Here’s a hockey-style line’s worth of wingers to take a closer look at for the stretch run. Some are guys that may be on the waiver wire, others the big guns to look at acquiring or dumping in trades for the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs.
Jamie Langenbrunner: Being on the wing opposite Zach Parise isn’t a bad gig, and this member of Jersey’s newfound big-offense has been huge since the All-Star break with seven goals and two assists in six games. More than that, he’s been consistent all year with 43 points, 44 PIMs, 139 shots, and a plus-20 in 52 games. Brendan Shanahan‘s return to Jersey hasn’t disrupted his role either, yet somehow he’s owned in only about 75 percent of ESPN leagues. If he’s on the waiver wire in yours, go get him. Now.
David Booth: Florida looks like it’s going to be battling with Carolina and Pittsburgh for the East’s last playoff spot. The Sunshine Boys are mostly built around blueliners, but up front, David Booth is for real. Riding Nathan Horton‘s wing, this 24-year-old already has 20 goals in just 43 games after being injured earlier in the season. He’s pumped 156 shots on goals in those games and is a stellar plus-11. He’s only owned in 59 percent of ESPN leagues so, unless you’re bursting with forward depth, go get him.
Pavol Demitra: This is more of a hunch than a result of performance, but Demitra’s ready to rumble. The veteran winger has been adjusting to life in Vancouver but seems to have found his niche alongside Mats Sundin with Ryan Kesler on the Orcas’ second line, which has produced 15 points in their last two games. Demitra gets big power-play time and, unless Roberto Luongo is nursing a lingering injury, this team smells poised to make a huge run. Demitra’s only owned in about 75 percent of ESPN leagues. Go get him before someone else notices who Sundin’s linemates are now that he’s catching up with the rest of the NHL.
Nathan Horton: It’s not that Florida’s top-line center is bad, but he’s not living up to preseason expectations and needs to be ranked where he belongs. Horton looked like he was settling into a big goal scoring run in late January when he was placed on his current line, but he’s becoming a traditional center, although listed as a winger–getting assists (five in six games since the All-Star break) but the goals have dried up (18 on the year) to be at his typical 30-goal pace and he’s a minus-5 on the season without shooting the puck much. The former No. 3 overall pick may have a big surge in him, but I’d expect more of a passer who’s worth having on your roster, but not as one of your top six forwards.
Shuffle the Elite Second-Tier Wings
It’s time to take a 2nd look at #s 5-20 of the wings if you’re looking for a trade to beat your deadline. The key here isn’t to make a trade around these guys but can you upgrade at this position by shuffling wingers within these ranks, while looking to improve elsewhere (blue line or goaltending).
Thomas Vanek is downgraded now that his jaw is broken and he’s out for 3-4 weeks, but Phil Kessel is back on the ice after sitting out with mono. Start by dropping Vanek to the back of the top-30 (no one should be cutting him) and moving Kessel up. Kessel got two assists in his first game back but has only one assist in his next five games. Still, unless he came back too early, he’ll adjust back to full speed soon.
Meanwhile, Zach Parise simply needs to be recognized as being on the verge of cracking the big four (Ovechkin, Iginla, Zetterberg, and Hossa). Right now, he’s my No. 5 wing and should be at these heights for years to come. Corey Perry‘s 11 goals, five assists, and lots of PIMs in 14 games since early January also bump him up from the teens. But Patrick Kane claims he’s still only at 85-90 percent after injuring his ankle around the Winter Classic. His numbers bear out the problem and, until he’s completely recovered (tough to do without rest) you gotta bump him down a bit.