Since Corey Crawford went down with his latest injury the Blackhawks have had six games and Scott Darling, G (L, 38 SV, 3 GA, .927%) has started four of them until Antti Raanta, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .960%) won last night in the second game of a back-to-back. In fact, Raanta has only played in six games so far this season to Darling’s seven so it begs the question, has Darling usurped Raanta as Crawdad backup? It sure seems that way. It’s clear that Raanta isn’t a guy you can count on for long streaks of solid play. He’s fine in spot starts and sheltered minutes, but some time in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him at all, and so far it seems that the 6’ 6” Darling has caught the attention of Blackhawk’s Head Coach Joel Quenneville. When asked about the situation Quenneville didn’t offer much insight, but does he ever? He did have this to offer on Darling though "He's played well, every time he's been in the net he's been consistent, looks big (and) handles the puck well. Keep him going." That bodes well for Darling sticking around, but either way it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait very long to find out how this situation is going to shake out because Crawdad was a surprise participant in the morning skate for the Hawks this past weekend. He didn’t speculate on when he’ll return to the lineup but the fact that his foot is well enough for him to skate on is a good sign that he’ll be back in the next few weeks at most. If I had to put money down I’d say Darling has earned the backup job and it’s Raanta who will head down to the AHL when he returns. In the meantime, both should be owned in deep leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
When the season started everyone had high expectations for a young and extremely talented Colorado Avalanche team and why wouldn’t they? Last season Nathan MacKinnon, C (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) exploded onto big ice with a stellar rookie campaign potting 25 goals and finishing with 63 points in 82 games. Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) returned to form and nearly put up a point-per-game with 70 points in 71 games and Gabriel Landeskog, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) not only returned to his rookie season form after an injury shortened 2014 season, he took a step forward and finished with 65 points of his own. All the signs were there. All the signs were pointing to a huge year from all three guys in 2015, the new core of a dynasty in the making, but when the pucks started flying they sure as hell weren’t flying into the net for any of them. Fear not, dear readers, for the end of their struggles is nigh and at the quarter season marker the Avs are finally starting to warm up! It all started a few weeks ago when Duchene had a ranty post-game interview stating that the Avs needed to get mad and stop accepting defeat after defeat, both small and large. Since then he’s put his money where his mouth is and posted seven points in his last seven games powered by four goals and apparently leading by example is a good way to go because he’s not the only one who heard the call. Landeskog has seven of his own points in his last five games and like Duche he’s just too good to keep playing as badly as he was. There may be temptation to look at try and sell now that they’re scoring, but I wouldn’t move any of these guys if you own them. Despite their recent successes they were so bad to start the year that you’ll be moving them for pennies on the dollar and in the end you’ll lose out big time. At this point it’s highly unlikely that any of them will hit their pre-season projections, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be near point-per-game forwards moving, well, forward, and I’d buy all three for a dollar (each)! Sadly, the same can’t be said for the aging Jarome Iginla, RW (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG). Iggy isn’t the guy he once was and he isn’t going to score 30 goals again like he did last year for the Bs, but he’s going to net you 50 points ane 20 goals, so that’s worth owning. He skates on the top line with Landeskog and MacKinnon so that gives him value, anyway. If he goes on a decent streak I’d try to sell high, someone out there thinks he’s still a beast. Still, sit tight and enjoy the ride as the Avs are trending up lately, at least offensively, and should continue to roll as we move towards the halfway point in the season. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
It was a rough weekend for defenseman in the NHL and a rougher one for the poor saps that own the newly fallen. The biggest blow due to injury fell from the heavens like Mjölnir and smashed me right in the face when my sun and stars Victor Hedman broke his finger while trying to block a shot. He’s out 4-6 weeks after successful surgery to fix his mangled digit. Now where can I go to get successful surgery on my broken heart? Nowhere?! What a world. I guess I’ll just have to pine away and gaze longingly at his stat line over the last week plus and wonder what could have been had he not tried to block a slap shot with his damn hand. The Rangers lost Dan Boyle to a similar injury and it makes me wonder, why the hell are these guys trying to block shots with their hands? Have they not seen the fastest shot competition? Do they not know they’re trying to use their hands to stop a frozen piece of vulcanized rubber flying at nearly 100mph in their direction? I’m all about sacrificing the body for the good of the team and some of us totally need those blocks, but come on! Suffice it to say there is no replacing Hedman but Anton Stralman is reportedly moving to the Bolts’ top powerplay unit with Jason Garrison slated to get time on the second unit, so the value of both jumps a bit with this news. Unfortch for fantasy owners broken fingers (and hearts!) weren’t the only issue that plagued some of fantasy hockey’s defenseman since last week. Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely today due to a domestic violence incident that apparently left the victim hospitalized. I won’t joke about this because there is nothing funny about it. I also don’t know the details of the situation, but what I have read says that whoever he attacked (assuming he did) was rushed to the hospital and the extend of their injuries was such that the hospital staff called the cops on Voynov. This doesn’t sound good at all, but details are scant right now so if you can afford to, I’d try to hold off on dropping him until we get a clearer idea of how long he could be out. That being said, since this is non-hockey related absence he won’t be eligible for IR or IR+, so if you can’t afford to have a deadweight defenseman clogging up your bench, drop Slava and add whomever you can to fill the void. Luckily his season started somewhat slowly so the void isn’t that big. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Heading into this season all eyes were on rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 1 SOG) of the Caps and why not? The big Russian seems to have all the tools he needs to be an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. He showed some serious chops in his time with the KHL, but we all know that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I fully expect he’ll break the 40-point mark this season, however, Kuz isn’t the only rookie worth knowing about in D.C. this year. Lost in all that Kuz hype is a dynamic Swede on the verge of a breakout and his name is Andre Burakovsky (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). I blame myself for not mentioning him earlier, I should have, but he slipped my mind so I’ll do it now. Well I already did it. In fact I’m in the middle of the mention at this very moment, and so are you! Trippy, man. I digress, Burakovsky is an offensively gifted pivot in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg, who coach Barry Trotz compared the kid to just the other day. The comparison might seem pretty lofty, but when you break down the kid’s bona fides it starts to seem pretty accurate. Last season Burakovsky lit the OHL up in his first go at North American hockey scoring a gaudy 87 points in 57 games for the Erie Otters. He followed that up by posting seven points in seven games in the World Junior Classic-20 division and then 14 points in 14 games in the U20 (all) International Juniors. Damn, that’s sexy. Do I sense a new mancrush coming on? Mayhaps! There’s plenty of room in my hockey heart for another and this young man is a leading candidate. He’s a strong skater with a remarkably high hockey IQ that will serve him well as he adjusts this season. Couple that with a sick wrister and the top six minutes he’s going to be getting and what does it all add up to? Me adding him in every keeper league, that’s for sure. He’s worth owning in standard leagues while he’s scoring too, and with five points in five games so far he’s doing just that. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Beau Bennett (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) is an intriguing option that many folks have likely long forgotten. Once upon a time Bennett was slated to start the season on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and everyone’s favorite player James Neal. Say what you will about Neal (I do!) but that was a choice place to land for the youngster who had everything to prove and the skills to do it. Well, he broke his damn hand, or his wrist, or some such nonsense that kept him out for most of this season and now he’s back, healthy, and has the space to play. Malkin’s down, so he won’t be playing along side the big Russian, but Bennett has points in three of his last four games with two goals mixed in for flavor. He’s only seeing around 12-13 minutes of TOI right now, but that’s enough for him to leave a mark and considering the Pens have locked up their playoff spot, I don’t see any reason they won’t let Bennett roam freely over the next week or two to get him up to speed for the post season party. All that adds up to him being a pretty viable scoring option for those in need whilst chasing those sweet sweet league championships. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
This has to be one of the busiest deadline days that I’ve seen in a few years with 19 trades getting completed today and  32 deals going down since the Miller to St. Louis deal kicked everything off post Sochi. We saw ten goalies change hands, two captains trade places and guys like Vanek and Halak who were traded for the second time just this season! I went through the list and picked out what I thought which moves had the biggest fantasy impact and highlighted those. If you’re looking this over and think I missed a few, check out these posts from yesterday for more trade analysis; Roberto Luongo Back To Panthers, Add Lack! Ilya Bryzgalov To Wild, Fasth To Oilers, Penner To Caps Ryan Miller To Blues For Halak, Stewart, Picks Martin St. Louis (F-TB) for Ryan Callahan (F-NYR), 2014 conditional 2nd-round pick, 2015 1st-round pick In what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day the Rangers and Bolts swapped captains moving two guys who had never played anywhere else, well, elsewhere! This move creates a few fantasy ripples and they tend to center around the return of goal scoring machine Steven Stamkos. When Stamkos broke his tibia a lot of folks though Marty’s production might slip at a bit and that’s a fair assumption to make, however, it didn’t happen. He has 61 points in 62 games with a plus-12 and 167 shots on goal and a shift to the Rangers isn’t going to slow him down either. The move could lead to a possible reunion on a line with Brad Richards, but considering how bleh Richards has been this season even St. Louis might not be able to snap him out of it. But fear not, St. Louis owners, there are plenty of places Alain Vigneault can slot in his new weapon and get the usual point-per-game production from him. Stamkos, on the other hand, may see a dip in production without Marty on his wing, and Cally isn’t going to be able to fill that gap, so expect a few fewer assists from Steve-o, but the goals should continue to pour in. In the end, both St. Louis and Stamkos are so good that their production will more or less stay the same, but Callahan becomes an intriguing option. Owned in just 44% of Yahoo leagues and ~84% of ESPN leagues, if Cally ends up playing alongside Stamkos he’s going to see a scoring boost for sure. He isn’t without offensive ability, but everyone knows he’s a grinder more than anything else. If he’s out there in your league and you need a scoring boost, you could get that on the cheap from Callahan. Anyway, here's the rest of the deals that I thought would make a splash in the world o' fantasy hockey:
Matt Nieto (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) was drafted in the second round with the 47th pick in the 2011 draft but he could have gone much higher if it wasn’t for his defensive shortcomings that many scouts thought would limit his value at the NHL level. Fast-forward a few good seasons in the AHL and Nieto has proven that not only can he play defense, but that he can learn and adapt quickly on the big stage. So far this season he’s only posted 11 points in 38 games and that’s pretty bleh, even for a rookie. He’s young, but he’s also extremely streaky because his game is very north to south right now, so if he gets off course from his favorite scoring hotspots he can lose a handle on the game and make mistakes. Most of those mistakes are made in some poor decision-making when passing the puck if he’s out of his comfort zone, but on the other side of that coin he’s shown flashes of brilliance moving the puck at high speed, and this kid definitely flies. Once he settles in and starts making better choices with the puck his slick skating, playmaking ability and high energy will combine to make him a formidable offensive force for the Sharks and possibly an heir apparent for the aging but still effective Joe Thornton. Nieto will have to bulk up a bit to carry Thunder Joe’s mantle into the future, but he has all the tools to do the job. Is he worth much yet? No and I wouldn’t own him anywhere, but he does have five points in his last nine games. The Sharks project him to be a top-six guy and he wasn’t supposed to be getting NHL ice time yet, so just the fact that he’s logged 38 games so far this season is a good sign. Even better, he’s only now starting to produce offensively and he hasn’t been sent down yet, which means he’s doing a lot right that has nothing to do with putting the puck in the net. That’s a great sign, so keep an eye on him for seasons ahead as he could develop into one of the best playmakers in the game. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Tyler Bozak (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, even) seems to be working really hard to make up for the fact that he listens to Miley Cyrus. No, seriously, he does! He chose the Leafs’ postgame song once earlier in the year and put on the ole’ wrecking ball herself. That might be why he sucked so hard to start the season despite having the mighty duo of James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel on his wings. Just how well has he been doing? Over the last five games he has four goals and six points with three goals coming in the last two games. Stretch that out a bit more and he has 15 points in his last 12 games and if you look at his whole year he’s rockin’ a line with 22 points in 24 games with a plus-12 rating to boot! This is easily Bozak’s best season as a pro and had the first half not been, well, cut in half, he might be among the league leaders in scoring if it wasn’t for one scary indicator, his shooting percentage which sits at an obese 28.1% so far. Why obese? Because that shiz is not healthy and it screams regression to the mean, that’s why! Sorry, didn’t mean to get uppity there. I digress, his track record to date isn’t that great and with that big shooting percentage gut of his hanging over his belt I doubt we can expect him to continue this torrid pace for the rest of the season. With that being said, he plays with some seriously nasty snipers and even if he slumps a bit he can still live off their table scraps and his TOI has spiked up over 20 minutes per. He’s basically gone in ESPN leagues (~99% owned) but he’s only owned in 33% of Yahoo! Leagues. Oh, Yahoo, you let me down again. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
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: