We’re now a third of the way through the hockey season. Hopefully you’re faring better than Craig MacTavish is with his “bold move” approach of turning the Edmonton Oilers into the Oakland Raiders (see fire, dumpster). If not, and you’re looking to add a few key players to bolster your roster as we approach the new year, you should be looking at these factors: average time on ice (TOI), power play minutes and probably most important, a skater’s current line mates. On-ice chemistry is the key, as a move from the 3rd line center to 1st line left wing could make all the difference in the world from a fantasy perspective. Here are 3 players that are trending upward right now:
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: The third pick behind Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (would you like a redo Craig MacTavish?), Galchenyuk, a natural center, has been up and down Montreal’s lineup at varying positions. It seems he may have finally found his way as Montreal’s top-line pivot. Here are his line mates:
Over the last week, Michel Therrien may have finally figured this whole line combo out. Pacioretty, a bona fide sniper and 30 goal-scorer was recently split up with his longtime centerman David Desharnais and placed on the top line with Galchenyuk and Gallagher. Gallagher is a scrappy right winger who plays big despite his small stature, while doing the line’s dirty work.
Galchenyuk is currently owned in just 43% of Y! leagues and is a must add at this point. Fresh off of a hat trick, Galchenyuk is averaging 1:57 PP time per game. We will likely see that number continue to rise, as he is now a member of the top power play unit as well. 525 owners have added him in the last 24 hours, make sure you’re in that group.
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: The 21 year-old Zibanejad, 6th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has been on fire of late late, scoring 5 goals in his last 5 contests. He hasn’t quite been able to put it all together yet in his brief career, but this may be the start of something worthwhile. This is his current line:
Centering a line with Bobby Ryan can never be a bad thing and Mike Hoffman is an underrated offensive player. This is Ottawa’s 2nd line, as Alex Chiasson joins Zibanejad and Ryan on Ottawa’s 2nd power play unit. Another strong sign for Mika is that he averages 2:42 of time on the man advantage per tilt. Further, a third of his points this season have come on the power play. Currently owned in only 17% of Y! leagues, he may be worth taking a flyer on. Others apparently feel the same way, as he has been picked up by 396 owners in the last 24 hour period.
Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers: I don’t know what’s more amazing, the fact that I am about to write about a Florida Panther or that I spelled his name correctly on the first try! Make no mistake about it, big Nick, 19th pick in the 2010 draft and former University of Minnesota Golden Golpher star has arrived as a legit NHL player. At 6 foot 6, Bjugstad has the size and reach to power through and/or around defenders. Oh and by the way, the kid knows his way around a shootout:
With 12 goals and 19 points in 27 games (which included 4 in a recent 3-game stretch), Bjugstad has made it clear it’s time to pick him up in fantasy. He is currently owned in 32% of Y! leagues:
I know, not exactly the triple crown line from the LA King’s heydays, but there is some potential here. Huberdeau is a former 3rd overall pick and Calder Trophy winner and Fleischmann should be well known to fantasy owners, as he has been up and down over the years with Florida and Washington. Florida is a young team trending in the right direction, and as their #1 center, Bjugstad is at the heart of their renaissance. With an average of 2:07 power play time per game and 3 power goals, there will be plenty of man advantage opportunities for Bjugstad in the coming weeks. He may not be as hot a pickup as Galchenyuk or Zibanejad, but I would keep him on your watch list and monitor his progress heading into 2015.
Notice a trend with these 3 players? They’re young, on the cusp of stardom and getting plenty of ice time. If you’re in a keeper league, I would consider all 3 of them to be must-owns.
Statistical credits: NHL.com, Dailyfaceoff.com
Photo/video cred: http://goo.gl/kb8fev, http://goo.gl/6cdlCK, http://goo.gl/Y7PSEz, NHL.com
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Derek is The Sports Script’s resident fantasy hockey guru. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @Extra_Attacker!