Articles by Alex Lennon

A listing of all the articles written by Alex Lennon for the RotoWire Blog.

Rapid Fire: Five Wingers on the Move

Here’s a hockey-style line’s worth of wingers to take a closer look at for the stretch run. Some are guys that may be on the waiver wire, others the big guns to look at acquiring or dumping in trades for the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs.

Pushing Up

Jamie Langenbrunner: Being on the wing opposite Zach Parise isn’t a bad gig, and this member of Jersey’s newfound big-offense has been huge since the All-Star break with seven goals and two assists in six games. More than that, he’s been consistent all year with 43 points, 44 PIMs, 139 shots, and a plus-20 in 52 games. Brendan Shanahan‘s return to Jersey hasn’t disrupted his role either, yet somehow he’s owned in only about 75 percent of ESPN leagues. If he’s on the waiver wire in yours, go get him. Now.

David Booth: Florida looks like it’s going to be battling with Carolina and Pittsburgh for the East’s last playoff spot. The Sunshine Boys are mostly built around blueliners, but up front, David Booth is for real. Riding Nathan Horton‘s wing, this 24-year-old already has 20 goals in just 43 games after being injured earlier in the season. He’s pumped 156 shots on goals in those games and is a stellar plus-11. He’s only owned in 59 percent of ESPN leagues so, unless you’re bursting with forward depth, go get him.

Pavol Demitra: This is more of a hunch than a result of performance, but Demitra’s ready to rumble. The veteran winger has been adjusting to life in Vancouver but seems to have found his niche alongside Mats Sundin with Ryan Kesler on the Orcas’ second line, which has produced 15 points in their last two games. Demitra gets big power-play time and, unless Roberto Luongo is nursing a lingering injury, this team smells poised to make a huge run. Demitra’s only owned in about 75 percent of ESPN leagues. Go get him before someone else notices who Sundin’s linemates are now that he’s catching up with the rest of the NHL.

Dropping Back

Nathan Horton: It’s not that Florida’s top-line center is bad, but he’s not living up to preseason expectations and needs to be ranked where he belongs. Horton looked like he was settling into a big goal scoring run in late January when he was placed on his current line, but he’s becoming a traditional center, although listed as a winger–getting assists (five in six games since the All-Star break) but the goals have dried up (18 on the year) to be at his typical 30-goal pace and he’s a minus-5 on the season without shooting the puck much. The former No. 3 overall pick may have a big surge in him, but I’d expect more of a passer who’s worth having on your roster, but not as one of your top six forwards.

Shuffle the Elite Second-Tier Wings

It’s time to take a 2nd look at #s 5-20 of the wings if you’re looking for a trade to beat your deadline. The key here isn’t to make a trade around these guys but can you upgrade at this position by shuffling wingers within these ranks, while looking to improve elsewhere (blue line or goaltending).

Thomas Vanek is downgraded now that his jaw is broken and he’s out for 3-4 weeks, but Phil Kessel is back on the ice after sitting out with mono. Start by dropping Vanek to the back of the top-30 (no one should be cutting him) and moving Kessel up. Kessel got two assists in his first game back but has only one assist in his next five games. Still, unless he came back too early, he’ll adjust back to full speed soon.

Meanwhile, Zach Parise simply needs to be recognized as being on the verge of cracking the big four (Ovechkin, Iginla, Zetterberg, and Hossa). Right now, he’s my No. 5 wing and should be at these heights for years to come. Corey Perry‘s 11 goals, five assists, and lots of PIMs in 14 games since early January also bump him up from the teens. But Patrick Kane claims he’s still only at 85-90 percent after injuring his ankle around the Winter Classic. His numbers bear out the problem and, until he’s completely recovered (tough to do without rest) you gotta bump him down a bit.

Rapid Fire: Five Centers on the Move

Here’s a hockey-style line’s worth of centers (with a bonus focus on the second-tier elite) to take a closer look at for the second half. Some are guys that may be on the waiver wire, others the big guns to look at acquiring or dumping in trades for the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs.

Three Pushing Up (Underrated)

The three guys this week are all guys to look to pick up off your waiver wire and fill out team depth. They’re not on the league’s best teams but should be owned in most 10-12 team leagues with 4-5 centers on each team:

Bryan Little: The Thrashers’ super sophomore has already scored 21 goals (a whopping seven on the power play) and has 104 shots in 45 games. Little was the 12th overall pick in the 2006 draft and his line, with Slava Kozlov and Todd White, has pretty much been Atlanta’s best this year. That says something given that a recently rejuvenated Ilya Kovalchuk is on the other line — and Little gets top power-play minutes with Kovalchuk and the gang. He’s part of the core Atlanta will build around and with a lot of Southeast games coming up down the stretch, don’t expect too much of a drop off in production even as Atlanta fades out of the playoff race.

RJ Umberger: Traded from Philly in the offseason to be a top-six forward in Columbus along with the likes of Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, Umberger has been hot (November) and cold (October) this year, but is still well on pace to shatter his previous career-high in goals (20) with 15 (five PPG) through the All-Star break. With 130 shots through those 48 games, expect him to clear 200 shots and keep getting his chances. If Nash and others can avoid injuries, Umberger may just have settled in and have a nice stretch run as Columbus tries to ride Steve Mason and a little bit of offense into a playoff spot in the Wild West.

