On the heels of the impending highly anticipated return and resurrection of the Fantasy Hockey show with Jim “Boomer” Gordon and Rob Higgins this week (Friday’s 2-3 PM EST on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio) – I present to you a weekly column dedicated strictly to fantasy hockey banter and advice. Who’s hot? Who’s not? And more importantly — who will be that player who turns around your fantasy fortunes? I’ll do my best to feed you the information needed for long-term fantasy hockey success.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?
The perfect word to describe and depict this year’s fantasy hockey landscape thus far is bizarre. While some of them have started to stir just a bit, the seemingly sure bets like Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Claude Giroux and list your Anaheim Ducks star haven’t been as advertised. To drown out the cynics and die-hard fans, it’s relatively early and there’s still plenty of time to turn things around. So, essentially what I’m saying is relax and be patient…sort of.
GIVE EM’ PROPS
Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers – C
In most leagues, “Sasha” Barkov was an after-thought or a “waiver warrior” as I like to call them. Well, I’ve got news for you. PICK HIM UP before it’s too late because he’s absolutely lighting it up. Despite an IR stint this year, the 20-year-old is becoming a star in front of our eyes. Who would’ve known that playing on a line with 83-year-old ALL-STAR Jaromir Jagr would be the solution? (Ok, he’s actually 43) The young Finnish centre currently has 23 points in 29 games and should easily smash his output from his first two NHL seasons. This kid is the real-deal and I’m all-in on him.
Patrick Sharp – Dallas Stars – C, LW, RW
From a 20-year-old to a veteran who knows how to win. 34-year-old Patrick Sharp was brought to Dallas to provide leadership and secondary scoring for an already stacked roster that included the likes of superstars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Lucky for Sharp — he’s spent a good chunk of his time in Dallas on a line with the aforementioned two and is on pace to at least flirt with his career-best 2012-2013 campaign where he notched 78 points with the Chicago Blackhawks. Sharp’s current nine game point streak matches a career high he set in 2011. Add in his eligibility at multiple forward positions and he’s as valuable as they come right now in fantasy hockey. SELL HIGH if you have him.
Alex Steen – St. Louis Blues – LW
With the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jake Allen stealing the fantasy spotlight in St. Louis, Alex Steen is quietly having another terrific season. With 13 goals and 22 assists in 41 games, the 31-year-old is on pace for a career campaign. He’s been clutch, reliable and most important of all, healthy.
Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins – C
During his 12-year NHL career, Patrice Bergeron has been the epitome of consistency and this year has been no different. Widely regarded as one of the best two-way players in the game, it’s his offensive numbers that have really taken off this year. He’s actually on pace to post the best offensive numbers of his career. You have to go all the way back to his sophomore season (05/06) where he notched 73 points in 81 games to see some comparable stats. The 30 year-old has been a fantasy stud this year routinely ranked in the top-15 with 35 points in 37 games thus far. He’s showing no signs of letting up.
James van Riemsdyk – Toronto Maple Leafs – LW
After a less than spectacular month of October where he tallied just five points in 10 contests, James van Riemsdyk has really turned the corner. Even with former line mate Phil Kessel now in Pittsburgh, the American winger enjoyed back-to-back 11 point months in November and December. Not be outdone, he started January off well notching a goal in a 4-1 win over St. Louis on Saturday night. Given what Toronto is expected to do at the trade deadline, a sell HIGH on JVR could be the smart play right now. That is, unless, he’s one of the guys who gets dealt and goes to an appealing situation.
Joe Thornton – San Jose Sharks – C
Someone call the local fire department because Joe Thornton is on fire. It’s funny to think that maybe about a month ago people really started to question if the 36-year-old had anything left in the tank. It turns out that he still has plenty to offer. After registering a measly 15 points in the first 23 games of the season, Thornton has been producing at a solid rate recently. He’s currently on an eight game point streak tallying three goals and eight assists during that span. He doesn’t offer much more than assists but in a league where helpers, points and power play production is vital, he’s extremely relevant.
HAVE AN EYE
Whether anyone will admit or not, your fantasy league could be won or lost on the waiver wire.
Mikkel Boedker – Arizona Coyotes – LW
Despite his absolutely dreadful minus-15 rating, Mikkel Boedker is in the midst of a breakout offensive season. The correlation always seems to be there: contract year and the guy goes off. And, that’s what’s happening here too. If he doesn’t have a new contract by July 1st, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Bottom line: he wants to get paid so I expected the steady production to continue. Through 38 games, the 26-year-old has 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points including 12 power play points. 60-point guys don’t grow on trees – especially in this day and age.
Ondrej Palat – Tampa Bay Lightning – LW
It’s astonishing how quickly fortunes can change in the NHL. In June, Palat was a part of Tampa’s “Triplets” taking the league by storm on the biggest stage – the Stanley Cup playoffs. Along with several of his teammates, Palat has been unable to stay healthy this season. On Saturday night against Minnesota, the 24-year-old made his latest return to the Bolts lineup picking up an assist. While there’s no telling if he can stay healthy and in the lineup, I think Palat is worth a pickup just based on his body work in his young NHL career thus far. He could be your diamond in the rough addition this year.
The following is a list of players who you should take a long look at if they’re available on waiver wire. They’ve all been producing a beneficial rate lately.
Artem Anisimov – Chicago Blackhawks – C, LW
Mathieu Perreault – Winnipeg Jets – C, LW
Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators – C
Shane Doan – Arizona Coyotes – LW, RW
Nino Niederreiter – Minnesota Wild – RW
Jake Gardiner – Toronto Maple Leafs – D
If you want me to write about a specific player or for general inquiries, you can find me on twitter: @thegoldenmuzzy. Talk to you all next week and good luck!