At the quarter-way mark of the 2008-09 NHL season there appears to be something strange in the Gatorade. Goalies are dropping at an alarming rate this year. I will recap the starting goaltenders who have suffered an injury over the first 20 games: Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Rick DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, Pascal Leclaire, and Manny Legace. Now, Roberto Luongo can be added to the list.
Almost a third of starting goaltenders have been hurt during the first quarter of the season! It is always wise to keep an eye on emerging back-up goaltenders, but this year it’s become even more important because of the unusually high number of injuries.
I begin this week’s installment of the NHL Fantasy Files by recommending yet another back-up goaltender:
Curtis Sanford (VAN—G)
During last night’s tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins Roberto Luongo injured his groin making his first save of the game. While being helped off the ice by teammates he put no weight on his leg. Luongo is scheduled for an MRI to determine the extent of the injury but early estimations out of Vancouver are to prepare for the worst.
A cold Curtis Sanford came off the bench to replace Luongo to earn his second victory of the season. Sanford has posted respectable numbers so far this year but he has never shown he can excel at the professional level. Because Sanford was never drafted he took the long road to the NHL. He bounced around the semi-professional league before finally getting legitimate shot at the big leagues in 2005 thanks to the poor play of St. Louis goalie Patrick Lalime.
Sanford has never started for a full season since his days in the Ontario Hockey League so there’s no reason to think that the Canucks will rely on him for the remainder of this season.
So why am I recommending him? If Luongo is out for an extender period of time the Canucks will HAVE to rely on him until they can negotiate a trade with another team. The Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Oilers are all shopping goalies so it shouldn’t take long for the Canucks to replace Sanford.
Sanford will shoulder the load for Vancouver until a trade can be made and should be active in all fantasy formats.
Jiri Hudler (DET—RW)
The young winger is only owned in 29% of leagues, yet he has 18 points through 19 games, including six points over the last three games. He’s fourth on the star-studded Red Wings in scoring and shouldn’t be a free agent for long.
His ice time is nothing to brag about, but he is making the most of his opportunities. Coach Mike Babcock should give Jiri a shot for top-line ice-time now that he’s producing like a top-line player.
Last night against the Calgary Flames he played under 12 minutes but the six shots he put on net led the team. Currently he is on a three-game goal-scoring streak; as long as he keeps putting the rubber at the net he’ll keep scoring goals.
While you shouldn’t expect Hudler's point production to increase, a steady spot on the Detroit powerplay will give him more points during the man advantage.
Scott Walker (CAR—RW)
With Justin Williams on the injured reserve list the Hurricanes have to be happy to have Scott Walker back in the lineup.
Walker missed the beginning of the season due to hand surgery, but since returning to the ice he has six points in nine games—five in the last five games.
Walker is playing close to 20 minutes per game on a line with all-stars Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour.
Walker’s crash and bang style means he is injury prone, but when he’s healthy he can get 50 points and 100 penalty minutes. If your league rewards penalty minutes Walker is worth a look.
Bobby Ryan (ANA—RW)
Keeper League Alert!
Sidney Crosby entered the NHL with much fanfare in 2005 after being drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Anaheim Ducks were much more cautious with second overall selection Bobby Ryan.
Since being drafted in 2005 Ryan posted two 100-point seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, and a spent a season and a half in the AHL where he earned a point-per-game.
It would appear that general manager Brian Burke simply did not want to give the young stud a chance. Last year he played 23 games for the Ducks, got 10 points but was sent back to the Portland Pirates.
The Brian Burke era is ending in Anaheim but the Bobby Ryan era is just beginning. An injury to Francois Beauchemin opened up the cap space for him to join the Ducks. There is no reason to expect him to play another game in the minor leagues.
Ian White (TOR—D/RW)
The Toronto Maple Leafs began the season with ten defencemen under contract. Two years ago Ian White was considered to be a keystone piece of Toronto’s future. This October he found himself watching games from the press box.
A thin Maple Leaf offence led Ron Wilson to experiment with the speedy defenceman on the wing. And Ian White and responded to the experiment better than anyone could’ve expected.
White is playing on the Leafs third line Jason Blake Dominic Moore. He has seven points through nine games and is on pace for a 50-point season. He does have some offensive ability. He scored 32 goals in one season as a defenceman for the Swift Currrent Broncos. I do not expect he will stay on pace for 50 points but he should get at least 30 points which warrants him a spot as your squad’s fourth defenceman.
If he qualifies as a defenceman in your league pick him up… now. The poor man’s Dustin Byfuglien is currently owned in only 8% of leagues, but because you read the NHL Fantasy Files he should be owned in yours.
Nov 25th, 9:26AM: Because Colaiacovo was traded, White will shift back to the Leafs blue line for a week or two. When Van Ryn returns to the blue line White will be back on right wing, and when he is, he's worth owning.
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