Draft day is one of the most important moments in any fantasy season. It can make or break your chances and though a bad draft isn’t a death sentence for your season, it definitely puts it on death row early on. One of the big mistakes I see a lot of owners make is taking goalies too early, especially in the first round. Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask were the usual suspects this season and neither has or will live up to their ADP this year and it’s likely that if you drafted either your team is hurting because of it, but goalies aren’t the only position to be wary of taking too early. Defensemen are a bigger gamble early on than people give them credit for and so far Erik Karlsson, D (1 A, 2 SOG) is doing his damnedest to make that point clear as day to all. 
Before the season started I cautioned against drafting Semyon Varlamov expecting a repeat of last season and sure enough he sucked up the joint hard to start the year then hit IR with a bum groin. He came back, sucked it up so more and then exited once more with the same injury. Again he returned and again he sucked and yet again he re-injured the same groin and is now down for “a couple weeks.” Yeah, right. Listen, a goalie with a groin injury is a red flag. A goalie that hurts the same groin three times in less than a half a season is more than a red flag, it’s a signal to run for the hills and not look back. For now you stash him on IR, but don’t expect much from him moving forward. In the meantime rookie Calvin Pickard, G (W, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) has taken control of the Colorado crease and doesn’t appear to be ready to relinquish command of it anytime soon. With expensive backup Reto Berra struggling Captain Pickard seems to be the go-to guy for Patrick Roy right now. In a recent interview Roy said of Pickard "He deserves to play, he gives us a chance to win every night. We cannot ask for more from him." And how could you? Why would you? The kid has been stellar in the handful of starts he’s been given, win or loss, and seems to be getting stronger as he gets more time. There’s no reason for Pickard to be available in any leagues right now, deep or shallow, so if he’s available in your league add him yesterday. If you do, don’t drop another starter to do it. Remember that while he might out play Berra like whoa until Varly gets back, as soon as he does Pickard is headed back to the AHL unless the Avs cut or trade Berra, who has a one-way deal and cannot be sent to the minors. Regardless, in the meantime if you're thinking of adding Captain Pickard, make it so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
An MRI revealed that Corey Perry is out for three-to-four weeks with a sprained knee as of yesterday. The long-term injury is a rarity for the normally durable Perry whose absence will send ripples through the fantasy hockey pond of Anaheim. Perry was rolling with 14 goals so far this season and serves as a lynchpin to their offensive success on the top unit. The open slot on the top line for the Ducks has been a revolving door so far this season and a bunch of guys in the Ducks lineup have benefitted from stints there. Most recently Matt Beleskey was scoring like who, but his value now takes a dive as most of his recent goal scoring success was found while playing with Getz and Perry, so you can expect that to dry up for the time being. It might not be all bad news, though; Ryan Getzlaf practiced with Devante Smith-Pelly and Rene Bourque on Tuesday and played with Bourque in OT last night. The promotion makes Bourque a decent streaming option worth considering. In season’s past he’s gone on runs where he scores a bunch of goals before going ice cold and this seems like a good opportunity for him to do just that. If you’re looking for scoring help, he’s worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues. As for Devo, the promotion doesn’t do much to up his value considering he occupied that spot while Perry was healthy and didn’t do much worth note with it before Perry’s injury. For those who lost Perry, there is no consolation here. You can grab Bourque, but there are no guarantees and he’ll pale in comparison. All you can do is stream his spot and hope for the best, but it’s never easy to lose your first round pick for a month. My condolences to his owners, which isn’t me so booyah! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
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:
I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best. The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long. It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week:
