Fantasy Roundup: Week 18, Jan. 27-Feb. 2
The upcoming week is the last before the Olympic break and it will be interesting to track how players who will be competing at the Olympics fare against their NHL counterparts who will spend two weeks on hockey hiatus and watching from home. Of the 30 NHL teams, the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and St. Louis Blues boast the most players headed to Sochi, Russia, with 10. The Montreal Canadiens have 8, while the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks each have 7. It’s not surprising the top 4 NHL teams are on that list and that every team mentioned above is currently factoring in their respective conference’s playoff picture. On the flip side of that coin, the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, and Nashville Predators who are all on the outside of the playoff picture are sending the fewest number of Olympians with 2 each.
While the Flames and Panthers are in full rebuild mode, both the Predators and Senators have lineups that could benefit from the rest and make a run for the playoffs. Although, there have been talks about shutting down Pekka Rinne for the rest of the season, if he can make a return then Nashville’s chances become genuine. Nashville could be major players by the trade deadline with tremendous depth on defence but in desperate need of scoring. Flames forward Mike Cammalleri could be an intriguing prospect. Then there are the Ottawa Senators who, after making the playoffs last season despite numerous major injuries to several of their top players, are poised to make a post-Olympic run up the table. Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan were both notable snubs by Canada and the US respectively. Meanwhile, Craig Anderson, who played like a Vezina candidate last season, has been anything but this season and could be instrumental in an Ottawa turnaround. The Sens could also be in line for some help on the defensive end before the trade deadline – someone like Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi could be useful.
He’s on fire!!!
Phil Kessel, F TOR – That’s 2 weeks running for the hottest player in the NHL who scored points in every game last week including exploding for a hat trick and four points in the battle of Ontario.
Zach Parise, F MIN – It took a couple of games for Parise to get back into the swing of things after returning from injury, but in three games last week Parise rattled off 3 goals and 5 assists.
Gustav Nyquist, F DET – The Red Wings rookie forward has been a major offensive catalyst since getting the call up from Grand Rapids and has been finding a nice home on the Wings top six. He currently has goals in 6 of his last 7 games including a hat trick against the Caps on Sunday. Check the waiver wire as he may still be there.
Michael Backlund, F CGY – Although it’s hard to put any faith in what’s going on in Calgary, former 1st round pick Michael Backlund is finally living up to the potential the Flames originally saw in him. He has strung together 4 multi-point games in a row. He’s also beginning to average over 20 minutes per game so the opportunities are being given to him.
He’s heating up
Henrik Lundqvist, G NYR – Sweden will be happy to see that Rangers goalie King Henrik has found his groove heading into the Olympics. He recently went 3 out of 3 against local rivals the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders – with a couple of those games being outdoors. Lundqvist conceded more than 2 goals in a game just 3 times in 12 starts in the month of January.
Nathan MacKinnon, F COL – The NHL’s most recent number 1 overall pick is proving he is worth all the hype having now posted 20 goals and 40 points in 54 games, and he’s not even 19 years old. He scored goals in every game last week. For those in keepers leagues who may be near the bottom and in sell mode, it may be time to sell off some depth and see if you can nab the budding superstar as he’s likely to only get better from here.
Victor Hedman, D TB – This has become Hedman’s break out season. He’s currently averaging 0.75 points per game, which means that even if he fails to register a point from now until the end of the season he’ll still eclipse his previous points per game best of 0.45 PPG. He’s had multi-point outings in 4 of his last 5 games.
Cold as Ice
The Los Angeles Kings Offence – It’s been a colossal failure for the Kings who have been shutout 3 of their last 5 games. In those 2 other games they managed only 1 goal in each, and Anze Kopitar scored both, which means any owners with Kings on their teams likely have their head in their hands and are struggling to understand how this can be happening.
Brent Burns, F SJ – Nobody fired as many shots on net last week as Sharks defenceman turned forward Brett Burns. Not a single one found the target. In fact, Burns has now gone 12 games without a goal.
Situation to Monitor
The Carolina Hurricanes have been on a roll recently due in no large part to their goalie Anton Khudobin who was recently named the first star for the month of Janurary. However, perennial starting netminder, Cam Ward, has recently returned from a conditioning assignment in Charlottte after being sidelined for the last month with a lower body injury. Although Ward was hailed as the starter to start the season, it seems Khudobin may have wrestled it away. With three strong goalies on the roster it will be interesting to see how the Canes deploy them over the coming weeks.