This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
With the All-Star break upon us, I'd like to highlight some players who have outperformed preseason expectations and turned into first-half fantasy studs. On the flip side, there are a number of players who have noticeably not lived up to expectations, earning the moniker of fantasy duds and leaving their teams with salary-cap concerns.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS – The third-year pro was given the plum assignment alongside Alex Ovechkin to open this season while the Caps' usual top center, Nicklas Backstrom, recovered from offseason surgery and missed the first three games. Kuznetsov proved very quickly that he was up to the task, and his productivity has continued to soar even though he was soon relegated to a second scoring line. The Capitals are finally reaping the rewards they expected when they picked the flashy Russian in the first round of the 2010 draft. His point-per-game scoring rate is a testament to the myriad of offensive skills that helped him dominate the World Junior scene.
Bobby Ryan, RW, OTT – Another former first-round choice, drafted in 2005 by Anaheim, Ryan has carved out a nice career as a consistent scorer who can be counted upon to play a sound game in a top-six role. This season, he has emerged as a focal point of the Senators' offense. Underlining that point, he's second to Erik Karlsson in team scoring through 49 games. The fact that Ryan's produced 18 goals and 43 points, putting him on pace