October 13 2011 03:50PM
The launch of a new hockey season also means the launch of a new fantasy hockey season. For those who like something a little more interactive than hockey pools, Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey is a popular and ever-growing option.
While most teams have already made tweaks, some will still be looking for a little help on the waiver wire or from the free agent pool – so today, we look at some of the best players still available for nothing in 50% or more of Yahoo! Leagues.
|C, LW||Andy McDonald||50%|
There’s a surprising amount of talent still available in half or more of Yahoo! Leagues. Tomas Fleischmann finished the year on a near point-per-game run with Colorado, and he’s picking up heavy ice-time in Florida – and has two points in two games to show for it so far. Andy McDonald generally gets dismissed as a 50-point player, but his true talent level is much higher – in two of the last three seasons he’s flirted with the point-per-game mark. Finally, Ales Hemsky’s under the radar this year, probably thanks to two consecutive season with major chunks of time lost, but he’s also a near point-per-game player. The issue with all three is injuries, but in a system where players can be dropped or added as the year goes along that shouldn’t be a major concern.
On defense, Brian Campbell is playing massive minutes for the Panthers – in their first game, he eclipsed the 30:00 mark. Sure, he’s overpaid, but he’ll play a lot and largely in key situations. Marek Zidlicky’s plus/minus is something of a concern, but he’s been a reliable offensive option since prior to the lockout and will be relied on more than ever with Minnesota’s lack of high-end defenders; it is unconscionable that he’s owned in just one of three leagues.
In net, Michal Neuvirth is an intriguing option – Tomas Vokoun has never really been a heavy load goaltender, so even if he remains in the backup role Neuvirth will get minutes, but the possibility exists that he could steal the starting job from Vokoun outright. Mike Smith, meanwhile, is the starter in Phoenix and after allowing six goals in his first game played much better in his second outing. Dave Tippett’s defensive system should keep the goals against down even if the Coyotes struggle this season.
Thirty-nine year old Ray Whitney may seem like an odd name to include on this list, but with Phoenix thinner than ever up front he will keep getting a lot of ice-time – he’s hovering around the 20:00 mark through two games and would have had 60 points if he’d been healthy all of last season. Daniel Alfredsson is another aging star, and while his plus/minus won’t be great this season it’s worth remembering that prior to 2010-11 he’d been a 70-point player or better for nine straight years. Marcus Johansson is something else entirely, a real gamble; the 21-year old spent much of the preseason centering Alex Ovechkin, but was a healthy scratch for Washington’s first game. In their second outing, however, he recorded two points and was a force. Johansson had six points in nine playoff games last year and could shock with his offensive output this season.
A pair of Marc-Andre’s fill the blue line slots. Marc-Andre Bergeron has been a consistent performer on the power play and looks to be getting regular time with Tampa Bay. Gragnani is also getting regular power play minutes – he leads the Sabres’ blue line in that category – and was a point-per-game player in the NHL playoffs last season, as well as in the AHL during the regular season. He’s highly capable and worth consideration for teams that need a defenseman.
In net, Tuukka Rask’s situation is similar to Neuvirth’s – he’s a highly competent backup playing behind a traditionally low-games played starter on a good team. Devan Dubnyk is more of a risk, but also represents a potentially better return – he’s playing for an awful team, but has a better than 50/50 shot at being the starter and has the potential to put up acceptable numbers on a team in need of a goalie.