Prior to joining the Phoenix Coyotes, Matthew Lombardi wasn’t much more than a second line – at best – center for the Calgary Flames. The former 3rd rounder never really found his groove in 4.5 seasons with the Flames and his best year, 2006-07, hitting 20 goals for the only time to finish 20-26-46 in 81 games played. Lombardi joined the Coyotes last season at the trade dealine with Brandon Prust (who was traded back) and a first rounder for Olli Jokinen.
Scottie Upshall provides a similar situation to Lombardi, spending much of his career pre-Phoenix with the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers. Bouncing around their AHL affiliates and third and fourth lines, Upshall never surpassed his 30 point-61 game season in 2007-08. Upshall was always thought to have much more upside than he exhibited as he is a former sixth-overall pick and a member of Canada’s World Juniors team in 2002 and 2003. Upshall joined the Coyotes at the trade deadline with a 2011 second rounder for Daniel Carcillo.
This season, the newly acquired Coyotes are looking like steals compared to who they had to give up. Lombardi and Upshall combine with Shane Doan to make up what’s been the Coyotes top line for most of the season and they’ve far exceeded whatever results were expected of them. Lombardi’s speed and quick-playmaking abilities mesh with Upshall’s scoring abilities and Doan’s grit to create the Coyotes’ most potent offensive unit in recent memory. Whether it’s the perfect combination of skill and speed, or the fact that Lombardi and Upshall are in contract years, they’re definitely seizing this opportunity to succeed in the desert.
Lombardi (8% owned) is going to set career-bests in assists, points, and powerplay points this season but isn’t likely to be much sought-after at the center position outside of deep leagues. Upshall (16% owned) is also setting career-bests in goals and assists this season and is coming off of a hat trick three games ago against Nashville. He’s amassed 4 goals and 3 assists in 8 games this month. Doan (88% owned) isn’t on pace to set career numbers this season but he is benefiting the most from his linemates. He’s got 12 points in 11 games this month and has just one more powerplay point than Lombardi’s 15.
Keep in mind when looking at picking up a Coyotes player that you will likely take a hit in your plus-minus, though. Lombardi, Upshall, and Doan combine for a collective -8.