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From the Press Box: Stretch Run Performers

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno

Known in sports media as The Beast and The StatsMan, Paul is a 23-year veteran of the STATS INC reporter network, scoring play by play for the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs. Appears regularly on 120 Sports, providing Fantasy Hockey analysis. President of both the Society for International Hockey Research and Canadian Football Research Society. In 1992, invented in-game statistics that are tracked in the NHL'S Real Time Scoring system. Contributing author of "Toronto Maple Leafs: Diary of a Dynasty, 1957-1967" and "CFL: Celebrating 50 Years of Memories".


Today, From the Press Box:

With three weeks left in the regular season, what kind of production are the hottest players capable of producing in the remaining games? The best way to gauge the possibilities is to see what some players have done over the last three weeks. That way you can decide if it's really worth picking up a player or two who could make a difference for you at this stage of the season. We offer a comparison between the top players at each position as well as players who are likely still available in your free agent player pools ... all for your perspective.

Top Forwards

Tyler Seguin - leads all scorers with seven goals and 17 points in his last 10 games. He is finally looking like the player everyone expected when he was the second draft pick in the 2010 draft. This is his first season producing 30+ goals and better than a point a game pace. It won't be his last.

Jamie Benn - Seguin's new running mate, the Captain of the Stars, is on a similar hot roll with 13 points in 10 games. He has also reached career highs with 30 goals and 39 assists. The Stars may have slipped from playoff contention, which means these two young guns have no pressure on them, except to pad their stats, the rest of the way.

Mike Cammalleri - Though he survived the trade deadline period, he has not coasted toward the finish line. This pro's pro is showing everyone that as long he laces up the skates, these games for a non-playoff team, like his Flames, are still worth playing. He is a pending UFA and his recent pace, 15 points in 11 games, is indicative that the 31 year old still has plenty of offensive upside when he's healthy.

Ondrej Palat - We have noted that this rookie has made a very important and unexpected contribution to the Lightning's success. He has 14 points in his last 10 games and is gaining valuable experience as a valued go-to guy, currently playing 18 to 23 minutes per game even though he's only a rookie. His +27 rating also underscores the fact that he's a very responsible two-way player who looks like a long-term keeper for Tampa, as well as fantasy owners everywhere.

Jason Spezza - The much-maligned Captain of the Senators is rumored to be possible trade fodder in the off-season as a rebuild may be necessary in Ottawa. In the meantime, he's playing free and easy ... and piling up the points. He has 12 points in his last 10 games. His season total of 59 points is 25 less than last year and of more concern, a -22 rating is his worst ever in the NHL. Perhaps a change of scenery would be best to refocus him next year. I think he buckled under the pressure of inheriting the captaincy and leadership role after the departure of Daniel Alfredsson.

Claude Giroux - The torrid second half that has the Flyers in a playoff hunt after a dreadful start, has been mirrored in Giroux's season. He has 13 points and a +8 rating in his last 9 starts and is once again looking like the team leader everyone knew that he could be, for the Flyers. He's been playing at better than a point per game pace for the last 4 months and looks primed to make some noise in the post-season. He's once again looking like one of the most-skilled players in the league and playing with a high level of confidence.

Gustav Nyquist - There may be no hotter shooter over the last six weeks as Nyquist has taken full advantage of the lengthy injury list in Detroit to rapidly move up on the Wings depth chart. The third-year pro has 10 goals and four assists, many of them big points, in his last 11 games to drag the Wings back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. This speedster looks like another game-breaker in that unending European pipeline that has been cultivated by Detroit management for the past two decades.

Valtteri Filppula - Another graduate of that Detroit scouting mission, Filppula has been a central figure for the Lightning, particularly with the extended absence of Steven Stamkos, due to his broken leg. Even though the new Tampa captain returned several games ago, Filppula has remained a key offensive contributor with 13 points in the last 10 games.

Derek Stepan - As the Rangers shuffled their offensive mix in recent games, Stepan has played some of his best hockey in recent weeks, tallying a point per game in his last 11 starts. As a result of this pace, he has now got the opportunity to play with Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards on the top line here. His scoring chances should rise accordingly in the near term.

Could be available in your free agent pool

Andrew Shaw - The Hawks have apparently found a replacement for their second line center position, as Shaw has matured into a dependable checker (+14), who is evolving into a capable scorer too. He has 10 points in his last 10 games and is one goal shy of the 20-goal plateau for the season.

Carl Soderberg - We've highlighted Soderberg in recent weeks because he has been slowly earning a larger consistent role on this stacked Bruins roster. He has 9 points in his last 11 starts and has totaled 41 points in 64 games for the season. He has picked up his pace consistently and could easily slide into a top-six position among Boston's forward ranks.

Jimmy Hayes - The Panthers recently acquired this depth player from the Chicago system and he has responded to the greater opportunity he has been afforded in moving to the talent-thin Panthers organization. He has five goals and eight points in his last 11 starts and has taken full advantage of this recent audition with Florida. All signs point to his securing a top scoring line role here as he grows with this young roster.

