Treasure Hunting, the Hockey Edition
By Rob Aquino
It’s almost the New Year, and in part due to the heavily compressed schedule we’re just about at the halfway point of the season. As is often said, ‘tis a good time of year to reflect so I’m about to come clean and reflect upon my recommendations thus far, both good and bad, and I’ll re-evaluate – are they still worthy of owning? Or have they turned into dogs? It’s time to revisit these selections one time only - I’ll list the players and their stats at the time of recommendation, and how they’ve done since. So let’s take a look back…back…back….
Ales Kotalik, winger, Buffalo Sabres.
Then: Eight games, three goals, two assists.
Now: 37 games, 17 goals, 28 points. Kotalik has since become the guy that Buffalo looks to on their power play – currently third in the league - and has ten power play goals, one behind the league leader. Recommended.
Dustin Brown, winger, Los Angeles Kings.
Then: Nine games, three goals, three assists, 15 penalty minutes.
Now: 38 games, seven goals, seven assists, 45 penalty minutes. Fantasy-wise Brown has been a bit of a disappointment – he went through an 11 game pointless streak. Even his penalty minute total is a bit deceptive as he had 15 in one game over a month ago. I still like Brown as a player and he has a great future but at this point he’s not worth much in any fantasy department. Not recommended.
Nathan Horton, center/winger, Florida Panthers.
Then: 13 games, seven goals, three assists.
Now: 28 games, 16 goals, 22points, +6. Horton missed a few games with an injured knee but he’s fast becoming the player the Panthers envisioned when drafting him third overall two years ago – he’s consistent (with a recent six game point streak) and I believe already the best player on the young Florida team – he might be a keeper within one season. Recommended.
Brian Gionta, winger, New Jersey Devils.
Then: 12 games, six goals, five assists.
Now: 36 games, 19 goals, 35 points. Gionta has been the brightest light for a flickering New Jersey squad this year, culminating in a US Olympic berth. He has become one of the most feared snipers in the league and also has ten power play goals to add to those bonus statistics. All around great fantasy player – recommended.
Martin Biron, goalie, Buffalo Sabres. T
hen: two games, one win.
Now: 15 wins, including a 13 game winning streak. I’d be lying if I said I knew he’d go on an absolute tear after Ryan Miller’s injury, but that’s exactly what he did in helping Buffalo shoot up the standings. He’s since again fallen behind Miller on the depth chart in Buffalo but he’s unquestionably drawing even more interest around the league. As I mentioned in my previous article, the Sabres aren’t going to keep three goalies (including Mika Noronen) all year - look for him to be dealt to a contender sometime in the next few months, and when this happens he’ll be that team’s number one goalie. Recommended.
Joffrey Lupul, center/wing, Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Then: 16 games, eight goals, five assists.
Now: 35 games, 13 goals, 26 points. With four goals in his last four games, he’s showing his touch. While he hasn’t put up as many points as I would have hoped, he’s still on a decent pace – I would still recommend him for deeper leagues as a winger only.
Alexander Frolov, winger, Los Angeles Kings.
Then: 16 games, 14 points.
Now: 38 games, 13 goals, 36 points, +14. Frolov has since become one of the premier scorers in the league, residing in the top 25 for much of the past two months. Highly recommended (good luck getting him).
Dion Phaneuf, defense, Calgary Flames.
Then: 17 games, ten points, +1.
Now: 37 games, 21 points, +3. At this point a better real-life player than fantasy, which is saying a lot since he’s been in the top 25 for defense scoring most of the season. Phaneuf also has 17 power play points, which can be a huge addition if your league counts them. I did mention not to expect too many points from a rookie defenseman but Phaneuf is having a great rookie season and will become one of the top five defensemen in the entire league within two years. Recommended for deep and keeper leagues.
Jeff Carter, center, Philadelphia Flyers.
Then: 20 games, 12 points.
Now: 34 games, eight goals, 19 points. Clearly he hasn’t put up the points that he had in November, and he’s getting ice time usually in the 13 minute range. Carter is projecting to be a top power forward in the league within the next few years, and is an effective player this season, but he’s not there yet in terms of fantasy. Not recommended due to league depth at center.
