Jimmy Howard, G, DET – Look out Chris Osgood owners. The numbers tell the tale – since November 5th Jimmy Howard has 6 victories for the Wings. How many does Osgood have? Zip. If Howard can mimic Ty Conklin’s 2008-09 performance stealing the regular season starting job from Osgood, the addition of Howard could very well be the most important acquisition you make this year. With starting goaltenders at such a premium in most pools and Howard currently just 22% owned, don’t take your time with this one.
David Backes, RW, STL – Both Iain and I have questioned Backes’ early struggles in the Stock Watch in recent weeks, but the RW seems to be coming around rapidly, accumulating 6 points during a current 4-game point streak. Last season, Backes started out cold as well with just 3 goals in his first 21 games, before finishing with 28 over his final 61 contests. Backes is as streaky as they come. He’s become available in a number of pools in recent weeks and is definitely worth the risk.
Maxim Afinogenov, RW, ATL – At just $800,000 per year, Afinogenov is hands down the acquisition of the 2009 offseason. After hitting rock bottom over the last couple years, he’s been re-energized playing with fellow countryman Ilya Kovalchuk, and should be a definite starter in all leagues. Now 75% owned, chances are he’s been scooped up in your pool but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Dennis Wideman, D, BOS – After a slow start, Wideman’s returned to his 2008-09 form, with 7 points over his last 10 games. He has replaced Derek Morris on the team’s top PP unit and should continue his current pace as a result.
Dion Phaneuf, D, CGY – Don’t panic and sell Elisha Cuthbert’s worse half. While Phaneuf might not look like the fantasy warrior he was in 2007-08, he’s better than he’s played so far. Besides, with his lackluster numbers, you’re not going to get full value if you try moving him right now. Wait for a bump in production before weighing offers.
Eric Fehr, RW, WAS – The 18th overall pick in 2003 could finally be putting it together now that he’s been given the opportunity to play on a scoring line. With Ovie and Alexander Semin in and out of the lineup, Fehr will likely be utilized more for his offense than his checking/penalty-killing over the next few weeks.
Kris Russell, D, CBJ – Coach Hitchcock may have finally lit the lamp under Russell’s behind by sitting him out a couple games as a healthy scratch. In the 2 games since he’s returned to the Blue Jackets’ lineup, Russell’s netted a pair of goals and also set up a pair. For years I’ve been impatiently waiting for even a glimpse of the monster numbers he put up in junior. Could this be the beginning of something big?
Jean-Sebastien Giguere / Jonas Hiller, Mike Smith / Antero Niittymaki, Semyon Varlamov / Jose Theodore – I’ve grouped these three goaltending battles together because they’re all still very much undecided. All you can really do here is wait and see who plays themselves into the starter’s spot, though I would rank Varlamov as the most likely of the six to win his respective battle. While there is no argument that Niitymaki has outplayed Smith, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet seems to have a soft spot for Smith and has been starting him regardless of his poor play. The Ducks find themselves in 13th in the Western Conference, thanks in part to subpar goaltending from both Giguere and Hiller.
Alexander Ovechkin, LW, WAS – W-w-what?! That’s right, Ovie’s in the sell category. This suggestion isn’t for the faint of heart, and you’d need a real pair of cojones to send Ovechkin packing, but let’s consider the facts: He’s the best hockey player in the world, and you will get virtually anything you want in return. Everyonein your pool is going to want Ovechkin and you can play all the bidders against each other until you get a truly tantalizing offer. Finally, Ovechkin looks destined for the injured reserve this season with the increasingly reckless style of hockey he is playing, and if you’re without that kind of production for even 10 more games this season it could spell defeat for your fantasy team.
Niklas Hagman, LW, TOR – As a Leaf’s supporter, I am enjoying the Finn’s current pace, but his current fantasy value is too great to pass up as trade bait. With 13 goals through 25 games, you’ll probably be able to lure away a better talent from that Leafs’ fanatic in your pool.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, SJ – The Joe Thornton–Dany Heatley–Patrick Marleau line is not only the Sharks’ top line, it could very well be Team Canada’s with the chemistry they’ve shown so far this season. Setoguchi, who’s returned to the Sharks lineup after missing a couple weeks with a leg injury, finds himself as the odd man out, and is unlikely to match last season’s success if he remains a second liner.