Horny

 

Nashville is the new Detroit.

 

That statement might be unfair, even considering the current NHL standings, but in at least one respect it rings true, and that might be very good news for your fantasy team.

 

As reported by Marc Zwolinski in the Toronto Star, Patric Hornqvist didn’t stay up to watch the NHL draft in his year of eligibility.  He wasn’t expecting to be selected.  Yet, when he awoke the next morning, he learned that the Nashville Predators had called his name – in the seventh round, 230th overall.  In other words, he was the very last player taken.  He and Crosby served as bookends for the 2005 draft; the man from Dartmouth destined to be a star, while the Swede seemed only a footnote.

 

Fast forward a handful of years, and the 23-year-old Sollentuna native is now making everyone take notice.  He leads the Predators in goal scoring, plus/minus (along with veteran J.P. Dumont) with a vigorous plus-12, and also leads the team with his 154 shots-on-goal.  He is ranked 15th on Yahoo’s Last Month (total) player list, and third among right-wingers.  In the face of all this, he remains on the waiver wire in half of all Yahoo leagues.

 

Despite his relatively small stature of 5 foot-11, and 186 pounds, the Predators’ coach Barry Trotz says he likes how Hornquivt “can score in the hard areas.”  How did he learn how to do that, you ask?  Apparently by watching his countryman, Tomas Holmstrom, create havoc in front of opposing goalies on television.  And you thought TV was bad for you.

 

So with all apologies to the brilliant Ken Holland and company, it appears that Nashville has stolen a page out of the Red Wings’ playbook, and pulled a Swedish gem out of the basement of the NHL draft.

 

Hornqvist’s Numbers

After being drafted, he remained in Sweden and played three seasons with Djurgardens IF, of the Swedish Elite League.  He finally crossed the Atlantic in 2008 to the smaller rinks, and got a month-long look in Nashville at the start of last year’s campaign, before being assigned to the Predators’ farm club in Milwaukee (AHL).  He bounced back and forth for the remainder of the 2008-09 season, finishing with only seven points over 28 games with this big club, but with a respectable 35 points in 49 contests with Milwaukee.  Even better, he earned eight points over 11 AHL playoff games.

 

It is this season’s numbers that are getting people’s attention, however.  Here are his numbers broken down month-by-month for 2009-10 so far.

 

2009-10

GP

Goals

Points

Shots

Plus/Minus

October

13

3

8

43

+5

November

13

2

2

41

-4

December

14

8

11

38

+8

January

8

6

9

32

+3

Total

48

19

30

154

+12

 

After averaging roughly 15 minutes of ice time in October, his minutes dipped in November.  As reported by John Glennon in The Tennessean, Trotz claimed that this was partly because he “moved (Hornqvist) down when J.P. (Dumont) came back and took that (first-line) spot”, but the Predators’ coach also admitted that he also thought “Patric has got­ten away from ska­ting. He’s not ska­ting, not moving his feet. Plain and simple.”

 

The problem didn’t last long.  Due to his resurgent play in December, Hornqvist earned back his minutes and is now playing on the top line.  He has been held pointless in only three of his past 17 games.

 

His play hasn’t escaped the notice of his home country, either. He’s going to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver as a member of Team Sweden, beating out more experienced players like fellow right-winger, Mikael Samuelsson.

 

If You Remember Nothing Else, Remember This

 

Playing the waiver wire is a crucial aspect to winning your pool, and Nashville’s leading scorer could be part of your championship plan in the second half of the season because:

 

  1. Hornqvist is on a roll, and looks to have now figured out the NHL and its smaller rinks.  If you need some scoring, healthy plus/minuses, and buckets of shots-on-goal, why not pick up Hornqvist?  A winger with his point production won’t be available on waiver wires for long; but

 

  1. Don’t forget that inexperienced NHL players often fade out toward the end of the long, 82 game season.  Hornqvist isn’t an 18-year-old kid, and he is still surging, but his value might peak over the next month or two.  Consider moving him once the rest of your league takes notice of his stellar play.

 

Ian Busby of the Edmonton Sun reports that “since the start of the modern draft in 1969, only nine of the 41 players selected last have played even one NHL game.” Even fewer of those go on to make the kind of noise that Hornqvist had made this year.  Nashville stays alive in the NHL despite its financial limitations partly through heads-up scouting, and who doesn’t want to boast about how clever they were by taking a risk on a late-rounder, especially someone selected dead last.

 

I bet even a few of the boys in Motown wish they had him on their bench right now.


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