Buy Low (But Buyer Beware)
Endangered Species Sightings
Tyler Myers, Buffalo - We may remember Tyler Myers as one of the most maddening players to own after his rookie season (or maybe that's just me. Not bitter). Myers hasn't been the most relevant of defenders this season but there was a sighting in the City of Fires Saturday evening in a shootout loss to Columbus as Myers scored twice, the second of which coming with 25 seconds left to send the game to overtime. However, Myers may be hearing his name called again by the league's Department of Player Safety for his check on James Wisniewski in the first period. Regardless of the spinning wheel of justice, Myers seems to have been playing better hockey since returning from his suspension, notching three points in those two games.
Buffalo has been playing some better of hockey of late in terms of generating offense (see Tyler Ennis) and Myers stands to benefit. The Sabres might be one of the worst teams in the league, but they're going to score a goal every now and then. Myers still has the skill set that saw him grab 48 points as a rookie and another 10-goal season in his sophomore campaign, but he's been elusive the two years since. A strong second half could make Myers a heady pickup for the season's final 30-plus games.
John Carlson, Washington - Few defenders had fallen off the collective radar of most standard format league owners than Washington's John Carlson. Following a 37-point rookie season and 22 points in 48 games last year, Carlson was expected to do a bit more than the 17 points he has through these 48 games. The American Olympian, still only 24 years old, has a solid eight goals on the season, but it's the nine assists that are a little surprising considering the power-play time he is seeing on the Caps and the up-and-down production of teammate Mike Green.
Carlson slammed home a goal in Friday's loss to Columbus, Washington's lone goal. The tally was his first goal since December 20 and just his fourth point since the end of November. Carlson is a player with talent, but can't seem to generate consistent production despite the positives of his situation. He's shooting the puck at a rate much higher than his first two seasons, 131 through 48 games and he has seven of his season's 17 points on the power play.
If Carlson is available in your league, snatch him up. It won't cost you much and it could pay off.
Jack Johnson, Columbus - Likely to be one of the first calls made by USA hockey if there is any injury to any of the defensemen heading to Sochi, Johnson's name has been buzzing through the media since it was not called New Year's Day. Johnson was one of the primary subjects of Scott Burnside's piece detailing the selection of the US hockey team, but hadn't been active until the last week with five assists over a three-game span, including two Friday in the win over Washington. Had Johnson been producing at this rate throughout the season, there likely would have been little debate about his inclusion for Sochi. Regardless, Johnson appears to be playing headier hockey of late for the surging Blue Jackets, a team very much in the Metropolitan Division playoff race. Johnson has the experience and track record of being a productive defensemen and he's still seeing power-play time, although he has been ceding a bit to Ryan Murray of late. James Wisniewski may also take some of Johnson's scoring chances. Johnson certainly fits the billing of a buy low, low-risk acquisition.
Poolies might also want to look at Murray, who has six assists in eight games since the calendar changed to January. Murray's not the most reliable of defensive players, something to consider as the rookie battles for ice time on a crowded blue line.
Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg - Certainly one of the larger disappointments of the season, Enstrom simply has not been scoring or generating offense at the rate owners were expecting. Never to be confused with a defender capable of slamming home 10-plus goals a season, Enstrom had been a steady source of assists and owned a solid points-per-game rate over his last several seasons, all of which had been plagued by nagging injuries. This year, though, he's been healthy; health which has resulted in a mindboggling 15 points through 70 games.
The Jets are a team in transition having recently hired Paul Maurice, a team that has been scoring more than most were expecting of late. One of Maurice's decisions that could benefit Enstrom is to play Dustin Byfuglien at forward at even strength. Buff, currently third in defensemen scoring with 38 points, is still playing the point on the power play, but Enstrom could see more scoring chances at even strength, albeit for a team that wasn't terribly productive before Maurice arrived in Manitoba. Enstrom has just two points in the last four games, but Maurice seems to be deploying him freely on the power play.
Enstrom is certainly an option if you need help in deeper leagues, but budding star Jacob Trouba has snagged three goals in the last two games, including two Saturday against Edmonton. Trouba is eating power-play time as well and should definitely be relevant in keeper leagues. Remember, Trouba broke out early in the season and then fell victim to injuries and lacking production.
Alexander Edler, Vancouver - While the Canucks will undoubtedly dominate the discussion in hockey circles for their opening faceoff line brawl with Calgary Saturday, the team welcomed back a comforting figure on the blue line in Alexander Edler. The Swedish Olympian has returned from a month-long absence and notched two assists in four games, both of which have come on the power play. Edler is no stranger to production, having cracked 40 points in two of the last three full seasons and likely would have done so in 2011 were it not for an injury, as he had 33 points in 51 games.
Edler is a prime candidate for a bounceback as he hadn't been terribly productive before missing a month with just three goals, 11 points and a minus-12 rating. Vancouver isn't hurting for defensive scoring with Jason Garrison and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, but Edler should slot back in with the team's scoring lines and generate some offense.
Waiver Wire: Owners in need of a defensive boost might want to check out Tyson Barrie of Colorado (five points in the last seven) and the Lightning's Mark Barberio (scored twice Sunday against Carolina and had an assist Saturday against San Jose, giving him three points in the last two tilts).
Lastly, those in Olympic pools might want to look toward Latvia. Sadly, Arturs Irbe will not be in goal, but former Av and Duck Sandis Ozolinsh will be skating again.
Question of the week: Make a six-man defensive corps out of defensemen not going to Sochi.
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