As hits and blocked shots grow as fantasy categories, you see them mentioned more and more on fantasy hockey websites. Regardless of the 'black and white' vs. 'judgment call' debate of those two statistics, it's the best way to recognize and give value to the non-offensive players. It increases the pool of players with fantasy value and shrinks the gap between the players of highest value versus the stiffs. The top players in terms of blocked shots right now are Andrew MacDonald (213), Chris Butler (180), Josh Gorges (173) and Carl Gunnarsson/Ladislav Smid (159). As you would expect, the Top 98 are defensemen. Boyd Gordon, a center for the Edmonton Oilers, slots in at No.99.
But these numbers are easy to find. Let's take a look at the "what have you done for me lately" situation. Since the Olympic break, courtesy of Frozen Pool:
These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (7-5-8-13, plus-6, 4 PIM, 22 SOG, and 6 PPPts) - Giroux has made several appearances here since November, and for good reason. Check out the top NHL scorers since November 8:
Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3-3-6, plus-3, 2 PIM, 7 SOG, and 2 PPPts) - After losing the first three post-Martin-St. Louis games, the Lightning have won their last four. Looks as though some line juggling and chemistry issues had to happen, after losing a key player and getting another one (Steven Stamkos) back at the same time. But things are rolling now and Filppula is spearheading a strong second line along with hotshot rookie Ondrej Palat and newcomer Ryan "I blew $6 million per season" Callahan.
Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes (13-2-12-14, even, 4 PIM, 39 SOG and 9 PPPts) - One of my favorite defensemen to own in fantasy hockey because he can be counted on for a full season (knock on wood) and produces consistently.
Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado Avalanche (12-5-11-16, minus-2, 0 PIM, 34 SOG and 9 PPPts) - I've been doing this for too long. I actually had "Cal" instead of Ryan, and caught it during a read-through. Ryan is clicking well on a line with Matt Duchene and the streaky Jamie McGinn, and by "well" I mean "the best in the league". Here are the top scorers since the Olympic break:
Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...
Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings (5-0-0-0, minus-2, 6 PIM, 16 SOG) - Franzen initially did pretty well upon returning from a concussion in late February. But now that he's no longer playing with Gustav Nyquist, he's been struggling. And that says a lot about how far Nyquist has come - graduating from a "who does he play with?" to a "who gets to play with him?" line of thought.
Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay Lightning (19-0-6-6, minus-4, 10 PIM, 30 SOG) - Not everything Steven Stamkos touches is gold. He's playing on a line with Tyler Johnson and Purcell. Although Johnson is doing okay, Purcell has been snakebitten. He'll come around soon, and is a 'buy low' in those leagues that still allow trading this late.
Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres (7-0-1-1, minus-6, 0 PIM, 21 SOG) - This recent skid has cost Hodgson the team scoring lead (to Tyler Ennis) and his plus/minus has plummeted to minus-25 on the season, which is last among Buffalo forwards. Hodgson has gone from "occasionally chipping in to help his fantasy team" to "personally destroying the aspirations of his fantasy team". Although, any astute manager in the hunt for a title would have ditched him a long time ago.
Robin Lehner, Ottawa Senators (0-3-2, 5.79 GAA, 0.837 SV%) - Lehner could have stolen the No.1 job in Ottawa. Lord knows that Craig Anderson has been inconsistent - and injured - enough to give him that chance. But Lehner seems to be at his worst when Anderson is handing the job to him on a silver platter. When Anderson is healthy and playing well, then Lehner steps up. It's been that kind of season for Sens fans.
Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...
Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers (5-3-4-7, plus-2, 0 PIM, 13 SOG and 3 PPPts) – After finding it too difficult to crack Chicago's lineup as a regular, Pirri has found his niche in Florida. Still only 22, Pirri should be a staple on this team's second line in 2014-15 and if the team around him can improve then he's a dark horse for 50-plus points.
Jimmy Hayes, Florida Panthers (6-4-3-7, plus-5, 2 PIM, 13 SOG) – It's easy to grab the hot Florida Panthers players from off the wire because, let's face it, nobody owns any Florida Panthers players. The 6-6, 221-pound Hayes is another Chicago castoff (acquired in the Kris Versteeg deal). He has a future on the second line, or they could use his big body on the top line watching over Aleksander Barkov in future seasons.
Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-5-9, plus-5, 4 PIM, 22 SOG) – The problem with Matt Read in fantasy hockey is that he's all-around too strong of a player. He can play on any line and on any special teams. He can chip in points on the third or fourth line, which comes in handy when the top lines are stymied. But that often means he gets stuck on those lines, which holds him down as a 50-point player instead of 65 or more. Look at this - four points with Claude Giroux on the ice:
Matt Nieto, San Jose Sharks (6-3-3-6, plus-4, 0 PIM, 11 SOG) – Already possessing one of the better handles in hockey (and I don't care how it's pronounced, he's "neat-o"), Nieto has shown to be pretty productive when given the ice time and linemates. While he should finish his rookie campaign with around 30 points, he's made a statement that he can take on a bigger role in 2014-15. It will be interesting to see that dynamic when Tomas Hertl returns in the fall.
Nicklas Jensen, Vancouver Canucks (4-3-1-4, plus-5, 0 PIM, 10 SOG) – The speedy Dane has been subbing in on Henrik Sedin's line for the injured Daniel and so far he looks good there. It's hard to imagine this kind of success next season when he's off this line, but he's showing that with the right pivot he can be productive.
Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks (6-5-4-9, plus-5, 6 PIM, 16 SOG) – Burrows had zero goals and five points in the 34 games prior to this run and fantasy owners were jumping off the Burrows train faster than Pat LaFontaine leaves organizations. He's back on the Sedin line now and the Burrows we know and love…well, the Burrows of old appears to back.
T.J. Brodie, Calgary Flames (4-0-4-4, plus-5, 2 PIM, 2 SOG) – His overall numbers aren't the greatest, but Brodie is actually having a decent couple of months. He has 21 points in his last 49 contests and is a plus-7 in that span. On a team like the Flames, that's pretty solid.
Here's where I'll fire off a few names of players who may be at the very beginning of a nice little run. Just a gut feeling, but worth looking into and/or taking a chance on:
Jake Gardiner, Toronto; Nick Holden, Colorado; Brad Marchand, Boston; Derick Brassard, New York; Benoit Pouliot, New York; Drew Stafford, Buffalo; Loui Eriksson, Boston; Anton Khudobin, Carolina.
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