PICKUP OF THE WEEK:
Johan Franzen - Det - LW,RW - 66% owned in Yahoo! leagues with 12+16=28
Listen now, I usually try to reserve this pedestal up here for guys with much lower ownership numbers. I do that for you, Franzen is a special case this week. First, he’s coming off a concussion that sat him down with Lego for 23 games (hear Anton Khudobin speak on injury down-time [1:46-]). That means there were probably a lot of people who gave up on him over that period due to a lack of IR slots or else just general live-fast-die-hard impatience. So he was snatched up by a lot of people at first news of his return, and boy oh boy oh boy has he helped out this week. In his two games played he’s done more for his owners than anyone else all week, and he right now ranks as #1 Top NHL Fantasy Dog over the last 7 days. In those 2 games, Franzen notched a hat trick and 2 assists to go along with a +4 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 2 PPP, 7 shots, and 4 hits. As long as Franzen’s dome remains on his neck and/or unconcussed, then Detroit’s top line of Franzen, Datsyuk, and young Gus Nyquist will be their most dangerous one. Plus, one time he ripped Patrick Kane’s mouthguard out of his mouth, and that’s funny as hell. Bonus points.
SHALLOW LEAGUE FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (owned in over 50% of Yahoo! leagues)
Ryan Miller - StL - G - 82% owned with 15 W, 2.72 GAA, and .923 SV%
So Miller finally went to the Blues, which means that the 18% of leagues that haven’t snagged him yet, even as a flier, are looking at something in the wrong way. Or maybe I am, I don’t know, but as a hold-strong Miller owner, I couldn’t be happier to see him on a winning, defensively responsible team. I mean, check out that save percentage he collected on a team that couldn’t keep a puck from getting to him. You won’t find a Miller owner looking to get rid of him after waiting for this for so long. Miller will make StL better, and the Blues should make him better, too.
Ryan Kesler - Van - C, RW - 89% owned with 21+18=39
I was just about to say that Ryan Kesler is a great trade target in the next few days after reading that the Pens are aggressively trying to acquire him and most likely place him in that open RW position next to Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. That would be a great place for Vancouver’s power forward, and was an ideal situation, but something big happened that might make any plans to deal Kesler more complicated: Daniel Sedin limped out of today’s Heritage Classic with a painful leg injury. It’s hard to say what the team will do now, but Kesler should be watched very closely regardless. If he’s taken off a struggling Canucks squad and moved to a big role on a big team, then he should be grabbed immediately, if available. And it’s your call at this point if you want to try and acquire him in another way. Who knows what will happen.
Johan Franzen - Det - LW,RW - 66% owned with 12+16=28
See above ∆∆∆
MEDIUM-DEPTH FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (25-50% ownership in Yahoo! leagues)
Troy Brouwer - Was - RW - 46% owned with 16+13=29
Brouwer was my Pickup of the Week the week before the Olympics, and his strong play has continued after NHL hockey became a thing again. With 2 goals and 3 points in the last 3 games, and 84 PIMs with 167 hits on the season, Brouwer still is a good candidate if you need those grit stats.
Darcy Kuemper - Min - G - 35% owned with 10 W, 2.20 GAA, and .924 SV%
Kuemper has become the number one goalie for a pretty good team, and that’s what will keep his ownership rate rising steadily. Adding to that appeal, Kuemper and the Wild have won each of their last 4 games, one of them being that 21 save shutout against Edmonton. With Harding still experiencing season-endangering problems with his adjustments to MS meds, and Backstrom (who was earlier supplanted by Harding) dealing with an LBI, it looks like Saskatoon’s Kuemper is the go-to dude, at least while he’s playing the way he has been.
Derick Brassard - NYR - C - 30% owned with 13+23=26
Derick Brassard is on some kind of point streak, it seems. It’s an 8-gamer and involves 5 goals and 10 points with a +9 rating, which is real spiffy for a third-line centre. Brassard’s also been chipping in a good amount of shots, PPP, and a scatter few PIMs. As for hits, he dealt 18 through his ongoing streak’s 8 games, as well as 97 on the season, so he won’t drag your peripherals down, either. But what’s most important is how hot he’s been on a more or less defensively responsible line.
DEEPER LEAGUE FREE AGENTS (25% ownership or less in Yahoo! leagues)
Olli Maatta - Pit - D - 21% owned with 7+18=25
When Olli Maatta’s name really started appearing on the scene earlier this season, I resented him because he is too easily a pun jackpot for NHL.com. If I resent him now it’s only because I let his bad pun potential eclipse my recognition of what others who have grabbed him recognize as a very good situation for the rookie in Pittsburgh. With Kris Letang and Paul Martin both out for at least most of this year’s hockey, Maatta is playing a top-pairing defensive role. Malkin usually plays on the point in Penguins’ killer top power play unit alongside Niskanen (where Maatta owners would like to see the young gun), but that hasn’t stopped the 2012 first round pick from stepping up with 25 points in 59 games, including 3 goals and 8 points in his last 10 games. Maatta has become important in both the short- and long-term of fantasy hockey.
David Desharnais - Mon - C - 12% owned with 11+24=35
Desharnais had a very poor start to the season, so people were dropping insults about him, his play, and his size, but, as they are want to do, his hater-fans have quickly flipped their lashes to praises now that he has turned it around. In Montreal’s last 6 games, Desharnais owns 3 goals and 8 points (3 of those on the power play), added to by a +3 rating and a couple of penalties. You won’t be impressed if you look at his season stats as a whole, but you deep dogs might want to have a look at his more recent play.
Nick Foligno - Cls - LW - 13% owned with 16+17=33
If you’re in a head-to-head league that values PIMs and hits, then you are probably familiar with how hard it is to commit on a guy based solely on penalty minutes. There has to be The Mix, but as The Mix gets stronger, the players get more expensive and/or weaker in one of the categories needed. You won’t find a Backes on the wire, and I’m not saying that Foligno is a Backes, but the Blue Jacket winger has 16 goals, 33 points, and 83 penalty minutes already in 54 games played. Not only that, but he’s also wracked up 163 hits, which is good for 15th in the league. Yeah, 15th. I know that’s not star-studded impressive, but it’s a real help in the deeper leagues when combined with those penalties, 33 points, and good minutes on the 2nd line with Artem Anisimov and the newly returned Marian Gaborik. More than 13% of leagues can use a player like this, sometimes it’s just a matter of getting over yourself.
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIALS (5% ownership or less in Yahoo! leagues)
Eric Gelinas - NJ - D - 5% owned with 7+19=26
Jelly is another one of those players that was recently dropped in many leagues. In this case, Gelinas was sent back down to the minors a few games before the Olympic break so that he could keep playing. So when Yahoo! stuck that NA tag next to his name, a lot of folks threw him to the waiver wolves. But now he’s back, and is boosting the NJ power play with his strong play from the blue line. With one goal and 3 assists in the last 2 games and 26 points (16 PPP) on his 48 game season, you could do much much worse than grabbing this guy in deeper leagues while people are still forgetting about him. Check in on a New Jersey game sometime. He’s right there.