Neutral Zone Wrap
By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire.com
The season may be young but it sure has started off with a bang. Last-minute heroics, shootout magic, and food items being tossed on the ice. All in all, most would claim the first two weeks to be a success. Naturally, that doesn't mean the remainder will prove to be just as exciting. Or maybe it will. Who really knows? Let's just realize how special the on-ice product can be and leave it at that.
Before we continue any further, I'd like to be the first to congratulate Patrick Marleau for smashing Wayne Gretzky's single-season goal scoring mark! Wait, one shouldn't base final numbers by extrapolating current stats? And they're not playing an 82-game schedule?! Well, better luck next year, Patty.
Condensed schedules often lead to hurried decisions. Don't be worried about missing out on someone because you didn't act quickly; if you're experienced and savvy, then you'll find a way to pick up a couple of hidden gems or recently discarded skaters. And for heaven's sake, you gotta do the legwork when it comes to scouting players. All work and no research make Jack a dull fantasy owner.
So here's your homework for the week. Keep it away from your dog and make sure the information stays between the margins. And don't try cheat off others. You have one hour to complete this test. Round Two of the team report begins...now:
(NOTE: Stats as of Thursday January 31st)
It may not amount to anything spectacular, but the Wild currently occupy the top spot in the Northwest Division. While the megadeals are leading the way, the cheaper contracts are pitching in. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (three points in seven games, six PIM) had been jinxed the last couple seasons when it comes to staying healthy, but there are no problems this time around. Hope you didn't expect Mikael Granlund (three) to fly out of the gate. Raise your hand if you predicted Tom Gilbert (six) to serve as an offensive machine from defense. Guess that'll happen when both Jared Spurgeon (foot boo-boo) and Marco Scandella (groin) go down and Jonas Brodin (two in four) is slowly adapting to the bigs.
Ottawa is looking so good so far (5-1-1) tourists may actually go and visit the city. That midseason steal of Kyle Turris (co-leader with seven) 13 months ago is paying major dividends. A significant injury to Jason Spezza (back surgery, projected out at least two months) should be lighting a fire under Guillaume Latendresse (one) and Peter Regin (zero). Both Jakob Silfverberg (one goal) and Mika Zibanejad (two in two since being recalled) have displayed enough promise as NHL neophytes. Marc Methot (three points, plus-5, 21 hits, 11 blocks) will net you a little bit of everything, while Patrick Wiercoich (three assists, including two on the power-play) will supplement your fantasy blueline.
Everything is magnifique in Habland thanks to P.K. Subban finally signing on the dotted line. Although when the GTA native fully reclaims his role, then say goodbye to a large chunk of Raphael Diaz's momentum (eight assists, including six PPAs). The recent setback to Max Pacioretty (appendectomy, gone another three weeks) is not all gloomy, since others will get their chances to impress. For those who like surprises, Rene Bourque continues to stay hidden on the first power-play unit (two of his three come when up a man). But check the progress of first-year forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher (combining for nine points) as they have proven worthy of receiving significant minutes.
No owner? No money? No...hope? Not exactly, as Phoenix has merely hit a brief lull thanks to injuries for Martin Hanzal (lower body whatchamacalit) and the ageless Steve Sullivan (ditto). Radim Vrbata (seven) remains reliable and Antoine Vermette (five) does his fair job but Mikkel Boedker (five) and Lauri Korpikoski (four) can be just as useful in your lineup. Derek Morris (four assists) might be tough to recommend if you believe David Rundblad (none in only three appearances) deserves a better shot. Confused who to start in net between Jason LaBarbera (1-2 record) and Chad Johnson (shutout in two starts)? How about none of them, since Mike Smith (groin) should return by the weekend?
Beware the illusion of Daniel Winnik in Anaheim (seven, including five goals), due to a dearth of man-advantage minutes (averaging 16 seconds a night) - although a move up to the first line will at least make him worth the add. And don't be fooled by the hot starts of Saku Koivu (also seven) and Andrew Cogliano (four assists), as a correction is imminent. At the same time, don't be too worried over Bobby Ryan (one goal, one assist), but we'd like to see him take more scoring opportunities (only eight SOG). Meanwhile, on the back end, Sheldon Souray (three) still wields a rocket from the point. And where have you gone, Cam Fowler (one) and Luca Sbisa (zip)?