Stephen Weiss: Unlike the other two, Weiss is a more typical disher at center. He only has seven goals and 74 shots but has 22 assists in 43 games and is a remarkable plus-12 despite Florida’s inconsistent goaltending this year. Nathan Horton has recently been shifted back to center and the Panthers have responded well while Weiss gets top power-play minutes with Horton, Bryan McCabe, Jay Bouwmeester, & Co. Especially if you need assists (and if Weiss plays with David Booth), he’s worth taking a chance on down the stretch — particularly as Florida will also benefit from the division-heavy part of the schedule down the stretch.

Little is owned in 65 percent of ESPN leagues, while Umberger’s in only 15 percent and Weiss sits at just seven percent. If you are in a similar league, check their respective availability.

Two Dropping Back (Overrated)

Anze Kopitar: It’s not that this 21-year-old with huge upside has been bad, but it’s all about rankings and Kopitar hasn’t lived up to his billing after last year’s 32-goal breakout. He’s still getting assists (on pace for 50) but with only 12 goals this year, he’s looking at 20 more than 30, and only has three on the power play after getting 12 last year. He doesn’t get a lot of PIMs, and is a minus-8 on an improving but not-quite-there-yet LA team. By no means should you cut him, but I’d much rather have guys like Michael Cammalleri, Jason Spezza, Derek Roy, Brad Richards, Mats Sundin, or Robert Lang for the rest of the season. See if you can leverage his name and the hopes of a late-season charge for one of those other players or help at another position.

Jonathan Toews: This is really about a reevaluation of the second tier of elite centers (think back-half of the top-15) for the stretch run than it is just about Toews. It is worth mentioning that Toews may be having trouble adjusting to being team captain or that he’s the only true scoring center the Hawks have (something that could be finally fixed at the trade deadline), but 36 points in 45 games is below expectations for this supersoph, and wingman Patrick Kane may have a lingering injury (although it shouldn’t be too bad since he played in the All-Star Game).

 

Rapid Fire: Five Wingers on the Move

Pushing Up (Underrated)

Rene Bourque: The mainstay of Calgary’s second line returned home this offseason, traded from Chicago in July, and has broken out. At 27 years old, this power forward has already set a career-high in goals (16) and is on the verge of one in points (31 with 34 the previous high) in just 45 games. Put together about 0.75 points with intangibles like almost three shots and over one PIM per game along with a plus-12 on the season and second unit power-play time, and you’ve got yourself a fantasy-worthy forward. He’s right below guys like Milan Lucic (when healthy), Bill Guerin, and Tomas Holmstrom in my book, and is only owned in 41 percent of ESPN leagues, so check your waiver wire. If he’s still out there, he could bring you the secondary scoring and intangible points that bring fantasy playoff berths…and championships.

Dustin Byfuglien: The Hawks have so many quality defensemen, they converted this 6-3, 245-pounder to wing this year. After initially struggling offensively with just six points through the end of November, Byfuglien has more recently settled in as a power forward/bodyguard alongside Jonathan Toews, increased his power-play time (three power-play goals since Christmas), and scored 13 points overall (7 G and 6 A) in 22 games since the beginning of December. Those aren’t huge numbers, but they’re good enough if your league counts others stats like shots (62 in those 22 games since December) and PIM (53 in 41 games on the year). If he’s eligible on the blue line, he’s probably gone in your league, but in others, check your waiver wire. He’s owned in only 6.6 percent of ESPN leagues, and his stock is on the rise. If he’s out there in deeper leagues, grab him as he’s another big body that can help deliver fantasy playoff berths and championships as injuries mount elsewhere.

Ryan Smyth: Speaking of power forwards, has anyone else been watching what Ryan Smyth is doing lately? If you were worried about this guy’s production once Paul Stastny went down with a broken forearm right before the Christmas break, you’re not alone. In 12 games since, though, Smyth has poured in 13 points (5 G, 8 A) with his trademark high shots total (42), lots of minutes, and power-play points. Unlike some other wings in the middle of the pack, he’s a lock to be on the top line and top power-play unit, has Stastny coming back down the stretch, and will be fighting…every night…for a playoff spot. I’d rather have him than guys like Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski, Chris Kunitz, or Jason Pominville. If others in your league disagree, see if you can get Smyth and reap the rewards.

Dropping Back (Overrated)

Markus Naslund: At this point in his career, the former Vancouver star has become a power-play specialist. There’s nothing wrong with that – as he’s gotten five of his 14 goals with the man advantage and still pours in a ton of shots (116 in 47 games), but his -11 assists and declining time on the ice translates into lower value in other categories. He’s more of a borderline fantasy property in deeper leagues than a must own, particularly because he’s struggling with a strained groin, and I’d rather have Rene Bourque and his points than Naslund’s name and his useful, but one-dimensional game. Let someone else take the name and drop him down in your rankings.

JP Dumont: For some teams, being on the second power-play unit means lots of opportunities. Not in Nashville. The Preds’ young, vibrant defensive core doesn’t have the same energy up front. For guys like the 30-year-old Dumont, with 20 goals in six of his last seven seasons, those totals are getting harder to come by, particularly because he’s not even on the top power-play unit where Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, & company make their living. Dumont has been more useful for his assists to date and it may be that the loss of Alexander Radulov up front has really hit the Preds hard. He doesn’t get a lot of PIMs and only gets about 175 shots or so a year too. Those are numbers probably worth having in deeper leagues, but there’s a lot of other guys (like Michael Ryder, Shawn Horcoff, Bobby Ryan, Joffrey Lupul, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Knuble, Pavol Demitra, and David Booth) who I’d rather have than Dumont. See if you can deal him for one of the above, citing his previous history of consistently getting 20 goals as bait, and drop him down your rankings.