First off, I hope everyone had a Happy New Year's! As much as I personally don't care for New Year's Eve, this year was different because of the Buffalo Bills making the playoffs. I wish I had video of me celebrating with my dad or an audio recording of my friend, who is in Paris, who heard us yelling on speaker phone and him celebrating in the Paris streets. Couple that with an amazing USA win in the WJC outdoor game against Canada that I was at and things in the sports world couldn't be better. Even the Sabres looked competent today despite the loss! Anyways, let's get to what you're here for... I've talked about Josh Bailey being the waiver wire pickup of the year on multiple occasions over the last couple weeks because, well, the Isles top line is on fire. That said, William Karlsson is easily #2 in this department. Wild Bill, a Razzball favorite from the past (aka favorite of mine), scored the first hat trick in Vegas history on Sunday, scoring three goals and an assist in the 6-3 win over the Maple Leafs. That brings Karlsson's totals to 20+13 in 33 games with a +15 rating. Sure, it will regress some because he's not going to shoot 26.3% all season, but let's give Karlsson his due. In the first 183 games of his career, Karlsson scored 18 goals. He has that beat for the Golden Knights in 37 games. His emergence is a huge part of Vegas shocking the world as they sit atop the Western Conference. Karlsson will drop off some in the second half, at least in the goals department, but make no mistake about it, it's not a complete fluke. Karlsson should be a hold for the rest of the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last three days of the old year:
50 points in 40 games. That was my prediction for Sidney Crosby in the second half of the season. Yesterday, I said that "Sidney Crosby has been outstanding for a month and could easily lead the league in points from this point forward" here. That possibility is off to a great start. Crosby had a hat trick on Tuesday night with an assist and eight shots in the 6-5 win over the Senators. Amazingly, he's become somewhat of a forgotten man this year but it's his time to shine again. Here's what else I saw around the league the night after the All-Star break:
Yesterday I brought big Anthony Mantha to your attention and said you should keep an eye on him as he’s on the rise. Well, there’s another kid you should get to know that’s already on big ice and lately his star is rising fast. Nick Bjugstad, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) is on a roll with seven points in his last three games including multiple two goal games giving him six goals in his last seven games. In fact, he has nine points in his last eight games and these totals aren’t unexpected. He started the season slowly, but at just 22 years of age and one full season under his belt that’s not surprising. It was only a matter of time before he started producing, and here it is. Can he keep it up? Absolutely. Just like Mantha he’s a big boy at 6’5”, 215lbs and he knows how to use his big frame to create space and opportunities for himself. Clearly he knows how to cash in on those opportunities as well bringing a heavy, accurate shot to the table in his big bag o’ tricks. He’s not just big; he’s strong too often winning battles along the boards. With exceptional on-ice awareness and vision he rarely finds himself out of position. Lately he’s playing with fellow prospect Jonathan Huberdeau (2 A, 4 SOG, +1) and veteran Brad Boyes (+1) so it’s a solid line for him to grow on. I don’t expect more than 50 points from Jugs, but he could beat that mark if he and Huber gel like the Cats hope they will. In any case, he should be added in all keeper leagues if he was on the wire and in deep re-drafts as well. It may not be long before he’s relevant in all leagues, so like I always say, get it while the gettins’ good, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Dustin Byfuglien started at forward, shifted to defense and now it looks like he's back at forward for the foreseeable future again. Leafs sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) has taken the opposite path, having shifted from wing to defense, but lets hope the comparison stops there and the back and forth that the Jets are forcing on Buff doesn’t end up happening to Gardiner. Regardless of what might happen, it was a good call to shift Gardiner because before the move he was a middle-tier forward at best, but on the blue line he’s got some serious offensive upside. What’s that sound I hear? The ring rang o’ the cash register, because this kid’s going to be money for fantasy owners very soon. Of course the big question is how quickly can he adapt to the new position at the NHL level? The answer is quickly! Even better, he already has! It helps that he was a good two-way forward to start, so he already had solid defensive chops or this experiment would likely have never taken place this late in a guy’s career, even though his NHL career has basically just started. But I digress, Gardiner is adapting quite well to his new role as evidenced by a solid rookie campaign back in 2011-12 when he put up 30 points (7 G, 23 A, -2) in 80 games. So far this season he has 16 points in 49 games and sits even with plus/minus. Not bad at all! When you project out over 80 games he’s looking at 26 points powered by seven goals, which is actually slightly lower than what he put up as a rookie, though I think he’ll have a minor surge sometime in the second half that gets his points total over his rookie season benchmark. The bottom line is this kid is good and getting better and he could be a top-four defenseman as early as next season, so if you are looking to plan ahead for your keeper league consider keeping Jake the Snake in your plans. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Troy Brouwer scored twice and Braden Holtby made 43 saves as the Washington Capitals knocked off the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Washington has won six straight while Carolina has dropped seven in a row. Please, blog, may I have some more?