Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is a pretty solid GM as far as GMs go. He always manages to pluck these unknown Swedes out of, well, Sweden and the Wings system turns them into legitimate players in fairly short order. This time he set his sights on a gifted Canadian winger out of Longueuil, Quebec by the name of Anthony Mantha and you'd do well to track his progress in the AHL because he has all the tools to be a top six player for the Wings sooner than later. Before he went down with a broken leg in the pre-season Mantha had a shot to crack the Wings’ NHL roster, alas it wasn’t meant to be, yet. Well, he’s healed up now and the 6’5” 206lb scoring threat is healthy and recently made his AHL debut and he set to work right rining the puck off two posts, but didn’t find the back of the net. No worries, he potted his first goal in his second game. That’s going to be a theme for the youngster and it can be argued that he’s one of the best pure goal scorers to come up since Steven Stamkos. Yes, you read that right. He sports a heavy wrister that he can fire off before you even considered he was going to shoot and man, it’s accurate. Beyond his ability to shoot the puck he uses his big frame to force through traffic with general ease and knocking him off the puck is no easy task. He’s proven himself to be a great positional player with outstanding on ice awareness, but there are of course some negatives as with any young player, and the big fella might be a bit too offensively focused leaving his defense as the weakest part of his game. There has also been some criticism that he lacks consistency, but hey, he’s young and nobody’s perfect (except Victor Hedman). Word has it that the Wings would rather he spend his time getting solid minutes with the Griffins than sitting on the bench for the Wings, but considering the fragility of their key top-six forwards (We’re all looking at you, Pavel Datsyuk) I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid gets a shot at big ice this year. While he’s not worth adding outside of deep dynasty leagues for the time being, keep an eye on him because he’s going to be something special. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
The Los Angeles Kings are starting to look a little unbalanced. Anze Kopitar (1 SOG) has just three points in eight games. You can never really rely on Dustin Brown (2 SOG) for points and Justin Williams (1 A, 3 SOG) has just two points in eight games. Marian Gaborik did his thing and immediately got hurt and he's still not back. Slava Voynov is suspended indefinitely due to alleged domestic violence issues at home. Despite all that, the Kings are 6-1-1 and sit atop their division. Why? How? That’s 70s Line, that’s how. Jeff Cater (1 G, 3 A, 1 SOG), Tyler Toffoli (1 G, 3 A, 2 SOG), and Tanner Pearson (2 G, 3 SOG, +2) continue to light it up and have carried the Kings so far this season. When I say carried, I mean they pick up the team plane and walk it from city to city on road trips, carry everyone’s bags off the plane and to the hotel, then dress everyone for the game and then win it basically by themselves with a dash of stellar goaltending from Jon Quick (W, 22 SV, 2 GA, .917%). But seriously, this line has accounted for 16 of 21 goals scored by the Kings this season. That’s 76% of the team’s total offense. They combined for 10 points last night and 33 points (16 G, 17A) and a plus-32 rating over the last seven games. That’s obviously not sustainable for the Kings and this torrid pace has to slow for That 70s Line, especially for Pearson and Toffoli, both of whom are more likely to finish around 50 points rather than the 90+ they’re on pace for. If ever there was a time to sell high, this is it. You can probably flip any guy on this line for a King’s ransom, so try floating some offers out there and see what you can get. You never know, you might end up with a killer package in return and when the other shoe drops and this line comes back down to earth, you’ll be laughing all the way to a playoff berth. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in 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:
The beginning is nigh! Yes my dear readers we’re drawing near to the start of the season so I won’t waste your time with a long blurb to kick this post off. I will say that this list is pretty comprehensive and if you can’t fill out your D based on this list you’re either playing in the deepest of leagues of you’re not very good at this fantasy hockey thing and should take up knitting. I covered as many guys as I could, but when I hit around the 65th rearguard there wasn’t much to say about the last ten guys so they became the honorable mentions. I guess that makes this a top 65 in some ways, but whatevs. There’s 75 names and sets o’ projections so I’m sticking to my guns. Plus, 75 sounds so much better than top 65, you know? As usual if I missed your guy or you have any questions, hit me up in the comments! At any rate, without further ado (there’s that word again), here are the 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Top 75 Defensemen:
With the fantasy season winding down it can be difficult to find value on the wire, but there are still a few gems to be had and they make all the difference come playoff time. Its not often that you win a league with the team you drafted and if you're winning late in the season you've most likely littered your lineups with guys that, to start the season, you never would have considered. If you aren't in the mindset right now, you aren't serious about winning. So who is available on the wire this late in the season that can actually help? How about Anders Lee, Adam Henrique and Artem Anisimov? Lee has just six games under his belt this season for the Isles, but with lots of room to roam after a flurry of deals left Garth Snow's roster wide open, Lee has taken advantage of his time with five points in six games so far. He's young, so it's hard to predict what he'll do, especially for the Isles, but the big (6'2" 210lbs) winger with a heavy shot and a nose for the next could offer up as many as 10 more goals and 15 more points for you going forward, and how many guys on the wire can you say that about right now? Not many, that's how many. Adam Henrique is no mystery to anyone in the know, but his five goals over the past week are a surprise to most of us. Not you? Well, aren't you special! Henrique has a whopping nine points over his last five games with a nine goal, six game goal scoring streak mixed in there. He might only have 38 points so far this season, but considering how well he's been playing lately it should be easy enough for him to notch 12-15 more and finish in the mid-50s by season's end. He's owned in ~92% of ESPN leagues, but available in an alarming 68% of Yahoo leagues, so he's out there if you need some scoring help, and who doesn't? Last, and least, is Artem Anisimov who has been underwhelming for the entirety of his short, yawnstipating career, but recently earned himself the second star in the NHL player of the week honors by scoring the game winning goal in three straight games. His 19 goals so far this season are a career high and he's probably good for another 10-12 points with a handful of goals sprinkled in before all is said and done. While there isn't much out there, you have to take what you can get when guys like Pavel Datsyuk go down with injuries, and if you're lucky, you can find one of these three to help fill the gap. Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey yesterday:
The Red Wings have been plagued by injury all season and when news that Henrik Zetterberg needed to have his herniated disc removed and was down for at least eight weeks, Wings fans and fantasy owners alike cried in their Molsons. You shouldn’t cry into your Molson though, no one likes watery beer; if we did we’d drink PBR or some shiz. Though Zetterberg is down his line mates remain good options for late season scoring boosts and if last night’s game was any indication, I’m not just blowing smoke here. Both Gustav Nyquist (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) and Johan Franzen (2 A, 3 SOG, +1) are skating on relatively fresh legs and though Z’s absence is a loss, it could open up more chances for both of them. Nyquist scored the game winner with OT winding down on a rebound when Peter Budaj kicked away a Franzen shot from the top of the circle and it was a nice display of soft hands by the young Swede. Though he’s returning from his own groin injury, Nyquist is immensely talented and he should sieze the opportunity to help drive the Wings’ offense in Z’s absence. He’ll need to put up more than two shots a game to do it, but he has the ability and could put up 20 more points down the stretch. As for Franzen, he isn’t without talent and opportunity either. He assisted on both goals for the Wings; first on a nice pass to Todd Bertuzzi and then on Nyquist’s game winner. The assist for the game winner was a bit fluky, but everyone knows that when in doubt put the puck on net and hope for the best, and here’s proof positive that’s a solid maxim to live by! The Mule has only played in 32 games so far due to injury but is 100% healthy now and has the potential to give you 20 or so more points before season’s end. He’s only owned in 61% of Yahoo leagues, and ~87% of ESPN leagues, so if you need a late season scoring boost, he’s among the better options available. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
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:
The New York Islanders are struggling to score goals. Shocking. They’re struggling to win as a result because, you know, you need to score goals to win hockey games. Outside of their top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, no one else is producing much of anything and with top prospect Ryan Strome decimating the AHL with 33 points in 23 games so far, they decided to call him up. A smooth skating, playmaking center with a nose for the net Strome is the next big hope for a team that has just one playoff berth since 2007 and hasn’t won a Cup since 1983 and he could be the next big thing in fantasy hockey, too. Last year Strome absolutely ruined opponents in the OHL posting 94 points with a +43 rating in just 53 games played for the Niagara Ice Dogs, so he was called up to Bridgeport and put up 7 points in 10 games for good measure. At every level he has shown the ability to adapt and excel so there’s reason to believe success awaits the dynamic young centre in the NHL. He’s got nothing but space to work on a weak Isles team and there’s is talk that he’ll debut on the second line for the Isles and I don’t know if that’s more of an endorsement of Strome’s skills or an indictment of the Isles as a team. Either way, if he can pair with someone like Michael Grabner he has the potential to produce for fantasy owners immediately. He’s owned in just 8% of Yahoo! Leagues and 4% of ESPN Leagues, so if you’re looking for a stellar keeper, snatch him up! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:
Steven Stamkos had successful surgery on his broken tibia and is now wearing a removable cast and set to begin an “aggressive” rehab program. I’m not sure how you can “aggressively” make you broken tibia heal, but mmkay then. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Last year’s champs were denied a repeat by the juggernaut known as Chicago. The Kings established that last season’s title was no fluke and they have the team put together to stay in the hunt for years to come. Please, blog, may I have some more?