Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Soaring Start


BOSTON, MA—It's been an exciting start to the 2013-14 season with several teams charging out of the gate, and a few historically strong teams struggling to find their footing. As we all know, the fantasy hockey season is a marathon, but sometimes a team insists on sprinting. Case in point, the Saginaw Spirit. After capturing the crown in our inaugural 2008-09 ESPN campaign, Tom Lusty's crew churned out a string of decent yet underwhelming seasons. Now, riding the stalwart play of Tuukka Rask and the goalscoring prowess of Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Sedin, the reinvigorated Spirit have already posted TWO 50+ point nights. 

Defending champion Lokomotiv Yukon, on the other hand, is making waves in a different way. Darryl Schnarr's typically robust squad has finished 2nd, 1st and 1st dating back to the 2010-2011 season, but now finds itself struggling to gain momentum. Not to take away from their individual performance, but you know things aren't 100% when Matt Niskanen and Jiri Hudler are the leading scorers on a team that boasts the likes of Malkin, Jamie Benn, Kesler, and Henrik Sedin. Goalies--generally the pillar of Yukon's success, are sputtering in the early going. Ryan Miller is doing work (ranked 2nd in saves despite an 0-4 record). It's Devan Dubnyk that is the real head-scratcher so far, posting negative points in all four of his starts along with a hideous 5.43/.829 peripheral stat line.

Again, it's a long season with plenty of time to turn things around. And if you look back through the annals of league history, you will be reminded that Lokomitv won it's first league championship not as a juggernaut, but as the #7 playoff seed. 

ROOKS ON THE RISE: By now you've hopefully seen the four-goal effort from Tomas Hertl, which is a big part of why the rookie is leading all California Kwijibos skaters in fantasy points. Many had Sean Monahan pegged as one pup that might stay in the NHL beyond nine games mostly out of necessity, but the Mount Vernon greenhorn has at least a point in each of his first five games, including a four game goal-scoring streak. A feel good surprise from the kid that was largely overshadowed by MacKinnon, Drouin, Jones, Barkov, etc. 

PATIENCE PAYING OFF: Pint-sized Nathan Gerbe is finally getting an honest chance to strut his stuff on the main stage. After averaging just 12:30 TOI/G last season, Gerbe is logging over 18 minutes a night for Portland and currently ranks among the Top 10 leaders in shots on goal. After plugging away as a grinder for most of the last four seasons, Justin Abdelkader is getting a golden chance to stick on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. And after being on the Stuttgart Scorpion's trading block for the better part of the last two seasons,Jack Johnson has more fantasy points through the first two weeks than Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Not exactly a bankable trend, but surely a welcome change for GM Josh Deitell. 

EARLY RETURNS: How about that Alex Killorn? Two goals and four assists through his first five games and is currently CSKA Moscow's top scoring left winger. What a solid start for arguably the most surprising pick of the draft (43rd overall, round 3). Also, how did more NHL teams not offer Brad Boyes a one year deal this past summer? The former 43-goal scorer has potted four goals through his first five games with Wolfsburg, tops among all Vipers skaters. 

CANADIAN COMEBACK:My super early and completely unbiased nomination for bounce back of the year goes toSemyon Varlamov of le Canadiens de Montreal. After averaging a paltry 2.2 fantasy points per game last season, Varly is rocking a 4-0 record along with a 1.00/.970 split and a robust 8.4 points per game average. What a MONSTER. Also, Patrick Roy is the greatest coach in league history. See? Totally unbiased. Just sweet, pure, truth. 

Great start to the year, guys! Keep fighting and don't forget to take the longview as we navigate through the coming months. 

2013 Draft Recap (Hockey's Back!)

If you took a moment to collect your thoughts after the draft, you may have missed the start of the season! Thanks to the forthcoming 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, the World Hockey League's 7th season kicked off a full week earlier than usual. As for the draft itself, we clocked in at 4 hours 15 minutes (averaging out to less than one minute per pick) which if you ask me is pretty damn good for a jumble of Google Docs, and varying degrees of web connectivity and sobriety levels.

