For the Week of Feb. 1-8
Better Than You Think
Mike Green D, WAS – When Green was rocked with concussions in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, there was concerns that he may not be the same player upon his return. The years following have been difficult for him – only approaching half the point production that fantasy GMs were used to seeing from him. With the arrival of Barry Trotz in the off-season, along with the addition of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, Green has once again found consistency and success. Fantasy GMs should take notice: he has 29 points in 40 games this year and is on pace to break the 50 point plateau for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. He also looks like he’s going to break 50 assists in the process – which is a very useful category-killer for those GMs who need assists in a readily obtainable player. His ownership levels are around the mid-80s, but the transaction records show that many GMs are willing to move him. If he’s not available in your pool, it looks like you can get him via trade, and for a stretch run, his stats will be invaluable.
Alex Steen W, STL – You’d be forgiven if you thought that last year’s production was a statistical anomaly. After all, before to last season, his best year had been five years prior, and at 24 goals and 47 points, he wasn’t about to raise any eyebrows. Last year’s 33 goals and 62 points in 68 games was good enough to secure him a lucrative extension (3 year, $17.4 million) and reaffirm his top six status. Deep down, though, we were sure that his contract was going to be an overpayment, and his numbers would dip significantly, as his history indicated. Half-way through the season, he’s on pace to shatter his former point record, and even nip at the 30 goal mark again. He’s proving that last year wasn’t a one-time thing, and owning GMs everywhere are excited at the prospect. Like most of the Blues’ players, he produces across the board, and is responsible in his own end. That makes him a valuable addition to almost any team – and one that many GMs don’t value as much as they should.
Johnny Boychuk D, NYI – The Islanders were in a lot of trouble heading into the start of this season: sure, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, along with a talented forward cast looked to have the offense down, but there were a lot of question marks on the back end. Who was going to play defense for this team, and chew up the hard minutes against the other team’s best players? Those questions were answered quickly, and in one day, by acquiring Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk in early October. Together, they form the second pairing of the Islander blue line, and combined, put in a solid 20 minutes a night. Boychuk in particular has had a fantastic year breaking out from his role with the Bruins – he has 25 points in 36 games this year, and is a plus-16. In the last month in particular, he has two goals and 11 points – good in most leagues to put him in the top 100 ranked players for the last 30 days. With ownership levels in the mid-70s, people are starting to notice his success: he’s a large part of the reason why the Islanders are among the best teams in the league – an unimaginable thought just a few years ago.
Patrick Maroon W, ANA – We’re not completely sure how or why Maroon’s ownership numbers are so low - only 17% - but we suppose this can only be a benefit to GMs who need a scoring winger. On the surface, his six goals and 19 assists aren’t amazing for 42 games, but he has a six game scoring streak going, where he has four goals, four assists, a plus-five and four PIM. Maroon is a big, strong power forward, and owning him will get you strong contributions in all standard columns – especially penalties where he should be good for close to a minute-per-game. Playing on that top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry has been a favorite recommendation in this column for the entire year, and we can see why: anybody who serves time on that line scores in buckets, and wise GMs know which waves to ride and when. Surf’s up in Anaheim; grab him while you can.
Justin Faulk D, CAR – We’ve been a big fan of Faulk for years now, and we have him permanently flagged in our all our leagues. He’s the perfect under-the-radar player for any deep league blue line, but he’s streaky and he plays on a rough team. That usually equates to large fluctuations in both production and ownership numbers. Nothing can be more telling of his production than the last 20 games: no points in two games, followed by three points in two games, followed by nothing for five games, followed by four points in four games, followed by nothing for three games, followed recently by five points in four games. He’s up and down and all over the place, but he’s largely predictable in his unpredictability. He scores in bunches or not at all – meaning you can pick him up when he gets his first point, ride the wave for a few games, then dump him (or, ideally, trade him) and let him cool off. At high-60s ownership, his levels are likely at a seasonal high. They should drift down to the 20s as his current streak ends, followed by another astronomic rise when he hits another streak.
