Players are dropping like flies in Steeltown and the fantasy hockey world will feel the effects. Over the past 18 months, the Penguins have dealt with a lot of key injuries. But now, things are getting a little carried away. How will the ‘survivors’ perform?
Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, James Neal and Kris Letang are all out.
At this point, poolies are used to Crosby being sidelined. Sure, he came back, made a lot of noise, and then disappeared again. Whether that will be different next time, or he becomes the next Peter Forsberg, we’ll be able to tell for sure by the success of his next return to action. But it’s when you remove the top winger (Neal) from the mix too that things get a little…different. Remove Staal as well and you’ve taken three of the top four forwards on the team out of the lineup.
Other forwards are on the sidelines as well, such as Craig Adams (right knee, day-to-day), Arron Asham (lower body) and Dustin Jeffrey (knee, back skating now). What this does is open up a lot of room for the untested prospects as well as some of the players buried a little deeper on the roster. For a little insight on how things will shake out, we need only look to 2010-11.
Last season, the Pens lost 350 man-games to injury. At one point, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh’s farm team) was without five of its top seven scorers. During that window, the most proven veteran scorer – Brett Sterling – was given a chance to shine. He had points in each of his first five games, including three goals. Nick Johnson also made a splash – three points in four games, which he parlayed into a regular NHL job this year with the Wild. The point is, the team was forced to lean hard on some AHL vets. It wasn’t a typical AHL call-up in which the player would come in, see seven minutes of ice and then go back down, these were real minutes.
When an AHL veteran scorer sees real minutes in the NHL, he often produces early on. Call it “adrenaline,” but whatever the reason you see it more often than not. It’s whether they fizzle (like Simon Gamache a number of years ago) or continue (like we’re seeing with P-A Parenteau on Long Island) that determines staying power.
This time around I’m looking at Jason Williams. He’s already played seven games for the big club, but picked up two points in the only game in which he saw more than 12 minutes. We’ll see him again and I think he’s worth a pick up. He’ll give you at least a week, maybe two, of good production.
While Eric Tangradi will/should also get a look, not to mention decent ice time, I’m leaning towards Colin McDonald as the other AHLer who’ll become a temporary hit. He’s not worth plucking off waivers, but bears watching. The 27-year-old has 28 points in 33 games for WBS after tallying 42 goals a year ago.
Besides the AHLers, there are of course some members of the current roster who stand to gain from all this. Both Staal and Neal are gone until February, so somebody gets to fill the other power play spot. My vote – Tyler Kennedy. Put him out there with Evgeni Malkin, Steve Sullivan, Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen and the goals will start to pour in. He’s already on a career pace for assists, but after a 21-goal season in 2010-11, we expected a bit more from him at this point. Now we’ll see it.
One final name to throw at you – the aforementioned, injured Dustin Jeffrey, a skilled, underrated prospect who was finding a way to produce points despite being buried on a deep roster. Sidelined with a knee injury since Nov. 3, he’s skating with the team and it sounds as if we’ll see him back soon. Normally that would mean some more fourth-line action and no points over the next few weeks, but after an initial three or four games to get his timing back, I think he’ll make a splash. After all, with all the injures, he should move up the depth chart.
Jeffrey’s worth plucking off the wire, throwing on your bench for a week or two and then deciding on his value.
Malkin’s going to keep getting his points. Even if it’s myself on his left wing and web editor *Rory Boylen on his right, Malkin will still rack up the big numbers. The key is to guess at the small list of names who will benefit.
If you’re looking for more help in your fantasy hockey league, pick up my Mid-season Fantasy Guide – second-half projections, prospects to watch down the stretch and more! To get a sense what’s in it, check out last year’s for free!
*Editor’s note: I believe Malkin’s production would go up if I was on his wing.*
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.