Marek Svatos, winger, Colorado Avalanche.
Then: 19 games, ten goals, eight assists.
Now: 36 games, 20 goals, 34 points. Add in 14 power play points and Svatos has since become one of the premier rookies of this outstanding class, despite his -2 rating. Highly recommended as a premier player.
Chuck Kobasew, winger, Calgary Flames.
Then: 23 games, nine goals, three assists.
Now: 36 games, 11 goals, 16 points, -2. Only two points in his last eight games and he’s currently playing with Chris Simon and Matthew Lombardi. Whoa. Not recommended at this time.
Alex Steen, center/winger, Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then: 25 games, eight goals, eight assists, +4 (3rd best on team)
Now: 32 games, 10 goals, 20 points, +5. Steen is still quietly contributing to an inconsistent Leafs squad. However he is currently nursing a thumb injury. I like Steen’s play and still recommend him in deeper leagues at wing only.
Kyle Wellwood, center, Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then: 24 games, 13 points, +7 (best on Leafs).
Now: 35 games, six goals, 19 points. His +9 is still best on the team, but his point production is not great. With only two shots in his last three games it’s hard to say Wellwood would be good for your team this year. Not recommended.
Brent Seabrook, defense, Chicago Blackhawks.
Then: 23 games, 13 points, +7 (2nd on team), 18 penalty minutes.
Now: 33 games, 16 points, 30 penalty minutes, +8 which is tops on the team. Here’s another great rookie defenseman and this one on a pretty lame team. Seabrook is still a good pickup for combination leagues – recommended in deeper leagues.
Jonathan Cheehoo, winger, San Jose Sharks.
Then: 27 games, 19 points.
Now: 35 games, 18 goals, 28 points. Of late he seemingly hits it big or gets nothing - in his last seven games he’s scored multiple goals three times and five times this month has registered multi-point nights. I love Cheechoo’s play though, and highly recommend him in all leagues.
Brandon Bochenski, winger, Ottawa Senators.
Then: 13 games, 11 points.
Now: 18 games, six goals, 13 points, +7. Unfortunately, Bochenski separated his shoulder in a game against Toronto and will be out likely until February. Patrick Eaves has taken his place and is doing a great job on the second line. Not recommended.
Jason Pominville, winger, Buffalo Sabres.
Then: 6 games, 5 points.
Now: 14 games, three goals, eight points. Well, the good is that he has indeed stuck with the big club in Buffalo and is playing a solid role. The negative from a fantasy standpoint is that most of the time lately he’s been on the Sabres’ grinder line with Adam Mair and Paul Gaustad. He’s not going to get many points there but still keep a watch – if he’s promoted to one of their top lines due to more injuries (JP Dumont and Daniel Briere are out for extended periods) he has the skills to match anyone on the team and will increase his scoring. Recommended for deep leagues only.
Ah, okay - I can’t forget my bitter column – guys to completely avoid. Let’s see how they’re doing…
Nick Boynton, defense, Boston Bruins.
Then: 14 games, six points, 16 penalty minutes, -8.
Now: 23 games, seven points, 24 penalty minutes, -6. Boynton actually improved his play a bit since I gave him the business but he fractured his kneecap in early December and won’t be back for a few weeks. No reason to own him.
Sergei Fedorov, center, Columbus Blue Jackets.
Then: five games, one assist (all w/ Anaheim).
Now: 23 games, one goal, eight points. -3. The dream is over, Sergei. Enjoy your paycheck as it could be your last (ah, there’s always a renegade General Manager or two to hope to resurrect a once-great-career…maybe he’ll be on the Island in a few seasons…)
Corey Perry, winger, Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Then: 13 games, one goal, five assists.
Now: 15 games, six points. I should include his Portland statistics as soon after I initially wrote about him he was sent down to the Pirates of the American Hockey League. This is where he belongs for a while – he’s obviously comfortable there, scoring 24 points in only 13 games. Perry should learn the finer aspects of pro hockey in the AHL and if he puts it together this highly regarded offensive talent could be a contributor in the NHL in a few years.
That’s my first half wrap-up. Next week we’re back to the normal recommendations. Happy New Year!
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