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NHL season two-thirds over?? Plan accordingly…

Notes on Voracek, Simmonds and Brayden Schenn

..... Teams and players have been as erratic and unpredictable as to be expected given a short training camp and an abrupt start to the season. There has been blazing hot streaks, abruptly followed by sub-zero cold streaks, witness exhibit A - Patrick Marleau.

The natural tendency in the media is to measure a 48-game schedule against that of a full 82-game version - and then analyze based on where we are at - one-third of the way through the season. I think you need to look at the next phase of the hockey world being driven largely by the playoff race.

In order to properly evaluate what you can expect from teams and players going forward is to view the season at being at the 52 to 57 game mark with 25 to 30 games left. The sense of urgency, shortening of the bench, and all that you would expect in the last two months of the season and a playoff race will apply. It is time to take advantage of the volatile first third of the season and look forward to what will happen in the remaining weeks. As teams take stock of their chances, both in the NHL and the fantasy world, trade talk will be in the air. For the next few columns we look at some surprises and assess what you can expect going forward from some intriguing starts. Here is a look at some Flyers:

Jakub Voracek has exploded this season stepping into the role occupied by Jaromir Jagr last season when he, Giroux and Hartnell combined for 84 goals. Jagr’s Hall-of-Fame shadow looms over Voracek’s season, but in an entirely positive way as he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands on the stick.

Both from Kladno in the Czech Republic, Jagr was a legend in their home town when Voracek was growing up and he idolized him. The importance of that season cannot be underestimated for a number of factors, one of the most important being preparation. Voracek had already shown a level of maturity prior to the 2011-12 season, choosing to train in North America rather than return to the Czech republic after a disappointing third season. The commitment to fitness showed in his performance, but more than that, other subtle ways; Sean Couturier explains Jagr’s influence best in a Jesse Spector Sporting News article from last spring.

“Just looking at him every day and being with him every day, you learn a lot and you know why he’s that good,” Couturier said. “He does all the little stuff off the ice that sometimes you don’t really recognize—nutrition, training, the rest. You learn from those guys and it makes you a better player.”

Voracek, or for that matter very few players in history, can match Jagr’s pure physical presence  on the ice, his artistry on skates, and those sweet, sweet hands. Do not mistake him for the second coming of Jagr. They are different players with some similarities. In a recent article by Jack McCafferty and Rob Parent,, Giroux had this to say “They think the game the same way,” Giroux said. “And any time you get to play with a similar guy, it always makes it easier.”

He appears to be headed for the top ten this year but his atmospheric streak, in this season of thin oxygen, may be the high point. However, he finished last season with 15 points in 17 games, 10 points in 11 playoff games, for a 25 in 28 finish. He is for real, and you can count on a point a game going forward.  He might be a good candidate to acquire in a trade if you can offer a more recognizable fantasy asset such as Gaborik or Iginla to a less attentive manager. Remember we are for all intent and purpose at the finishing stretch of the season, even though it may not feel that way. If you own Voracek, keep him. If you don’t, float a trade offer.

Upgrade our projection to 50 plus points.

Watching the Flyers this year it is really hard not to be very impressed with Wayne Simmonds. The energy he brings to every shift can galvanize his team. Two Gordie Howe hat tricks in a week is a remarkable achievement in any era. His play on the power play was making it hard for Scott Harnell, upon his return, to get time on the first unit. Voracek mans the point and Simmonds injects the physical component that “Hartnell down” has provided in the past. Brayden Schenn stubbornly hung onto first PP duty due to inspired play. He now seems to have relinquished his spot to Hartnell in recent games allowing for exquisite mayhem down below between the two big men.  .

Last season Simmonds had 28 goals, 49 points, 114 PIM’s and 197 shots. He is currently on pace for 37 goals, 69 points, 188 PIM’s and 216 shots, based on an 82 game season. If he maintains this pace he will be a multi stat monster in fantasy, but coveted in almost any kind of league. Last season these stats place him among the top 25 scorers in points and top 15 for goals. This production would increase our projection from 32 points to 41 points for the season. I would meet in the middle in assessing trades and project 37 points. Having said all that, stats do not do justice to his contribution. Watch his play this season to fully understand his value. His commitment is evident on every shift combined with some very fine moves and hands. With a strong devotion to fitness,  the downside on Simmonds is very limited, and the upside enticing.

Brayden Schenn is having a similar breakout season to Simmonds in terms of point production. He had 16 points in 15 games, in February and is on pace to finish with 42 points (71 points, 22 goals and 49 assists based on an 82 game season). He had benefited from a 17.1 percent shooting percentage and the absence of Hartnell. This has allowed him to claim his spot on the top power play unit and tenaciously hang on to it.

A talented player with upside, his time in the AHL has meant a lot to his very quick start. He has shown elite level talent and awareness this season. His consistency and poise over the last month has been particularly impressive.

If you are in a keeper league do not trade him until you see what his ultimate role with the club will be. He could be headed for a monster career. If you are in a one season league with the run to the playoffs looming, he may be a good trade high candidate.  He is currently averaging over 3 minutes a game of power play time. Hartnell will permanently claim his role on the power play and it would be hard to argue against Wayne Simmonds not going over the boards in critical situations. We would not underestimate his talent. He has given no one any reason to think he can’t keep this pace up, but our feeling is he will end up closer to our original projection of 32 points this season.