It’s still early in the season, but with teams having played between 7 and 12 games fantasy owners are now starting to wonder about certain players. Are the ones who are off to surprisingly hot starts for real and inversely are the ones who are off to unexpectedly cold stars going to come out of their funk? In the first of a two part series, I’ll take a look at players who seem to have turned into unforeseen princes for fantasy owners and reveal whether their production will remain princely or whether these early season princes will turn back into frogs.
Antti Miettinen – Miettinen joined the Wild following three lackluster seasons in Dallas where he averaged 30 points a season. He has benefited greatly from Mikko Koivu’s emergence, but has always been a streaky player (yes, even 30-point players can be considered streaky). He has benefited from the absences of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Marian Gaborik, and while his six goals should allow him to surpass last year’s career high of 15, I wouldn’t bet on him reaching 20 goals. Verdict: Frog
Phil Kessel – One of my favorite sleepers of the season, Kessel has gotten off to a better start than even I expected. While I am on record having predicted a 30-goal season from Kessel I don’t expect him to maintain his early season pace. Opposing teams will adjust and I think when all is said and done Kessel will total between 30 and 35 goals. The 40-goal mark will have to wait until next year. Verdict: Prince for years to come
Fabien Brunnstrom – He made a big splash scoring a hat trick in his first NHL game and has added two goals since then despite very limited playing time for a nice total of five goals in seven games. Since his playing time will vary largely from game to game most often tending towards the 10 minute mark, it’s unreasonable to expect him to score at such a pace regularly. Particularly since his five goals have come from only 13 shots on goal. Verdict: Frog
Mikko Koivu – Saku’s brother leads the NHL with 12 assists despite the fact that Gaborik has been out the last five games. He’s clicked centering Miettinen and Andrew Brunette. Despite the fact that I expect Miettinen to slump badly for extended periods of time, Gaborik’s return can only help Koivu maintain regular production. While it’s ridiculous to expect a 100-point season from Koivu, you can expect him to surpass the 80-point mark. Verdict: Prince and new NHL star
Andy McDonald – I am not a fan of Andy McDonald. I always believed that his two good seasons were a product of Teemu Selanne, period. However, following an excellent pre-season I picked him up in the industry experts league just before the regular season started thinking that maybe scorers like Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk could have a Selanne effect on McDonald. Needless to say I did not expect such outstanding results. McDonald already has posted five multi-point games this season and I expect many more to come as long as Boyes, Tkachuk and Kariya remain healthy. Verdict: Prince
Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff has a five-game point streak going and has registered a point in eight of the Sharks ten games this season. He’s already doubled last season’s goal production with two goals. Much more was expected from Erhoff than the 22 points he posted last season after he scored 10 goals and 33 points in 2006-07. Despite the presence of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, Erhoff is receiving nearly as much power-play time as his more prestigious colleagues. With the Sharks depth a career year wouldn’t be a surprise from Ehrhoff. Just don’t expect 40 to 50 points. Verdict: Prince considering he went undrafted in most fantasy leagues
Keith Ballard – After an outstanding rookie season in 2005-06 where he scored 39 points, Ballard has been disappointing the past two seasons with his production dropping to 21 points last year. The trend followed his power play production which went from 16 points as a rookie to a mere four points last season as Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris and Keith Yandle handled the power play responsibilities in Phoenix. A change of décor was just what he needed and he is now an important part of the Florida defense. Despite the fact that he hasn’t scored at all on the power play this season either, he has managed to score 8 points in 8 games. Considering that he’s receiving a considerable amount of ice time with the man advantage production on the power play should come. You can expect Ballard’s numbers to remain strong throughout the season and 40 points are very attainable. Verdict: Prince
Mike Modano – Modano has become a fantasy factor again in this early season following a year that saw him loiter in fantasy free-agency in most leagues. He’s actually on pace to match his best seasons dating to 15 years ago. At 38 years of age it will be considered an accomplishment to just match his 57-point production from last season, so don’t expect this early production to continue. Modano will go back to lingering in fantasy free-agency before long. Verdict: Frog
Expert league updates
I’m off to a hot start in both expert leagues this season. Trying to defend the championship in the Industry Experts League, I sit atop the standings with 87.5 points followed by Rotowire-Levine 12 points behind with Rotoworld and NHL.com close behind. My goaltending has been spectacular behind Carey Price and Ryan Miller. The latest free-agent pickups throughout the league include Andy Greene, Clarke McArthur, Kyle Quincey and Jiri Hudler who looks like he has gotten out of his funk.
In the Dobber Experts League I stand in second place to Eastern Edge’s Russ Miller just ahead of Expert Audit’s Ian Fergusson and guest invitee RepentTokyo. If Evgeni Nabokov and Mikka Kiprusoff can produce better numbers I should be able to compete all season. The latest pickups in the league include the likes of Francois Beauchemin, Jason Labarbera, Guillaume Latendresse as well as Miettinen and Modano.