Hot and Cold
Welcome to Hot and Cold, the article where we shine a spotlight on the latest performance trends in fantasy hockey, and give you our take. The future might not hold what you first expect… To start, here’s who’s hot.
Thomas Vanek (BUF - LW) Vanek is a streaky player and fantasy GMs are loving his hot start to the season. He's currently first in goals and points in NHL scoring. He's had bouts of cold hands in his past, along with injuries, so be aware that his current pace could cool. But, with the shortened season Vanek could also manage to avoid those past issues. He certainly has the talent to be near the top of the leader board at season's end. Our only real concern is whether or not coach Lindy Ruff will attempt to rein in the team's offense in exchange for more commitment to defense. The Sabres are currently below .500.
Patrick Marleau / Joe Thornton / Joe Pavelski / Logan Couture (SJ) The Sharks’ super-foursome has combined for 50 points in 32 total games. They’re currently running red hot, and their play makes the Sharks look like an early Cup favorite. Although the pace may slow, and Marleau has a history of disappearing, we foresee these names at the top of the scorer’s list all season thanks to this amazing start.
Martin St. Louis (TB - RW) Every year fantasy GMs pass up St. Louis for younger, less experienced players with more “upside.” Yet, all St. Louis does is deliver at nearly a point/game pace over his entire NHL career (0.92). No doubt now he'll do it again in 2013.
Vincent Lecavalier (TB - C) We called for a bounce-back campaign for Lecavalier, and early on he’s delivering. Funny thing is he’s doing it from the second line. He may not finish better than a point/game like he’s providing right now, but hockey pool GMs are being rewarded for keeping the faith.
Henrik Zetterberg (DET - C) Another player delivering a comeback type of year, Zetterberg has embraced his new role as the Red Wings’ captain. His career point/game (0.94) is better than Marty St. Louis – need we say more?
Patrick Kane (CHI - RW) Comebacks are the trend on our hot list. Kane looked ready for a true step forward in 2011-12, but it appears that he’s saved the magic for 2013. After being such a disappointment to close out last season, Kane is offering relief to GMs who stayed the course.
Sam Gagner (EDM - C) It’s easy to forget that Gagner is also a top Edmonton draft pick (6th overall in 2007) because he fared so poorly in his first few seasons. With the pressure lifted thanks to Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner is playing the second line center role to perfection, and is currently leading the team in scoring. He probably won’t finish better than a point/game, but 2013 will likely go down as a career year to date.
Nick Bonino (ANH - C) Bonino recorded a hat trick and 4 points on Saturday, Feb. 2nd, but prior to that he had just one point in 6 games. He represents the Ducks' youth-movement (Palmieri, Etem, Smith-Pelly, and Holland are the other names), but it will be hard for him to continue his current momentum from his spot on the fourth-line. Wait and see if the Ducks move to utilize him more.
Andrei Markov (MTL - D) Speaking of staying the course, Markov is the top fantasy scoring defensemen thus far, with 4 goals, 4 power play goals, 3 game winners, and 4 assists. This is a former 16 goal and 58 point scorer. Injuries are the only concern, but he looks fresh.
Raphael Diaz (MTL - D) Diaz was quick out of the gates to start the season, but he's gone pointless in his last two games. Subban is back from his holdout, which means there's a good chance that Diaz will receive less offensive opportunities.
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL - Rookie) Without the media spotlight, Tarasenko looks like a cool customer. His 5 goals and 10 points in 8 games make him overtly relevant in pools that don’t utilize a separate rookie spot, and as a rookie he's one of the best in 2013. Expect his name to be in the Calder mix come April.
Cory Conacher (TB - Rookie) With 12 points in just 8 games, Conacher is making a big splash in Tampa Bay with lots of power play time. He led the AHL in scoring last year, where he played a full professional schedule. He shouldn't fade, but finishing above the point/game pace is unlikely. He too will likely be a finalist for the Calder. Yakupov is our other candidate.
Jared Boll (CLB – Enforcer) Boll already has 6 fighting majors and 44 PIMs in just 8 games. If you don’t use enforcers in your pool, this guy might make you change your mind.
Now, let's turn our attention to WHO'S COLD.
Alexander Ovechkin (WAS – LW) If you read the draft guide, you know where we stand on “Alex the Great,” but even we couldn’t have forecast the current cold spell: 1 goal and 3 points in the first 8 games of the season. He'll turn it on, that is guaranteed, but after just 65 points last year his ceiling appears lower than ever. He just doesn’t look the same as he did 3 years ago. If you have the stomach for it, watch him crash and burn for a couple more weeks and then try to buy low. He’ll be good for something by year’s end.
Jarome Iginla (CGY – C) Remember, Iginla is a notoriously slow starter. It happens every year. The only difference in the shortened 2013 season is that he likely won’t have enough time to get his stats to normal levels by season’s end. However, he will get it going. This is a contract year. If Iginla owners grow weary, he will soon represent a buy-low opportunity. Will you be ready to take advantage?
Henrik Sedin (VAN – C) The Art Ross winner from three seasons ago is off to an incredibly slow start, with just 5 assists in 8 GP. Let’s face it, the Canucks aren’t the same team they were just two years ago. Should Kesler return and re-gain his top form, Vancouver will be a much better team, but right now the offense is somewhat average. Hank Sedin will certainly pick up the pace, but suddenly his regular point/game rate seems lofty.
Phil Kessel (TOR – RW) This was bound to happen. Kessel had a career year in 2011-12, and the likelihood that he would do it all again coming out of the lockout was not good. Zero goals and 4 assists in 8 games is a cold cup of coffee for fantasy GMs and, with Lupul on the shelf, Kessel appears to be on a trip back down to earth.
Tyler Seguin (BOS – C) Seguin may be running cold (1 G, 3 A in 8 GP), but if you saw the Bruins’ most recent game, you might agree with us that Seguin should break the slump sooner than later. The puck has a knack of winding up on his stick; Boston just needs to get back to using him more consistently.
Shea Weber (NSH – D) Perhaps the coldest of them all is the wolfman, Shea Weber. Nary a point in the first two weeks? This is a trend that will likely end in the near future, but the flood gates will have to open for Weber to make it up to the GMs who spent a high draft pick to get him. He's definitely worth hanging onto, as well he could probably be gotten on the cheap if the right trade was offered up.
Jonathan Quick (LA – G) Quick has just 2 wins in 7 games. He hasn’t played terribly, but the Kings don’t look like the team that won the Stanley Cup in the fewest number of games ever. They'll likely turn it around, and Quick will probably get hot and start notching some shutouts, but right now a substitute goalie might be needed in your starting rotation.
There you have our first Hot and Cold of the 2013 season. Certainly there are a number of GMs who would like to see some of these names disappear from this column in our next edition, while others are hoping to ride the hot streaks until season's end. Good luck managing your roster.