Looking at the 12 biggest shockers – good and bad – of the fantasy hockey season…so far.
12. Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers
I thought Steve Mason was done. And I wasn’t alone. But the Flyers had faith (not to mention little choice) and despite the abysmal win/loss record, Mason has been great. If the Flyers end up missing the playoffs by 10 points, they would still be an 82-point team. They are on pace for about 60 points, so expect the W’s to improve. He’ll flirt with 30 wins and if his .930 SP and 2.15 GAA are even remotely close to remaining the same by April, that’s an incredible year.
11. Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames
Hudler’s a streaky player, but this streak is lasting quite a while. He’s hanging in there among the scoring leaders and still averages more than a point per game as the quarter mark approaches. While the 29-year-old once had 97 points in the American League (for Grand Rapids in 2005-06), he has been in the NHL for six-plus seasons now and has never tallied more than 57. We thought he had established his production range, but apparently not.
10. Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild
Niederreiter’s point total isn’t that far above expectations, but it’s the other stats that have been surprising. A strong plus-minus and fourth on the team in penalty minutes are a great bonus for any rotisserie-league team. But if your league counts hits, then El Nino has been gold. He leads the Wild in that category and will take a strong run at 200 by season’s end.
9. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
Hertl is a rookie with a lot of skill and we knew that going in. But nobody expected him to lead the rookie parade in both goals (10) and points (16). Even today, I don’t expect the end result to be that way. But he’s certainly showing me that 30 goals and 55 points is likely, which should be good for third or fourth among rookies.
8. Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
Steen has points in 15 of his first 16 games and is tied with Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos at 14 goals to lead the league. He has been, depending on your league stats, the best rotisserie player in the league so far, thanks to his high shot count, plus/minus and power play points. The only downside is the inevitable injury – he’s as close to a guarantee for missing 10 to 15 games as it gets.
7. Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators
With 18 points in 18 games to start the year, to go with 49 shots on goal and a plus-10 rating, it’s clear Turris has arrived. Looking back to six years ago, don’t you feel silly for drafting him and then giving up on him four years later? If you acquired him a year ago in your keeper league, then kudos to you. He’s a great example of how not to get your expectations up too high when the prospect is just 18 years old.
6. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
A reliable superstar is pure gold in fantasy hockey. Many poolies would rather draft the guaranteed 95-point player who plays 82 games over taking a chance on a superstar who could play between 30 and 75 games and tally between 50 and 120 points. Stamkos is your security blanket. You feel safe with him on your team and can focus in other areas.
Chances are, if you own Stamkos, your team will finish at or near the bottom of your league. There is not much you can do, especially if your league is deep and/or you were already struggling in other areas.
I explore the Stamkos injury in-depth over at DobberHockey.
5. Tommy Wingels, San Jose Sharks
I had Wingels pigeonholed as a 30-point, 200-hit third-liner with upside for 45 points. You?
So far Wingels has been used mainly on a line with Joe Pavelski, though last game he was with Joe Thornton and the results have been promising. He’s on pace for 59 points, while maintaining his hit level. The only indication that he had this in him was his third year of college when he posted 42 points in 44 games.
4. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
I predicted big things for Bishop this season, even going so far as projecting 31 wins for him in the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide. But his 12-2-0 start is beyond all expectations. He’s obviously not going to reach the 55-win mark that he’s on pace for, but 35-plus wins would still make him Top 10 in the league. Who saw that coming?
3. Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders
Since, well, sometime around Oct. 5, I’ve had this almost daily ritual of looking at Nielsen’s stats and thinking “he’ll slow down soon.” The ritual is getting tiresome. We’re 19 games and nearly six weeks into the season and Nielsen is still above a point per game (21 in 19) and sits tied for sixth in league scoring.
2. Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars
Goligoski has just three points in 16 games and sits with a minus-7 rating. He’s still getting premium ice time, but hasn’t seen much of the top PP unit because the equally inept Sergei Gonchar has taken that spot. Maybe getting used on the first power play is the answer. But likely not, since Goligoski is still seeing more than two minutes of PP time per game.
1. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
With 10 points in his past 12 games and three in his past two (prior to Wednesday’s game against the Penguins), Giroux is clearly fighting his way out of his slump. But man, it was a doozey. Fantasy owners were panicking right, left and center. His sputtering offense dragged down the likes of Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell. But 18 games in he should have at least 16 points and perhaps as many as 23.
As for some of the other notable performances and why I’m not nearly as shocked, I’ll go through them quickly.
• Frederik Andersen won each of his first six NHL starts for the Ducks (he lost the seventh), but he has been on my radar as a top goaltending prospect for over a year now. All he needed was a chance and now he’s getting one.
• Sergei Bobrovsky was bound for a decline. Not just because he overachieved last season, but because he would be facing more firepower in the East. We’re seeing that now.
• Pekka Rinne was still recovering from hip surgery as training camp began. We can’t be too shocked that there are complications today.
• Unexpected results when it comes to goaltenders – we see it every year. That’s why the reliable goalies such as Henrik Lundqvist are so valuable in fantasy hockey. And it looks as though you can add Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask to that list as well.
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.