Who replaces Daniel Alfredsson? (Ryan Callahan? Ryan Shannon?)

December 30, 2009

Out of nowhere, Senators RW Ryan Shannon (depicted here in Anaheim gear) has gobbled up minutes -- and scored goals -- in the absence of teammate Daniel Alfredsson.

With Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson (separated left shoulder) out until February, major playing time has opened up in Ottawa — and on fantasy rosters.

One’s initial inclination might be to pluck the top RW from the free agent pool. If you need help on the power play, Rangers RW Ryan Callahan (43 percent owned in Yahoo!, 14 percent in ESPN) is a great choice.

In the last month, Callahan has amassed seven PP points. Among all right wings, only Caps star Alexander Semin and all-world Rangers teammate Marian Gaborik have as many or more.

Callahan averages 3:21 per game in power play ice time, which ranks No. 102 in the NHL. That doesn’t sound impressive, until you realize that — among RW — Callahan’s 3:21 in PP TOI/G ranks No. 19. And most of the RW ranked ahead of him are stars like Gaborik and Alfredsson — i.e. not the caliber of RW available to help you in a fantasy pinch.

The Senators have now played twice in Alfredsson’s absence, winning a 3-2 shootout at Buffalo on Dec. 26 and prevailing 4-2 vs. Montreal on Dec. 29. In each game, the majority of Alfredsson’s minutes went to RW Ryan Shannon. More importantly to fantasy owners, Shannon scored a goal in each game.

Prior to Alfredsson’s injury, Shannon was lucky if he logged more than 8:00 in ice time. But he played 15:28 at Buffalo (launching four shots on goal) and 19:33 vs. Montreal (launching three).

In fantasy terms, Shannon is off the radar — owned in only 0.1 percent of ESPN leagues and 0 percent of Yahoo! formats. But if he keeps this up, he may turn out to be the best Alfredsson replacement on the fantasy market. The Senators host the Avalanche tonight at 7:00 pm and they host the Islanders on New Year’s Eve at 7:00 pm. Fantasy owners should monitor these games for Shannon’s ice time — and scoring touch.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Time to drop Rich Peverley?

December 27, 2009

Thrashers C Rich Peverley, a fantasy mainstay this season, has gone ice cold.

Thrashers C Rich Peverley has not scored for four straight games.

Despite this dry spell, Peverley (89.8 percent owned in ESPN, 63 percent in Yahoo!) ranks No. 27 among all centers in Yahoo! and 39th among all forwards in ESPN. With 12 goals and 21 assists, he is on nearly a point-per-game pace.

Still, I dropped Peverley in one of my leagues today because I needed a body to replace Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson (separated left shoulder), who is expected to be out until early February.

Why did I cut Peverley? The primary reason is his position. Every fantasy hockey season offers unlimited depth at center. Look no further for evidence than Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec (68.6 percent owned in ESPN, 66 percent in Yahoo!). Though Plekanec is a higher rated player than Peverley in both ESPN (37th among all forwards) and Yahoo! (eighth among centers), he is more widely available.

You can always find a solid No. 2 center on the waiver wire in fantasy hockey. Every now and then you can also find a terrific one like Plekanec, who is second in the NHL in assists. That’s why I never fret about dropping my No. 2 center to fill an injury void. I can always find another. By contrast, a red-hot winger like Red Wings LW/RW Todd Bertuzzi — eight goals and 22 penalty minutes in his last eight games — might not last in the free agent pool very long.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Milan Hejduk vs. Justin Williams

December 24, 2009

Why is Avalanche RW Milan Hejduk more widely owned than Kings RW Justin Williams?

In 32 games, Avalanche RW Milan Hejduk has 14 goals, 10 assists, +3, 87 shots on goal and 11 PPP. All told, he ranks 22nd among RW in Yahoo! formats.

When you consider that right wings such as Leafs stud Phil Kessel and Ducks LW/RW Joffrey Lupul have missed time, well, Hejduk is the sort of guy whose presence on fantasy rosters is borderline. Dropping him won’t cost you a fantasy title. Why should it? He is not even a top 20 RW.

Yet Hejduk is owned in 77.6 percent of ESPN leagues and 77 percent of Yahoo! games. The fantasy public treats him like he’s sacred.

