It might be hard to believe but despite their struggles as a team there is still some fantasy gold yet left to find in the nearly depleted mines of the Edmonton Oilers. Though skaters like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and to a lesser extent, Jordan Eberle have spectacularly failed fantasy owners this season, as we go headlong into the stretch run for fantasy hockey a 21-year-old defensive prospect is starting to show glimmers of his potential offensive prowess. With nine points (2 G, 7 A) in his last 13 games to pair with a TOI spike to around 22-24 minutes per game and an increased roll across the board, Oscar Klefbom is making a case for a late season pick up in deeper formats.
Clocking in at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds the budding two-way defenseman is showing some real hop in his step lately and shouldn’t be ignored. Though he needs to fill out his frame and remains a fairly lanky defender as result, he shows no signs of holding back from laying hits, but his real value comes in his ability to move the puck with crisp passing and excellent skating. He’s in the infancy of his career on big ice, but he’s quickly showing that he can be a leader and that’s resulted in as much as 26 minutes of ice time recently for a team struggling to find any ray of light in an otherwise dismal season. Klefbom has excellent on ice vision and reads plays extremely well. Like any rookie, he’s far from a complete package, however. His positioning leaves something to be desired and on a team like the Oil, that’s going to kill his plus/minus but that isn’t keeping the Oilers from putting him out there for big minutes because of his potential.
To this point in his career he hasn’t been an offensive dynamo, but his combination of size, speed and raw talent make for a very promising young rearguard. Don’t pick him up this season expecting a monster finish to the season, though he is currently worth a flyer if you need scoring from the back end badly enough, because hey if a guy is scoring he’s worth owning until he’s not, but if you’re already looking at next season and you could use a solid keeper with upside at the back end of your blue line, Klefbom is a guy you should strongly consider. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Robin Lehner has been diagnosed with a concussion and there is no timetable for his return. That leaves the 27-year-old Andrew Hammond as the starter for a Sens team that really couldn’t afford to lose another key guy like this. I can’t recommend you add Hammond, who has almost no experience on big ice and left nothing to be desired in the AHL this season putting up a 7-13-2 record to go with a 3.51 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.
Mikhail Grabovski was absolutely leveled in last night’s 5-2 spanking of the Preds and he was put on IR this morning. Given the hit and how he fell to the ice like a sack of potatoes almost instantly it’s probably safe to assume he has a concussion as well and will be out indefinitely.
Steve Mason is set to return next week, but it’s still up in the air as to when next week. It won’t make much of a difference for the hapless Flyers, but he will provide half-way decent value for his owners, anyway.
Pekka Rinne, G (L, 35 SV, 5 GA, .875%) – The God of Goalies took it on the chin last night to the tune of five goals on 40 shots in a 5-2 spanking by the Isles. To put this game into perspective Rinne had allowed just five goals on his previous 130 shots before this game. Clearly this god is a fallible god, but we forgive him, because I’m pretty confident he’ll return to his usual magnificent self in his next start.
John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Since the Isles lost Kyle Okposo to a detached retina JT has stepped up like the superstar he is and has 19 points in the 14 games since Okie’s departure. That’s why he wears the C and that’s what he’s a top 3 skater in fantasy hockey or otherwise. Believe it or not, he’s on pace to set career highs in goals, assists, points and could finish the season with a rating in the positive for the first time. All that and he’s one of my keepers in two leagues. Booyah!
Filip Forsberg, C (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – A slow down was inevitable for the rookie and slow he has. After putting up a monster first half with 35 points (15 G, 21 A) in his first 36 games he’s since gone “cold” and registered 16 points (6 G, 10 A) over his last 22. That’s actually a pretty respectable pace, it’s just that compared to his early season surge it doesn’t seem like much. Expect more of the same as we go down the stretch, he remains the front-runner to win the Calder Trophy and should be at the top of your keeper list.
Josh Bailey, LW (1 G, 5 SOG, -1) – Playing with John Tavares when he’s hot is as good a place to be in the league as you can get and Bailey continues to cash in with another goal last night. He has five points (3 G, 2 A) over his last five games and it seems Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano is happy to keep the top line of Bailey, JT and Anders Lee, C (1 A, 6 SOG) together for the time being making Bailey and Lee must owns in most formats.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (L, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – This was a typical start for Pavelec, but to be fair he was hanged out to dry when the Jets D completely broke down on the power play and the Caps strolled in on a 4-on-1 and predictably they scored. At this point every one of his starts is just another nail in the coffin of his chances to start for this team next season.
Braden Holtby, G (W, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – Holtby didn’t get much work in this one but the rust didn’t settle in while he kicked back in his net all game and he pushed away 19 of 20 shots for the victory. Holtby quietly remains a contender for the Vezina with a season line of 28-12-9/2.15/.925 in 50 games played. That’s ridiculous and I think it’s sustainable for him going into next season. If you drafted him you probably picked him up in the middle rounds, so definitely consider him a keeper.
Alex Ovechkin, LW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – Ovie and Rick Nash, LW (1 G, 3 SOG) are going back and forth for the scoring title right now, but Ovie seems to have the edge lately with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in his last 5 games with at least a goal in four straight. If I had to put money on the winner of this race, it’d be on Ovie.
John Carlson, D (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – With goals in back-to-back games Carlson continues his Norris worthy campaign. He has four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last five and remains on pace for a 15-goal, 60-point campaign. He might fall just short of both of those marks, but not by much.
Troy Brouwer, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – T-Brouw has no business repeating last season’s 25-goal performance but he’s on pace to do just that. He’s actually been pretty valuable in deeper leagues that count hits, he’s laid the boom 145 times so far this season and 11 of his 30 points so far come with the man advantage, so there is definitely value here.
