Western Conference dark horses

Better late than never. Playoff hockey is nearly upon us and as a follow up to the last Fantasy Pool Look, we'll take a look at some Western Conference dark horses for your playoff pools…

Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues

Berglund had seven points in nine games last year for the Blues in the post-season and was often the team's best player. At 6-foot-4, 219 pounds, Berglund seems to flourish in the “more physical” second season.

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks

The 6-foot-4, 233-pound refrigerator will finally, in all likelihood, see a lengthy playoff run. Chicago was eliminated quickly in each of the past two seasons, but seem destined to go deep this time around. And now Bickell wants to do his best Dustin Byfuglien impression. Remember what Byfuglien did for the Hawks during their Cup run? This has been Bickell's best season yet, so look for him to build on that.

Dave Bolland, Chicago Blackhawks

Bolland has yet to fulfill his promise during regular seasons, mostly because he gets hurt so often. But he's still money in the bank when it comes to the post-season. In 49 playoff games his points-per-game average is 0.76. His best regular season mark is 0.61 over 61 games in 2010-11. Yes, if this guy plays 20 post-season games you can pencil him in for 15 points – which is more than he has in the 2012-13 season.

Nick Bonino, Anaheim Ducks

Bonino had nine points in 17 games prior to getting hurt in mid-March. Since his return, he has two points in two games. Overall, his point totals are low enough to keep him off most radars, but in an extended run he could surprise with 10 points.

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild

I generally try to keep rookies off of this list, due to the coach probably holding back his ice time and babying his minutes. But that won't be the case with Brodin, who is Minnesota's best defenseman other than Ryan Suter (and mark my words – he'll be better than Suter within three years). With the ice time that he gets, his production probably won't decline the way production tends to for players in the second season. In fact, his production may actually rise.

Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings

Filppula has struggled this season – even before his shoulder injury he only had 10 points in 19 games. But his six points in 19 games since returning is disappointing on another level. Coming off a 66-point campaign, more was expected. However, his career playoff numbers have always been strong. Discounting his rookie year, he has 46 points in 73 playoff games.

Michael Frolik, Chicago Blackhawks

The third Blackhawk on this list, Frolik is here for several reasons. First, he was arguably Chicago's best forward during their abbreviated post-season a year ago. Second, he has the talent, all he needs is the ice time. And finally, he put up a decent little run of production when he was placed on a scoring line – four points in four games. With the superstars on this team covered, players like Frolik, Bickell and Bolland will have, by comparison, more room to work.

T.J. Galiardi, San Jose Sharks

Galiardi earned nine of his 12 points this year in his last 19 games. So he's “one point for every two games” type of player instead of the “one point for every three games” that his statistics indicate. Draft accordingly, if you decide to make the Sharks one of the playoff teams you’re going to cling to.

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Jason Garrison, Vancouver Canucks

Garrison was overrated in fantasy hockey prior to the season starting, but the pendulum has swung the other way and now he is underrated. Treat him like a 16-goal, 35-point player and you'll be disappointed. But he's a very serviceable 13-goal, 30-point guy. That small difference means a lot in fantasy hockey. At any rate, he has 11 points in his past 23 games after managing just four in his first 23.

Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks

In his last three playoff appearances, Havlat tallied 31 points in 31 games. After a slow start, he has 12 points in his last 19 games. The oft-injured Havlat could be finding his groove finally.

Trevor Lewis, Los Angeles Kings

For the first time in his career, Lewis is seeing decent minutes. The 26-year-old has improved from being a 10-point player to becoming nearly a 30-point player. But there is still so much more to give. Buried in Los Angeles' deep roster, he's not getting the opportunity to shine like he would in other organizations. But when it comes to playoff hockey, the skilled depth guys sometimes find a way. Lewis tallied nine points in 20 games during the Kings' big Cup run.

Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues

McDonald had 10 points in nine games for the Blues in their run last year. That was enough to lead the team. In his career, he has 37 points in 50 playoff games. He's battled through a knee injury this year, which has impacted his numbers.

Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks

Pure goal scorers like Palmieri always seem to find a way. It doesn't matter if it's pre-season or post-season, he'll score at the same pace. So while everyone around him experiences the usual “slight” decline due to tighter hockey, Palmieri will just keep trucking along. If the Ducks play 15 games, he'll get at least four goals and eight points.

R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets

As I pointed out in the Monday article, I always use my last two picks to grab the two best players from a team that nobody else touches. It would be nice if this year it happens to be Columbus. Because if there is one thing I know about playoff hockey, it's that a “non-favorite” that surprises everyone by getting to the second round, does so because of their hot goaltender. That just screams Sergei Bobrovsky, doesn't it? So that means I would take Vaclav Prospal and Marian Gaborik. But to me the next two are Mark Letestu and Umberger. Umberger was great in the playoffs when he was with the Flyers and is a leader on this team.

Coming Monday – the Eastern Conference

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.

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