Fantasy Pool Look: The Leafs’ new face

Most fans and media agree – Toronto GM Brian Burke paid a steep price to land Phil Kessel from Boston. Some also contend it was something that he needed to do. But few saw the impact Kessel would have on this team so quickly. Not just his own offensive numbers, but how other players have seen a nice jump in their stats.

Suddenly, Matt Stajan is nearly a point-per-game player. He was put on Kessel’s line for good 11 games ago and has 10 points in that span. Kessel, who has 10 goals and 15 points in 15 games, has also kick-started his other linemate. Alexei Ponikarovsky has 11 points in the 15 games Kessel has been in the lineup, the last few of which have been as a linemate.

The second line has been a little more affective as well. Niklas Hagman has nine points in his last 10 games, Mikhail Grabovski has six in 10, and Nikolai Kulemin, who was recently inserted on the second unit, has four in his last eight – which is much better than the three in 15 that he had before that.

The Leafs are 20th in the league in goals for, but have scored exactly three goals per game since Kessel joined the lineup. Prior to that, they scored 2.58. The new clip is by no means of “juggernaut” proportions; it’s more middle-of-the-pack than anything. But it sure beats the bottom-dwelling, nonexistent offense they had in the first 12 games.

Fantasy owners have been slowly climbing back on board, no longer hesitating as much to take a Leaf in a trade or off the waiver wire. And it’s all thanks to one 22-year-old.

Kessel doesn’t strike me as a franchise player or a guy who you build your team around. I think he’s more of a complimentary star. A guy who will play with that franchise player and score 45 to 50 goals and 90 points. For now, he’ll wear the ‘interim franchise player’ tag along with star defenseman Tomas Kaberle, because there is nobody else.

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With 55 games left in the season for the Leafs, I’ll take my best stab at some predictions on some of the notables (I’ll assume no serious injuries):

Player    GP    G    A    P
Phil Kessel    52    27    24    51
Matt Stajan    55    15    30    45
Tomas Kaberle    55    4    39    43
Alexei Ponikarovsky    51    16    25    41
Mikhail Grabovski    55    17    21    38
Niklas Hagman    55    20    18    38
Jason Blake    55    15    21    36
Nikolai Kulemin    54    12    10    22
Lee Stempniak    52    8    11    19
Ian White    49    3    14    17
Francois Beauchemin    48    3    14    17
Viktor Stalberg    29    7    9    16
Farm Report: After a slow start of just six points in 10 games, Pittsburgh prospect Luca Caputi has 11 in his last 11 for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American League. As a big scoring winger in the system of a franchise with a couple of superstar pivots, all eyes in the fantasy world are on Caputi. He needs to iron out his consistency and intensity before he makes the jump, but if he can get a handle on those things we could see him as early as next season. The more likely scenario will be in two years, though – and he won’t be making the team as a checker.

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 throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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