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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fantasy Fool's Gold: Buyer Beware by @PITmounD

Hertl has emerged as a fantasy stud ... or has he?
In this week’s installment of @PensInitiative’s fantasy news, we’ll take a look at some players who have started the season on a high note (ranked within Yahoo’s top 150 skaters as of Saturday, Oct 12), and analyze which ones are the real deal – and who should be added in all formats – and those who are just a lump of fool’s gold waiting to bring fantasy heartache to their owners. Let’s start with four players I think are worth every penny of their early season value. As always we will be using the “lens” of Yahoo standard scoring (G,A,+/-,PIM,PPP,SOG):

Jeff Skinner (ranked 13th overall by Yahoo standard scoring) – Jeff Skinner has already tallied 6 points (1 goal) and 18 SOG, and is bringing fantasy owners the kind of production they’ve expected ever since Skinner tallied a 30-30 season as a rookie in 2010. Injury problems and inconsistency have plagued the young star over the past couple seasons, but it looks like Skinner is finding a groove in his fourth NHL campaign. Over the past three games, Skinner has spent the majority of his ice-time with Dvorak and Riley Nash while getting PP2 time with Nathan Gerbe and Jordan Staal. Regardless of who he lines up with, Skinner has the talent to produce on an every-game basis. 13th overall is a bit too high for his end of season rank, so you might want to sell high if possible; however, if you choose to ride this one out the results should be something like 65+ points and 250 SOG.

Brent Burns (ranked 21st overall by Yahoo) – The Yeti looks to be more than established as a gritty, talented top-6 forward in the San Jose Sharks lineup, having scored at a point-per-game clip while adding 2+ Hits and 3+ SOG per game. Burns is lining up with Big Joe Thornton and the red-hot Tomas Hertl for the majority of his shifts, and is currently holding down PP2 time with the aforementioned Hertl and everyone’s favorite Sault Ste. Marie product, Tyler Kennedy. As long as Burns continues to line up as a forward he holds immense value in multi-category fantasy leagues where he has Defense eligibility. Fantasy owners will continue to reap the rewards on this one; Burns is a true blue (teal-green) fantasy stud as long as the RW,D is next to his name.

Steve Downie (ranked 31st by Yahoo) – The bruising Downie has really rekindled his old ways in Colorado, and is currently lining up with  Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly on the Avs’ first line, getting PP1 time with the aforementioned skaters and the talented playmaker, Alex Tanguay. Downie has racked up 4 points (1 goal) in 4 contests so far, adding 17 PIM, 6 Hits, and 2 PPP. This guy will provide hefty PIM totals and about 45+ points with the upside for much more if he sticks on the Avs’ top-line. His rank is probably too high for a player of his ilk, but similar players have caught lightning in a bottle before. At the very least he will help your team fill out the sheet in other areas while providing respectable point totals. While he remains healthy, Steve Downie is most certainly the real deal.

Not everyone who’s started the season strong has what it takes to maintain their gaudy production, and the following players will most likely see their stock rise and fall quicker than Facebook’s IPO. Let’s take a look:

Tomas Hertl (ranked 4th by Yahoo) – by now just about everyone has seen Hertl’s between-the-legs beauty scored the other night en route to his first career 4-goal game, and rightly so. It was absolutely sick, and despite invoking Adam Oates’ disdain, Hertl will continue to bring fans out of their seats for years to come; but here’s the catch: Hertl definitely won’t continue at this pace for the rest of the season, and probably should be sold right now in order to attain more “stable” fantasy assets. The kid already has 7 points (6 goals) in only four games, and is converting on over 37% of his SOG – a truly unsustainable pace. There will most certainly be more great memories from Hertl before all is said and done, but don’t get too high on this guy. He’s still only 20 years old and “green” doesn’t even begin to describe his tenure in the NHL. Proceed with caution.

Nathan Gerbe (ranked 24th by Yahoo) – Nathan Gerbe has been a favorite of mine for a good many years after having read Dobber’s analysis of the diminutive winger. So far this year, he’s done nothing but work his tail off and put pucks to the net with the Carolina Hurricanes, averaging 4+ SOG per game and scoring at nearly a point-per-game clip; but there is a downside here: despite getting PP time with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, and the aforementioned Staal and Patrick Dwyer at EV strength, Gerbe has never posted more than 31-points in a season over the course of his 5+ year NHL career. In the right situation he could provide very good value for his fantasy owners, but being such a little guy the risk of injury is always there, and the worst case scenario for Gerbe is pretty bad. Proceed with immense caution.

Sean Monahan (ranked 68th by Yahoo) – the young Flames center has really impressed since being drafted by the club 6th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft this past summer. Monahan has 6 points (4 goals) through 5 games and has posted over 2.5+ SOG per game. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Monahan just turned 19 years old, and in the past decade the number of rookies not named Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin who have posted high quality fantasy seasons are few and far between. Even such profound fantasy studs as Stamkos and John Tavares really struggled in their freshman seasons. The fact of the matter is that Calgary is a bad team, and the slumps will definitely come for Monahan. He doesn’t really have much quality surrounding him in the lineup, and outside of prized youngster Sven Baertschi, Calgary is pretty much a rag-tag band of bums. And this isn’t a Mighty Ducks movie … it’s the NHL. Proceed with the utmost caution.

I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s installment of @PensInitiative’s fantasy news. Keep an eye out over the next couple weeks for our next edition, but in the meantime heed my warnings: apparent fantasy studs are only as good as their last few games, and sample size is key. Be careful not to underrate proven studs who may have begun the season a bit slow (i.e. Malkin), while the converse is true for blazing hot starts (i.e. Hertl). Always try to be the most level-headed guy in your league, but don’t be too conservative you can’t recognize a legitimate breakout. It’s a fine line, and the better you become at analyzing player talent, the easier it will be to soak yourself in fantasy glory come season’s end. Good luck managing your teams. I’ll be back soon with more fantasy news to whet your insatiable hockey appetites.

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