A shortened season and an extended first week of the fantasy hockey season (let’s face it no fantasy commissioner out there would be considered worthy of the title if he counted the first two days of the season as week one) makes for an interesting top 10 fantasy performers of the much delayed opening week. It features familiar faces, a goaltender and yes a rookie who’s name is not Yakupov!
Here are the top 10 fantasy hockey studs of the season's first week (up to and including games played on Sunday, January 27th. Please note the rankings are based on the default settings in my personal 20 man league, yours may differ slightly:
Ummm, this guy has been one of the perennial leaders of the Sharks for years and his most recent goal was a lucky bounce of his foot that squeaked passed the Canucks' Cory Schneider accidently. He has nine goals and four assists in five games this season and although he'll no doubt cool off considerably, you've got to ride him while he's hot!
2. Joe Thornton - San Jose Sharks (C)
Captain Joe isn't as much of a goal scorer as his buddy Marleau, but he's been a premier playmaker for over a decade and is a big reason for Marleau's success this season. The London, Ontario native has just as many points as his partner in crime (13) with ten of them in the assist column. Both Sharks are racking up power-play points btw.
The only goaltender on this list, Anderson has been absolutely dazzling to start the season. He allowed just three goals against in four games last week, with a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins being his only blemish. He's the only starting goalie in the league with a goals against average under one (0.74 to be exact!).
4. Joe Pavelski - San Jose Sharks (C,RW)
This more underappreciated leader on the Sharks who also happens to be named Joe is also on a five game point streak like the aforementioned Thornton and Marleau (two goals and eight assists for ten points). He normally settles in around the 60-point mark over an 82 game season, but the Sharks top guns are looking like the best line in hockey right now, so he might be scoring at a higher clip this year going forward, even if it is for just 48 games.
The home-grown hero got his wish this past off-season when the league's most coveted free agent signed with the Wild. He has five points in his last two games, giving him five goals and four assists on the season. Mikko Koivu looks to be in good health and the pair might be able to breathe some life into Dany Heatley this year, which could put the Wild and your fantasy team in the thick of things down the stretch.
Vanek missed Sunday's game with general soreness but still managed to score nine points in four contests. There's no question he'll be the Sabres' go-to-guy and a top gun on most fantasy teams as well. Perhaps if the Sabres can get hot as a team earlier in the year rather than waiting until the very end like last year, Vanek will get beyond the 70 point pace, especially considering he won't have to do it for a full 82 games this time around.
Can't lie to you, my knowledge of the young guns coming up through the fantasy hockey ranks has decreased in recent years, mostly because I can't justify fantasy sports as a part-time job in my late 20s and get away with it anymore. Tarasenko has four goals and four assists for eight points in six career games so far to go with a plus-5 rating, which is very impressive for a rookie. He's already scored highlight reel type goals and he's on Stanley Cup contender with lots of great pieces around him. If you can trade a more known name on the decline for this guy, do it!
Hossa's got points in five of six games this year and he's been a pure scorer his whole career. Though his reputation may have preceded him in the days of the old clutch and grab NHL, the new NHL lends itself to explosive speed and skill, age notwithstanding. I get the feeling this guy is the next Teemu Selanne, an ageless wonder that will rack up the points as long as he can keep playing.
Having the reigning Maurice Richard Trophy winner on your line when you already have an All-Star track record yourself only solidifies you further as a fantasy stud. St. Louis hasn't scored less than 70 points in a season since the 2005-06 season and he averaged over two points a game to start this year. His 16 power-play points last year constitutes a considerably bigger drop then we're used to, but St. Louis should move well beyond that total again in 2012-13.
10. Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning (C)
Although he has some work to do to catch the league's current goal scoring leader, Stamkos still has 10 points in five games this season and he's posted three straight seasons of 90+ points. Without a doubt it's going to be really tough for Stamkos to score at a 60 goal pace, especially with a shortened and condensed schedule. That said, he'll be near the top of the league in points at the end of the year.
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