John Scott this. John Scott that. I’m avoiding it all.
With the NHL all-star festivities just a couple weeks away and the #FreeJohnScott campaign in full swing, it’s the perfect time to acknowledge some players who’ve had terrific seasons but unfortunately didn’t get the recognition and will not be in Nashville.
Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg Jets – RW
With 44 points in 45 games, Wheeler is currently on pace for a career year and apparently – those numbers alone – are not enough to warrant an all-star spot. The 29-year-old is what fantasty enthusiasts called a stat suffer. He’s currently 6th in the NHL in points (44), 4th in assists (31) and tied for 15th in terms of game-winning goals (4). While it’s disappointing that he wasn’t selected to be an all-star, his consistent play will continue to make his fantasy owners smile. At the end of the day – that’s all that matters.
Corey Crawford – Chicago Blackhawks – G
For my radio listeners, it won’t come as an enormous shock that I’m once again throwing my support for Corey Crawford.
Similar to his Chicago squad, the two-time Stanley Cup winner has been tremendous so far this season. It’s the same old story in the Windy City. With the team littered with stars, Crawford’s stellar play is going basically unnoticed… again. For the first time in his career, the 31-year-old has consistently been in the top-10 of all the major goaltending categories. Just for good measure, he leads the entire league with six shutouts. What else do I need to say?
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Arizona Coyotes – D
Who knows – with the unfortunate John Scott trade last week – it might open up the door for Ekman-Larsson to be Arizona’s representative for the all-star game. As we all know, you’re nothing without a stud defenseman and lucky for the Coyotes – they have one. Not only is he tasked with stopping the opposition’s best players on a nightly basis but the 24-year-old has doing it again offensively as well. He has 33 points in 44 games – almost half of the output has come courtesy the power play. If you want to talk about the clutch factor then, look no further than Ekman-Larsson. Of his 13 goals, six of them have been of the game-winning variety.
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals – C, LW
Similar to seemingly half the Washington Capitals roster this year, Evgeny Kuznetsov is in the midst of a ridiculously good season. With the new all-star roster format, it was inevitable that some players who deserved an all-star spot would not get one. It goes without saying – the 23-year-old is firmly atop that list. While he had his official ‘coming out’ party in last year’s post season, Kuznetsov’s success has continued into this campaign. 44 points (6th) which includes 29 assists (6th) and a plus-23 rating (2nd) through 45 games is not too shabby for a guy who hasn’t even played three full seasons in the NHL yet.
Chris Kreider – New York Rangers – LW
Widely regarded as one of the biggest disappointments of this fantasy season thus far, it seems like Kreider is slowly but surely starting to find his offensive game again. The Massachusetts native is currently on a three-game point streak – tallying three goals and one assist in that span. It’s a small sample size but finally, there’s some optimism on this file.
Tyler Johnson – Tampa Bay Lightning – C
After a tremendous 14/15 season, Johnson has been off and on the Injured Reserve so far this season. The good news is that he’s in the lineup these days and his play is improving on a nightly basis. The 26-year-old is a person of interest – for me at least – for a couple of reasons: 1) Due to injuries, he’s plummeted down the fantasy rankings. You can probably get him for cheap right now and 2) He’s very capable of being a point-per-game player again. I’d gamble on him having a strong second half.
YOUNG GUNS MAKING A PUSH
Sam Bennett – Calgary Flames – C, LW
Besides Justin Bieber, there’s probably no one hotter on the planet right now than Flames youngster Sam Bennett. How about that week? Six goals in three games – which included a four goal performance against Florida. Is that pace sustainable? Probably not but there’s certainly reason to suggest a significant increase in point production. Sean Monahan’s struggles and a need for offense should work in Bennett’s favour in this situation. If he continues to produce, Flames Head Coach Bob Hartley will have no choice but to move him up the depth chart.
Vladislav Namestnikov – Tampa Bay Lightning – C
The above mentioned injury issues in Tampa have opened up the door for Namestnikov to become a full-time NHLer. Suffice it to say, he has seized the opportunity and is currently centering Tampa’s top line flanking Ondrej Palat and Steven Stamkos. Namestnikov is on fire! In his last five games, he’s potted three goals (hat trick Jan. 15 against Pittsburgh) and five assists for eight points. Have a look!
Ryan Spooner – Boston Bruins – C, LW
Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks – C
Tobias Rieder – Arizona Coyotes – RW
Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks – LW, RW
Andrew Shaw – Chicago Blackhawks – RW
Patrik Berglund – St. Louis Blues – C
Have another great week! For inquiries and thoughts, you can find me on twitter: @thegoldenmuzzy