Take a look at the top scorers in the NHL after seven or eight games. Notice anything peculiar? Aside from the unsustainable points-per-game rates, several players in the scoring race are the same guys who saw some action in Europe during the lockout.
Of the 36 players who had eight points or more heading into Saturday, 21 of them played in Europe and two played in the American League, leaving 13 who didn’t play competitive hockey. It goes without saying that those players who were inactive during the lockout are going through a form of training camp. Over the next two weeks, you will find some of the players who were in Europe (or the AHL) start to slow in terms of production. This is not due to a decline in play, but the rest of the league catching up and rounding into mid-season form. Let's take a look at the leader board heading into Saturday's action.
Top-scoring NHLers who played overseas:
David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils; Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Raphael Diaz, Montreal Canadiens; Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets; Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers; Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens; Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks; Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres; Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues; Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues; John Tavares, New York Islanders; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks; Thomas Vanek, Buffalo, Sabres; Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes; Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets; Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Top-scoring NHLers who played in the AHL:
Cory Conacher, Tampa Bay Lightning; Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Top-scoring NHLers who didn't play:
Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers; Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks; Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets; Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Matt Moulson, New York Islanders; Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay Lightning; Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals; Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks; Martin St-Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
If you study the list of players who didn’t play competitive hockey during the lockout, you will notice that several of them are directly impacted by quality linemates who did. Players such as Marleau, Lecavalier, Moulson and Pietrangelo.
For the most part, the players on the first list will start to come back to Earth. Vanek hasn't received the memo yet, but he will. It's doubtful he tops 110 points this year. These players have raced to a big lead early on and it's enough to keep them up with the leaders. But their pace will slow and other names will start appearing in the top 30. Sidney Crosby has already joined the group thanks to his six-point weekend.
And Crosby is just the beginning. He's obviously the most talented of the (let's call them) inactive NHLers. Johan Franzen, Patrick Sharp and P-A Parenteau are closing in as well.
The crop of players leading the scoring parade will demand a hefty price. In all likelihood, the assets received for them will perform better going forward than the players themselves, as they slow. It's time to kick some tires and see if you can take another fantasy owner to the cleaners.
Yes, he's for real
One of the most common questions I get these days, either on Twitter, my website or in my THN mailbag, is this one: “Is Cory Conacher for real?”
I first brought him up in a column here back in November 2011 as a guy to keep an eye on over the “next three years.” He has the talent to be a 60-point player on his own, but that can quickly become 80-plus points if he has superstars on his line. Which he often does, as we've seen early on.
He's not a slam-dunk point-per-game player, but it looks promising and at this juncture he's probably not going to be traded in any fantasy league. Too many of his owners want to hang onto him and see if he can keep it up and those owners who are going after him aren't ready to give up a proven stud to acquire him.
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.