Mike Green is everything I thought Ryan Whitney would be and more – and for very similar reasons.
Pittsburgh’s Whitney, who turns 26 on Feb. 19, is a defenseman with an upside of 50 points. That is, unless he is putting the puck on the stick of one of the game’s best ever power plays, in which case 70 or 75 points is feasible. With both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby sharing the ice with him, that pushes Whitney’s potential even higher.
Washington’s Green, 23, wasn’t drafted as high as Whitney, but he was still a first rounder. His upside is 60 or 65 points – unless he plays with one of the game’s best. So where does Alex Ovechkin push Green’s upside? My guess – levels we haven’t seen since Paul Coffey.
That’s right. He of five 100-point seasons. Not since Brian Leetch in 1992 has a blueliner topped the mark, but Green has 89 points in his past 86 regular season games (96 in 93 if you include the post-season). He’s still five years away from his prime, folks.
If Mike Green gets even a sniff of the century mark, his production will be at least 20 percent higher than the next defenseman and 35 percent higher than the group of 60- to 65-point rearguards who we currently call "elite."
A wide margin like that pretty much – if you are in leagues that have positional requirements – forces you to classify him as "untouchable." That’s right, the same label you would give Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin you now have to give to Green.
One hundred point rearguards don’t grow on trees, you know.
The youngster has 40 points in his past 29 contests. It shouldn’t surprise you when you extrapolate those numbers over 82 games and see a three-digit number…
Ten of James Neal’s 28 points have come in his past 10 games. Dallas has been scoring a lot of goals lately and Neal has been a big part of that. He is still seeing just 13 to 14 minutes of ice time per game, so sustaining a point-per-game won’t happen. However, with 28 games left he should be good for at least another 20, which gives him a fine 48-point rookie campaign. Next year, his breakout will impress you even more than Loui Eriksson’s has this year…
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: The injury to Thomas Vanek (jaw – another three weeks) has opened the door for highly skilled diminutive forward Nathan Gerbe. The Sabres recalled Gerbe this week and promptly threw him on the Derek Roy-Jason Pominville line, which was Vanek’s spot. It’s especially notable because full-timer Clarke MacArthur was passed over for the spot and Gerbe actually received more ice time. I’ve always maintained Gerbe is so small he will either be a 100-point superstar or he will be a bust. We won’t know the answer to that one for at least two years.
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