You may have noticed something subtle in your fantasy hockey league. That team that has crept up the standings over the past month, well, that team’s owner has several Islanders. After watching New York for the past several years, it seems almost unwholesome to state its players are actually helping in fantasy leagues, but it’s true.
In the past 14 contests, this perennial bottom dweller has pounded out 52 goals. Average that over 82 games and you’d have 305 goals, which in many years would lead the NHL. Leading the way for the Islanders, of course, is John Tavares. But it’s not just him. In fact, the reason for his recent surge (15 points in 14 games) is because of the emergence of secondary scoring.
Rookie Michael Grabner is finally showing some consistency, which was a concern when Vancouver traded him away to Florida, who subsequently waived him. Blessed with speed few can match, Grabner just needed to put forth a consistent effort and hope his hands would one day catch up to his wheels. He has 23 points in his past 21 contests.
And isn’t it a coincidence power winger Kyle Okposo returned to the lineup 21 games ago? With speed on one side and power on the other, the steady two-way presence of Frans Nielsen is the final piece on that secondary attack. Nielsen will never be a 70-point player, as either of his linemates could be, but he represents a solid potential 60-point player who is responsible defensively. As a bonus, he and Grabner represent the greatest shorthanded threat in the NHL, combining for eight goals on the penalty kill.
Having this solid second line means two things: One, the line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and P-A Parenteau can flourish. And two, a capable goaltender can start compiling some wins, which, as you may have noticed, Al Montoya is doing.
The Isles will probably finish 26th in the league this season, but they’ll crack the top 20 in 2011-12. As the youth gains experience, the depth on the team grows. Keeper league owners should snag a few of these players in the off-season while their value is low.
WAKE-UP CALL IN BUFFALO
You see it almost every time, but it works better with some players than others: The healthy-scratch effect. Witness Buffalo rearguard Andrej Sekera. The 24-year-old has been a disappointment in fantasy circles for three years. Even though he is still quite young, we were hoping he would at least throw us a bone – something, anything to indicate he has a future as a puck-moving defenseman at the NHL level.
After he was made a healthy scratch for three games at the end of February, we may finally have that bone. Sekera has two points in each of the three games since his stint in the press box. He’s been replacing Jordan Leopold, who is out with an upper-body injury, so when the Leopold returns, Sekera’s production will slip. But at least we’ve seen a little something to give us hope for next year.
The above is just one of several nicknames flying around the Internet for James Reimer. The Toronto goaltender made his NHL debut Dec. 20 when he came on for 14 minutes and stopped all four shots. He didn’t get his first start until New Year’s Day, but it was a good one and it soon became apparent that whatever Reimer touched was gold.
As coach Ron Wilson tried to ease the transition for his goalie and brought him in slowly, a funny thing happened. The Leafs were winning with him and not really winning without him. So the 22-year-old has seized the starting job and is posting fantastic numbers. What does this mean for next season? Well, I think the job is his to lose, but will the team be ready to win 45 games by then? Probably not. Will he be the victim of the sophomore jinx? Only if Toronto gives him a strong backup. If the backup is questionable, Reimer will be able to work through any slumps instead of being benched. An early prediction is to expect 27 wins from him next campaign and be thrilled if he tops that.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy 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 Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.