If you've been following along with me all year, or at least the last month, you know how much I like Mark Scheifele. The 22 year old was having an excellent start to the year until an injury sidelined him for 11 games. He came back and started well only to take off when he moved up to the first line in the wake of Bryan Little's injury. Scheifele is in the midst of his best stretch to date. After his two goal performance on Thursday, Scheifele topped it with his first career hat trick on four shots in the 4-2 win over Montreal on Saturday. He then scored a goal on five shots in the 2-1 defeat against the Oilers. Scheifele now has 21 goals and 20 assists in 54 games with an excellent plus-minus, solid PIM and a near-elite shot rate. Scheifele is conservatively a top 50 player for the rest of this season and going forward. As I've said before, I want him on all of my teams next year. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend:
It seems like every season there’s one or two breakout goalies that can help make the difference between winning and losing when it counts the most. This season is no exception, and though John Gibson’s strong play is a surprise to no one, Andrew Hammond, G (L, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) has been a revelation. Though the two net minders couldn’t be more different; Gibson with his blue chip pedigree and ceiling as high as the sky and Hammond, a 27-year-old no-name never-has-been with a ceiling about as high as my living room’s, both goalies have been hot enough to earn the right to split time with their respective team’s starters making them both most owns in virtually every league. 
The Leafs are in the midst of their traditional mid-to-end-of-season collapse and it’s a surprise to exactly no one. Oh, you’re surprised? Were you also surprised that the sun came up this morning? Because baby, this is like clockwork for the Leafs. Looking at the team on paper coming into the season you figured they had to have a chance to be better than they were last season, perhaps even avoid the slump they’re in right now. Yeah, not so much, eh? Well, despite their perennial struggles you can’t lose hope yet and jettison James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 G, 8 SOG, +1), Tyler Bozak, C (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) or Phil Kessel, RW (zip, zilch, nada) for pennies on the dollar, because the upside is just much too high there and sooner or later they’re going to rebound and start producing again.
Going into the season Sergei Bobrovsky, G (L, 9 SV, 3 GA, .750%) was one of the most sought after fantasy asset in goal and for good reason, the former Vezina winner was coming off of two straight fantastic years for less than stellar teams and at just 26 years old and entering his fifth year on big ice all the stars seemed like up not only for Bob to maintain his Vezina quality play but for the Blue Jackets to step up to his level, too. So far this season that hasn’t happened and yesterday everything went from bad to worse for Bob as he suffered an apparent LBI making a routine save in the first. There’s no word as to the extent or severity of the injury, but he needed to be helped off the ice after staying on all fours for a few minutes and from the looks of it it’s going to be a groin thing, and he might be out for a while.
So for the past week your boy JD has been felled by some seriously ebola level flu and I apologize for the lapse in updates, but damnit I was nearly on my deathbed. Not really, but it sucked like Craig Anderson trying to tend net, so I demand your sympathy and understanding. Since I’m demanding it, I suppose I should offer some sympathy and understanding to Ben Bishop (W, 17 SV, 3 GA, .850%) but my patience is starting to run a bit thin. Yes, the clock struck three on Big Ben again and his numbers continue to slide ever so slowly towards the bleh end of the spectrum. After last night he's sitting at a mediocre 9-1-1 / 2.44 / .910%. That’s not terrible, yet, but it’s slowly getting there and despite the sparkling record Bishop has allowed three goals in six of his last eight starts. The other two games he allowed two goals a pop. That’s not what you expect from your number one goalie and a guy expected to be a top five option in the crease for fantasy owners this year. If there’s a positive spin to this it’s that he hasn’t allowed more than three goals all year, but that’s little solace at the moment for his owners in roto leagues who are watching their ratios get rocked slowly but surely. The Bolts allow just 27.4 shots per game, so this isn’t a defensive problem, it’s a Bishop problem and he needs to solve it soon. I haven’t seen any signs of his surgically repaired wrist being the issue here, so lets just think happy thoughts (serenity now!) and expect that there are better days ahead for the young tender. If nothing else, he has absolutely no risk of losing his starting job with the woeful Evgeni Nabokov backing him up. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
With the news that Thomas Vanek told Garth Snow “It’s not you, it’s me” when he declined an offer in the ballpark of 7 years, $50 million it has become very apparent that the Isles have no choice but to trade the pending UFA who, in all honesty, everyone knew would always test the market at season’s end. Now Vanek is back on the market and amusingly, Buffalo’s Matt Moulson is a hot commodity and the Sabres are fielding offers for him as well. Both guys are likely to end up with a contender if they go anywhere, and for Vanek I think the production stays about the same with only a minor dip in assists. For Moulson it could be a huge boom depending on where he goes, so we’ll have to pay close attention. The Rangers’ Ryan Callahan is now part of the short list as well. With his contract up at the end of the season Cally apparently wants something to the tune of seven years, $6.5-6.9 million per. Say what?! Who does he think he is? Rick Nash? I love Cally, but he isn’t worth that kind of money or with a contract that long. The Rangers front office agrees and reportedly they want to “settle Callahan’s fate” sooner than later. Sooner is today, in fact, with the Olympic roster freeze kicking in and no contract for Cally, it sounds like they might be moving their Captain shortly after the break. Right now it sounds like the Blues are the most likely destination, because, you know, they need help. Chris Stewart is the potential return for the Rangers and talk about a downgrade! Cally’s value will remain the same or get a bit of a spike if he goes somewhere like St. Louis as he’ll continue to contribute across the board in many categories, but Stewart? Thaaat's a bust. If he sees more playing time in New York after the deal his value only has one place to go, and hey, he scores goals in bunches when he cares to. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
As the season wears on and the Olympic break looms, a few starters are starting to get up there in TOI and their teams are contenders, so what do you think they'll do with their starters? If you said "rest them as soon as they can to keep them fresh for the playoffs" you'd be correct and I'm putting a gold star by your name! Every year there's one or two backups or no names that come out of nowhere to start eight or nine of a team's last ten games and looks amazing doing it. Those guys? Those guys win you titles. This year two backups stand out with the potential to become fantasy gold down the stretch; San Jose's Alex Stalock (1 GA, 19 SV, W) and Anaheim's Frederik Andersen. Neither Andersen nor Stalock saw much action for the first three months of the season, but in January they both saw a spike in starts with six each, a trend that should continue as the season winds to a close. Stalock handled himself nicely for a 19 save win last night because starter Antti Niemi coughed up four goals in his last start and with 47 starts under his belt, and the Olympics starting next week, I think the Sharks want to rest Niemi and that means nothing but good things for Stalock owners. Stalock has been great with his workload slowly but steadily increasing and in that span he put up a line of 3-3-0/1.79/.949/2. That has value anywhere, y'all! Similarly, Jonas Hiller (2 GA, 23 SV, L) backup Frederik Andersen has slowly eaten into Hiller's starts much like Stalock has in San Jose. With Hiller headed to Sochi to tend net for the Swiss, his injury history and how well Andersen continues to play, Hiller is likely to continue split starts with Andersen more evenly moving forward. Andersen started 6 games to Hiller’s 9 last month and it’s 2 to 1 Hiller so far this month. What's he done with his time? How about a line of 5-0-0/1.86/.939 in January. Yeah, his last game was a bit of bleh against the surging Blue Jackets, but overall he remains valuable and could be huge if Hiller goes down with another LBI. Never look past backups this late in the season, you never know who will become instant fantasy gold. Anyway, here's what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently: