New Jersey right winger Niclas Bergfors has been on the fantasy radar for so long it is hard to believe he is only 22 years old. Generally, if a player is a full-timer in the American League for four years, fantasy owners get sour. But not many players have played four seasons in the AHL before their 23rd birthday.
With Brian Gionta leaving Jersey in the off-season, there was a spot open in the top six. Bergfors earned a roster spot with a strong camp and, though it took him several games to find his groove, he has been filling second-line duty. I figured the youngster would need several years of getting acclimated to the faster pace of the NHL game. After three years of producing in the 27- to 40-point range in the AHL, he broke out last campaign with 51 points in 66 contests. I expected a similar transition timeline for him in New Jersey.
But Bergfors has really come into his own. Now he’s seeing some time with the big boys – Travis Zajac and Zach Parise – and has 12 points in his last 12 games.
He is also currently seeing a lot of power play time – seven of his 14 points have come with the man advantage. Four of his even-strength points have been the result of playing with another emerging Devil, David Clarkson. On the big line or with Clarkson, Bergfors is still a solid bet to top 45 points this season. Long term, he looks like he will be a quality 65- to 70-point player on the second line.
While we’re on the subject, Clarkson has a David Backes kind of upside in the range 65 to 70 points, but with a mean streak that will see him flirt with 150 penalty minutes. This may be a poor example, given the slow start of Backes, but it’s the best one I have. Clarkson will probably slow down and finish in the low 50s, but he will continue to be a penalty minute stud.
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: With Kris Letang, Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik and now Alex Goligoski on the shelf for the Penguins, it may be time to stick Martin Skoula on your watch list. The 30-year-old has shown zilch in terms of following up on his offensive promise of a decade ago, but at this point who else can the mighty Penguins turn to? Obviously, acquiring a new defenseman (via trade or waivers) will put said new player in the spotlight, but unless and until that happens, I’m curious to see how much Skoula is used on the power play along with four forwards. Gonchar, who has stepped up his practice regimen, may be rushed back into the lineup, which, of course, would make this entire paragraph moot.
Farm Report: Nashville prospect Cal O’Reilly is off to a blazing start in the American League. The 23-year-old has 17 points in just 10 games, finding himself among the league leaders despite the fact most of them have played 17 games. Primarily a set-up man, he will find himself in Nashville for sure next year, as he will be on a one-way contract at that point. Whether or not he can become a second-line center – I think he can – or a third-line checking center will be up to him. So far he has only shown one really impressive stint in the NHL – and that was this past March. Everything else has come up empty.
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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