By Darryl Dobbs. Originally posted January 15 by The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca It took half a season, but 18-year-old Jordan Staal has finally convinced his bosses in Pittsburgh that he deserves a little more responsibility and little more ice time.

jordan staalThe second overall pick in the entry draft this past summer, and the third member of the famed Staal family to be drafted, Jordan forced his way onto the squad with a strong training camp and impressive showing early on when Evgeni Malkin was injured.

There has never been any question that Staal deserved to be drafted this past summer in fantasy keeper leagues. After all, while the younger brother of Eric does not have 100-point upside like the latter, he does have better all-around skills and could still chip in a point per game. The only question was – did Jordan deserve to be drafted in a one-year pool or a rotisserie league?

The production was there immediately. It seemed that whenever Staal stepped onto the ice he was scoring a goal. The problem was, his ice time was generally below 10 minutes and usually when the team was down a man. This explains his league-leading five shorthanded goals.

Over the last 10 games, his ice time has slowly inched upward and for the last four games he has found himself on the left wing of the second line. Playing with Malkin and Michel Ouellet, Staal has four points in his last five games. He has also played more than 16 minutes in two of those games. The three have formed an effective second line, particularly on Saturday when they combined for eight points against the Flyers.

Jordan Staal will likely finish the year with 40 points, which would put him at about 25 points in the second half. Given his special-teams contributions, those numbers are more than fantasy worthy in your rotisserie league. As for his 80-point upside? If he is given a few years on Malkin’s line, that number could easily be 100. Just like his big brother…

St. Louis rearguard Dennis Wideman has eight points in his last eight games. The 23-year-old sophomore achieved greater than a point per game in each of his final three seasons in the OHL and is the only real option the Blues have for a power-play quarterback. Expect Wideman to flirt with 40 this season, but take a serious run at 55 or more next season…

Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: The Sabres training staff as well as medical concussion specialists are gradually increasing the exercise regimen for center Tim Connolly with some success. By no means does this mean we will see him back on the ice in January or February, but do not rule out all of March just yet…

Farm Report: Los Angeles farmhand Patrick O’Sullivan had a weak start to his American League season after being sent down several weeks into the NHL season. He has turned it around a little bit of late, tallying 11 points in his last 11 games and firing 41 shots on net during that span. He was recently selected for his second-straight AHL All-Star Game. Expect him to crack the Kings lineup next season and contend for the Calder Trophy.

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