Pushing Up (Underrated)
Rene Bourque: The mainstay of Calgary's second line returned home this offseason, traded from Chicago in July, and has broken out. At 27 years old, this power forward has already set a career-high in goals (16) and is on the verge of one in points (31 with 34 the previous high) in just 45 games. Put together about 0.75 points with intangibles like almost three shots and over one PIM per game along with a plus-12 on the season and second unit power-play time, and you've got yourself a fantasy-worthy forward. He's right below guys like Milan Lucic (when healthy), Bill Guerin, and Tomas Holmstrom in my book, and is only owned in 41 percent of ESPN leagues, so check your waiver wire. If he's still out there, he could bring you the secondary scoring and intangible points that bring fantasy playoff berths...and championships.
Dustin Byfuglien: The Hawks have so many quality defensemen, they converted this 6-3, 245-pounder to wing this year. After initially struggling offensively with just six points through the end of November, Byfuglien has more recently settled in as a power forward/bodyguard alongside Jonathan Toews, increased his power-play time (three power-play goals since Christmas), and scored 13 points overall (7 G and 6 A) in 22 games since the beginning of December. Those aren't huge numbers, but they're good enough if your league counts others stats like shots (62 in those 22 games since December) and PIM (53 in 41 games on the year). If he's eligible on the blue line, he's probably gone in your league, but in others, check your waiver wire. He's owned in only 6.6 percent of ESPN leagues, and his stock is on the rise. If he's out there in deeper leagues, grab him as he's another big body that can help deliver fantasy playoff berths and championships as injuries mount elsewhere.
Ryan Smyth: Speaking of power forwards, has anyone else been watching what Ryan Smyth is doing lately? If you were worried about this guy's production once Paul Stastny went down with a broken forearm right before the Christmas break, you're not alone. In 12 games since, though, Smyth has poured in 13 points (5 G, 8 A) with his trademark high shots total (42), lots of minutes, and power-play points. Unlike some other wings in the middle of the pack, he's a lock to be on the top line and top power-play unit, has Stastny coming back down the stretch, and will be fighting...every night...for a playoff spot. I'd rather have him than guys like Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski, Chris Kunitz, or Jason Pominville. If others in your league disagree, see if you can get Smyth and reap the rewards.
Dropping Back (Overrated)
Markus Naslund: At this point in his career, the former Vancouver star has become a power-play specialist. There's nothing wrong with that – as he's gotten five of his 14 goals with the man advantage and still pours in a ton of shots (116 in 47 games), but his -11 assists and declining time on the ice translates into lower value in other categories. He's more of a borderline fantasy property in deeper leagues than a must own, particularly because he's struggling with a strained groin, and I'd rather have Rene Bourque and his points than Naslund's name and his useful, but one-dimensional game. Let someone else take the name and drop him down in your rankings.
JP Dumont: For some teams, being on the second power-play unit means lots of opportunities. Not in Nashville. The Preds' young, vibrant defensive core doesn't have the same energy up front. For guys like the 30-year-old Dumont, with 20 goals in six of his last seven seasons, those totals are getting harder to come by, particularly because he's not even on the top power-play unit where Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, & company make their living. Dumont has been more useful for his assists to date and it may be that the loss of Alexander Radulov up front has really hit the Preds hard. He doesn't get a lot of PIMs and only gets about 175 shots or so a year too. Those are numbers probably worth having in deeper leagues, but there's a lot of other guys (like Michael Ryder, Shawn Horcoff, Bobby Ryan, Joffrey Lupul, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Knuble, Pavol Demitra, and David Booth) who I'd rather have than Dumont. See if you can deal him for one of the above, citing his previous history of consistently getting 20 goals as bait, and drop him down your rankings.