A great way to win your office playoff pool is via late-round steals and a great way to find those hidden gems is to check the NHL injury list.
Your typical office pool has a large number of casual hockey fans who will bring a copy of the 2008-09 final stats to the draft and not much else, so the players who have missed half the season tend to get overlooked by many of your competitors. Even some of your more-informed competitors will miss the players who are still on the inured list, but gearing up to play. I’ll never forget the year I drafted Peter Forsberg in the last round after he had missed the entire season. It was 2002 and he returned for the playoffs, getting me 27 points in 20 games, along with the first-place prize money.
Here are some players from both categories – they either missed a lot of time, or are still officially hurt – to consider in the later rounds of your playoff draft.
Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim – Beauchemin should only be considered in pools that require you to select several defensemen. He has only played 18 games this season because of a torn ACL, but is skating again and should be ready early in the post-season. In the 2006 and 2007 playoffs combined, Beauchemin tallied 17 points in 36 contests, which is about the pace you can expect from him now, even with the additions of Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski to the blueline.
Rene Bourque, Calgary – Bourque was having a career season (40 points in just 58 games) when he sprained his ankle. He is back skating and could even return before the regular season ends. If you like the Flames to advance a couple of rounds, this guy should be good for 10 or 12 points, which is not a bad return for a final-round selection.
Derick Brassard, Columbus – Brassard was leading the Blue Jackets in scoring early in his rookie campaign when he sustained a serious shoulder injury. Columbus maintains he will not play before May 1, but if the team is facing elimination in Game 6 or 7 of the first round, don’t be surprised if they call on him. If you like this team for an upset, Brassard will get you a point per game once he returns.
Daniel Briere, Philadelphia – Briere missed much of the season struggling with abdominal and groin injuries and he’ll finish in the neighborhood of 25 points in 29 contests, which places him 11th in scoring on the Flyers. Many casual poolies won’t be looking that far down a team’s list at the draft table, which means Briere will slip to the middle rounds.
Matt Cullen, Carolina – Cullen is currently on the shelf with a foot injury. Unless it’s broken (the team won’t say), he will be back in the first round. Prior to getting hurt, he had 26 points in 25 contests.
Paul Kariya, St. Louis – While Brad Boyes has proven to be a steady first-liner, rookies T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund have shown great promise and veteran Andy McDonald has hovered around a point per game all season, there is no arguing Paul Kariya is still the best player on this team. He is hoping to return in time to play at least one game prior to the post-season, but if you’re lucky he won’t. That way, most of your competitors will lay off and you can select him in the final round of your draft. Even if the Blues don’t make it past the first round (as many experts expect), he’ll still get you a handful of points.
Robert Lang, Montreal – When Lang went down with a torn Achilles tendon he was leading the Habs in scoring. He is expected to return soon and if you like the Habs to get out of the first round he’ll provide you with a lot of points for a late pick.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago – Sharp is battling a lower body injury, which could be related to his earlier knee injury that cost him 16 games. When he plays, however, he has been productive. Sharp is a key element of this young team’s offense and if he remains out of the lineup until the post-season starts, he’ll slip in your draft.
Steve Sullivan, Nashville – Sure, the Preds are expected to exit the playoffs in the first round for what seems like the 50th year in a row, but historically when they get eliminated they not only give the opposition a good run, but they do it with many key players in the infirmary. This time they should have everyone healthy, with the exception of Martin Erat (broken leg). Their best offensive player is Sullivan, so if you can see an upset happening it will be Sully who leads the charge. He has 23 points in his past 22 games, yet he is tucked nicely beneath seven other players on Nashville’s scoring list.
Alex Tanguay, Montreal – It is too bad Tanguay has been so hot as of late (12 points in his past nine games) because without this spike he may have finished seventh in scoring for Montreal and hidden from some poolies. Now that he is fourth on the team, he’ll probably be selected a couple of rounds higher. In reality, he is probably the third-best Hab skater to own for the post-season, behind Alex Kovalev (hold the catcalls non-Hab fans) and Andrei Markov.
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