Why is this, exactly? Hejduk, 33, has not been a point-per-game player since 2002-03. Even his impressive 35-goal effort of 2006-07 is yesterday’s news. He is a lock for 200 shots on goal, but that alone hardly justifies his high ownership.

Compare Hejduk’s numbers to those of Kings RW Justin Williams (18.9 percent owned in ESPN, 47 percent in Yahoo!). Williams, 28, has the edge in assists (16), PIMs (31), and shots (99). He trails Hejduk in goals (8) and PPP (7) but is even in +/- (+3). Overall, Yahoo! rates Williams as the 18th best RW.

In other words: Williams is rated higher than Hejduk, but Hejduk is more widely owned.

This would be understandable, perhaps, if Hejduk were on fire and Williams were ice cold. But that’s not the case. In the last month:

Hejduk: 4 goals, 3 assists, -2, 2 PIM, 3 PPP, 26 shots.

Yahoo! rank among RW: 63rd.

Williams: 3 goals, 5 assists, -1, 6 PIM, 3 PPP, 42 shots.

Yahoo! rank among RW: 39th.

The verdict: Drop Hejduk. There are better options at right wing. Williams is just one of them.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Hornqvist, for one night only

December 21, 2009

Got Preds for Tuesday night? RW Patric Hornqvist is widely available.

The Predators are the hottest team in the NHL and RW Patric Hornqvist (2.7 percent owned in ESPN leagues, 7 percent in Yahoo!) is one of their hottest players.

In case you missed it, Nashville has won four in a row and seven of eight. Why does this streaking matter for fantasy purposes? Because in each of the seven wins, the Preds have tallied at least four goals.

And Hornqvist, who turns 23 on New Year’s Day, has been in the offensive mix: In the last four wins, he has four goals, three assists, +5 and 12 shots.

But to quote an awful radio commercial for a certain cellphone service provider: Let’s not go overboard. Even the Preds are only using Hornqvist sparingly. His minutes played in each of the last four games: 14:27, 16:09, 11:22, and 8:49.

Still, the Genius endorses Hornqvist for one night only. With a mere three games on the NHL slate Tuesday night, fantasy players in day-to-day leagues could do a lot worse than Hornqvist, whose Predators visit Vancouver at 10:30 pm. (The other two Tuesday games are San Jose at Chicago and Anaheim at Colorado.)

Yes, we’re aware the Canucks have held their last six opponents to three or fewer goals. But we’re expecting an outcome comparable to what happened the last time these teams played on Dec. 8: The Preds prevailed 4-2.

And Hornqvist lit the lamp.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Everybody loves Raymond (and ditches Samuelsson)

December 19, 2009

Canucks LW Mason Raymond scored twice Friday night and is worthy of replacing slumping Canucks RW Mikael Samuelsson on your roster.

The Canucks have won four of their last five. All five games have been in Vancouver.

The Canucks’ next three games are also at home, commencing Sunday when the Blues visit for a 10:00 pm face-off.

In fantasy terms, one of the Canucks’ early season surprises was RW Mikael Samuelsson. A shots machine in recent campaigns — Samuelsson launched more than 240 shots in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 — the 33-year-old seemed on the verge of a breakout in October and November. After his first 25 games, Samuelsson had gaudy totals of 10 goals and eight assists.

No great shakes, but a 30-goal pace from a RW on a good team was nothing to sneeze at, fantasy-wise. Owners took notice, bumping Samuelsson’s ownership rates to 67 percent in Yahoo! and 96 percent in ESPN.

Well, let the Genius be the first to tell you: It’s time to drop Samuelsson.

In his last 10 games, Samuelsson has not scored a goal and has racked up a mere four assists. Worst of all, he has not a single power-play point in his last 10 games.

Here’s the good news: There’s another Canuck you can pick up in Samuelsson’s stead. It’s LW Mason Raymond, 24, who scored twice Friday night in Vancouver’s 3-2 win vs. the Capitals. (Samuelsson was pointless, once again.)

Raymond now has five goals in his last five games. Barring an injury, he will obliterate his paltry career highs by mid-season. Better still, Raymond remains widely available in Yahoo! (29 percent owned) and ESPN formats (13.5 percent owned).

