 games. Now this month he’s got six points in seven games and has scored a point in six straight. I’ve mentioned Perreault a few times this season and that’s because I really like the guy. Right now he’s penciled in as the Ducks’ second line center with Patrick Maroon and Kyle Palmieri on his wings and while those names may not overwhelm you to the point that you rush to the wire to add Perreault, they do have some solid chemistry going and Maty is starting to see some time with the Ducks’ second powerplay unit while averaging around 16 minutes TOI a game lately. The smooth skating, shifty playmaker has some solid offensive upside, plays for the Ducks and is scoring right now, so do you need another reason to add him to help keep your title hopes alive? I sure hope not, because you’re playing the wrong game if you do. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
When John Tavares blew out his knee in Sochi the fantasy hockey gods mocked us and Kyle Okposo (3 A, 3 SOG, +1) might have died a little inside. We all knew that Thomas Vanek was on his way out the door after he turned down a sizeable, long term deal from the Isles and when he was shipped to the Habs at the deadline Okie and his owners had to wonder what the hell he’d be doing for the rest of the season and who he’d be doing it with. Well, wonder no longer because he’s doing what he’s been doing and that’s scoring mad points y’all! I said trade him if you can when Tavares went down and at this point I still stand by that, but I assumed he’d dip below a point-per-game pace at best, not flirt with maintaining it. His new look like wouldn’t raise any eyebrows on paper, but on the ice it seems there’s some serious chemistry between Okie, rookie Anders Lee (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) and veteran Frans Neilsen (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +1) as they lead the way in a 7-4 whoopin’ of the Canucks. I mentioned Lee yesterday but he’s worth expanding on today because the kid just keeps on scoring, and if he’s going to spend time with Okie, that’s probably going to continue. The kid is big, mobile and fast for his size with a long reach, a big shot and a ton of grit n’ determination, Lee can also deliver some monster hits, works well along the boards and drives hard to the net. He knows how to score and does so often, don’t believe me? So far Lee has seven points in seven games played with five goals to his name. Playing with Okie and Frans is going to give him a real opportunity to keep that roll going, so grab him where you can for the playoffs! It’s guys like Lee on tears like this that win leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
When Ben Scrivens (0 GA, 59 SV, W) was traded to the Oilers a lot of Oil fans rejoiced, and why not? Ilya Bryzgalov had been recently signed but almost immediately hurt after Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin rang his bell and sent him to IR and Devan Dubnyk had long been a bleh option for them. I didn’t think this did much for the Oil in the short term given the ease with which Martin Jones displaced Scribbles before Jon Quick returned in L.A., and because the Oiler defense is one of the worst in the league. Last night they proved that was still the case allowing 59 shots to reach Scribbles, who amazingly pushed every last shot aside to shut the Sharks out 3-0. Today people are going wild over Scrivens and I swear I’ve heard some chants of “Scrivezina! Scrivezina!” quietly rolling over the Canadian tundra from Edmonton. When I look at what happened last night I see the fact that the Oiler D allowed 59 shots on goal as the real indicator of what’s going to happen moving forward for Scribbles than his ability to stop them all. How often is that really going to happen? And by “that” I mean both the fact that he faced that many shots and stopped that many? Well, if the Oiler D is any indication, he’ll be facing tons of shots a lot more often than he can stop most of them. Broken down further, the Sharks launched 100 shots last night. 59 made it on net, 22 were blocked and the rest missed. Still, I have to give Scribbles his props; he was absolutely amazing all game and he deserves credit for his performance. Before last night the previous record for most shots against in a shutout belonged to Mike Smith, who pushed away 54 in 2011-12 for a 2-0 win vs. the Blue Jackets. Scribbles shut down the Sharks, there’s a big difference there. Dominik Hašek holds the record for more stops in a playoff game with a whopping 70, but that game went to four OTs, more than double the length of Scribbles’ insane game. So what does this mean for fantasy owners? Nothing. You should still avoid the Edmonton goalies because, uhm, their D allowed 59 shots on goal! Come on! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Ryane Clowe (1 A, 0 SOG, -2) had some pretty solid seasons as a member of the San Jose Sharks from 2008 to 2012 and after getting dealt to the Rangers last year because there was just no room for him on the Sharks, he signed a $24 million deal with the Devils. His first five or six games this season were just awful, and then rookie defenseman Jacob Trouba elbowed him in the head and he fell like a sack o' potatoes. After missing the last two-and-a-half months with a concussion he's returned with a vengeance quickly establishing himself as an important cog in a seemingly rejuvenated Devils offense for the second half of the season. He's everywhere out there right now; clearing space, getting shots on goal, creating offensive chances where earlier in the season the Devils couldn't buy an opportunity and what's more, he's scoring consistently since returning from injury with 10 points in his last 10 games. While I don't expect he can keep that pace up, the Devils brought him in to win battles and help generate offense and it appears that's exactly what he's doing while healthy. Even on nights where the Devils have struggled (like last night) he still manages to look good out there with line-mates Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder. While most owners probably hoped he'd see more time on the top line with Jaromir Jagr, he seems to be doing just fine on what appears to be New Jersey's new second line so don't hope to fix what isn't broken. By this point in the season the wire is pretty thin getting thinner making finding fresh legs almost impossible so that gives Clowe a bit more value than he might otherwise have had at this point in the season. That being said, 10 points in his last 10 games, are you going to ignore that? Well, you go right ahead, but the rest of us are paying attention. While everyone else is going to be digging deep after the Olympic break Clowe is going to be churning on fresh legs and that could help him score more and you win more. He's not sexy, he's not fast, he's not going to wow you, but when other guys are slowing and getting hurt when you need them the most, Clowe is likely to be happy, healthy and fairly productive. Would you buy that for a dollar? Doesn't matter! Clowe's probably out there for free, so cash in now y'all! Anyway, here's what else I saw last night in the world o' fantasy hockey:
Like I’ve said a few times, I’m usually cautious with young Russians. They tend to dominate overseas, come to the NHL over confident and get spanked. Well, Vladimir Tarasenko (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) is a bit different, and he’s something special. Yet another weapon in the deep quiver of the St. Louis Blues, the 23 year old Russian winger has points in four straight with six points (2 G, 4 A) over that span. What’s more, he’s on pace for around 30 goals and 50-plus points by season’s end. That’s a very nice rookie year for a kid who is considered the best Russian talent of the 2010 draft, who after solving some contract issues with his father’s team in the KHL, has come over to the NHL and made an immediate impact. He has incredible hands, as is often the case with these dynamic young Russians, a lightening quick release and a good nose for the back of the net. He uses quick bursts of speed to get into position to either score or help create opportunities, so he isn’t one dimensional in the offensive zone either. Considering he’s been playing professional hockey since the ripe old age of just 16, he’s more ready than most kids his age to adapt to the speed and physicality of the game at the NHL level, and it’s showing. Given all that, I’m happy to throw caution to the wind and get on the Tarasenko express! He should be owned in every keeper league and warrants consideration in deeper standard formats as well. Come next season, everyone will be talking about this kid. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: