He’s been an enigma for years, but every time he showed a flash of a promise, Nik Antropov went down with an injury. It is at the point where fantasy pundits are afraid to predict a breakout year for him. But so far, he is doing exactly that.
“You like sticking pins in your eyes? Then Antropov is the guy you should pick and pick early. If you prefer to see someone else be tortured, don’t select him.” – Murray Townsend, THN’s Ultimate Pool Guide 2006
“If he can stay healthy, Antropov has the potential to produce 60 points” – SCORE Forecaster, 2007-08.
“Sleeper – Nik Antropov – 60 points – 10% confident” – Darryl Dobbs, Dobber’s Pool Guide 2007-08.
Yes, even yours truly is afraid to go out on a limb about this guy, but the fact of the matter is that he has all the tools, is just now entering his prime, and he has 11 points in nine contests to start the year.
With 30 points in 66 games as a 20-year-old rookie, poolies immediately saw the promise. In reality though, the team rushed him into the NHL too soon, which stunted his development. He weighed just 190 pounds at the time and was quite fragile. Two years later, Antropov teased us some more by playing 72 games and compiling 45 points. Now suddenly, poolies started to (hope?) see potential that he could play a full season.
He hasn’t played more than 62 ever since.
So what’s different about this season? From a health standpoint, he’s bigger. Now at 230 pounds, his weight has caught up to his 6-6 monster frame. That doesn’t mean he is no longer injury prone…but it certainly gives some promise. From a career standpoint, this is the first (knock on wood) October that Antropov has remained in the lineup since 2003-04 when he was 23. So if a player’s prime spans age 25 through 33 or 34, it can be said that this is the first time that Antropov has had a chance to make a real impact to start the season while in his prime.
Considered the ‘wildcard pick’ of the 1998 draft when he was taken 10th overall, he has certainly lived up to the title. Now, health permitting, things have finally settled for him. He is a go-to player for the Leafs, garnering over 20 minutes of ice time in five of the nine games and playing no less than 17:42 in any one game. That’s ‘star’ treatment, and as long as he gets that kind of treatment he is a top fantasy player. Only an injury can stop him. The quote above from the Score Forecaster and from my own fantasy guide is just a couple of pundits taking the chicken way out – if Antropov is healthy, he can easily surpass 75 points. But the monkey can only reach for the food pellet so many times before the electric shocks finally discourage him.
The Leafs need another star on their team, and in Antropov they have found one…
Patrick Sharp in Chicago is a great under-the-radar pickup. He has five points in his last three games and has played over 20 minutes in each of those contests. He is slowly stealing ice time away from Sergei Samsonov, who is not producing. His upside is no greater than the high-50s, but he should hit that this season if Denis Savard continues to give him this kind of confidence…
Don’t put too much stock in Pascal Leclaire. The Columbus goaltender is benefiting greatly from the Ken Hitchcock defensive system. That’s not entirely a bad thing – just ask Marty Turco, who has benefited from a defensive system for years. However, Leclaire’s first shutout was against an Anaheim team that just got off the plane from England, his second shutout was against Phoenix (‘nuff said) and his third shutout was a 21-save performance. He’ll pile up the shutouts, but not the saves. His one loss was a five-goal blowout. If you own Leclaire, now would be the time to move him – his value is sky high. I’m not saying he is a bad goaltender, I’m just saying his numbers right now are better than they will ever be again….
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