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Fantasy Pool Look: Nine early shockers

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Look no further than the NHL scoring race to find some of the biggest surprises in fantasy hockey – not just some of the names you see there, but also some of the names that are missing. Let’s take a gander at what’s in store for these players.

Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver

He wasn’t expected to lead the NHL in scoring by any stretch, but no points in 10 games is disappointing to say the least. Even though Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Sami Salo are all injured, Bieksa is still behind Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff on the power play depth chart, so his production won’t improve a whole lot. I don’t think you can expect a trade either, as the Canucks have been riddled with injuries to their blueline for several years and now that they are finally prepared to deal with it, they won’t give up that depth. They’ll work around the salary cap the way the Devils and Bruins are (two teams that were “supposed” to trade their way out of their cap jam months ago).

Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta

Expectations for the big man were lowered in fantasy circles when the Thrashers made it known they were going to play him as a defenseman. But his position doesn’t matter if he’s out there on the power play all the time, as evidenced by his seven power play points to date. Ten points in 11 games is a difficult pace to keep up, but 55 points is achievable.

Tomas Fleischmann, Washington

This was expected to be a big year for ‘The Flash,’ as his numbers – at every level – improve with every season. Now that he’s on a one-year deal he needs to prove he’s worth a long-term contract, yet he has just two points in his past nine contests and five on the campaign. Notoriously streaky, Fleischmann could hit that hot run tomorrow, next week, or a month from now. But it’s coming. An excellent “buy low” candidate.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey

I don’t think New Jersey signed him to that big contract so he could go out and earn one power play point in the first 12 games. Kovalchuk’s a first round pick in most fantasy leagues, so it’s an easy assumption that his owners are all in the bottom half of their pools. He’s too good to bench – in fantasy circles anyway - yet his minus-5 is hurting more than all the other stats help. All you can do is wait it out.

Andrew Ladd, Atlanta

Moving from the third line on a top team to a bottom-feeder’s top unit can often be fantasy gold and Ladd is no exception. Already with 12 points, Ladd leads the Thrashers in scoring and could very well remain there thanks to Nik Antropov’s wonky hip. That would put Ladd in the 60-point vicinity come April.

Marty Reasoner, Florida

He has seven points in nine games and is second on the Panthers in scoring despite averaging a mere 10 seconds of power play time per game. Reasoner is a former offensive prospect who’s now pigeonholed as a defensive specialist thanks to injuries during his development years. So, as certain players – such as Michael Frolik – start finding the net again, Reasoner’s scoring role will fade. That being said, he should still top his career high of 34 points (set in 2005-06).

Anthony Stewart, Atlanta

You look at what brother Chris is doing (see below) and where Anthony was drafted (25th overall in 2003) and you wonder if he is for real. He has eight points in his past eight games, but when you consider that his career high in the American League is 31 points you can’t help but wonder if he can top that at the NHL level. I would absolutely pick him up for the short term, but am still extremely reluctant to invest a long-term roster spot in him. Power forwards often take longer to develop than other forwards, but to go from being a depth player in the AHL to a productive top-six NHLer is too much of a stretch for me to swallow – for now.

Chris Stewart, Colorado

I was just getting my eyes back into their sockets and readjusting my jaw upwards after watching the second half Stewart had last season when he does this: nine goals and 16 points in 11 games, good for second in the entire league in both categories. Throw in his 25 PIMs and he has been the best multi-category player to own in roto leagues so far. Is he for real? His 74 points in his last 70 regular season games tell me he’s at least a point-per-game player.

Justin Williams, Los Angeles

Williams has shown us he can do it. After all, he tallied 143 points in 164 games over two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07), so it’s reasonable to think he can continue his current pace (he has 11 points in 11 games). But when you consider the fact he has missed at least 33 games in each of the past three seasons, you understand the risk you’re taking in assuming his body will hold out until April.

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

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