Posted - 12/30/2007 : 23:38:27
By Fantasy Fanatics
In the spirit of the season, after a 2-week hiatus, it would be nice for this edition of 'What the Puck?' to reflect on this NHL season in true holiday form. With all the Christmas editions all over the internet, fantasy hockey has yet to have a “Hannukah” special, so here are 8 presents from this NHL season and some gifts-to-be for the rest of the season or your keeper leagues.
Day 1: The Best Forward:
Might as well start with the guy who has been the overall best player in fantasy hockey this season. Vincent Lecavalier has been that guy. Despite all the hype about Sidney Crosby having a repeat season as the best player in the league, Vinny is the early leader for the Hart trophy. Although Crosby has been terrific, the 27 year old former #1 pick has clearly taken the reigns as the best player in the NHL. With 55 points in just 31 games, and a plus-5, Lecavlier is the dominant offensive player in the NHL. Earlier in the season, there were rumors of Lecavlier being traded, but that does not look like its going to happen as the Lightning are going through an ownership change based on the guarantee that Lecavlier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards will remain on the team. Expect Lecavlier to continue on his tear and leave owners that picked him around pick #5 thrilled to have the best player in the NHL.
Day 2: The Best Goalie:
The race for the best goalie has been a lot tighter than the race for the best player in the NHL. There have been big surprises such as Pascal Leclaire of Columbus and Tim Thomas of Boston. However, both of these guys have been fading as the season progresses. Instead, in determining the best goalie based on his performance so far and how the future of the season, one must look to Henrik Lundqvist. Although it has been a bit streaky for Henrik, he is due to become the best paid goalie in the league after this season and has earned his pay. With 17 wins and a 2.20 GAA, Lundvqist should get more wins in the second half of the season as the Rangers come together as a team.
Day 3: The Best Defenseman:
As if anyone had to guess, Nicklas Lidstrom has again been the best defenseman in the league so far this season. Although he only has 4G so far, Lidstrom has a shocking 30A for the best team in the NHL: the Detroit Red Wings. He is also a terrific plus-23 as he continues to prove why he is one of the best defenseman the NHL has ever seen. Some defenders, such as Sergei Gonchar or Andrei Markov may be able to put up more goals, but in terms of who is the best overall defenseman in the NHL, Lidstrom has proven over and over again why he is labeled with that title.
Day 4: The Biggest Surprise:
Before this season, all I knew about Mike Ribeiro is that he was that guy on the Canadiens that got called for diving against the Bruins in the playoffs years ago. He was supposed to be a 50-point man this season, but with 20G and 22A so far, he is leading the Dallas Stars and having a monster season. Whether he keeps it up is impossible to know, but he is no longer that guy who was called for diving. He has all ready had as good as a season as he was expected to have in only half the games. Therefore, Ribeiro is clearly the biggest surprise of the NHL this season. Brad Boyes of St. Louis is a close second for the biggest surprise.
Day 5: The Best Rookie
In this NHL season, we have seen many rookies step up into top line roles for their respective teams. However, although Patrick Kane leads all rookies in points, as an overall fantasy player, one must favor Jonathan Toews as the best rookie so far. His 14G are 5 more than Kane and he also is a plus-3 as opposed to Kane’s even rating. However, in the second half of the season, I expect preseason Calder favorite Nicklas Backstrom of Washington to explode. He should find himself centering Alexander Ovechkin more as the season goes on. The only issue with Backstrom is that he is on Washington, which is a reason for his ugly minus-6 rating. In terms of defense, the best rookie has clearly been Tobias Enstrom of Atlanta. With 21 points, Enstrom has easily been the biggest rookie surprise in this NHL season. Some other rookies to watch out for in the second half of the season include Peter Mueller and Martin Hanzal of Phoenix.
Day 6: The Biggest Bust(s)
I don’t think it is even a question who has been the biggest bust in the NHL this season. In fact, I believe most fans would agree that two San Jose Sharks are tied right now in the race for the biggest bust. Those two players are Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo. Both are playing way below expectations, which has made them common names on the trade block. Cheechoo only has 9 points despite being projected to have around 85. Marleau has 17 points and is also way below expectations. It looks like Marleau could be traded shortly, which could help his production. If fantasy owners have not traded these guys yet, you are probably stuck with them for the rest of the season. We’ll see if they are able to turn it around.
Day 7: The Best Players on the Waiver Wire
Chuck Kobasew (RW, Boston) has been scoring goals and sustaining a good plus-minus all season. He is on the waiver wire in most leagues and is a useful pickup in most deep leagues. However, do not expect any assists from him as he is simply a gritty scorer. In leagues that give extra points for a goal from a defenseman, a solid pickup would be Tom Gilbert of Edmonton. With 6G, he is an above average scorer for a defenseman. Another possible pickup to bolster your defense could be Ryan Suter of Nashville.
Day 8: Keeper Watch
It’s about halfway through the season meaning those fantasy owners in Keeper Leagues need to start scouring the waiver wire for a cheap keeper. Both defenseman mentioned earlier (Gilbert and Suter) are projected to be top defenseman thus making them great keeper candidates. Both of them are also trade candidates as they are entering Restricted Free Agency this summer. Beyond the obvious young guns such as Kane, Toews and Backstrom, one could also look to Simon Gagne in Edmonton or Patrick O'Sullivan in Los Angeles as young players that are projected to be top line players. As the season goes on, more and more young players will surface as potential keepers.
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