Kukla's Korner

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Waiting in the Wings, Vol. 2: Fantasy Left Wingers

After posting my last entry on right wingers, I discovered a couple of folks are in deep enough leagues where finding talent at left wing is also a challenge.  With that in mind I’m going to assume your league has already snapped up those left wingers whose unexpected rise from obscurity has already been noticed and find out what other wire bait might be useful to your team.

I’m going to go from better to worse, so if the top options seem a bit obvious, excuse me.

Stats: % Owned/G/A/+-/PIM/PPP/SHP/GWG/FW

Ray Whitney 71% 6 9 -8 6 6 0 0 1
Ray has been a fantasy stalwart on left wing for a few years now, but he’s beginning to slip.  Nearly a point per game has become 0.625 PPG this year.  The odds that someone snapped him up in your league is high, but the odds that said person will drop him to the wire or be willing to roll him into a cheap trade for a flash-in-the-pan is good right now.  Whitney is still seeing first line time as well as a little time on the power play, plus Eric Staal is now healthy, so the odds of him seeing a rebound are high.  What’s particularly nice about Whitney is that he tends to score points across nearly every fantasy stat category.  I’d nab him.

Mason Raymond 29% 9 8 0 10 9 0 2 2
Raymond is having a breakout season in Vancouver, with 17 points in 25 games.  What I like about this guy is that his goal/assist ratio is about even.  Nine of those points were on the power play.  Playing on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson, Raymond has a little more room to play without being encumbered by the other team’s best checking players.  It’s starting to look like the third season is a charm for this winger.

Steve Sullivan 9% 5 7 -6 4 5 0 1 1
I’ve always believed that one day this guy was going to be a star-caliber player.  The injury that kept him out from Feb 22nd ‘07 to Jan 10th ‘09 seems to be behind him, and though he had a slow start this season, he’s got 7 points in 8 of his last games.  He’s on the top line with Arnott and Dumont.  You know what to do.

Sean Avery 15% 4 7 0 44 5 0 1 0
I believe Avery’s lack of production this season is a result of him just not having enough skating time to get his groove back.  This petulant penalty minute powerhouse is beginning to heat up, with 5 points in his 6 last games, not to mention 25 penalty minutes in the game 6 games.  He’s on the second line and is seeing time on the power play.  If your league values PIMs, give him a good look.

Brian Rolston 14% 8 5 -1 4 7 0 2 7
Like Ray Whitney, Rolson in the past has delivered magnificently balanced contributions to nearly every fantasy stat category.  He has slipped over the last couple of seasons, seeming out of place on his new Devils team.  He might be starting to warm up, however, with a 4 point game on the 28th of November, including to power play points.  His production will follow that of Elias and Langenbrunner on the second line.  I generally don’t see a trend of improvement here, but he’s a guy you’ll want to keep an eye on nonetheless.

Evander Kane 15% 8 5 9 19 0 1 3 1
Drafted only this year, 4th overall, Kane has established himself with instant production in Atlanta.  Posting 8 goals and 5 points in 23 games, he’s also a +9 and has 19 PIMs, being not afraid to drop the gloves.  Now that Kovalchuk’s back, he may see less time.  Kane shows such good hockey smarts and can find the back of the net so well that it’s easy to forget he’s a rookie.  If you’re in a keeper league, this guy is only going to get better and is a steal if he’s still on the wire.

Jamie Benn 8% 4 11 -3 12 5 0 1 1
This hard-hitting rookie has shown a lot of promise on Dallas’ second line, alongside Morrow and Ribiero.  He’s shot out of the gate with a respectable 15 points in 26 games, also netting 5 power play points, 3 in the last 4 games.  As Mike Crawford’s trust in this younger grows, so will his ice time (averaging 15 minutes right now) and point totals.  If you’re in a keeper league, Benn is a particularly attractive investment.

Andrei Kostitsyn 14% 2 8 1 12 2 0 0 1
Before suffering a leg injury November 25th, the young-ish left winger was seeing time on Montreal’s top line.  Once healthy, keep an eye on him.  He was trending upwards until this year, with a slow start, scoring only 10 points in 24 games.  He may have trouble cracking the top line when he returns; however right before his injury he was getting hot, with 5 points in 4 games.  Don’t let that relatively high owned % fool you, he is, after all, a Montreal player.

Vernon Fiddler 2% 3 8 4 10 0 1 0 199
Need faceoffs?  Fiddler is currently ranked 37th overall on faceoffs, yet is at left wing on Yahoo.  He’s got 3 goals and 8 assists to boot, and is a +5.  He’s not going to give you any power play points, but he’ll put your team over the top in the faceoff circle.

Matt Cooke 5% 5 7 6 48 1 0 0 5
Well, with that 17 PIM night in Saturday’s 8-3 blowout the Penguins handed the Rangers, Cooke’s at the top of the available player list in my league.  Don’t be fooled, though, he is a third liner at best.  However playing along side Jordan Staal isn’t going to hurt him.  He’s got 6 points in his last 8 games.  Beware, though, that level of production won’t last.  Also, he’s suspended two games for head-hunting Artem Anisimov.  His value as a fighter will bring you a cornucopia of penalty minutes.

