Fantasy Pool Look: Craig hits stride

Hockey fans know all too well the Tampa Bay Lightning are having their share of struggles in their own end. Be it defensive lapses or inconsistent goaltending, their weakness is clear.

But fantasy owners who have a stake in certain Lightning players see another weakness: offense.

Tampa forwards have not been putting up the numbers expected of them this season, with the exception of Brad Richards (who you could set your watch to) and Vaclav Prospal.

Vincent Lecavalier looks like he will break the 70-point mark by season’s end and Martin St-Louis will be lucky to reach 65. A lot of poolies, myself included, had these two players pegged to combine for at least 185 points this season, particularly in the new wide-open NHL. Needless to say, Tampa Bay is in need of goals.

Enter Ryan Craig.

Before you get excited and start penciling Craig in at the top of next summer’s entry draft list in your keeper league, I want to make it clear he will never tally 80 points in a season, and I don’t see a 70-point year out of him either. That said, he seems to have found a home on the third line and is producing at a level that makes me think 60 points is feasible for him.

The 24-year-old averaged just more than a point per game in the Western League his last three years in junior, which generally indicates a ceiling of 65 points in the NHL. His first two pro seasons in the American League seemed to show a decline in his career path. Last season, Craig had just 41 points in 80 games and was a minus-21 for Springfield.

But whatever he did last summer worked. Craig has turned things around this season with 22 points in 28 games for Springfield and 23 points in 35 games for Tampa Bay, including six in his last three. Craig is worth keeping an eye on, as he could make a fine depth player in your keeper league next yearÂ…

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Sandis Ozolinsh has six points in six games as a member of the Rangers. As I stated earlier, he is the perfect fit on Broadway as the new power play quarterback. His presence is in no small way responsible for the recent hot streaks of Michael Nylander (nine points in four games), Petr Prucha (seven in five), Martin Straka (four in three), Petr Sykora (seven in five) and, yes, even Jaromir Jagr (nine in five). The big guns on the Rangers are all hot, and Ozolinsh is right behind them giving them the puckÂ…

Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Avalanche left winger Alex Tanguay (knee sprain) will likely be shelved until the playoffs begin. Look for Andrew Brunette‘s numbers increase as he fills in for Tanguay on the top line in ColoradoÂ…It looks as if Chicago’s Tuomo Ruutu may get into a game or two in mid-April. When Ruutu suffered his ankle injury, it seemed certain he was out for the remainder of the regular season, but he’s a warriorÂ…

Farm Report: Good news for Predators fans and keeper league owners of Alexander Radulov. Nashville’s 2004 first round pick (15th overall) tallied seven goals and four assists in a single game for the Ramparts of the Quebec League March 19 and finished the season with 152 points in 62 games to lead all Canadian junior players in scoring.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Hockey Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league – check out the latest scoop every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Also, get the top 250 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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