Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman Cam Barker has been a one-man fantasy wrecking crew these past two weeks, and what’s even better is that he’s currently owned in only a quarter of fantasy hockey pools. When the ‘Hawks drafted Barker 3rd overall in 2004, they had big plans for the hulking, 6’3-222 defenseman who had already been tearing up the WHL for years. Injuries and inconsistent play kept him moving between the NHL and the AHL for the last few seasons. This year he’s here to stay, and is one of my surest bets to develop into an absolute star over the next couple years. With a slap shot reminiscent of a young Al MacInnis, Barker is most dangerous on the powerplay, one-timing passes from Kane, Campbell, and Toews. Duncan Keith may be looked upon to take on a more defensive role, which somewhat hurts his fantasy value.
Conversely, the Edmonton Oilers left wing Erik Cole has singlehandedly wrecked many fantasy teams so far this year. Through 18 games he’s racked up a less than impressive 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points. When the Oilers acquired him in the offseason, I’ll admit that I thought he was poised for a career year. The Rexall Place’s infamous “best ice” seemed the perfect fit for a player of Cole’s caliber: a speedy skater with the heart of a lion (he returned to action only a month and a half after breaking his neck to help the Carolina Hurricanes down the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals). While Cole has never been described as a superstar over his career, he has typically been good for 50-60 points a season while playing on his team’s scoring line. Right now, he doesn’t seem especially motivated, and you would probably be better off dropping him and picking up a producing player, like Jordan Staal or super rookie Derrick Brassard.