In the month of February, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been even better than usual. After Monday night where he had a goal and two assists with two shots against Montreal, OEL now has 10 points (3+7) in 7 games with 27 SOG and 14 PIM. Eight of his points are on the power play which is excellent but that's come along with a -10 rating. You can stomach the plus-minus from OEL when in defenseman ranks, he's 2nd in goals, tied for 4th in points, 2nd in SOG and first in STP. In dynasties, he's solidified himself as the #3 defenseman going forward. It's crazy to think that OEL is still only 24 years old and the best years for Arizona are still to come. He deserves to be discussed about the Norris Trophy, not to win because Erik Karlsson has it in the bag, but as a finalist. Here's what else I saw around the league on a relatively busy Monday:
While I've talked about the Flames being a major disappointment in this space multiple times this year, Johnny Gaudreau certainly doesn't belong in that category. The young gun is keeping a point per game this season and he had his best game to date on Friday, scoring a hat trick, adding an assist with five shots and two PIM in the 5-4 OT win against the Bruins. The shots are a little lower than you'd like for Gaudreau to reach true superstar status but he's probably pushing the top 25 overall at this point. Not bad for a fifth round pick who most thought was too small to make it in the league. Here's what else I saw on a busy weekend:
With three weeks left until the NHL trade deadline the Toronto Maple Leafs started selling off some assets sending Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Preds for Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsica, a 2015 first round pick and a bag of pucks. Typically a move out of the fantasy value black hole that is the Maple Leafs would be a boon to most players but unfortunately for Franson owners the move out of the barren wasteland of Toronto to the fertile fields of Nashville does little to boost his value. In fact, the move probably hurts more than it helps.
After Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 24 SV, 1.000%, SHO) was dealt to the Wild I took a deeper dive into his numbers and quickly jumped on the bandwagon and you should too. Since joining the Wild Doobie is 6-1-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage with three shutouts. Obviously those aren’t sustainable numbers, but given his season line now sits at a robust 15-6-2/2.35/.923 in 27 games and taking into account he’s amassed much of that line while playing for the woeful Coyotoes, that’s pretty damned impressive. Hell, those numbers would be impressive anywhere, but for some strange reason people aren’t flocking to pick him up before it’s too late. Owners in CBS leagues know what’s up and he’s owned on 60% of teams there with Yahoo clocking in at 53% and ESPN way behind the times at 41% owned. These numbers are about as ridiculous as Doobie’s. There’s no way he shouldn’t be owned just about everywhere by now, so if you need help in the crease you should definitely go ahead and pick him up. Don’t be shy. I know his time on the Oil might have you looking at his name on the wire and rolling your eyes, but don’t pass on him this season, you’ll regret it. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
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:
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 you think of the Sabres lately one name generally comes to mind and he isn’t even in the league yet, yes I’m talking about McJesus himself, Connor McDavid. The Sabres are well on their way to winning the McDavid sweepstakes by bungling their way through the 2014-15 season looking like hot garbage from top to bottom, save one bright spot; Zemgus Girgensons. Girgs was the Sabres’ second first round pick in 2012 and he’s paying off pretty quickly for a team that desperately needs someone to do something positive. I mean the fact that the Sabres had two first round picks should say something in-and-of it self, but I digress, the 20 year old Latvian pivot works his butt off out there from whistle to whistle. He’s hard to knock off the puck, isn’t afraid to fight for position in traffic and while he isn’t a traditional dangler, he definitely has solid hands and fore-checks like whoa. He’s now the Sabres top line center and spends time on their top power play unit as well. Given that it’s the Sabres you can’t expect him to score a ton, but he’s posted a respectable season line so far with 8 G, 6 A, +3 (on the Sabres!), 48 SOG and 9 PIM to date. Wait, that doesn’t look as sexy as I made it sound, does it? Well! That’s because his real value comes from his ability to win faceoffs (161), deliver hits (57) and even block shots (24). There’s basically not much this guy doesn’t do and in roto leagues that’s pure gold. In deep category H2H leagues he has value too. ROS I expect him to end up with around 50-55 points, he has tremendous upside over the long term and it’s clear that the Sabres envision him as a team leader moving forward. Those in keeper leagues would do well to grab him and hold on tight. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Its well known for those who read this blog that I don’t have a very high opinion of hockey in South Florida. In fact, I often call it “hockey hell” and for many years that’s been pretty accurate. I mean hell is hot, right? And it’s muggy, and it rains like a bastard for all of four minutes a day without warning and then stops. Does this sound like a place for hockey?! I don’t think so. Despite that the Florida Panthers have been slowly trying to build a decent hockey team from the ashes of years past when they actually contended for the cup and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve finally hit on a solid combination of guys that might actually turn this team into a winner and could help you do the same with your fantasy squad.
James Neal was suspended for five games today after he kneed Boston's Brad Marchand in the head in an ugly game against the Bruins yesterday. Earlier in the game the Bs’ Shawn Thornton punched Brooks Orpik twice in the head while in a scrum. The punches toppled Brooksie and he was taken off the ice in a stretcher, Thornton was tossed with a match penalty. Then, later, Neal sees an opportunity to get revenge after seeing Marchand get tripped up and fall to all fours. It’s then that Neal skates by and lays his knee into the side of Marchand's head. What really gets me is how nonchalant as he can be Neal was after the fact, not looking back or flinching in the slightest, instead he slowly coasts to his bench for a line change. Listen, I get defending your teammates and support it, but this eye-for-an-eye nonsense does nothing but put him on the sideline for a week and out of our lineups. Happy now, Jimmy? He should get more than five in my opinion, you be the judge. Regardless of what you think of the play we can all agree that this is not what Neal owners needed after he missed the start of the season due to injury. In any case you’ll be without him for the next week, so plan accordingly. You know, this is the kind of fluke event that keeps guys like Evgeni Malkin from getting to 100 points on the season without 35+ goals to power the effort. Granted, Geno is hurt right now, but he should be back before Neal and he’ll wish Neal was there waiting to pick back up where they left off. See what revenge gets you? Nada! More hockey, less of this. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey this weekend: