Sometimes a hockey player will offer a glimpse into their personal life, whether it be through Twitter or interview or whatever else, and sometimes glimpses are offered for them by invasive parties. Either way, some very serious hockey poolers will use this information as what they consider an edge, thinking that, for example, a player fed well by their visiting mother will outperform another who’s afraid of turning into a popsicle. There’s no real harm in this, and whatever gets you your kicks, I suppose, but it also doesn’t seem so easy to predict what the effect many circumstances might have. For example, I can’t figure out if the Friday’s unearthing of Milan Lucic’s audition tape for Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2008 flick, Bronson, is what broke his six game point streak or not. It could really go either way when you consider all angles of everything.
Regardless, this week’s Pickup of the Week section is for all of those of you looking for that edge. It’s creepy, it’s intrusive, and, unlike that crack on Lucic, it’s supposedly true. So what’s up, National Enquirer scouting team? I had me a good meal tonight!
PICKUP OF THE WEEK (TABLOID EDITION):
Mike Fisher - Nsh - C - 14% owned with 11+12=23
Fish Man (I think I’m starting something here) had an unreal week of hockey, and there’s still tonight’s game to improve upon it. In the 5 games (including tonight’s) since December 28 when his current tear began, Fisher has registered 4 goals, 5 assists, a +6 rating, 9 PIMs, 12 hits, and 16 shots on goal. In this week’s 4 games, the integral Pred has 2 goals and 7 points, a +4 rating, 9 PIMs, 10 hits, and 13 shots.
Now, some of us are the kind of people who ask questions, like, where did this production come from so suddenly? And the journalists over at Fashion & Style are the kind of people who attempt to answer them. According to F&S, Fisher and Country Music Star Carrie Underwood are in quite the feud regarding their future. Fisher wants a family, Underwood wants to focus acutely on her music career. Because of this difference, they’re not really talking much right now. "Mike is fuming," and it’s clear a lot of Fisher’s heat is being utilized in his game. Right now, Fisher, who more often than not plays over 20 minutes each outing, looks like the right guy to take a chance on. Nashville even plays another 4 games in the coming week. So go ahead and mail Underwood your best Garbage Pail Kids trading cards with the hope that they keep any plans for a wildly named celebrity baby on the marital backburner. His fantasy owners would also like to steer clear of "splitsville" for as long as Fisher’s ongoing hot-streak allows them to.
SHALLOW LEAGUE FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (owned in >50% in Yahoo! leagues)
Jeff Skinner - Car - C,LW,RW - 84% owned with 19+12=31
Jeff Skinner has 31 points and 113 shots on goal in 30 games this season, which is pretty righteous. In his last 4 games, he’s put up 5 goals, 3 assists, 4PPP, and 19 shots. At this rate, he should be owned in more than 84% of leagues, which is saying something. If he’s out there, grab him. I might even go buy an old Sega Genesis just to see if C+LW+RW five times is some superpower cheat code in NHLPA Hockey ’93, because in small-roster hockey pools, it kind of is.
Kyle Okposo - NYI - RW - 76% owned with 16+26=42
Saturday’s loss to Skinner and Carolina marked the end of a very impressive 8-game, 13 point scoring streak for Kyle Okposo. Even though he didn’t make the USA Olympic cut, Okposo was surely strongly considered as he is having a career year with a strong 42 points in 43 games while playing on a line with John Tavares and a liberated Thomas Vanek, and should be strongly considered for your own as well. When asked about the Olympic decision, Okposo remarked that he tried very hard to send a message, but some farmer ruined it for him before the committee had the chance to see it.
T.J. Oshie - StL - C,RW - 75% owned with 8+29=37
St Louis’ top line has been changing around Oshie due to David Backes’ injury and return, but Oshie seems to have found a scoring pal in Jaden Schwartz, so if things are right an good in the world the raging trio (with Backes) might have a chance as BFFs. Over the last 4 games, Oshie has 4 goals and 7 points with a +4, while Schwartz is good for 2 goals and 4 points with a +5 to extend an 8 game, 7 goal and 10 point streak. Schwartz owns a +10 in those 8 games and a squint-at-your-screen +23 on the season. He has even been a shade more consistent than Oshie, though the latter has had multi-point games in 3 of his last 4. Either way you look at it, this line scores points, and you’d be a golden goose if you’re able to find either on your wire right now. You have a better chance for Schwartz, who’s now owned in 56% of Yahoo! leagues, though not for long.
MEDIUM-DEPTH FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (25-50% ownership in Yahoo! leagues)
Nathan Horton - Cls - C - 32% owned with 1+0=1
The above math is so easy it confuses me, so I don’t have all that much to say about Horton except that he has to be worth a pickup in many leagues. In his debut with Columbus, he scored a power play goal but was held pointless in a 6-2 loss to St. Louis and their stalwart d-core. Many eyes are on Horton right now, but his swelling ownership slowed after this game, which shows the general lack of faith that many hockey poolers have and means you might be able to nab him. He might not be shallow league material, but Horton is a great player who should be at least tried out in more than 32% of leagues. He’s good for some penalty minutes and hits as well as points, so a special wink to those of you who value those stats.
Jussi Jokinen - Pit - C,LW - 34% owned with 12+18=30
I’ve struggled with the ubiquity of name-puns in hockey writing. It has gotten pretty bad. For example, today on NHL.com, Evgeni Malkin was dubbed The Malk Man. Get it? It’s like "Milk Man" but pronounced like a punch to your soul. All that aside, I am down with calling Jussi Jokinen by the name of Juicy, and you can hold me to it. But that’s not the point, really. The point is that Juicy got his second multi-point outing in as many games today (he has 3 goals and 4 points with a +4 rating in 2 games). More importantly, with Malkin back and looking scary, Jokinen’s slippery right-place-at-the-right-time game has a chance to really take off, and they looked great playing together today. Oh yeah, and with 8 shots today and 5 on Friday, it’s clear he’s getting the chances. Worth a thought.
Evgeni Nabokov - NYI - G - 46% owned with 9W, 2.86GAA, and .905SV%
You know what they say: a good starter is hard to find. And because Nabokov was injured for a stretch, many fantasy owners dropped him in favour of one of this season’s many upswinging backups. And even though his stat line looks a little floppy and/or holed, Nabokov has been good overall since his return. Two sub-.900SV% nights doesn’t hold too much weight against seven solid performances, including a 23-save shutout against Detroit. Also, he must have sparked something, because since his return, the Islanders as a whole have been looking much better. Given what’s likely available for goalies in many leagues, Nabokov deserves a good look beyond his season totals. He’ll enjoy a consistent rise in ownership, if I’m to bet my Dogecoins on it.
Tim Thomas - Fla - G - 30% owned with 10W, 2.71GAA, and .911SV%
On the topic of likely available starters, you may not have noticed but Tim Thomas returned on New Years Eve and made 30 saves on 31 shots against the Rangers. That makes for a .968SV%. Then, last night it seems that Thomas slipped a little with a .905 against Nashville, until you realize that he made a huge 38 saves against a baby-hungry Fisher and an equally hungry offense surrounding him. Thomas has been good for the improving Panthers when he has been healthy, but because he’s been out injured twice, his ownership rates remain low. But as it is now, if the Panthers continue to improve, Thomas is worth a grab, especially since many of the Big Dog goalies are returning to form and dissolving the value of many backups-turned-starters.
DEEPER LEAGUE FREE AGENTS (<25% ownership in Yahoo! leagues)
Mike Fisher - Nsh - C - 14% owned with 11+11=22
See above, and then forget about his lovelife. I’m sorry.
Vladimir Sobotka - StL - C - 4% owned with 6+14=20
Sobotka was out for 6 games with a concussion. Since his return, he has posted 5 points (2PPP) in 4 games along with a +4 rating, 6 PIMs, 7 shots, and 5 hits. The real kicker is that Sobotka happens to be a face-off hero, owning a sassy 61.9 FO%, which ranks second only to Patrice Bergeron by a marginal .2. If you value face offs, Sobotka’s recent play makes him a must-consider.
Jacob Trouba - Wpg - D - 15% owned with 3+9=12
No rookie gets more ice time than Trouba, who has 7 points in his last 9 games. He has found his offensive game of late and scored a sneaky goal from the slot in today’s game against Pittsburgh. He’s only 15% owned right now, but this has grown from 5%ish in the last few days and will continue to rise steeply. Defensemen who score points like Trouba is don’t hang on the clothesline for long.
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIALS (<5% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Sean Bergenheim - Fla - LW - 2% owned with 9+3=12
I remember checking in on a Florida game earlier in the season and seeing a flashy move on a scoring opportunity that was preceded by the word "Bergenheim." I didn’t think much of it, didn’t know the name, but then I kept seeing the word reappear on the boxscores from time to time. Now, Sean Bergenheim, with 5 goals in his last 5 games, is looking like a decent depth pickup, especially since the Panthers are playing like a not-so-bad version of themselves, generating offense in front of an impressive Tim Thomas once again. It seems that Bergenheim has found his line alongside the talented rookie Aleksander Barkov and veteran Brad Boyes, who are both widely available and enjoying recent spikes in production as well. Berg won't sink your SOG numbers, either, with 66 in 27 games.
Manny Malhotra - Car - C - 0% owned with 4+4=8
If you’re in a deep league that counts face off wins, then Manny Malhotra might be an interesting gamble for you. But when I say that, I mean right now, since Maholtra has 3 goals and 4 points in his last 3 games. This amounts to exactly half of his point total for his 30 game season, sure, but he also put up 8 hits and 8 shots over that span, which are useful numbers in some formats. His ice time also spiked in these games, so maybe something is happening here. Maybe (probably) not, but Malhotra also has a fancy .593 FO%, which makes him 4th in the entire league for that stat and adds pads to the risk of such a pickup.