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Neutral Zone Wrap: When In Strome...

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When heís not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evanís work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).


Whether you've recently concluded your regular season or you're battling it out for the overall title, a couple late season additions couldn't hurt.

Here are a few players to target for that last run. They have been selected for their recent success and have the potential to maintain progress either due to statistical trends, a specific team situation, or some form of physical/mental/statistical revival. As well, most are generally available in standard leagues. So there will be no "Hey, have you heard of Joe Pavelski? He's been hot lately." or "Claude Giroux may be worth your while".

And no one mentioned in last week's trade deadline installment will be offered but you can always keep them in mind should the following selections not work out:

(NOTE: No goalies to see here. The closest example that fits the aforementioned criteria would be Darcy Kuemper. And y'all should know what he's doing in Minnesota.)

(Stats as of Monday February 17th)

T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary (14% owned)

Nothing's really gone right for the Flames since their 2004 Finals appearance, but at least they have their youth … as long as they don't run them into the ground/out of town first. While the 23-year old Brodie logs significant minutes (averaging 24 in 68 games this season), his effort doesn't appear to be slowing down (four assists in six with a plus-six). He had been asked to assume more responsibility as he climbed the junior/AHL ranks and eventually excelled, so there's a good chance more opportunities (read as: added power-play time) will head Brodie's way in the final weeks.

Jason Demers, D, San Jose (57% owned)

OK, so we're cheating a bit here by selecting someone this popular. But we're only doing so because Demers is still overwhelmingly underappreciated. He's already hit a career high in points (31), shares a spot on the coveted #1 power-play unit, and regularly skates with Marc-Edouard Vlasic so he can feel safer jumping into the attack. The knock on Demers earlier in the year was that his ice time was low compared to other second-tier blueliners but that's steadily increased over the months (easily over 20 minutes now). C'mon, what else do you need to see from him?!

Jimmy Hayes, F, Florida (3% owned)

When times are tough, struggling teams often look ahead to assess talent. It's no different in Florida, where the Panthers continue to suck but they've loaded the forward corps with the under-25 crowd and hope for the best. At least it's shown results for at least one of their boys – the former Blackhawk Hayes. Betcha couldn't identify him out of a fantasy lineup before March but the latest numbers (eight in eight, including two two-goal performances) will magically improve one's attention. Might as well grab Hayes while his confidence is high and other options diminish.

Vladimir Sobotka, F, St. Louis (21% owned)

Missed 12 thanks to a knee injury but immediately shined in his return last Thursday (goal, two assists, 12 (!) PIM). Now that Vladimir Tarasenko (broken hand) is out for the foreseeable future, the Blues will have no problem slotting in Sobotka. As St. Louis strive to preserve their #1 seed in the West – and with a certain stud netminder behind a stellar defense – expect to them to push hard on offense during the final stretch. That allows Sobotka (and others, obviously) freer rein to be able to add to his totals.

Ryan Strome, F, NY Islanders (27% owned)

No offense to either Anders Lee (20% owned) or Brock Nelson (6% owned), but Strome is the Islander pony to bet on. There's a reason the ex-IceDog was taken with the fifth pick in 2011 and it isn't for his chiseled jaw and middle-aged good looks. The lesser New York club knew their playoff hopes were doomed when captain John Tavares was sidelined in Sochi. But that only allows them to showcase their talented youngsters in various roles. After dominating in Bridgeport (49 in 37, 41 PIM, plus-16), Strome has looked right at home on the Island (six in nine).

(Honorable mention: Alexandre Burrows, F, Vancouver (41% owned); Mikael Granlund, F, Minnesota (38% owned); Matt Read, F, Philadelphia (32% owned); Craig Smith, F, Nashville (37% owned); Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NY Islanders (51% owned))

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Next week, we take a look at those who have excelled of late but should be avoided from here on in. Because, you know, we're here to serve and protect.