During last week’s Crashing the Net, we reviewed players such as Tomas Kopecky, Tim Thomas, and Tomas Fleischman. Hopefully you were able to scoop one of these guys up in your leagues before someone else snagged them. By now you should have a strong feel for your team that you drafted, which will now allow you to target players at your weaker positions. Percentage of ownership numbers are listed in parenthesis and provided by Yahoo! and CBS Hockey leagues.
Matt Cullen – C, Minnesota Wild (39 %Yahoo! / 46% CBS)
When fantasy owners think of the Minnesota Wild, they think of inconsistent goal scoring and lack of identity, but don’t tell that to center Matt Cullen. Not only do the Wild lead the league on power play scoring (38.7%) this season, but they have a player who is atop the League leaders for power play points. While he’s averaging just under twenty minutes of ice time per game, he leads the team in power play ice time with 28:23. Cullen has failed to record a point in just two games this season and already has four multi-point games to start the season. Not only is Cullen making things happen on the power play, but he’s playing between Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat who have surprisingly produced early this season. While Cullen will certainly slow down as the season roles on, now is the time to take a chance on him hoping that he remains on that top PP line.
Mark Letestu – C, Pittsburgh Penguins (25% Yahoo! / 43% CBS)
I was writing up the Pittsburgh lines the other day and saw Letestu’s name and said “This seems interesting”. The 25 year-old Letestu appeared in ten games for the Pens last season and compiled just one point. Fast forward to the ’10-’11 season and Letestu finds himself playing next to Evgeni Malkin. Given the fact that the the Penguins seem to searching for a perfect blend of veterans and rookies, Letestu will continue to see solid playing time both on the power play and even strength situations. His point production appears to be streaky over his first few games, but is still a viable pickup. It will be interesting to see how the Pens handle Letestu when Jordan Staal returns to the lineup. There have been grumblings that Letestu could be moved to the wing position, allowing Staal to play between Letestu and Malkin.
Matt Carle – D, Philadelphia Flyers (26% Yahoo! / 55% CBS)
Carle hasn’t recorded a goal this season, but it’s just a matter of time. He currently leads a deep list of Flyers’ blueliners with three points and is on the first defensive pairing with scoring threat Chris Pronger. Carle is a durable defenseman who averages twenty of minutes of ice time and should have solid plus rating on the ice for the season. Another reason to like Carle? He’s playing on the 2 PP unit with guys like Claude Giroux and Mike Richards. Along with Carle having favorable matchups when on the ice, this Flyers team is a long way from producing on the level that we know they are capable of.
Dwayne Roloson – G, New York Islanders (12% Yahoo! / 23% CBS)
You might as well scoop Roloson up in your league if you have the space. Unless you’ve haven’t followed hockey the past few seasons, you know that Rick DiPietro is like a ceramic piece of artwork: very fragile. Not only are the Isles trying to protect DiPietro this season by giving Roloson more starts, it’s also the fact that 41-year old Roloson has played well during his starts, posting a 1.65 GAA and a .942 SV% over three games. The Islanders play three games this week, including a home-and-home against the Montreal Canadians so look for Rolo to receive two starts this week.
Chris Kunitz – LW, Pittsburgh Penguins (43% Yahoo! / 51% CBS)
I suspect that Kunitz’s ownership numbers will slowly but surely rise as each week moves by based on his health alone. After missing significant time last season due to an injury, most fantasy owners were afraid to take a chance on the winger during the late rounds of drafts. Now that the season is underway and Kunitz appears to be healthy, it’s time to grab him and enjoy the ride. Not only does Kunitz see line time with fantasy stud Sidney Crosby, he’s fourth in the NHL with in total power play ice time (55:15) and averages over six minutes of power play time per game. If your in one of the few leagues that awards points based on hits, Kunitz also contributes in that department, as he’s fifth in the NHL with 28 hits this season.
Michal Rozsival – D, New York Rangers (5% Yahoo! / 15% CBS)
Rozsival is a veteran defenseman who the Rangers rely on heavily from season to season. He averages close to twenty-four minutes of ice time per game, is on the first line of defense pairings and sees plenty of time on the power play. With the Rangers suffering from injuries, they’re looking for points from any player at this point. He’s failed to record a point in just two of his first seven games this season and has four points over his last three games.
Alex Tanguay – LW, Calgary Flames (23% Yahoo! / 52% CBS)
After not recording a point over the first three games to start the season, he’s collected six points in his last five games. He and Jarome Iginla have finally started to get things going offensively and fantasy owners should fully expect more of the same from here on out. Tanguay, who plays on the top line is seeing just under thirteen minutes of ice time per game to start the year, but that number should increase given the offensive struggles of the Flames. Their power play looks explosive on paper, but has yet to get going early on.
Matt Stajan – C, Calgary Flames (7% Yahoo! / 30% CBS)
Sticking with the Flames theme, I turn your attention to another top liner for the Flames. With Olli Jokinen’s struggles and recent demotion from the top line, the Flames have given the 26-year old an opportunity to play next to Tanguay and Iggy over the past few games. Not only has Jokinen been assigned to play between Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque / Brendan Morrison, he’s also in doghouse with coach Brent Sutter. Stajan’s role is simple – feed the puck to Iggy and Tanguay so that they can score goals. Not only is Stajan playing on the top line, he’s on the power play’s first unit, which will certainly come around, but to start the season has been quiet, ranking 28th in the league. Calgary plays all three of their games at home this week, so this will be a great test for Stajan and fantasy owners to see if this situation sticks.
Other to Monitor
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – D, Phoenix Coyotes
The Yotes have started off slowly although they’ve had promising looks over the past few games. Rookie Ekman-Larsson is averaging over twenty minutes of ice time per game to start the season and is fourth on the team with 12:06 of power play ice time over his first six games. He’s only tallied one point thus far, but the Coyotes as a team have had a hard time finding any production. With Phoenix playing four games this week, this could be a great opportunity for the rookie to really shine and prove his worth.
Brent Burns – D, Minnesota Wild
Burns has chipped in offensively with four points over the Wild’s past four games. The often-injured defenseman dealt with a back injury prior to the start of the season and is now apparently playing through a broken foot. I’m not diving off the deep end with Burns and the rest of the Wild, but it’s worth monitoring the defenseman’s situation.