Posted - 10/17/2009 : 13:21:45 The two week mark of the NHL season may not be a good time to take stock of real NHL team performances, but it is a great time to take advantage of hot or cold player starts in order to improve your fantasy teams.
There are some near-guarantees that we can point out this early: The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins won't finish the season with .400 winning percentages, and Michael Del Zotto won't finish his rookie season with 82 points. On the flip-side, the Toronto Maple Leafs may very well finish the season 0-81-1. Just kidding.
That being said, there are hockey fans in Vancouver and Boston panicking just as there are fantasy owners believing that they have the best defense group in their single-year leagues with the additions of hot-starters Matt Carle and Del Zotto. While both players hold top-shelf offensive abilities and Del Zotto should be considered a blue-chipper in keeper leagues, owners in one-off leagues should be looking to move both players for more proven talent.
Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR: Gaborik is off to an electric start in New York, and the oft-injured winger is so far providing both the Rangers and fantasy owners an excellent return on investment. This stock can turn south in a hurry though if and when Gaborik succumbs to injury. He may stay healthy all year, but what are the odds? I tried to find some betting lines for the over/under of games played by Gaborik somewhere but had no luck. One would have to think it would be set at around 61. While RW is a shallow position this year, shop Gaborik around for a guy who has a track record of staying healthy, preferably another RW.
Michael Del Zotto, D, NYR: I love it when players start off hot and become the talk around the water cooler. Del Zotto may be revered as one of the top offensive defensemen selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but he is a 19-year old rookie defenseman playing on a team that, aside from the aformentioned injury-prone Gaborik, does not have much star power up front. Despite his hot start, I think it would be surprising to see Del Zotto score more than 40 points this season, and considering he already has seven, that would only be 33 more. Almost as a rule, teenage rookies hit a wall around the 50 or 60 game mark.
Kyle Quincey, D, COL: Quincey, a waiver-wire darling in 2008-09, has scored 6 points in 6 games this season, including 4 on the powerplay. After scoring respectable yet unspectacular numbers in the OHL and AHL, Quincey burst onto the scene last season in Los Angeles and scored 38 points in 72 games, showing that he can adequately run a powerplay, mustering 27 points with the man advantage. It is important to note that the hot-starting Colorado Avalanche have unexpectedly scored 21 goals over the first six games this season, a 3.5 goals-per-game average and a number that extrapolates to an unrealistic 287 goals over an 82 game season. Quincey may be a 40-point defenseman this season but it is unikely that he will score much more than that. If your league counts +/-, consider trying to upgrade to another 40-45 point defenseman who plays on a better team.
I've listed three guys above who I think are solid sell-high candidates. The following are players that are available in over 25% of Yahoo! leagues, who should be looked at as waiver-wire candidates or potential buy-low candidates through trade. It is important to note that I am not necessarily suggesting you try to trade the above-mentioned players for the below-mentioned players.
Brad Richards, C, DAL: Richards is back. Once considered one of the stars of the game, Richards struggled with injuries and inconsistency. He's healthy now, and to make matters even better the Stars are playing an up-tempo brand of hockey these days. Furthermore, there are some young wingers who have emerged (James Neal and Loui Eriksson) to bring support and Richards could very well return to the 70-80 point ways he enjoyed in Tampa Bay. At 29-years old, Richards is in his prime and it is likely his hot start (9 points in 5 games) is not a mirage.
James Neal, LW, DAL: Neal has been playing on a line this season with Richards and Loui Eriksson and the line has been explosive so far. His 7 points in 5 games are not likely to continue, but the sophomore forward who potted 24 goals in his rookie season is in the right situation to improve on those numbers. 30 goals are not out of reach if he sticks on that line. What might be most important to note is thatNeal is playing RW on his line this year, and for those of you in Yahoo! leagues, his value increased if and when he gains dual eligibility.
Loui Eriksson, LW, DAL: Eriksson excelled as a goal scoring checker in 2008-09, and is now firmly planted with Richards and Neal on what could be considered the Stars top line. His 36 goals in 2008-09 surprised many, but not the Stars organization who patiently waited for him to develop after his first two seasons. He should eclipse 30 goals again in 2008-09 and might see an increase in assists (he had 27 last year) now that he is playing on a scoring line full-time.
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, EDM: Visnovsky may suffer somewhat with the injury to Sheldon Souray (concussion, return unknown) but unless your league penalizes largely in the +/- department, there is almost no reason he should be available in 63% of Yahoo! leagues as of today. He's a 40-60 point defenseman and if you're really concerned about that +/- rating, consider that Visnovsky has only finished on the negative side of the ledger twice in his career...and he's played on some bad L.A. Kings teams in the past.
Erik Johnson, D, STL: Need D help? EJ is back after sitting out last season for horsing around on the gold course. He anchors the defense on a team that, despite their slow start, has a lot of firepower. He scored 33 points in 69 games in his rookie season (a 40 point pace over 82 games) and should surpass that mark this year.
Ray Irwin writes for www.SchoolYourPool.com, the most complete fantasy hockey advice website on the internet. Featuring player and prospect rankings and interviews, daily starting goalies, buy low/sell high, injury reports, goalie carousel, and lots more...come on over to www.schoolyourpool.com and Get Educated!
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