The Olympic tournament has been quite a treat for hockey fans all around the world, but it will all be coming to an end, and most of the players will return to their respective leagues and continue on their journey toward a league title. The same could be said for poolies that have had a few weeks off. Fantasy leagues will be kicking into high gear again next week for the NHL, and there were some players that have seen their values either increase or decrease because of their performances at the game. Here are five that come to mind:
5. Ryan Miller
The 29-year-old has been a strong contender for the Vezina all season, as he has been solid for the Buffalo Sabres. He has taken his game to new heights in the Olympics, winning all the contests he has played in, and having his big moment come through against Canada in round-robin play. Carrying the Americans to the semi-finals is a big accomplishment, because the offense hasn’t scored a whole heck of a lot. He’s in his prime, and is a solid keeper going forward for the next 4-5 years at least.
4. Evgeni Nabokov
The loss to Canada wasn’t entirely his fault, but it didn’t help the veteran’s cause for support going forward, especially since he’ll be 35 later this year. San Jose is again a Stanley Cup contender, and the blame of past playoff failures has been on the shoulders of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Nabokov. Whether that is fair or not isn’t the question, as in another month, Nabokov will again be the main man between the pipes. The Sharks are riding their playoffs hopes again on Nabby, and unless he carries the club to the Finals this postseason, he could possibly be wearing a new uniform come July 1st.
3. Drew Doughty
We already knew his value to the Los Angeles Kings, and what the youngster has accomplished in his second season in the NHL so far. However, a lot of people across Canada were scratching their heads when the 20-year-old was named to Team Canada on New Year’s Eve. Not too much credit was given to what Doughty would be able to do as a member of the team, as it was anticipated by most that he would only see limited minutes as the 7th defenseman. Instead, he has been anything but, as most have already made the call that he has been Canada’s #1 blueliner at the tournament. His already high keeper value just keeps rising. He isn’t on the same level as Mike Green in terms of fantasy, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get there eventually.
2. Jonas Hiller
It didn’t come as a surprise last month when the Swiss netminder was signed to a 4-year contract extension and Jean-Sebastien Giguere was shipped off to Toronto. However, after a couple of mediocre months at the start of the season, Hiller really picked up his game when the calendar year hit 2010. He is 14-6 in 20 starts in January and February, and has allowed 3 goals or less in 17 of those 20 starts. Now, with Anaheim on the brink of the playoffs, expect the just-turned-28 netminder’s play to kick into high gear after a phenomenal display at the Olympics. He will not have a letdown after taking on Canada and the States, and might even make the difference in if the Ducks make the playoffs or not.
1. Jaroslav Halak
No player in these Olympics has seen his value increase as much as Halak, who has been the #1 goaltender for Slovakia at these Olympics. Some will argue that he hasn’t been in the same class as Hiller, Miller, or even Vokoun and Kiprusoff, but unlike most of those elite goaltenders, the 24-year-old doesn’t have an established resume. Miller, Kipper, and Vokoun have put up solid numbers for a number of seasons, while Hiller also did well last season in a fair number of games. Halak has had to deal with the pressure of the Montreal media, and the goaltending controversy with Carey Price also there. There are a lot of supporters for Price, and there have also been a lot of supporters for Halak this season, as he is one of the reasons that the Canadiens are even in playoff contention.
Since taking control of the #1 job in mid-December, the youngster has gone 11-5-2 in his last 18 starts, with a GAA of 2.35. That includes a few duds against the Rangers and Flyers, but he also has 3 shutouts in that span as well. At the Olympics, he has gone 4-1 in 5 starts, with a GAA of 1.97 and a solid save percentage (.923). He has two victories over international powerhouses in Russia and Sweden, and has made key saves when needed. Both Price and Halak will be restricted free agents this summer, so it will be interesting to see how things play out in Montreal, but one thing is certain. For those fantasy owners unsure of having Halak on their rosters: he is a definite #1 starter in the National Hockey League, and is on the verge of being a stud.
This article also appears on Fantasy Hockey Wire