Fantasy Fare: Del Zotto rules the rearguards
Joel Colomby, QMI Agency
|New York Rangers Mike Rupp (C) celebrates his goal with teammates Michael Del Zotto (L) and Kris Newbury during the third period of their NHL game in Vancouver, British Columbia October 18, 2011. (REUTERS/Ben Nelms)
The statistics Saturday evening showed that Michael Del Zotto sits 13th overall in points among NHL defencemen. But, at the moment, we’d have to say there isn’t a rearguard out there that fantasy owners would rather have than the third-year Ranger. Since the Blueshirts returned from a four-game road swing in late November, the former first-rounder has certainly played like one, racking up three goals and 13 assists to go with a gaudy plus-18. That has given Del Zotto 5-17-22 totals, still 13 points shy of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, though his league-leading plus-25 gives him at least equal value value. And you can’t say that Del Zotto merely is riding the coattails of his red-hot teammates. On Monday, he ventured deep into Islanders territory to twice make splendid setups on goals by rookie winger Carl Hagelin, the first on a nifty toe drag. “It was incredible,” Hagelin said afterwards. “The guy has a lot of confidence right now. All credit to him. He’s a great player and he’s making the most of it, right now.”
-- Speaking of Hagelin, the former Michigan star — whom we recommended picking up a month ago — remains owned in just 2% of Yahoo leagues. But after his goal and assist at Florida on Friday, the Swedish winger is now up to 7-4-11 totals and a plus-11 rating in just 18 games since making his NHL debut. Though he debuted on the third line, Rangers brass lauded his high hockey IQ, and rewarded him recently with a promotion to the second line alongside Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. And don’t be concerned that his fantasy production is tied to his new top-six role. Most of his points came before he landed with Richards and Callahan and none of them have come on the power play, yet.
-- An almost similar situation is occurring in Chicago with winger Viktor Stalberg who, right around the Christmas break, went on a tear of his own — four goals and two assists in three games — while averaging less than 121/2 minutes on the third line and, like Hagelin, doing it all at even-strength. Given another shot on a scoring line on Friday (with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp), Stalberg came up empty for the second game in a row. He had mixed results with Jonathan Toews earlier in the year and seems to be one of those skaters who simply performs better out of the spotlight and away from opposition checkers. That doesn’t decrease his fantasy stock, but it does put a ceiling on it.
-- Look for Nikita Nikitin to take over the power-play QB duties on the Blue Jackets with James Wisniewski shelved for a couple of months with a broken leg.
-- The Canadiens acquired Tomas Kaberle in early December to help their power-play. But of the six assists the ex-Leaf has earned in his 10 games as a Hab, only one has come with the man advantage. The Habs may be discovering what many scouts have long suspected: That despite his slick passing skills, Kaberle simply doesn’t move the puck quickly enough on the power-play.
-- As long as the Hurricanes keep Jussi Jokinen at centre, don’t expect much in the goal-scoring department. The veteran Finn hasn’t scored since Nov. 20 against the Maple Leafs — a span of 18 games — but says that is partially by design. “At centre, I look to pass more. At winger, I shoot more,” says Jokinen, who still has nine assists during his goalless streak.
Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward now has more goals this season than Magnus Paajarvi, Tomas Kaberle, Marek Zidlicky, Philippe Dupuis and Matt Beleskey — combined.
GAMES THIS WEEK
4 CHI, EDM, NJ, OTT, PHIL, SJ
2 FLA, MIN, MON, NASH, PITT, WASH
All other teams play 3 games
The Avs are hoping the knee injury to Matt Duchene (left) is only a sprain. He’ll be out at least a month regardless … Admitting his surgically repaired ankle has not been 100% since he returned, Ryan Whitney hasn’t played since Dec. 22 … Martin Havlat is out until February after surgery on a torn hamstring sustained hopping over the boards … Latest to miss time with concussion symptoms: Alexander Steen, Simon Gagne, John-Michael Liles, Alex Tanguay (suspected) and Al Montoya … Sheldon Souray is out a couple of weeks with a sprained ankle … Dan Boyle says he was skating on a broken foot for much of November … Dustin Byfuglien’s LBI will keep him out until maybe next weekend … Mike Green (groin) is hoping to finally return this coming week … Same for Jason Blake, who broke his wrist Oct. 14 … Tomas Holmstrom (groin) is expected back within a week.
With fantasy rating out of 5
F, Maple Leafs
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He may have been right when he said: “I’m ready for this,” following his latest callup. Was the best Leaf on the ice Thursday in Raleigh, playing with Connolly and MacArthur and, with three goals in four games, he looks like he may not be disappointing his fantasy owners again so quickly.
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After picking up assists in each of his first three games with the Sens, the former Coyotes first-rounder was held off the scoresheet in the next two, but did fire four shots in each. The skill level is there, and so now is the opportunity.
Who? Swiss-born rookie piled up five assists in two games prior to Saturday night, boosting his season total to 2-11-13. But even he is calling the surge “a little bit more luck.” He’s never been an offensive force, even during eight seasons back home with Zug.
He’s been playing rather well of late (2-2-4 in his past six games, five goals in 15 games) and should slide on to Stastny’s line for the injured Matt Duchene.
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As Letang’s replacement on the power-play, he had 1-8-9 totals over a recent eight-game stretch after mustering just five points his first two months.
-- Statistics do not include Saturday’s games --