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Frozen Fantasy: In the Crosshairs

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

How much does a player's coach impact his fantasy value? And what - if anything - can fantasy owners do about it?

Not much...other than trade the guy away. And then pray he isn't traded to a better situation.

Nazem Kadri, this one's for you.

You know I'm not a Kadri fan. Never have been and probably never will be. He just likes himself a little too much...without the self-awareness to know he's not all that and a bag of chips.

Coach Randy Carlyle clearly thinks that way, too.

The Kadri-Carlyle rift was openly exposed last week in HBO's 24/7. Kadri blew the answer to an easy question, much to the widespread snickering of his teammates and the disgust of his head coach. "Wrong (expletive) answer," was Carlyle's disgusted boom.

Now, there are only two options here - either Kadri wasn't paying attention to the question or he's just not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed. Either way, Carlyle's exasperation was on full display.


The Leafs view Kadri as a number two-three center; Kadri already views himself as a number one guy, but his performance doesn't align with a top-line gig. And now that Tyler Bozak is back, Carlyle is hinting at third-line duty for Naz.

But for all I think of Kadri, I also can't help but think about Mikhail Grabovski and the negative impact Carlyle had on him. Grabo was bought out last summer after an abysmal, 16-point, minus-10 season. But prior to that, he had two 50-plus point seasons.

Guess who's on a 60-point pace in Washington.

Will Kadri get a proper shot in Toronto? Will he be trade bait before long? Kadri is a unique challenge for fantasy owners and a guy who truly tests your willingness to gamble. Kadri's true fantasy value might be higher in another uniform, but is his fantasy trade value higher - at least to a deluded Leafs' fan - while he's still wearing blue and white?

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida (7 percent owned) - Don't look now, but Sasha is starting to seriously heat up and we'll soon be tossing his name into the running for the Calder. Cripes, he might even push Seth Jones off the ballot. Yes, you read that right. Sasha has nine points, including three goals, in his last 10 games after delivering just 10 points in the previous 31. He has a little bit of Ryan Getzlaf in him - yes, you read that right, too. And that means he will be a 90-point player in a few short years. For now, Sasha could end up coming close to a 50-point season and that means a near 30-point second half. How would that work on your roster? Thought so.

Johnny Boychuk, D, Boston (8 percent owned) - Carpe diem. That's obviously Boychuk's motto right now, what with increased ice time following Dennis Seidenberg's injury. He has six points, including five helpers, in his last nine games and he's maintaining his strong plus-minus (plus-six in those nine) even with the extra responsibility. He's just four points from matching his career best of 16 points and his combo of plus-minus, hits and secondary offense can bring a rudder-like stability to your squad in deeper leagues.

Erik Cole, RW, Dallas (4 percent owned) - Wakey- wakey. Cole might as well have been asleep for his first 33 games this season, producing a measly five goals and seven assists in that span. But something happened in his last seven games. Red Bull, maybe? Whatever it was, it resulted in five goals and three assists in the next seven games. He's not a point-per-game guy, but he did score 35 goals in the pre-lockout year. He might score 15 more before season's end. You can use that. I can use that. The risk is low - you can always drop him if the Red Bull wears off.

Cory Conacher, LW/C, Ottawa (5 percent owned) - Mighty Mite Jr. has finally started to find his stride in Canada's capital. And it's about time. After putting up just 13 points in his first 48 games in Ottawa, Conacher has put his foot on the proverbial gas with six points, including four helpers, in his last five games. Part of that jump is the sweet chemistry he seems to have found with the man at the other end of the alphabet - one Mika Zibanejad (RW/C; 4 percent owned). Pick him up (and maybe Z-Bad, too) for a little short-term, playmaking help. Just be prepared to move him off your roster at the first sign of a reversion to the mean.

Mike Fisher, C, Nashville (8 percent owned) - Fish was pretty much all but forgotten after he posted two points (one goal, one assist) and minus-8 rating in 11 December games. But that changed two days after Christmas in a big, big way. And in his last three games, he has carved up the ice with eight points, including five assists. Fish is a tremendous leader and has two 50-plus point seasons and five 20-goal seasons under his belt. He'll be hard-pressed to hit 50 this time out, but he could deliver you another 10-12 goals and the same number of assists before season's end. Add in his hits and this aggressive center might just help you in deep leagues.

Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim (13 percent owned) - I still can't believe this guy is just 19 years old. He's third in the league in the mature man's category of plus-minus (plus-20) and has 13 points to go with it. What's possible for this smooth-skating big man? Snap him up if you need to stabilize your plus-minus and start engraving his name on the Calder trophy. Yes, ahead of Seth Jones, Sasha Barkov and Nathan McKinnon. He'll be a minute-munching, defensive beast and second power-play point man who delivers 45-plus points every year for the next decade.

Ben Lovejoy, D, Anaheim (3 percent owned) - Offensive instincts. Check. Physicality. Yup. Defensively-sound play. You bet. And that adds up to seven points (two goals, five assists) and a plus-11 rating in his last eight games. Cha-ching. Get thee to the waiver wire STAT. Multi-categorical goodness awaits.

Andrew MacDonald, D, NY Islanders (11 percent owned) - Mr. Reliable is an underrated fantasy performer, particularly in niche leagues. He blocks a lot of shots - he was fifth in that category in the last two seasons. But this season, he's adding more offense to his game and that's inflating his fantasy value. He's on a three-game, five-point streak heading into Saturday and he's pacing toward a career-best 37 points. His plus-minus will always be a bit sketchy on the Isles, but there are ways to balance that out. Honestly - how many near-40 point defenders are available on your wire?

Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay (2 percent owned) - Palat is one of those rare beasts - a scorer from the QMJHL who understands defensive play. Go figure. This high-end playmaker is showing off his hands and his smarts over the last five the tune of a five-game, six-point scoring streak (two goals, four assists). And he's plus-7 in that same span. He scored at close to a point-per-game pace in the AHL last season. He won't replicate that in the NHL, but his elite vision and playmaking will give you a cheap and bountiful boost to your squad right now.

Benoit Pouliot, LW, NY Rangers (2 percent owned) - Pouliot is a talent, but he seems to quickly wear out his welcome in every city he plays. Minnesota. Montreal. Boston. Tampa Bay. So it's only a matter of time before things turn sour on Broadway. But right now, he is delivering consistent production that might give you a short-term boost. He has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last nine games - take advantage. Just be prepared to dump his butt before he completely wears out his welcome in yet another city.

Jacob Trouba, D, Winnipeg (13 percent owned) - I've talked about Trouba before, but I need to bring this up again. He's a stud. Already. And like Hampus Lindholm, he's just 19 years old. Heading into action Saturday, he's riding a four-game, four-point, plus-seven streak. And that streak includes nine hits and nine blocked shots. Take advantage of this unshaven babe. I would.

Colin Wilson, LW, Nashville (4 percent owned) - Big things were expected of this offensive talent after he potted 19 points in 25 games last year. But that door is pretty much closed with another year of Barry Trotz oppression. But in the last couple weeks, Wilson and Mike Fisher have suddenly found a Starsky and Hutch-like chemistry, almost despite Trotz. Between Christmas and New Year's, Wilson had five points (two goals, three assists) in three games, while Fish had six points in that same span. I think there's value in Wilson if that line sticks together. Stash him - he might even be able to produce at a 60-point pace going forward.

Back to Kadri.

Fantasy owners drafted him as a second-line center after his 44 points in 48 games last year. But he has just 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 38 games, including three points (two goals, one assist) in his last 12 games. He's on tilt and certainly not worth his current level of ownership (70 percent).

He's not the second coming of Doug Gilmour. I maintain he's nothing more than Darcy Tucker with a bit more offense. And his coach clearly has him in his crosshairs.

I'm trading the dude and I'm not looking back. I think - sorry, I know - his trade value is highest to a Leafs fan, regardless of the improved production he might deliver me if he's in another city. A fan is always willing to pay more for a guy than what he's truly worth.

Take a look at your boys. You might not have Kadri, but you probably have someone who's in a similar bind.

I'm not getting stuck with a short stack. You shouldn't either.

Until next week.