NHL Fantasy Files Vol 3: Seen Stamkos?

Josh KyrzakosAnalyst IOctober 30, 2008

October has come to a close and some draft day rock stars have emerged.

If you have Shea Weber, Phil Kessel, or Brandon Dubinsky on your team, give yourself a pat on the back. All were drafted well after the 100th pick in most drafts but they combined for 30 points in October.

Franchise players Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Marian Gaborik, meanwhile, have combined for a lackluster 12 points during the same stretch.

It will be difficult to pinpoint a player who will get 10 points on your free agents list this November, but there are some possibilities out there.

Here is who I would recommend you pick up while you still have a chance:


Joffrey Lupul (PHI—RW)

A slow start to the season led some managers to give up on Joffrey. But a slow start was to be expected after Lupul spent time on the shelf last season with a concussion, an injured spinal cord, and a high ankle sprain.

It’s important to remember that, despite those injuries, Lupul registered 46 points in 56 games.

Lupul began the 2008-09 campaign pointless and minus–3 in his first five games, but bounced back in his next five games with five goals, a plus-5 rating, and an assist.

Is it that the Flyers started winning when Lupul started scoring? Or is it that Lupul started scoring when the Flyers started winning? Either way, as long as he keeps putting points on the board, he should be on your team!


Steven Stamkos (TB—C)

Seen Stamkos? It might be too late now to see him on the free agent list. Although he was drafted in most leagues, his dropped to 35 percent owned in fantasy leagues.

Patient managers were rewarded Thursday night when Stamkos scored his first NHL goal by deflecting a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot past Ryan Miller. Stamkos also scored his second NHL goal and chipped in with an assist on the game-winning goal.

After going pointless in the first seven games of the season, Stamkos now has four points in the last two games. While he won’t get 80 points this season, it appears he’s finally adjusting to the NHL and could get more than 50 points as long as he keeps seeing time on the power play.

Because he only qualifies as a center, I’d avoid him in shallow leagues. But he’s worth a flier in deep leagues, and is a must own in keeper leagues.


Maxim Afinogenov (BUF—RW)

Maxim Afinogenov was one of the biggest busts of last season. Afinogenov played only 56 games in last two seasons. Two years ago he scored 61 points, but last year he only managed 28 points in the same number of games. Critics pointed to the departure of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez and claimed the reason Afinogenov put up such great numbers was because of his teammates.

If that’s the case, Afinogenov is in luck. The Sabres are winning games again and he has contributed seven assists to those wins.

What makes Afinogenov’s seven assists most surprising though is that none of them have led to a goal by NHL goal leader Tomas Vanek. Afinogenov is finding the sticks of grinders like Clarke MacArthur and Adam Mair instead.

If Lindy Ruff bumps the playmaker onto Vanek’s line, watch out! The two should be deadly together.


Alex Auld (OTT—G)

Six Flags is open, and Alex Auld is riding shotgun to Martin Gerber.

Last year Martin Gerber usurped Ray Emery's job as the starter, and before that Emery battled Dominik Hasek for the starting job. Hasek was brought in after the Sens gave up on Patrick Lalime.

The Ottawa Senators have never been confident in their goaltending, but they have also never brought in a goaltender mid-season. Instead, they have always chosen to allow the backup goaltender to steal the spotlight.

Auld appears to be the next goalie to do so. The Senators are Auld’s sixth team in the last three years, including a brief stint in the American Hockey League, but he is finally showing why the Florida Panthers traded Roberto Luongo for him in 2006.

Auld and Gerber have played an equal number of games in October, but Auld’s statistics are far superior. In five starts this year, Auld has a 2.20 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.


Joey MacDonald (NYI—G) and Fredrik Norrena (CLB—G)

Rick DiPietro and Pascal Leclaire are both on the injured reserve list. Neither goalie is one you should rely on, but if you are desperate for saves, Joey MacDonald and Fredrik Norrena are serviceable solutions.

Norrena is the more talented of the two, but Leclaire should only be out for a week or two. Meanwhile, DiPietro’s injury is veiled in a shroud of secrecy, so MacDonald may be the better long-term option.

The Blue Jackets will rely heavily on Norrena as they play eight games in the first half of November. A heavy schedule could tire him out, so expect Dan LaCosta to spell him on nights when they play back-to-back games. Luckily, the heavy schedule should not be too difficult for the Blue Jackets, as they play against some weak teams including the Islanders, Coyotes, and Oilers during that stretch.

DiPietro left last Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes after allowing two goals in the first period. He watched Monday’s game from the press box, and was placed on the injured reserve list on Thursday with an undisclosed lower body injury. With DiPietro’s season up in the air, MacDonald is the next in line to play between the pipes for the Islanders. While MacDonald will not earn a lot of wins, he will stop a lot of pucks for the anemic Islanders.


If you would like to know Josh's opinion on a player he hasn't mentioned, he will respond to comments below within 24 hours.