Travis Zajac, C, NJ – Really, anyone playing center for the New Jersey Devils could be slotted into this category. Ilya Kovalchuk’s arrival is sure to boost the assist totals of whichever pivot he plays with, and the often unheralded Zajac seems like the best fit. The guy is a legitimate fantasy player at center, and Kovalchuk’s arrival might just push him into the spotlight.
Olli Jokinen, LW/C, NYR – There is no way he is going to play worse in the Big Apple than he did in Calgary. Jokinen is a first line talent, and the change of scenery might be just what he needs to get going.
Bryan Little, C, ATL – After reaching the 30 goal plateau last season, expectations were high for Little this year. To say he has underperformed would be a major understatement. With Kovalchuk gone, the onus will be on youngsters like Little, Evander Kane, and, to a lesser extent, the newly acquired Niclas Bergfors, to step up. Little will get all the powerplay time he can handle, and he could be a good source of cheap goals down the stretch.
Much of the above logic also applies to Evander Kane. He should see increased ice time, and increased responsibility with the departure of Kovalchuk.
Niclas Bergfors, LW/RW, ATL – Bergfors goes from a crowded forward situation in the Meadowlands to the Thrashers. The jury is still out on his long term potential, but he looked solid for much of this season, and could slide into a top six role down the stretch with the Thrashers.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, NJ – Kovalchuk is now surrounded with way more talent than he ever was in Atlanta. Even if he doesn’t end up seeing regular ice time with Zach Parise, the Devils have plenty of quality players up front (Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus) who should be able to complement Kovalchuk nicely.
The flipside is, now that he’s playing on a legit contender, with some depth up front, he might not get the unlimited ice time and free reign to play his game that he did in Atlanta. Jacques Lemaire coached teams also don’t tend to be offensive powerhouses. Don’t trade the farm for him just yet.
Matthew Lombardi, C, PHO – Lombardi is having himself a fine season so far in the desert. He’s on pace for a point total in the mid-fifties, and put up five points the other night against the Oilers. He is probably available on the cheap in your pool, but be wary, his previous career high for points in a season was 46, and he was repeatedly given the chance to center for Jarome Iginla.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL – I did mention him here a couple blogs back, but his new situation in Dallas is definitely worth watching. It appears the Marty Turco era is over, and I’m not sold on Alex Auld being the number one going forward. If Turco gets moved soon, Lehtonen could be given every opportunity to win that number one job. In deeper leagues, he’s worth stashing on your bench for the time being.
Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL – Plekanec’s bread and butter is his passing game. With two of Montreal’s top goal scoring threats (Mike Cammalleri and Benoit Pouliot) joining Andrei Kostitsyn on the IR, goals are going to start to be tough to come by in Montreal. Plekanec currently sits tied for 16th in NHL scoring, so see if you can get some solid assets for him before his assist totals start to drop.