Steve Begin 2% 2 7 1 13 0 1 1 149
Begin is has C,LW eligibility in Yahoo.  He’s logged 149 faceoff wins this year so far for Boston, and also has a shortie and a game winner to go with his 9 points.  He’d bolster your faceoff category nicely if Fiddler’s already taken.

Marco Sturm 12% 6 6 3 14 3 1 0 2
This veteran still has some gas in the tank, and can be deliver a point every other game playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.

Jussi Jokinen 6% 6 9 -3 12 4 0 2 68
Jokinen has always been an on-the-bubble guy in my league, and this year is no different.  Seeing time on Carolina’s second line alongside Matt Cullen, Jokinen has produced 6 goals and 9 assists in 26 games, with a few power play points to boot.  Did I mention the 68 faceoff wins?  He’s a good bet to give you at least one point every 2-3 games.  Just watch out for injuries.

Raffi Torres 6% 9 4 -3 10 7 0 2 13
This 5th-overall 2000 draft pick may finally be starting to find his groove with the Jackets, he’s got 13 points in 23 games this year, with 9 goals and 4 assists.  Hitchcock’s giving him time on the power play as well.  He tends to score in bunches and then utterly disappear other games.  He’s also being juggled around on a few different lines.  If he can ultimately find some chemistry, Torres might finally break out a bit.

Clarke MacArthur 6% 7 6 -8 33 6 0 1 30
MacArthur shows some nice balance to his fantasy point production, with 7 goals, 6 assists, 33 PIMs, 6 PPP, and 30 faceoff wins.  In just his fourth year in Buffalo he’s steadily increasing his point totals.  Being on the second line with Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford can’t hurt either.  Just be careful if Connolly goes down.

Nick Foligno 6% 5 4 7 28 1 0 1 14
Fogligno is apparently playing on the second line in Ottawa with Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev.  In his third year he’s slowly increasing his point totals, logging in the plus category for the first time in his NHL career, is on track to log around 90 PIMs, is used occasionally on the power play, and takes the very occasional faceoff.  Not the brightest star in the sky but someone to keep an eye on.

Justin Abdelkader 1% 3 1 1 12 0 0 0 63
Abby-dabby-doo turned out a pretty good game last week.  He’s not big on point producing yet, with only 4 points, but he’s got 63 faceoff wins.  If he turns his game up a notch, he might be worth looking at.  I wouldn’t grab him at the moment, unless you’re a big Wings fan and just want someone to root for.

Goons

When it comes to one-dimensional players, it’s important not to clog up one particular roster spot, pushing out more talented players.  Of course, I think it’s best to use a D-man to fill this role, but if you’re out of winger options, hey, why not?  With these guys’ fists of fury on track to produce over 150 penalty minutes this year per man, they’ll deliver you PIMs in spades.  Ahh, bring on the YouTube clips!

Brandon Prust 2% 1 3 5 49 0 0 1 3
As a PIM guy, Prust is particularly valuable because he has dual-winger eligibility on Yahoo.  He’s managed to stay in the plus category this year, too.

Cody McLeod 5% 5 4 -1 47 0 0 1 4
Colorado’s top enforcer logged 162 penalty minutes last year, and netted 20 points to boot, though he was at -11.  This year he’s on track to score almost 40 points and 180 PIMs, and is only at -1.

Daniel Carcillo 13% 2 2 4 58 0 0 0 0
Ahh, Carcillo.  I think he’s become the model poster boy (er, MAN, excuse me Mr. Carcillo) as the league’s top pugilist.  He has a knack for staying healthy and is also in the plus category this year.

Jarkko Ruutu 6% 4 5 -1 52 0 1 1 3
Say what you will about the guy’s class, he logs those PIMs with fisticuffs and scores a point or two here or there.  Last year he had 144 PIMs and 21 points, with a respectable plus-minus of 0.  Looks like he’s on track to slightly beat those totals in Ottawa this year.

Runners Up… Paul Bissonnette & Donald Brashear.  Them new YouTube HD feeds are nice, aren’t they?  Ahh, I love hockey fights.

Injured Guys to Watch

David Booth (IR) 52% 2 1 -5 10 1 0 0 2
Booth suffered a pretty bad concussion at the hands of a head-hunting Mike Richards back on October 25th.  He’s still out indefinitely, with no timetable for return.  But stow him away on your watch list and keep an eye on him.  He was trending towards a point per game with the Panthers before his injury.  Concussions are tricky so be careful in these waters.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard (IR) 52% 2 1 -5 10 1 0 0 2
According to the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Bouchard’s slowly recovering from concussion symptoms that have been dogging him for a good long time.  There’s no timetable for his return either, but when he does, if he can prove himself healthy, he has the capacity to put up a 60 point season.

That’s about all I can see as far as standouts in the rankings.  If I were you I’d avoid guys like Andrew Ladd (last year was a flash in the pan, IMHO, plus with Hossa in the lineup he’s less relevant), as well as Erik Cole (we call him broke-neck Cole in our league).  If all of the above guys aren’t available in your league, you might want to consider just filling out that wing with some other player who dominates in one particular stat category other than points.  Shuffle your available wire roster by individual stat categories and see if anyone comes to the top that offsets a weakness on your team. 

Best of luck out there!

-Dave

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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