This won’t be the case for long — Raymond has already surpassed Samuelsson in season-long Yahoo! and ESPN rankings. So grab him now, before the rest of your league catches on to the forward who’s caught fire in Vancouver.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Bruins at Blackhawks: Sturm is the secret weapon

December 18, 2009

Sabres LW Thomas Vanek (i.e. "Player B") has been outperformed by Bruins LW Marco Sturm in the past month.

Seeking fantasy action in Friday’s Bruins at Blackhawks matchup, I painstakingly researched stumbled upon the following statistical nugget:

In the last month, Player A has these numbers:

5 goals, 3 assists, +7, 8 PIM, 1 PPP, 32 shots.

In the last month, Player B has these numbers:

3 goals, 7 assists, -3, 2 PIM, 3 PPP, 35 shots on goal.

Player A is Bruins LW Marco Sturm (15 percent owned in Yahoo!, 83.7 percent in ESPN). He amassed these stats in 12 games.

Player B is Sabres LW Thomas Vanek (89 percent owned in Yahoo!, 96.6 percent in ESPN). He amassed these stats in 15 games.

Lessons learned:

1. Trade your LWs for depth at other positions. A name brand like Vanek could have fetched you a goalie or a No. 1 D. If you’d started Sturm over Vanek during the last month, your team would have been better off.

2. Vanek is due to break out. The 25-year-old has a zesty matchup hosting the defensively challenged Leafs  Friday.

3. Sturm is a sneaky start at Chicago. The Blackhawks have posted two straight shutouts and they have allowed only four goals in their last five games. They also lead the league with an incredible 1.96 goals-against average.

Still, I endorse Sturm as a sneaky start. The Blackhawks have won four of five. They are riding high. The Bruins are desperate. They have lost two straight games, both in the final few minutes of action. (A shootout loss at the Islanders on 12/12 and a third period choke job vs. the Flyers on 12/14).

Also: Despite Chicago’s gaudy defensive numbers, the Genius remains unsold on the Blackhawks goaltending. He has a hunch Sturm will sneak one between the pipes.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Is Andrei Kostitsyn (shall we call him AK-46) worth a pickup?

December 15, 2009

Canadiens LW AK-46 has an upside worth adding, but don't cry if you've missed out on him.

When Yahoo!’s Scott Pianowski suggests grabbing a fantasy hockey player, I pay attention. Pianowski was first on the bandwagon for Penguins D Alex Goligoski (last season) and Devils RW Niclas Bergfors (this year).

So when I read his endorsement of Canadiens LW Andre Kostitsyn, I overcame my hesitations and made the add. But my hesitations remain. We’ll address them below.

Meanwhile, other fantasy owners are heeding Piano’s advice. Kostitsyn, 24, is still only 18-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, but that is up from 16 percent at the time of Piano’s post. (In ESPN formats, it’s too late: AK-46 is owned in 67.9 percent.)

So: What’s not to like about a former first-round pick (10th overall, 2003) with six goals in his last five contests, including back-to-back two-goal games?

Here’s a short list:

1. Track record. In 2007, AK-46 notched 53 points in 78 games. In 2008, he tallied 41 points in 74 games. In neither season did he fire more than 170 shots on goal. In neither season did he surpass 16 power play points.

2. This season. Yes, he’s on fire, but AK’s totals remain a ho-hum 19 points in 31 matches. Do you want to take games away from LW studs like James Neal or Dustin Penner for that sort of pedestrian productivity?

3. Position. In fantasy hockey, quality left wings are almost as abundant as quality centers. As of this moment, AK-46 is ranked 43rd among all LW in the Yahoo! game. Even a reliable player like Neal (14 goals, 13 assists, 31 PIMs) only ranks 12th among LW in Yahoo! formats.

Having typed all this, why would I still bother picking up AK-46? Mainly because AK’s hot streak suggests he may be on the verge of making a leap and becoming a 35-goal scorer.

Likely? No. But the possibility is easily worth the risk of dropping a No. 4 defenseman. You can always trade a 35-goal scorer — even at LW — to address a need on your fantasy team. You can never find a trading partner for a No. 4 defenseman.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons