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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pens Initiative Fantasy Hockey by @PITmounD

Avs' rookie phenom Nathan Mackinnon ...

Hello there all you fantasy hockey freaks! It’s getting close to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and with only one more week of NHL action before the players take a few weeks off to think about precious metals (and medals), I am going to pick out some under-the-radar talent that could help your fantasy team after the Olympic break. Let’s look at some players who are heating up just in time for the second half of the season:


Nathan Mackinnon – The 2013 #1 overall pick is showing us lately just why he drew comparisons to Sidney Crosby when he was drafted by the Avalanche this past summer. The Cole Harbour native scored his 20th goal and 40th point on Saturday, and has now posted 27 points in his last 31 games (71-point pace over a full season). Mackinnon is only 64% owned in Yahoo leagues, but that number needs to approach 100% over the second half. This kid might be 18, but he should provide owners with close to point-per-game production over the last 25+ games.

Nazem Kadri – the breakout star of the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, Nazem Kadri began 2013-14 with anything but the scoring touch he showed in his previous campaign. He struggled mightily for much of the year, evidenced by his paltry 69% ownership in Yahoo leagues. But all that is changing, as Kadri has been on a tear lately, scoring 14 points (4 goals) in his last 9 games. Kadri is now up to 40 points on the year (15-25), and should threaten 60-65 by year’s end. Snap him up if he’s on the wire in your league.

Mikael Backlund – The once highly touted 24-year old Center for the Flames looks to finally be translating his sick skills into offensive production, having recorded four multi-point efforts in a row at the time of this writing. Backlund is getting top-line minutes and ample opportunities with PP1, and the production is really coming in. Backlund is only 4% owned in Yahoo leagues, so he’s most certainly available in your league. If you need help up the middle, look no further.

Mikael Granlund – Finnish youngster, Mikael Granlund, (6% owned in Yahoo) makes an appearance on this list courtesy of a recent five-game point streak which has seen him record 8 points (2 goals) while playing alongside the red-hot Zach Parise. While Mikko Koivu is on the mend, look for Granlund to continue his run of playmaking; however, once Koivu gets healthy, Granlund is probably just waiver fodder. Take advantage while you can.

Gustav Nyquist – Another talented young Swede making this list, Gustav Nyquist (15% owned and climbing in Yahoo) has been thrust into the limelight, getting top-line minutes in Detroit alongside the all world Henrik Zetterberg. Over the past 7 games, Nyquist has recorded 8 points (5 goals), and is someone who should be on your radar for next season at the latest. If you need help on the right side, check out Nyquist – one of the most stable options on this list.

Ondrej Palat – One of the less highly-touted Tampa Bay Lightning prospects, overshadowed by the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and the rest, Palat has done nothing but impress on the Bolts’ impromptu top line in the absence of Steven Stamkos. Playing alongside Tyler Johnson and Marty St. Louis, Palat is enjoying an incredible season. Over the past 6 games, Palat has only been held scoreless once, and has posted 9 points (2 goals) over that same stretch. Only 15% owned in Yahoo leagues, Palat has serious value in the interim before Stamkos returns; however, when that happens another man appears poised to reap the benefits …

Alex Killorn – The man that many are proclaiming will play alongside Stamkos and St. Louis, Killorn has had an up-and-down season; however, he has come on lately and most recently centered a second line comprised of Purcell-Kucherov-Killorn. The C,LW eligible Killorn has collected 4 points in his past 6 games, but the real value should come with the return of Stamkos. If your league’s Killorn owner has soured on him recently, make a play and hope to ride shotgun with the league’s premier goal-scorer for the second half of 2013-14.

Jamie McGinn – Jamie McGinn is the epitome of “short term help” for your fantasy team. He’s been getting top-line ice alongside Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, and has chipped in 6 points (4 goals) in his last 5 games. With the injuries to Paul Stastny and Alex Tanguay, it looks like McGinn’s spot on the Avs’ top line is safe for now, so ride out McGinn while the opportunity is ripe. Only 3% owned in Yahoo leagues, McGinn is the perfect fill-in for a fantasy team looking for some goal scoring help on the left side.


Andrej Sekera – One of last week’s NHL stars of the week, Sekera has pretty much flown under the radar in 2013-14, but has been the Canes’ best PP defenseman, and has been producing points at a record pace. Having already set a new career high in points (31) in only 52 games, Sekera has also been very good recently, having posted 7 points in his last 6 games. Owned in 37% of Yahoo leagues, Sekera is worthy of a bottom-half roster spot on your fantasy team as a 4-6 Dman at worst. Sekera should easily reach 45+ points with an outside shot at 50 if he turns up the heat. Add him immediately if you need permanent help on your fantasy blueline.

Jacob Trouba – If you don’t know about Trouba … for shame! This kid is the real deal, and folks in keeper leagues better take notice of this future multi-cat stud. This rookie rearguard is already the Jets’ #1 Dman, and getting prime minutes in all situations. He’s really turned on the offense over the past couple weeks with 8 points (3 goals) in his last 8 games and over a .5 PPG pace for the season (21p in 39 GP). If this kid is available on your waiver wire, snatch him up immediately and enjoy the ride.

Mark Barberio – Another guy who has been on keeper league GMs’ radar for a couple years now, Barberio finally appears to be flashing the upside that saw him win Best Defenseman in the AHL honors in back-to-back seasons with Tampa’s AHL affiliate, Norfolk. Over the past 7 games, Barberio has scored 4 goals (with 1 assist), and is showing that he can be a PP specialist in the NHL. With names like Stamkos, St. Louis, Johnson, Kucherov, etc. we fantasy GMs want to own whoever is distributing the puck to those guys. For those of us unable to snag Hedman, Barberio might be the next best option.

Lubomir Visnovsky – Having suffered from concussion symptoms for much of the season, Visnovsky is out of most fantasy GMs’ minds right now, but he shouldn’t be. The former 68-point scorer with Anaheim in 2010-11, Visnovsky is the #1 Dman on the Isles top Powerplay, and with the role so should come the points. Given the offensive success of the Isles’ top line over the past couple months, I would preach patience with Visnovsky – although he is pointless since his return from injury, he should pile up the powerplay points over the final 25+ games of the season. If you need some help with PPP from the blueline, Lubo might just be your guy.


Chad Johnson – The goalie category may be a bit slim, but boy is there a gem available in Chad Johnson. Owned in only 5% of Yahoo leagues, the Bruins’ backup netminder has been proving his value of late, having made 5 appearances in the B’s last 8 games (4 starts). Johnson boasts a sparkling 10-3-0 record with 2.14 GAA and .923 Sv% on the season, and has won his last 4 starts. If Johnson can get into more game action over the final 25+ games, he could provide SERIOUS value to fantasy GMs as a #2/#3 goaltender. If you’re in trouble with your tendys, give Johnson a look. He could just be the calming presence your squad needs to keep those peripherals in check.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of @PensInitiative Fantasy Hockey. Be sure to enjoy the time off from NHL hockey, and watch as many international games as possible. The same studs that have been carrying your fantasy teams are going to be carrying their countries toward the hope of a gold medal, and you won’t want to miss a second of the action. As always, thanks for reading and supporting @PensInitiative … we’ll see you back here soon for the latest fantasy developments around the NHL.

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