Seven years ago Kris Versteeg, RW – (1 G, 2 A, +3, 7 SOG) started his career in Chicago with high hopes and what seemed like a higher ceiling. Initially all the signs looked good; he notched 20 goals in each of his first two full seasons and ended up with 53 and 44 points in each season respectively. Despite the slight drop-off in production many expected a breakout season in 2010, but alas, it didn’t happen. In what would become a theme for throughout his young career Versteeg went down with a knee injury. Over the next few seasons he struggled with more knee problems and after failed stints in Philly and Toronto he landed in Florida where it looked like he regained his form setting a career high in goals with 23 and points with 54. Again, a breakout was expected the following season and again knee problems knocked him down, but if Kris Versteeg has shown us anything in his time on big ice, it’s that you can knock him down but he’s going to get right back up. Fast forward three more years and it’s 2014, Versteeg’s knee is doing well and since joining a line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane he’s been scoring to the tune of five points in his last four games. You might pause in terror seeing Richards’ name here, but he seems to have found a home on this line and he’s is scoring too, so worry not for now. Vertseeg might leave a lot of owners gun shy after years of disappointment, but he was battling knee issues that prevented him from, you know, skating properly. Those knee problems seem solved for now and the talent was always there, so if you want in on a guy who could score 60 points and 25 goals on the cheap, now’s the time to buy in. I already did. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in the world o’ fantasy hockey:
Back in April 2013 the Washington Capitals were interested in adding some veteran help for a playoff push. The Nashville Predators had some help in the form of Martin Erat and so they struck a deal. Erat went to the Caps and Filip Forsberg (1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG) came over to the Preds in a package deal. At the time no one really batted an eye, but now all eyes are wide open watching “Fil the Thrill” roll through opponents night after night on his way to one of the best starts a rookie forward has had in years. I honestly didn’t see this coming, but after he posted just 34 points in 47 games in the AHL last year, honestly, who did? His preseason was stellar, but preseason means squat and I figured he was just playing hard against weak competition to earn himself a roster spot like any respectable rookie. The last I saw of Fil he was easy to knock of the puck, undersized, lacking strength and looking overwhelmed playing North American hockey, but clearly he had some skill. Oh my how things have changed. With a deceptively awkward but quick wrister at his disposal Fil stretched his point steak to seven games with the three-point effort last night. What’s more, he has a six game goal-scoring streak mixed in and 12 points (7 G, 5 A) over that span. He’s currently on the top line with James Neal (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) and Mike Ribeiro (1 SOG, +2) and that’s a good place to be. He hasn’t just been good, he’s been dominant and his line has outscored opponents 13-1 at even strength so far. The downside here, yes there’s a downside, is that there’s really no chance he can keep this scoring pace up. You know that. You don’t want to admit it, but he will. The upside there is that he’ll fall from dominant to thrilling, retaining tons of value all season long. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
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:
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:
Before the season started I was not a big fan of Roberto Luongo (W, 32 SV, 1 GA, .970%). I mean, I like Lu and think he's a stellar tender, but I figured his chances of a solid year with the Cats were somewhat slim. I mean honestly, it’s the Cats. Yes, they are chock full of young talent, but they’d been garbage for so long and their defense so porous that I expected Lu to return to his old stomping ground and face about the same volume of shots he did in days gone by. An aging goalie returning to face a montain of shots on a young team doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for success, now does it? Well, apparently I was wrong. Since their opening night implosion against the Devils the Cats have really pulled themselves together and have been playing some seriously solid 5-on-5 defense. Their forwards are back-checking like whoa and in general they’re able to disrupt some of the better offenses in the game. Dare I say I’m even impressed? Oh, I dare. I’m impressed. Flordia currently sits at 14th in the league in shots against per game allowing 30 a night and Lu is more than enough goalie to handle that kind of workload and put up solid numbers doing it. With that said this endorsement comes with a word of caution. Florida is indeed very young and while they are currently seventh overall in goals against per game allowing just two a tilt they’re second to last in goals per game with 1.5 per, 23rd on the power play and 28th on the Penalty Kill. Those numbers do not bode well for Lu getting many wins. If the defense holds up his peripherals should range from solid to sparkling despite the lack of wins, so, I guess it really is like he’s back to his old tricks in South Florida, eh? So I was kind of right, anyway. Just the wrong kind of right. Right? Hmn. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: