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:
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:
Martin St. Louis (1 A, 2 PIM, +3) was supposed to help continued to struggle for the blue shirts, but managed to tally his third point in nine games as a Ranger. This is not the scoring boost that Rangers GM Glen Sather was hoping for when he moved Ryan Callahan to the Bolts for the veteran scoring monster. Cally, on the other hand, has four points in six games for Tampa.
Anton Khudobin (1 GA, 46 SV, W) was put right back in net after taking a 2-1 loss and did not disappoint pushing 46 of 47 shots away for a 3-1 victory. Is there any doubt that Khudobin is the guy for the Canes? The only place there might be doubt is the Canes’ front office, but judging by the two-year deal they inked Khudobin to recently, I’d say that concept is fading fast. Cam Ward had an opportunity to take his starting job back, but he failed to do that like he has doing, well, mostly anything this season, and after this game the starters gig should be his and his alone for the next 12 games.
Gustav Nyquist (2 G, 6 SOG, +1) is really the only thing keeping the Wings from tipping completely over and missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. He has three goals in his last two games and that gives in 35 points in 43 games since his call up earlier this year. Can Nyquist really be the only thing keeping the Wings afloat, you might be wondering. Well, have a look at the list of guys Babs had to scratch last night: Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Dan Cleary, Tomas Jurco, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson and Teemu Pulkkinen. Those are the scratches, how about guys on IR? Henrik Zetterberg, Mikael Samuelsson and Stephen Weiss. So, if by some insane happenstance he’s still available in one of your leagues I think you know what to do.
Normally I focus on one player that stands out to me as I write these rundowns, but tonight I have to switch it up because the Edmonton Oilers have come alive! Semyon Varlamov stayed in the entire game taking an 8-2 pounding from the league’s youngest team. It's pretty ironic that back in 1995 when Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy was left in for all 9 goals scored effectively ending his career with the Habs (and he nearly retired completely) and now he's gone and done the same thing to Varlamov, classy. I never liked Roy. Anyway, here’s the rundown for the Oil:
Taylor Hall (3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, + 1) is elite and should be the guy that leads this team back to greatness. He’s got all the skills and he put them all on display tonight.
Jordan Eberle (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is the other half of the core of this offensive unit that could be one of the best in the league in the second half.
David Perron (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is having a career year and after not living up to expectations for years seems to have found a home in the Great White North.
Ales Hemsky (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) is showing signs of life as well. He’s one of my second-half sleepers.
Mark Acrobello (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +1) remains a risky add at best. He’s tiny and inconsistent, but could live well off the table scraps of others if the Oil take off like I think they can.
Sam Ganger (1 G, 2 SOG, even) should take this opportunity to step up and be a leader for this young bunch. He was once a highly touted prospect himself.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) chipped in an assist, but should be right in the middle of all the scoring sooner than later. What would a mention of the Oilers’ potential be without the Nudge?!
Nail Yakupov (1 SOG, -1) continues to be a huge bust and what a tickertease for his owners. I never buy in early on young Russians because so few of them pan out and Yakupov seems to be the same. On a team flush with young talent this kid is playing an embarassing season of hockey with a -17 rating and just 9 points in 28 games played so far. Nail, I think the KHL is calling.
After a terrible start to the season it seems like this young team is getting its legs and finding their identity as a team. They’ve won four of their last five games and with performances like this there’s a possibility this team might, may be able to ull itself out of the basement and fight for a playoff spot. After adding Breezy to upgrade their goalie situation and a favorable schedule going up to the Olympic break facing the likes of the Flames, Jets, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators, things are looking up for the Edmonton faithful. Is the horrible start a thing of the past? Maybe, but you can’t deny tonight’s results, and this didn’t come against a bad team with lackluster goaltending either. Don’t miss out on this potential buffet o’ fantasy black gold, grab some Oil while you can get ‘em cheap! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Jason Pominville‘s power play goal with 10 seconds left in the second period proved to the game winner as his new team, the Minnesota Wild, knocked off his old team, the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Top notch waiver wire pick-ups are hard to find this late in the season, but Devan Dubnyk could be that guy. He stopped 32 of 33 on Sunday and remains less than 50% owned in Yahoo! Please, blog, may I have some more?
Make no mistake, the new NHL realignment will be dominating hockey media for the next few days. I gotta admit it’s a pretty radical change in the structuring of the league. Please, blog, may I have some more?
So if you told me yesterday afternoon that the Dolphins would only score 6 points against the Jets I wouldn’t be that shocked. But if you then said “and the Florida Panther’s will outscore them” I would recommend you have your head examined. Please, blog, may I have some more?
So this time of year is the calm before the storm in the sports world. Sure we’ve had preseason NFL and a few important college football games, but the preseason sucks in the NFL and I went to Cal State Fullerton – I don’t give a flying F about college football. Please, blog, may I have some more?