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Frozen Fantasy: First Round Revisit

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The Sid-Ovie era is over. It's sad to say. And in this case, the truth even hurts. Will either one ever be a true first-rounder again?

Maybe. But probably not.

Sidney Crosby may never be the same player again. Alexander Ovechkin has gotten much better of late but that's only improved his current output to a 65-point pace. And just 50 percent of this season's first round, in a 12-team league, has met or come close to expectations.

Ouch.

Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Lundqvist are close to meeting expectations. Nicklas Backstrom and Martin St. Louis have been hit with injuries so we have to cut them some slack. But Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Jarome Iginla have all underachieved. And in Ryan's case, underachievement isn't even the right word.

So who's in the top twelve now?

Right now, just five guys from the original top-12 are in the same group right now (Malkin, D. Sedin, Lundqvist, Datsyuk and Stamkos). Three other goalies join the King - Jonathan Quick (3), Jimmy Howard (8) and the surprising Brian Elliott (10), who was actually a waiver snag. And James Neal (2), Scott Hartnell (6), Marian Hossa (7) and Claude Giroux (9) also enter the fray.

But will they be in the top-10 next year?

I'd hazard a guess that Malkin, Stamkos, Giroux, Lundqvist, Howard, both Sedins and Datsyuk - and not necessarily in that order - will be in September's top-10. The final four spots will be pulled from a group that includes Hossa, Quick, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Anze Kopitar and perhaps Alexander the Gr8 himself.

No matter if it's earned or not.

Now lets take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Nik Antropov, C, Winnipeg (8 percent owned) - He's big and talented, but painfully awkward - in a Bambi on ice kind of way. And he's more fragile than that ugly crystal candy dish your grandmother always taunted you with. Still, he's smart and uses his size well to dominate on the cycle. And he put up six points (three goals, three assists, including two power-play points) in five games prior to the break. He's a points-only guy - you're not going to get PIMs, shots, blocked shots or much else for that matter. Add accordingly.

Ben Bishop, G, St. Louis (0 percent owned) - Bishop is in the AHL, but he could be the hottest fantasy add in just a couple short weeks. His situation is seriously complicated. Brian Elliott's contract extension all but closes the door for Bishop in St. Louis. And he's on the doorstep of being a rare Group Six free agent - 25 years of age with appearances in fewer than 28 NHL games in which he played at least 30 minutes. Who cares? You should. He's very talented and unless he plays at least 30 minutes in 17 more NHL games, he becomes a UFA on July 1. The Blues would like to get some assets for him, and a trade soon would net him lots of playing time before year-end. Any team that picks him up would surely get him into those 17 games to flip him into Group Two RFA status. He could no longer just walk away and sign anywhere this summer - his current team would get a chance to match all offer sheets. That leverage could be very, very important - particularly for a team desperate for a netminder. And there are a few. Watch him like a hawk and be ready to swoop in.

Blake Comeau, LW, Calgary (3 percent owned) - I'll never understand the Isles and their Ouija board approach to their player retention decisions. Earlier this year, the pointer told Garth Snow to put Comeau on waivers after a slow start. It's not often that a team gives up on a 24-goal scorer that fast. He hasn't done much in his early days in Alberta, but he is a notorious second-half performer. Is his three-point performance from last Saturday a harbinger of better things to come? It's a long shot, but it is worth monitoring.

David Desharnais, C, Montreal (14 percent owned) - It's obvious - any guy listed at 5-7 isn't even close to that. But this guy doesn't suffer from small man syndrome. He's gutsy, fast and skilled, and has torpedoed out 14 points in his last 12 games. It's good enough to have earned him a promotion to the Habs' top line between Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole, and he's taken to it like a bear to a dumpster. He's way more valuable than Tomas Plekanec (67 percent owned) right now. Seriously.

Andrew Ference, D, Boston (9 percent owned) - Ference was on quite an offensive tear - two goals and two assists in three games - before his brain fart on Saturday. Suspension aside, he's on pace for a surprising career-best 34 points and a repeat of last year's exceptional plus-minus (plus-22). Stick him into the last spot on your blue line and he'll offset the defensive struggles of some of your sniping studs.

Mike Fisher, C, Nashville (16 percent owned) - Mr. Underwood is hot. Not as hot as Mrs. Underwood, but hot nonetheless. The aggressive, hard-working center entered the break on a four-game, five-point (three goals) streak. And he had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 12 games in January. He may or may not come back from the All-Star break rested, but he should be inspired - by the promise of his wife's new video, that is. He should give you some stealth support over the next few weeks.

Mathieu Garon, G, Tampa Bay (21 percent owned) - Has he righted his ship? Probably not - he's never been able to carry the mail for a full season. But he has wins in three-straight games and one was against the Cup-champion Bruins. He's much better at home (9-4, 2.56, .908) than anywhere else (5-9-2, 3.19, .898). And the Bolts play 20 of their final 34 games at home. Spot starts here we come. There might even be a teensy bit of value left in his pads - unless the Bolts trade for Bishop (above), that is.

Teddy Purcell, RW, Tampa Bay (17 percent owned) - So much for his big breakout. After nine points in his first nine games, Purcell followed it up with a pathetic 12 points in his next 31 games. Yuck. But a mid-January 'chat' with his coach inspired him to move his feet and battle harder for the puck. And that has resulted in five goals (and one assist) in his last seven games. Like Garon, he's better at home (14 points, plus-10 in 21 games) than on the road (13 points, minus-6 in 26 games). And with all those home games coming up - and the team playing a bit better of late - Purcell might actually provide you with a late season burst.

Kyle Wellwood, RW/C, Winnipeg (5 percent owned) - Wellie is a man of impressive streaks - and lowly depths. He had seven points (one goal) in six games before the break after delivering just a single helper in the 10 games before that. Enjoy the highs but watch carefully for signs of a slump and drop him fast.

Back to the first round.

The NHL and fantasy owners alike need to start looking for the next big thing. Sid and Ovie are over.

And sadly, there's not much marketing sizzle to a Toews-Giroux showdown. Or Stamkos-Toews, Malkin-Datysuk or even Malkin-Toews.

It's hard to believe we're witnessing such a significant change to the face of the NHL. I thought we'd be talking about Sid-Ovie for another 10 years...

For keeper leaguers, it's one of those moments where you need to seriously weigh your return on investment (ROI) on a trade before your assets seriously decline. And it's a great time for single-year leaguers who aren't in the hunt to start analyzing for next year.

I know I'm going to watch that four-goalies-in-the-top-12 trend every week going forward. I got absolutely burned in Friends and Family because I drafted Cam Ward (round 3) and Dwayne Roloson (round 7) as my primary twinetenders.

I suspect I'll be picking my goalies a bit earlier next time.

Until next week.