Trying to gauge the talent of the players on your fantasy roster is not always an easy task. Of the hot players, which will continue their dominance? On the flip side, which cold players are going to turn things around? Which players may have already turned their season around without everyone else realizing it? While I can’t delve into each and every situation, I’ll take a look at a handful of Eastern Conference players below.
Dustin Byfuglien - A year and a half ago, it was announced that Byfuglien would be used as a defenseman, rather than a forward. Some predicted strong fantasy numbers while others (myself included) predicted a miserable performance. Those in my school of thought were promptly proven wrong as Byfuglien would score 25 points through the end of November and 53 on the year. Then came the offseason story of Byfuglien’s boating while intoxicated incident and a report of Byfuglien weighing 40 pounds more than he did from the previous year.
As Byfuglien grew accustomed to the new Jets uniform, he struggled. In October 2010, Byfuglien scored 10 points, while in October 2011, he was looking at only a four point total. Byfuglien was held off the scoresheet for eight of 11 games, registering 14 penalty minutes along the way and a minus-five rating.
November is a different month though and Byfuglien is doing his best to remind poolies why you should never rule him out. Since November 3rd, a 3-0 shutout over the New York Islanders, Byfuglien has scored 10 points in nine games with 20 penalty minutes. He is again on pace to have 300 shots on goal and is looking like the Byfuglien of yesteryear.
Tomas Fleischmann – In Florida, all of the talk is surrounding the amazing play of Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss. Lost in the shuffle is Tomas Fleischmann’s impressive play. The Flash has quietly scored 19 points in 19 games, tied for 16th overall in NHL scoring with others such as Stamkos, Toews, Spezza, and Sharp.
If a point-per-game pace wasn’t enough, Fleischmann also has a plus-11 rating with seven power-play points. While Fleischmann has been used at center in the past, he is much more effective on the wing and that is exactly where he is being used in Florida. If you own or are looking to acquire Fleischmann, do not expect him to bring faceoff wins as a peripheral stat as he has taken only six draws on the entire season. If the Panthers start to shift Fleischmann to center, it might time to sell high, especially in a one-year league.
Joffrey Lupul – Throughout his career, Joffrey Lupul has been an inconsistent, though very talented hockey player. He tends to score his goals in bunches, which definitely helps if you have him at the right time in a roto league. In 2011-12, Lupul is looking to erase this stereotype and is doing a remarkable job thus far. Largely attributed to the chemistry with Phil Kessel, the NHL’s leading scorer, Lupul has 24 points in 20 games and is tied for the third-most points in the league.
While Lupul still has 62 games to go, it is important to note the opportunity before him. Never in his career has Lupul ever had sole possession of a spot on the top scoring line like he does in Toronto. Although he’s battled a bad back and concussions in the past, the 28 year-old Lupul looks to finally be living up to his pre-draft hype. How far he progresses this year is still yet to be seen, but he is certainly on pace to break his 53-point career high.
Evander Kane – 20 year-old Evander Kane is in his third NHL season, the final year of his entry level contract, and turning some heads. After registering goose eggs in the points column for the first five games of the season, Kane has 14 points in his last 14 games. If your league counts hits, Kane had 97 in his rookie year, 154 last season, and has 50 already in 19 games this year. Kane is a player on the verge of breaking out and once he does, he’ll have over 200 hits and provide plenty of offense.
Kane has played most of the season with Burmistrov and Antropov, but more recently he’s been on a line with Burmistrov and Little, which has also reignited Bryan Little’s production.
Daniel Briere – Philadelphia’s offense is the best in the league, thanks to the almost superhuman Claude Giroux, but there are a lot more faces scoring in Philadelphia. Despite scoring 14 points in 17 games, Briere has still not reached the level he is capable of yet. With all of the new faces in town, Philadelphia has been experimenting with different line combinations and when Briere finds the right fit, his production will take off.
Briere is usually at his best when the team has plenty of offensive weapons, making Philadelphia the perfect fit. Briere scored 95 points for a very talented Buffalo team in 2006-07 and 30 points in 23 playoff games for Philadelphia in 2010.
All of these players are guys who I would want on my fantasy roster. Next week I’ll take a look at players who you might want to think about looking to put on the block. Questions? Comments? Let me hear your thoughts below.