I was going to write about how Ovechkin has fared since his suspension, but apparently I've been living in a protective plastic dome (please don't call it a bubble, it opens the door for those mean bubble boy jokes) for the last little while because apparently that topic has already been covered by Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! Sports.
Instead, I will talk about something near and dear to my heart, defensemen. There are some interesting situations playing out or about to play out in a few Eastern Conference cities.
One that comes quickly to mind is the Islanders 24-year-old Andrew MacDonald. He had five points in the five games immediately preceding the December 28 trade of James Wisniewski to Montreal. MacDonald was the Isles sixth round pick, 160 overall in 2006.
In his major junior career, MacDonald scored 46 points in 68 games in his second last season and 58 points in 65 games in his final go-round in the QMJHL. His first professional season was rough as he split time between the AHL (five points in 21 games) and ECHL (12 points in 37 games). The following season was his best as a pro, scoring 32 points in 69 AHL games. MacDonald split last season between the AHL, where he recorded eight points in 21 games, and the NHL, scoring seven points in 46 matches.
That brings us to this season. He started the year with a grand total of zero points in his first 11 games. He did break his hand during that period, but in his last 11 games, he has 10 points including seven via the power play. MacDonald has played less than 20 minutes in only six of his 22 games this season and one of those was the game his hand was broken in. He was wearing an A on his jersey tonight.
So is MacDonald for real you ask? The jury is still out, but if you are in a salary cap league that requires a number of defensemen, then why not ride the wave for now and see where it takes him? I am.
Sticking with the 2006 draft. This guy was taken by the Sabres in the second round, 57 overall. You'll never confuse Buffalo's Mike Weber with the Preds Shea "Butter" Weber.
The 6'2" 211 pound 23-year-old averages over 15 minutes of ice time, but does not receive any appreciable power play time.
In his final season of junior hockey, Weber had 34 points and 172 penalty minutes in 60 games. Last year, Weber recorded 21 points and 153 penalty minutes in 80 AHL games. This season, he started with no points in his first 15 contests and then rattled off five points in three consecutive games.
My take on Weber is that those three games are an anomaly and he'll be lucky to finish the season with more than 10 points. He only holds value in leagues where you can carry a one dimensional player, in this case, penalty minutes.
The real under the radar guy on Buffalo we should be talking about is Andrej Sekera. He started this campaign with five points in 27 games, but may have turned the corner by following that up with seven points in his next 10 games ending New Year's Day. Three of those seven points were collected on the power play.
Sekera played two seasons in the OHL and recorded 55 points in 51 games in his final year. I love it when CHL defensemen score more than a point-per-game, it is an obvious indication of their offensive ability. It's out of the ordinary for a defenseman who don't display offensive ability in junior to just turn it on in the NHL. Yes, there are such things as late bloomers, but they are very rare birds indeed.
After junior, Sekera split the next three seasons shuttling back and forth between the AHL and NHL never once hitting the 20 point mark in either league. The 24-year-old Slovak defender plays over 21 minutes a game, behind only Jordan Leopold and Tyler Myers, and gets second unit power play opportunities.
I'm on the fence with this guy. Both Myers and Leopold are ahead of Sekera in the Sabres pecking order. I'd be a little more stoked if he received top power play minutes and the Sabres top offensive player, Derek Roy, wasn't out for the season. Still, the talent is there, so if you are in a deep league and in need of a defenseman, he's likely worth a flyer.
Adding 30-year-old Marc-Andre Bergeron to the Tampa Bay power play will have a negative trickle down effect on Brett Clark, Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman. Once Bergeron returns from a conditioning stint, all three of them will eventually see a decrease in their man advantage minutes. Tampa often fields four forwards with the extra man. Bergeron is a pure power play specialist.
Last season, Bergeron scored at a 46 point pace, recording 34 points in 60 games for Montreal. His best season in the NHL was in 2006-07 where he split the year between Edmonton and Long Island. After being dealt to the Islanders, Bergeron scorched the final 23 games to the tune of 21 points on his way to a 46 point finish.
I've don't ever remember seeing a defenseman put up a season like Bergeron had in his final QMJHL year. He scored 42 goals (still a QMJHL record) and 101 points in 69 games. Not bad numbers, you know, for a defenseman.
The conditioning stint may last longer than the standard two weeks, but I can't see it taking much more than three weeks. Bergeron had off-season knee surgery, but has passed a physical and has been cleared to return to action. This is a gamble that could pay off handsomely.