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NHL Fantasy: Stretch run studs and duds

This is an odd time of year for fantasy owners making roster decisions for the stretch run.  For one, dealing the fall-out from the Olympic break is an unusual challenge: injuries, fatigue, broken momentum and a readjustment period are all real issues players need to deal with at the moment.  But the A.O. (After-Olympics) isn’t all negative.  Some players will benefit from a boost of confidence gained from a solid showing in Sochi.

Then there is the upcoming trade deadline (this Wednesday): Who will be moved?  Where?  How will the traded players’ performance be affected by the move?  How will the move affect their former teammates or their new ones?  I won’t pretend I have the answers to all these questions, but I will attempt to identify some late-push studs you should ride and some duds who should be riding the pine.


Jarome Iginla (RW) – BOS: The vet is having a revitalizing campaign playing for a contender.  This former Olympian was probably very happy to surrender his spot to a younger Canadian this time around.  At 36, a power forward needs the rest at the three quarter mark of the season.  A nice vacation combined with a spot on the first line and PP unit, centered by playmaking wizard David Krejci, should result in a solid final quarter.

MacKinnon, NathanNathan MacKinnon (C-RW) – COL: The leading Calder Trophy candidate has been moved up to the top line (with Olympians Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog).  If his linemates feel any fatigue from the Games, this is the guy to inject some juice back in their legs.  This time of year is usually when we expect rookies to hit the proverbial wall at the highest level, but the two week break may have been a blessing for MacKinnon.  He only seems to be improving with every game he plays (5 assists and 11 SOG in three games since “Game Back On”).

Mikael Granlund (C) – MIN: I called it in our Olympic previews: “I believe these Olympics will be Granlund’s coming out party.”  Well, he tied for third in tournament scoring with a 3-4-7, +3 line in 6 games against the best in the world.  I do believe we have a new star.  granlundMikko Koivu’s lingering injury might give the super-skilled Granlund an opportunity to grab hold of the number one center job and run away with it.  He has a point in each of his two games (1-1) since his return to the Wild lineup.

Ryan Miller (G) – STL: It had been rumoured since before the break, now it’s done.  Miller’s move to St-Louis obviously gives his fantasy value a huge boost.  Not only in basic leagues, in which wins are gold, but Miller’s chances to earn shutouts are now vastly improved and his odds of suffering clunkers of 4 or more GA are greatly reduced for game-by-game, Sv. Pct. leagues.  He was already worthy of Vezina consideration.  Miller now has a realistic chance of beating out current favorite Ben Bishop.  Of course, for completely opposite reasons, Jaroslav Halak should now be permanently benched.


Kyle Okposo (RW) – NYI: Possibly the single biggest Olympic event in terms of its fantasy impact was John Tavares’ crippling knee injury.  No player will feel the brunt of this critical Islander setback more than Okposo.  His emergence as a top-flight power forward this season should not be overlooked, but much of this breakthrough is owed to the impact an elite player like Tavares exerts on his linemates.  Okposo is still a player on the rise, but don’t expect as much consistency in his production the rest of this season.

Zdeno Chara (D) – BOS: Coming off a shockingly underwhelming Olympic showing in which the Slovak giant looked either uninspired and/or anemic.  Whichever it was, the bottom line is that his owners should be worried (and I include Bruins’ owner Jeremy Jacobs in that group).  It certainly seems like Chara’s dominant perennial Norris-contending days are over; plus Torey Krug now gets most of the PP point opportunities from the defense position.

montreal - subban and priceCarey Price (G) – MON: This benching notice may be temporary, depending upon developments on the injury front.  A groin strain for a goalie is always tricky, especially since it was revealed Price had been dealing with it since sometime in December.  Despite the confidence boost he should receive from his Olympic dream experience, I would definitely advise his owners to wait a few games after his return to action before taking a chance on him as a starting option.