This week, the Eastern Edge takes a look at three Eastern Conference players who might be flying a little under the radar in your leagues.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have three wins and only one loss over their last four games. One of the reasons for this is Artem Anisimov. The 25-year-old center started the year with only a single point over his first five matches, but has turned it around with six points over the next six contests.
So what, you ask? This is a guy who recorded 37 goals and 81 points in 80 AHL games as a 20-year-old. In his last two campaigns with the New York Rangers, Anisimov averaged 40 points per season. Last year, he recorded 18 points in 35 games, which neatly pro-rates to 42 points over an 82 game schedule.
Many of us have been waiting for the lanky Russian to break out since that 81 point AHL effort. The reason you should be taking notice is that this year, he is receiving top power play minutes over and above his top six gig. Anisimov receives an average of 17:51 minutes per game, only Brandon Dubinsky receives more amongst Blue Jacket forwards. He also averages 2:55 minutes per match with the man advantage. Prior to this season, he's never received better than second unit or mop-up duty on the power play.
Over his last three games, Anisimov has spent the vast majority of time with Nick Foligno and Marian Gaborik. This guy does have the ability to average a point per game in the NHL. Barring injury, 60-65 points should be considered the top end for this season, but after that, he could challenge 75 or even 80 points if everything falls into place.
Talk about a forgotten guy on the Washington Capitals. Troy Brouwer definitely flies under the radar in the U.S. capitol. That can work in your favour, especially when he only has three points, all goals, in 11 games so far this season. Heading into last night's game, Brouwer received 18:44 minutes of overall ice time per game, behind only Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom amongst Caps forwards. The real reason I am still buying on Brouwer is that he is averaging 3:05 minutes with the man advantage. Over his last five games, he has twice played more than 20 minutes and once nearly 19 and a half minutes.
His linemates haven't been world-beaters, 55 percent of his even-strength ice time is spent beside Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich, and 29 percent with Martin Erat and Laich. That doesn't matter as much as the prime time he gets on the Caps lethal man advantage squad.
The year before the lockout shortened season, Brouwer recorded 33 points in 82 games, but that was with Bruce Boudreau at the helm. Last season, with Adam Oates behind the bench, he recorded 33 points in 47 games, a 58 point pace. His best NHL season to date was back in 2009-10 with Chicago, where he registered 40 points in 78 games. He also has a history of scoring; in his last year of junior, Brouwer recorded 49 goals and 102 points in 72 games and in his first AHL season, he scored 41 goals and 79 points in only 66 games.
The 28-year-old is also on pace for nearly 300 hits this season. In his last two full NHL seasons, Brouwer finished with 247 and 262 hits, so the pace he's on is legit.
Judging by the ice time Brouwer continues to receive, Oates will continue to feed him plenty of opportunities to get back on track offensively.
The third and final player to be discussed today is Chris Kreider. He vaulted onto everyone's fantasy radar after a very noticeable playoff run in 2012 with the Rangers, where he posted five goals and seven points in 18 games.
Since that magical run, Kreider has had difficulty matching that success. Let's take a step back to before his playoff run with the Rangers. In his final year of college hockey, he scored 23 goals and 45 points in 44 games for Boston College. During that year, he recorded four goals and six points in six World Junior Championship games for the United States. Charlie Coyle and Kyle Palmieri also had six points in six games for the Bronze medal winning American squad. Then came the seven points in 18 NHL playoff games. That earned him a spot on the World Championship roster for Team USA, where he notched three points in seven games.
Last season was disappointing for Kreider and his fantasy owners. He could only muster a measly three points in 23 NHL games and even in the AHL, he failed to register big numbers, recording 23 points in 48 AHL games. This year, before being called up, he had four points in six AHL games.
In his three game stint since the call-up this year, Kreider has an assist and logged an average of 18:28 minutes, including 3:05 on the power play. He's spending his even-strength ice time with two guys expected to produce in Brad Richards and Derek Stepan. You can't ask for a better situation for the 22-year-old Kreider. When Rick Nash ultimately makes his return, will Kreider have made enough of an impression to stick somewhere in the line-up? Time will tell, but he won't get a better opportunity than he's getting now.
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