Before delving into a recap of the draft, a few personal remarks are in order. First, as some of you are aware, Joe Dahms of the Altoona Angry Beavers recently underwent successful surgery, and according to the man himself all systems are go for a full, albeit painful recovery. Best of luck, Joe! Meanwhile, the other Joe (Mastrangelo, Boston Beernuts) is now my coworker, and technically, my boss. It's only a matter of time before he issues some kind of "trade me X or you're fired" ultimatum. Also, Tom Lusty (Saginaw) has been providing me with a temporary home while I look for an apartment in Boston. WHL support system for the win! And now, on to a summary of Draft Day 2013:

To the surprise of no one, nine of the first 18 picks were goalies. Also not terribly surprising was last year's MVP, Antti Niemi, going 1st overall to the Brooklyn Cyclones. Mount Vernon wasted zero time filling both of his goalie slots in the early going, taking Jimmy Howard and Tim Thomas 2nd and 13th overall, respectively. Most surprising 1st round pick - Anton Khudobin 15th overall by Mike Greely's Wolfsburg Vipers. Perhaps it was a bit of a reach with guys like Perry, Datsyuk and Kessel still out there, but WLF did nab Chris Kunitz just two picks later.

The Saginaw Spirit scooped up the first rookie--Johnathan Drouin--at the number 19 spot only to learn that the kid had been returned to Juniors earlier that day. It's unfortunate, but in case you haven't noticed, the Spirit don't really need to lean on the budding star right now. Nathan MacKinnon went off the board shortly thereafter to the Beernuts, thus continuing Boston's trend of sniping Avalanche rookies from yours truly. The next 20 picks were all solid skaters that you would expect to go in the 2nd and early 3rd round … until Alex Killorn was  43rd overall to CSKA Moscow. Easily the front runner for biggest reach of the draft, but you never know what injuries might eventually push Killorn into Tampa's top six.

Pick Swaps Revisited:

CK traded 1st round pick to Scorpions (M.A. Fleury)
CK traded 8th round pick (SS) to Scorpions (Marcus Foligno)
CK traded 8th round pikc (SPTA) to Scorpions (Andrew Shaw)

SCOR traded 1st round pick to Kwijibos (Dustin Brown)
SCOR traded 3rd round pick to Kwijibos (Scott Hartnell)
SCOR traded 7th round pick to Kwijibos (Mikkel Boedker)


BOS traded 1st round pick to Beernuts (Corey Perry)
BOS traded 3rd round pick to Beernuts (Michal Neuvirth)
BOS traded 5th round pick to Beernuts (Jamie McGinn)
BOS traded 13th round pick to Beernuts (Erik Gudbranson)

NUTS traded 1st round pick to Ballbusters (Cam Ward)
NUTS traded 6th round pick to Ballbusters (Christian Ehrhoff)
NUTS traded 11th round pick to Ballbusters (Chris Phillips)


SS traded 1st round pick to Cyclones (Antti Niemi)
SS traded 6th round pick to Cyclones (Sergei Gonchar)
SS traded 9th round pick to Cyclones (Lubomir Visnovsky)

BK traded 1st round pick to Spirit (Rick Nash)
BK traded 3rd round pick to Spirit (Cody Franson)
BK traded 5th round pick to Spirit (Mark Streit)


Totally Subjective Value Picks:
Mikael Samuelsson, MVB, 236th overall (Round 14)
Artem Anisimov, TTR, 222nd overall (Round 13)
Elias Lindholm, SCOR, 210th overall (Round 12)
Drew Stafford, CK, 203rd overall (Round 12)
Erik Johnson, PINT, 197th overall (Round 11)
Josh Bailey, BK, 188th overall (Round 11)
Sean Monahan, MVB, 182nd overall (Round 11)
Shawn Matthias, WTF, 171st overall (Round 10)
Boone Jenner, NUTS, 165th overall (Round 10)
Mark Giordano, MTL, 158th overall (Round 9)
Lubomir Visnovsky, BK, 145th overall (Round 9)
Derek Roy, POR, 136th overall (Round 8)
Damien Brunner, SS, 127th overall (Round 8)
Mike Fisher, BOS, 106th overall (Round 6)
Mike Richards, SCOR, 84th overall (Round 5)
Brad Richards, SS, 72nd overall (Round 4)