The Verdict on Matt Stajan, Brooks Laich, Patrick Sharp, Andy McDonald

In one night, Capitals C Brooks Laich became a fantasy hockey darling.

In one night, Capitals C Brooks Laich became a fantasy hockey darling.

What’s not to like, fantasy-wise, about Maple Leafs C Matt Stajan, the 25-year-old who potted two power play goals vs. the Canadiens opening night? He is only 14 percent owned in Yahoo! and 13.2 percent in ESPN leagues.

Janet Eagleson endorses Stajan as a free-agent pickup. She cites his decreased body fat and time on the power play. Rotowire is not as optimistic: “Both of Stajan’s shots found paydirt, a trend that’s not likely to continue for someone who’s scored 73 goals in 391 games in his career.”

Our verdict? Don’t bother with Stajan. He has never scored more than 60 points. His contributions in other categories — penalty minutes, +/- rating, and shots on goal — are negligible. He might reach career highs, especially once RW Phil Kessel (shoulder) returns in six weeks. But even if he reaches 70 points, he is not going to score enough to be a No. 2 fantasy center, particularly in head-to-head formats, where you’ll want to allocate that roster spot to a center who is playing more games in a given week.

A far more enticing free-agent pickup as a No. 2 pivot is a player Stajan will be facing tonight at 7 pm in Washington: Capitals C Brooks Laich. On opening night at Boston, Laich tallied two PP goals, one assist, and five shots. He is already 55 percent owned in Yahoo! and 92.3 percent owned in ESPN leagues — so if you wanted him, you’re probably too late.

Laich’s point totals and shots on goal have increased in each of the last three seasons, which is more than we can say for Stajan’s. In fact, the-26-year-old Laich scored 23 goals and launched 185 shots on goal last year, numbers Stajan has not come close to.

If you missed the boat on Laich but are eager to log your first transaction, another pivot to consider as a waiver-wire No. 2 is Blackhawks C Patrick Sharp, who scored a timely goal in last night’s Finland game, which Chicago lost to Florida in OT, 4-3. Sharp is only 47 percent owned in Yahoo! but ESPN’s players are hip to him (98.3).

In addition to playing for a strong team, Sharp has a 36-goal, 209-shot season on his resume from 2007-08. That season, he finished as the 18th-ranked center in all of fantasy, with a +23 mark and 55 PIMs. That is the sort of track record you want (but seldom find) in a free agent pickup. It certainly explains why ESPN players have already invested heavily in Sharp.

The other pivot I’d recommend — and this guy is flying way under the radar, owned in only 22.2 percent of ESPN leagues and 29 percent of Yahoo! — is Blues C Andy McDonald, who has LW eligibility in Yahoo!. A proven point-per-game producer when healthy, McDonald had a scintillating training camp. He also notched an assist in his season debut last night, a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings in Stockholm.

Today at 3:00 pm, McDonald and the Blues are up against the selfsame Red Wings in the selfsame town. I’m expecting another assist or two, and I am starting him with confidence.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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