The Eastern Edge looks at five players that could either make or break your heart
I know many guys are not big fans of Valentine's Day, but if you are in a relationship, it's a day you ignore at your own peril. I even know some women who dislike the day, although that may have more to do with them receiving the "Valentine's Day hat trick" of flowers, a box of chocolates (stereotypically heart-shaped) and a romantic dinner. C'mon guys, if that sounds like you, then it might be time to change it up. Predictability is great in fantasy hockey, but not so much in a relationship.
During this down time over the Olympic break, let's take a look at several Eastern Conference players and try to determine whether they are more likely to make you happy or break your heart.
Heading into this season, Gustav Nyquist had 122 points in as many games for the Red Wings AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids. He's added 21 points in 15 AHL games to those totals this season and has nothing left to prove at that level. His NHL numbers prior to this year were under-whelming, 13 points in 40 NHL contests. Nyquist started this season with 10 points in his first 22 NHL matches, but has turned a corner since then by recording nine goals and 14 points during his last 11 games with Detroit.
The 24-year-old Swede has played the vast majority of his even-strength shifts over the past dozen games with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. He also is third in average power play time on the team and has played less than 18 minutes in a game only twice in his last 13 contests.
Prognosis: Your former high school sweetheart is now marrying material.
Here is one guy who for his first four seasons in the NHL was for fantasy hockey purposes, a Victoria's Secret Swimsuit Model. Dion Phaneuf averaged 16 goals and 52 points to begin his NHL career, producing legendary fantasy numbers. Then he got fat focused on bettering his personality and his numbers dropped off, leaving his fantasy owners wanting. Over the next two campaigns, Phaneuf put up 32 and 30 points respectively. At the end of his second full season with Toronto, he finished with 44 points and then came last year's 28 points in 48 games (48 pro-rated points).
Everything seemed back on track, but this year, he is on pace to record only 30 points. So what gives? While he isn't having the best year offensively, he is killing it in many other categories. Amongst NHL defensemen, Phaneuf ranks fourth in penalty minutes, fifth in hits, sixth in plus/minus (so you know he's great defensively) and 19th in blocked shots; making him a very attractive rotisserie defenseman.
Prognosis: If you can handle the fact that he's likely been owned by many others in your fantasy leagues due to his ups and downs in the scoring department over the past several years, this is one well-rounded multi-cat stud that is rewarding to own.
If we're being completely honest here, I really didn't believe Ryan Johansen could do what he's been doing nearly all season. He leads the Blue Jackets with 46 points in 58 games and is on pace for 34 goals and 65 points. He had 92 points in 63 games in his final season of junior hockey, one in which he also recorded nine points in seven World Junior Championship matches. Johansen then jumped directly to the NHL and recorded 21 points in 67 games. He split his sophomore season evenly between the AHL, scoring 33 points in 40 games and had 12 points in 40 NHL games during the lockout campaign.
Over his last 10 games, Johansen has 10 points, however eight of them have come during his last five games. In those last 10 contests, he's split the majority of his even-strength ice time playing on a line with either Nick Foligno and R.J. Umberger or Nathan Horton and rookie Boone Jenner.
Prognosis: Don't let my trust issues derail your future with this promising stud, but don't come crying to me when he breaks your heart.
On the surface, Sergei Bobrovsky's numbers this season don't look very good. His 20 wins are only 14th best, he is tied for 14th in the league with a 0.918 save percentage and his 2.52 goals-against average is an ugly 21st. Dig just a little deeper though and you'd see that over his last 15 games, he is 11-4 with a 2.10 goals-against average and 0.934 save percentage. It sure seems like Bob is back in his Vezina winning form.
Prognosis: This Russian is showing that beauty is only skin deep and is rewarding those that held fast and kept the faith during what is looking like a small bump in the road.
Troy Brouwer is likely flying under the fantasy radar, but if your league values penalty minutes and hits, get this guy on your radar ASAP. While he only has 27 points in 59 games, the 28-year-old has seven points in his last eight contests and over his last 17 matches, has played more than 20 minutes in a game eight times, not including one where he logged 19:54 minutes. In addition to receiving top power time, Brouwer is on pace for 19 goals, 37 points, 18 power play points and 117 penalty minutes. He also sits 11th in the NHL amongst forwards in hits with 162.
Prognosis: Caps talented bruiser makes for a nice spring fling, especially if your league counts hits and penalty minutes.
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