Evan Berofsky, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’ve officially hit the second half of the season. Regardless of your position, it’s time to make plans and keep fighting. Fulfill your fantasy duty. Have you heard any famous quotes related to apathy in competition? Of course you haven’t. Go for glory – or at least make it difficult for others to succeed.
The All-Star Game provides NHLers with a short break, but fantasy owners should be using this time to prepare. Take inventory of what you have, what you need, and what others may want. Target a few players, throw out a couple trade offers, and stay active in the transaction market. You never know what that one addition/subtraction will do unless you make the move.
While the league and fans have selected their picks for the annual three-on-three competition, we’ve decided to recognize notable achievers based on recent or upcoming events. Some may not be the biggest names, but most should help. Here are the categories…
Burn Up, Fade Away
Someone who has done exceptionally well, but can’t possibly continue this high for the remaining months. No one from the last column can be repeated.
Let’s stay away from anyone on Vegas because everyone’s been waiting for a collapse and it isn’t likely this will happen on a team – or individual – level. Vladislav Namestnikov has been slipping lately (two assists in his last eight games), but looks solid even if he drops out of Tampa’s top-six. Justin Williams (29 points, including 10 on the power play) continues to defy Father Time, yet his opportunities should continue due to Carolina’s dearth at right wing.
But the winner is … Erik Johnson. The soon-to-be 30-year old skates major minutes for Colorado (averaging almost 26) and has already surpassed his 2016-17 point total (17), but he doesn’t play a major role on the power play thanks to youngster Samuel Girard (six power-play points since arriving in November). And once Tyson Barrie returns, Johnson’s numbers will also take a hit. He may have accumulated 52 PIM, but 17 of them happened as a result of a boarding major/game misconduct. A secondary provider at best, Johnson should not be counted upon for blue-line offense.
Cruisin’ and Bruisin’
Miles Wood (20 points, 51 PIM) is enjoying a career campaign on a strong New Jersey frontline. Justin Abdelkader (21 points, 38 PIM, 108 hits) likes to score and bother the opposition in front of the net, and will soon be back in the Detroit lineup. Nick Ritchie (13 points, 45 PIM, 135 hits) is known for his soft hands and the ability to flatten other skaters.
But the winner is … Micheal Ferland. The Manitoban has been a mainstay on Calgary’s first line this year, tallying 19 goals and 10 assists. And while he’s reduced the fisticuffs (down from six fights last year to one this season), the hits (97) remain a key tool in his repertoire. With Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan feeding the puck, Ferland shouldn’t have any issues protecting his teammates or keeping the points flowing.
Next Stop: Anywhere but Here
Someone who could really use a trade, either due to underperformance, attitude, conflict, or some combination of these factors. Please book this man a one-way ticket to a better situation. (NOTE: Superstars, like Erik Karlsson, are exempt from discussion.)
If Alexander Edler (15 points in 35 appearances) can remain healthy, he’d be a prime candidate to leave the Canucks. Evander Kane (16 goals, 20 assists) is flourishing on a struggling Sabres team, but prospective suitors may stay away due to past off-ice issues. Ottawa looks horrendous, and Mike Hoffman (30 in 44) hasn’t played like his normal self all season, so a change of scenery could be the solution.
But the winner is … Alex Galchenyuk. Since the Habs picked Galchenyuk third overall in 2012, there’s been some sort of disconnect. With all his talent, he should be a first-liner but has seen duty on all four units. Galchenyuk (26 in 47, minus-22) recently got his wish by starting a few games at center, but has subsequently moved back to the wing. He signed a new deal in the summer, but it’s becoming clear he’d be better off on an offense that can score (Montreal, at 2.48 goals per game, ranks 29th in the league).
Young and Growing
Plenty of rookies – from Brock Boeser and Mathew Barzal to Mikhail Sergachev and Will Butcher – have impressed. Which fresh-faced fledgling will step up the rest of the way?
Nolan Patrick (nine points in 38 contests) has overcome pain and a regular role centering Philly’s third line to slowly ease into pro life after getting selected No. 1 overall in 2017. Thomas Chabot (nine in 25) possesses the abilities of a power-play quarterback and would get that job in Ottawa if Erik Karlsson is dealt. Not to be confused with the Carolina forward of the same name, Sebastian Aho is an offensive defender who is taking advantage of Islander injuriess and has already earned a significant man-advantage role (averaging 2:04 in his first eight NHL outings).
But the winner is … Tyler Bertuzzi. With Detroit transitioning toward a younger, faster attack, it was only a matter of time before Bertuzzi was summoned to the NHL. Others like Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou have already found success, and it’s no coincidence they’ve combined with the Sudbury native to form the Wings’ current top trio. Bertuzzi has made a name for himself as a clutch postseason performer, although he seems to be doing fine in less important action (a goal and seven assists in 12 games).
Trending the Twine
Some lesser goalies have impressed enough to either become serviceable fantasy commodities or completely outshine their incumbent teammates. Who could go on to unseat the starter on a more permanent basis?
Carter Hutton (1.91 GAA, .938 save percentage in 19 appearances) and Anton Khudobin (2.38, .924 in 17) are having solid seasons, but there’s little chance either Jake Allen or Tuukka Rask will be replaced. Aaron Dell (2.17, .929, two shutouts in 20) is excelling in the Sharks’ net, but Martin Jones has endured a couple injuries and hasn’t been terrible (2.68, .910 in 31). The same goes for Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh (2.44, .919, two shutouts in 18), but it’s not as if a consecutive Cup winner like Matt Murray will be pushed to the bench for an extended period.
But the winner is … Michal Neuvirth. Brian Elliott was brought in by the Flyers to stabilize the goaltending position, but the first-half returns have proved less than impressive (2.79, .908 in 37). Neuvirth has recently filled in with a few solid efforts (three wins in his last four), though an earlier injury has relegated him to the second slot. Even with Elliott’s fine performance Sunday in Washington, the door is still open for the Czech veteran to seize the starting gig with a couple more positive displays.