Brandon Sutter C, PIT – With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin injured – possibly just bumps and bruises and possibly more – it seems that the person in line to benefit for this is Brandon Sutter. His season so far has been lackluster – with ten goals and eight assists in 47 games on a potent offensive team like Pittsburgh, it seems doubtful that he’ll be able to kick it up a gear, but his opportunities have been limited on that third line. Like Jordan Staal before him, when you’re behind Crosby and Malkin, your opportunities are few and far between. The hope for Sutter, however, is that his promotion into the top six gives him increased power play time. The Penguin offense is so good at scoring with the man advantage that any additional time afforded to a player like Sutter will be reflected on the score sheet at some point. Consider adding him for the immediate few games, and upon both Crosby and Malkin’s return, dump him.
Keith Yandle D, PHX – He’s one of the better fantasy defensemen in the league – this much should come as no surprise to many of you. Acquiring him shortly should be a key goal for shrewd GMs right now; rumor has him on his way out of the desert and to a contender at the deadline. Where that might be is anybody’s guess, but it’s almost certainly a better place for him than Phoenix. Should he get moved to a team like Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay, the result could be astronomical – Yandle has potent offensive capabilities which have been minimized on bad Coyote teams for the last few years. This year alone, he’s on pace to approach 60 points; imagine what that production would look like if he had even better opportunities. It’s not unfathomable to imagine 70 should he get moved soon. While we normally advocate waiver adds in this spot, we think that getting Yandle now via trade would be a sneaky move that would pay off greatly.
Michael Del Zotto D, PHI – We were huge on him in the off-season, and were greatly surprised that it took as long for him to sign as it did. When Kimmo Timonen was shut down long-term with blood clotting issues, the Flyers signed MDZ to fill the void – a move we knew would be a good one. With 16 points in 38 games, his production is a little behind his norm, but his defensive game has improved, and is only a minus-six over that stretch. While that minus isn’t that great, he’s in the top-four on the Flyers, and is logging big minutes each night. Recently, he’s started raising some eyebrows – he has a five game point streak going, and has been rewarded with more time on the power play as a result. He’s on pace to have the best season of his career, and he’s currently on fire. If you like playing the hot hand, pick him up. His ownership levels are low, and availability is only really an issue in the deepest of leagues.
Cedric Paquette C, TB – Centering a line with up-and-coming star Jonathan Drouin seems to have its benefits: in the last three games, Paquette has five goals including a hat trick against Detroit this week. The chemistry between the two is palpable, and Alex Killorn provides the sandpaper that is making this line so difficult to play against. Tampa Bay already has one of the top one-two punches with the Steven Stamkos line and the Tyler Johnson line, that any additional production they’re able to generate out of the third line is gravy. Based on the last handful of games, the Paquette line is making sure that there’s no dry turkey in Lightning country. We were fans of his last season, and we think there’s a lot more left in the tank this year: pick him up in deep pools for the next few weeks, to determine if he’s a long term hold, or merely a depth player on your roster.
Rickard Rakell C, ANA – Currently sitting third in the depth chart behind Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, Rakell has shown a lot of promise with not a lot of ice time. In his last eight games, he has nine points, including a four-point outing against Winnipeg on January 11. His performance has seen a steady increase from the middle of December, when it appears he cracked the lineup permanently after being demoted to the AHL. At 6’0” and 201 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy in the league, but he’s fast, and plays a solid defensive game to go along with his recent point production. Anaheim is a monster team this year, and have been for the last few. Rakell’s performance doesn’t look like an aberration – if you’re in a deep league, and would like to roll the dice with a rookie, he looks like a good choice for at least the next few weeks.
Evgeny Kuznetsov C/W, WAS – We were rubbing our hands together with excitement as he entered the league last year, dubbed as “the best young talent not in the NHL” at the time. His nine points in 17 games was a disappointment, but those judgments should be tempered by the fact that he’s still learning the North American game. That much is evident this year, as he has struggled to find consistency and production. With only five goals and 13 assists in 46 games, his sophomore season has been difficult, but there’s hope that he’s starting to break out of his funk. He has three points in his last three games along with a plus-three rating – production that coach Barry Trotz is likely to praise with more ice time as a reward. We’re not sold on him yet, though we are convinced that he will be a long-term win in keeper leagues. He has so much skill and promise that it would be a mistake to cast him off without him playing at least a full season in the NHL. Watch intently – we think he’s due for a breakout any time soon.