Matt Nieto - He has been afforded a great vantage point in studying how a veteran roster carries the fortunes of the Sharks. He has apparently learned well, too, as he is on his hottest streak of the season with eight points in 11 games.

Joe Colborne - Every team covets a big range center with offensive upside. The rebuilding Flames are giving Colborne every opportunity to show that he can be that type of player and he has responded with five goals and two helpers in his last 11 games. This recent spurt is far in excess of the 24 points he has now amassed in 70 games played this season. Clearly, Calgary fans like what they have seen lately from 6'5" 213 lbs. pivot.

Top Defensemen

Mark Giordano - The Captain of the Flames has had a terrific year, despite his team's struggles. He's the top point-producing blueliner in the league as he has tallied 13 points in his last 11 games. Many of his points come from his role as the power play quarterback, worth noting if your pool allows for special teams' production.

Ryan McDonagh - The top-scoring option from the Rangers defense corps has separated himself from his peers on Broadway as he has set career highs in goals (13) and points (42). He is on a point per game streak in his last 11 games, along with a (+7) rating- nice numbers that fantasy owners should be riding hard right now.

Erik Johnson - We've noted that Johnson has benefitted from the talented youth corps that composes the core forwards in Colorado. He may be on pace to reach the 40 point plateau, with more upside likely in coming years as he continues to mature on this young squad.

Dustin Byfuglien - "Big Buff" was the subject of many trade rumors at the deadline. He's poised to set career highs in goals and points after a recent hot streak of six goals and two helpers in his last nine games. If you've got him, keep him. If you can get him, in trade even, he's a difference-maker for pools that have defensemen categories.

Could be available in your free agent pool

Jake Gardiner - Only recently has the youngster looked like the dynamo who gave the Bruins fits in last year's playoffs. He's a lone bright spot for the suddenly struggling Maple Leafs. Five goals in his last 11 games matched his total from the previous 61 games. He has a big upside and strong offensive skill set, but remains suspect in his own end.

Tobias Enstrom - Though a couple of teammates overshadow this veteran on the Jets blueline, he still provides an offensive spark. He has two goals and six assists in his last 10 games and remains a useful and dependable power play quarterback here.

T.J. Brodie - He has picked up seven of his 23 assists for the whole season over his last 11 games and seems to be in control of a solid defensive game, highlighted by a +11 rating in that stretch. He's building a solid case for top-pairing time on the Flames blueline.

Alec Martinez - The Kings look like they have unearthed yet another talented two-way defenseman here as Martinez has tallied four goals and four assists. He has nine goals and eight assist for the year, so we want to see if this is a new sustainable trend. At the moment, it's an important contribution for a team that has trouble scoring.

Top Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist - King Henrik may have started the season slowly, but he's at the top of his game, playing with peer over the last 10 games as he has seven wins and two shutouts over that span, vaulting the Rangers into a fairly secure playoff position. In a division where there are question marks in other goalie situations, he gives the Rangers a huge edge at that position.

Antti Niemi - He's been at or near the top of the leader board for goalies all year long. If you drafted him, you've made out like a bandit all year. He has seven wins and two shutouts, along with a 1.88 gaa in his last nine starts. This is his best stretch of a great season to date.

Tuukka Rask - The Bruins have eased his workload of late and he has responded with six wins and a shootout loss in his last seven starts. He has a glittering 1.26 gaa and .957 save pct. in this recent run. He will apparently be well rested when the serious shooting begins in the playoffs, but may miss a few more regular season starts, the rest of the way, as compared to other top goalies.

Ryan Miller - His assimilation in St Louis has been seamless. He is 6-2 with a 2.14 gaa in his last nine starts and if you have owned him all along you are happy that he moved on to St Louis. This seems like a great long-term fit for player and team.

Could be available in your free agent pool

Al Montoya - The decorated former USA junior star is getting a look at a heavier workload of late in Winnipeg, with the Jets having faded out of playoff contention. He's only 2-4 in his last eight appearances, but has posted a very good 2.53 gaa, along with a .910 save pct., in what amounts to an audition for him to be retained next year.

Joni Ortio - In Calgary the auditions for next year have been ongoing for much of this season and Ortio has been the goalie of choice with four wins in eight appearances during the past three weeks. The 22-year old is a pending RFA and is looking to make his case in the wide-open battle for the crease in Calgary.

Robin Lehner - With this season coming to a disappointing end, the Senators are giving their goalie of the future a chance to grab the reins from veteran Craig Anderson. Though the results have been modest, at best, with his 1-4 mark and 3.73 gaa, Lehner hopes he can build a case for the top job over the rest of this regular season. He should get most of the assignments over the Sens' remaining schedule.

Ben Scrivens - He started the year as a backup in LA, but was eventually moved to Edmonton, where he has already signed a two-year extension. He has a long history, with current Oilers coach, Dallas Eakins and hopes to parlay that into a starting role with a team that is waiting for its young group to grow. Though he has struggled to a 3.68 gaa in his last seven appearances, he could be in line for much better days in the near future with the Oilers.