Regular readers of my work may have picked up on the fact that I neglected to mention this column’s golden boy, Blue Jackets Cam Atkinson, in last week’s piece after dropping his name in every other submission this season. Truth be told, things were a little touch-and-go around these parts at the time with Atkinson recovering from a very scary injury after he was cut in the face by the skate of Ryan Kesler. Well, we can all breathe a little easier now that the Columbus dynamo has avoided serious harm and has returned to the Blue Jackets lineup. In fact, our boy Atkinson has recorded two goals and 10 shots on goals in three games since his return, causing me to wonder aloud (again) why his Yahoo ownership rate checks in at just 22 percent. Stop the madness, people.
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I’ll admit that I hadn’t realized until very recently, but the Sharks’ Tommy Wingels has quietly placed himself among the NHL leaders in shots on goal with 47 so far in this young season. I’m as surprised as anyone to see his name next to those of Alex Ovechkin, Steve Stamkos and Claude Giroux, but a look through his career stats reveals a player who has always had a penchant for directing pucks on goal. While he may not have demonstrated this tendency with San Jose until now, Wingels amassed a whopping 97 shots in 29 games with Worcester of the AHL during the 2011-12 season before being called up to the big club and was also a prolific scorer in NCAA action at Miami (Ohio). Incredibly, Wingels also currently places third in the NHL in hits with 47. With an ownership rate nearing 50 percent (45 as of this writing), the cat may already be out of the bag in your league, but if he’s still available I see nothing in his peripherals to suggest he’s a fluke. Playing alongside Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Another player I’d like to tout despite his relatively widespread ownership (56 percent) is Toronto’s Nazem Kadri. With just five points in 11 games on the season, it’s easy to overlook the former first round selection, but ignoring the last week of action would be a mistake since Kadri has recently been paired with Phil Kessel on the Maple Leafs’ top line and the connection seems to have kickstarted the center. In three games together, Kadri has registered two goals and an assist and has directed 10 shots on goal in that span after notching just 19 shots in his first 8 contests. Playing in his sixth NHL season, but still just 24 years of age, let’s not forget that he racked up 44 points in 48 outings during the 2012-13 shortened season before posting 50 in 78 last year. The talent has never been in question and with a reliable sniper acting as running mate, the sky is the limit for Kadri.
The other major beneficiary of Randy Carlyle’s line juggling has been winger Daniel Winnik, who has recorded five points since joining Kessel and Kadri on the team’s top trio. Owned in just four percent of Yahoo formats, he would appear to be a prime candidate for a waiver claim in deeper leagues, but I’m actually not all that enamored with him as a fantasy asset. The tasty top-line assignment is a nice bonus, but despite the move he has still registered just 16 shots this year and doesn’t exactly help you in many other categories. His career-best of 42 penalty minutes (2011-12 with Colorado) actually looks like an outlier when compared against the rest of his resume and despite a reputation as a solid “checker”, he actually doesn’t deliver many hits. Let’s also not discount the possibility that he could very easily be shifted to a third or fourth line role at any time. He’s a stay-away for me.
Very few people seem to have taken notice, but Anaheim winger Patrick Maroon returned to action over the weekend after missing nearly three weeks with a knee injury and promptly regained his spot on the Ducks top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Maroon was a popular sleeper in the preseason thanks in part to his favorable role, but also due to his tantalizing potential for totaling points and penalty minutes. I’ve seen nothing in the two games he has played since returning (one assist, three shots on goal, 16 minutes average TOI) to change my opinion, yet he’s currently owned in just six percent of leagues. This is fairly ridiculous considering he could easily surpass 50 points and 100 PIM this year. Stop. The. Madness.
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My super-deep league pick of the week is Blake Comeau, who is currently available in 97 percent of Yahoo games. The former second round pick of the Islanders in 2004 entered the league with a decent amount of offensive potential, but was pushed down the depth chart by New York after being labeled a depth player and wasn’t able to shake the mantle in stints with the Flames and Blue Jackets. He may not ever be mistaken for Pavel Bure, but now that’s he has become a fixture on Pittsburgh’s second line alongside superstar Evgeni Malkin, there’s every reason to think he can be as productive as, say, Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis actually makes for a great comparable since he arrived in Pittsburgh seven years ago at the same age of 28 with a less-than-stellar offensive reputation. Since that time, he has been a 20-goal scorer on two separate occasions and has surpassed 17 twice more. He’s the template for what owners should hope for with Comeau and with seven points in 10 games he’s off to a fine start.
Bargain Bin Finds
As always, this space is reserved to highlight players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Antoine Vermette (18 percent) – He’s been mentioned in this space before, but for some reason hasn’t seen his ownership rise despite eight points and 14 penalty minutes in 11 games. Yes, the Coyotes are bad and he’ll probably finish the season with a negative plus/minus, but I continue to believe he’ll be the cheapest source for 55 points you’ll find.
Zach Bogosian (12 percent) – I have been down this road with Bogosian many times before and despite the fact he has yanked the football away each time, I continue to run up and try to kick it. Maybe this time will be different. When healthy, the Winnipeg blueliner has actually been a pretty consistent producer over the past few seasons, but that’s like saying I’m a pretty good golfer on holes where I make putts of 20 feet or longer. If nothing else, thanks to an improved Jets team he’s very likely better than your worst defenseman right now.
Charlie Coyle (8 percent) – In a world where Brad Richards is owned in 46 percent of leagues, I’m baffled that Coyle is rostered in just eight percent. Let me make the case for him. Six points in 10 games and an average of better than two shots per contest are enough to pique my interest, but he fact he also boasts a plus-6 rating makes me want buy even more. Considering he plays for the team with the league’s best score-adjusted Fenwick (hat tip: www.fenwick-stats.com), I’m inclined to think it’s sustainable.