Ryan Miller, G (W, 30 SV, 4 GA, .882%) – This wasn’t a pretty game for Miller, but he stood tall enough to hold on for the 5-4 win in the shootout. Man, I hate shootouts. I’ve made that clear and this game is a great example as to why. The Rangers dominated this game from start to finish; there was rarely a time when they weren’t in total control of the game, but they had goaltending breakdowns and ended up in the shootout and lost it. A shame. Miller remains a middling goalie that provides solid wins and meh peripherals.
Cam Talbot, G (L, 24 SV, 4 GA, .857%) – Since taking over for the injured Henrik Lundqvist Talbot has been a sieve. Yeah, he’s won 5 of his eight starts but he’s coughing up tons of goals in the process and credit for his solid record over that span sits squarely on the collective shoulders of the deadly Rangers offense. They provided leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3 and Talbot couldn’t hold a single one of them. That’s a theme for the young netminder as I’ve repeatedly reminded everyone recently; Talbot should only get sheltered minutes for fantasy owners despite his starting role.
Carl Hagelin, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – The third line for the Rangers was a bit of a mystery in the first half but since the All-Star Break the unit of Hags, Kevin Hayes, C/RW (1 SOG, 2 PIM) and J.T. Miller, C (2 SOG) has solidified and is showing some serious chemistry. That’s evidenced by Hayes’ recent surge, but Hagelin isn’t being left out of the fun either and has put up four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last five games. He isn’t a dynamic scoring option, but the speedy winger has the ability to provide some scoring depth in deeper leagues for managers dealing with injuries. Don’t be shy about picking him up, but don’t expect miracles either.
Martin St. Louis, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – It’s clear at this point that age is finally catching up with Marty, but the future Hall of Famer still has some gas left in the tank. He’s put up five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last three games with at least a point in each tilt and could be a decent trade target for owners looking to find supplementary scoring on the cheap for the stretch run.
Derek Stepan, C (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – If Step didn’t break his leg in the preseason he’d be among the league leaders in scoring. With 41 points in 42 games so far this season he shows no signs of slowing down and remains a fixture in one of the league’s best offenses. Keep him high on your keeper lists the 24-year-old is going to keep doing this for years to come.
Michal Neuvirth, G (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Back when he played for the Caps Neuvirth was pretty pissed about being left at the bottom of a large goalie stack and demanded a trade. Well, his wish was granted and he ended up with the worst team in the league. No one told him that though, and since taking over for the recently traded Jhonas Enroth Neuvirth has been pretty solid allowing more than three goals just once in his last five starts. In fact, he’s allowed just 12 goals over that span and pushed aside 154 of 166 shots he’s faced, good for a .928 save percentage. Maybe someone should make sure he read the memo about tanking for Connor McDavid.
Ray Emery, G (L, 30 SV, 2 GA, .938%) – Emery was pretty decent in this one, but the Flyers made up for his strong play with garbage play on offense and they fell to the lowly Sabres 3-2 in the shootout. If you own Emery you either want to lose, play in a razzy league or you’re a masochist.
Jakub Voracek, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – I figured Jake would slow down a bit from his early season pace, but with just three points in his last seven games, that’s a bit slower than I expected. He’s still on pace to finish with around 86 points on the year, so that shows you just how strong he was leading up to this cold spell and I’m pretty sure he’ll pick it up again soon. He won’t return to his early season 1.5 points-per-game form, but he shouldn’t be this bad for much longer.
Curtis McElhinney, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – McElhinney shut down the Pens last night and looked good doing it pushing away 29 of 30 shots fo—Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait just a damn minute! Who told McMeh he was a halfway decent goalie? Don’t fill his head with these crazy ideas, y’all. It’s just mean.
Brandon Dubinsky, C (1 G, 5 SOG, +2) – In standard leagues Dubs is pretty yawnstipating, but in category rich leagues he’s a freakin’ beast. Lately he’s been a beast in all formats with six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last four games with at least a point in each game over that span. He also sports a plus-5, 14 shots on goal, 35 faceoff wins, 20 hits and 7 penalty minutes. Hot damn, that’s a big ole’ serving o’ fantasy gold!
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 14 SV, 3 GA, .824%) – Ugh, just when it looks like Lehtonen might just be getting his shiz together he only lasted 26 minutes and change before getting the hook in favor of Jhonas Enroth, G (9 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%) who stopped all nine shots he faced. Expect Enroth to get the next start for the Stars and you’d do well to avoid this entire situation if you enjoy winning.
Roberto Luongo, G (W, 37 SV, 2 GA, .949%) – Lu hit a rough patch about a month ago, but he has been absolutely fantastic this month allowing no more than two goals in each of his last seven starts. He’s faced a whopping 250 shots over his last eight starts and stopped 232 of them, good for a .928 save percentage and the awe and glee of his owners. The Cats are going to be dangerous next year and Lu will remain a strong play for the remainder of the season.
Carey Price, G (L, 19 SV, 2 GA, .905%) – When it comes to the Vezina race, the Price is Right and Pekka Rinne has fallen into second behind Carey who now sports a season line of 32-11-3/1.93/.934 in 46 games played. That’s ridiculous. Has anyone else noticed that scoring is down and unreal goaltending is up this season? There are no skaters on pace for a 100-point season for the first time in as long as I can remember. Fun fact! Since 2000 there have been just two Hart Trophy winners who earned the award scoring fewer than 100 points on the year; Corey Perry won with 50 goals and 98 points in 2010-11 and Marty St. Louis won with 94 points back in 2003-04.