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Fantasy Pool Look: What’s behind Malkin’s struggles?

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

How to lose your league before it even begins – draft a young, can’t-miss, defending regular season and post-season scoring champion with the top pick and watch as he performs like a mere mortal.

That’s essentially what’s been happening with Pittsburgh superstar Evgeni Malkin.

As much as the Penguins rely on him to lead them to another championship, fantasy owners from all across the globe rely on him for their own championship. And I can guarantee you this – nine out of 10 poolies who own Malkin this year are certainly not winning their league right now. That sentence alone would sound ludicrous back in September. So what has happened?

With 43 points in 42 contests, Malkin is on pace for 76 points. That’s lower than his rookie campaign. Someone needs to let him know that a skilled player usually takes a huge step forward in their fourth season. His points-per-game average over his first three NHL campaigns were: 1.09, 1.29, 1.38 and that number jumped to 1.50 this past post-season.

Malkin matching the latter number in 2009-10 means the difference between winning and sixth place in thousands of leagues out there.

Two things have happened that are impacting his performance:

Lack of suitable linemates

The only players who have shown any semblance of compatibility playing with Malkin are Jordan Staal and Luca Caputi.

The latter, whom I wrote about last week, is not ready for the big time yet, though he showed enough promising signs to have hope for 2010-11.

As for Staal, coach Dan Bylsma, as well as Michel Therrien before him, prefer to have Staal as a third-line center as opposed to a top-six winger.

An argument can be made for using either one, but the fact remains Staal is probably going to remain right where he is. Ruslan Fedotenko did OK with Malkin last year, but has been nothing short of a bust this season.

Malkin’s shoulder

It caused him to miss a couple of weeks to start November. He was initially to miss “two-to-three weeks” with the injury, but was back playing in 15 days.

If he gave it the full 21 days, would his production be where it should be now? Since he returned he has 29 points in 30 games, which is very un-Malkin-like.

With just five points in his past 10, Malkin’s trade value is at an all-time low. So if you don’t own him, you should go after him hard.

Remember when Sidney Crosby started the season with just 16 points in 18 games and was going through a five-game pointless drought? He has 41 points in 30 games since then and I bet you wish you went after him when you had the chance…

An under-the-radar player to keep an eye on is Tampa’s Brandon Bochenski. Granted, he’s a streaky player and this is most certainly just another one, but he makes a great short-term pickup.

He has five points in six games since being recalled from Norfolk, but in the first two games he was being used in a checking capacity and getting limited ice time. Now that he’s getting 15 minutes a game in the top six, he has been producing…

Farm Report: Everyone has given up on this player except for perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Hensick – and that’s precisely why you should snap him up for a bag of pucks in your keeper league. T.J. Hensick has 31 points in his past 20 American League games. He has been unable to produce at the NHL level to date, but now that the Colorado prospect has his confidence back, look for him to get another crack next fall. Still only 24, he deserves your patience for one more year.

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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