After two completed Fantasy Hockey scoring periods each owner should have a firm idea of how his/her team stacks up against their competition. If you find your team performing at a lower level than anticipated, now is the time to act while you still have a number of attractive options at your disposal. When it comes to improving your team on the fly the quick fix is to scour the waiver wire for hidden gems, but if you are in a deep league with knowledgeable managers, game-changing players will be hard to come by at this stage of the season. That leaves the trade market as the best option for making a significant change to your roster’s makeup.
This is an exciting time of year for trades, as the risk/reward quotient is through the roof. There is the risk of trading for a player who has exceeded all expectations in the early going only to watch them regress on your roster, coupled with the benefit of ditching a player on a heater right before it runs out. Below I will outline one forward, one defenseman, and a goaltender that have been playing above their head so far and could be dealt for an above market value return. Be on the lookout next week, as I will outline buy low candidates who are significantly more valuable than their season-to-date performance would indicate.
Tanner Pearson LW, Los Angeles Kings: The ubiquitous “That 70’s Line” is taking the NHL by storm this season, with Pearson and line mates Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli lighting the lamp 17 times through nine games. With opposing teams sending their best defensemen out to contain the Kings’ top line, featuring C Anze Kopitar, Pearson and company have feasted on inferior competition. However, if they continue scoring at this rate, it won’t be long until the Western Conference’s elite defenders, such as Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, start focusing their attention on Carter and his two young wingers. In addition, if you dig deeper into Pearson’s early season stats, some red flags start to emerge. His seven goals have come on only 19 shots, an unsustainable 37 percent shooting percentage. He is also only averaging 13.15 minutes of ice time per game, which will limit the peripheral stats he can accumulate. So, while Tanner Pearson may contend for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie this season, it may be in your best interest to deal him for a proven commodity while his value is likely at its peak.
Johnny Boychuk D, New York Islanders: When I wrote my pre-season evaluation of the Top-40 Fantasy Defensemen, Johnny Boychuk was nowhere to be found on the list, and I don’t think I was alone in underrating his value. At the time, he was stuck in a defensive role on the Boston Bruins and behind Fantasy Hockey stalwarts Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug on the depth chart. Fast forward a couple of weeks and Boychuk is a large part of the New York Islanders surprising surge to the top of the Metropolitan division, and behind only San Jose Sharks D Brent Burns on Yahoo’s overall defensemen rankings. While he is likely to remain a valuable asset throughout the season, his track record and the emerging competition amongst teammates makes him a likely candidate to regress. Boychuk is currently on pace for a 73 point season, which would blow away his previous career high of 23. While you can argue that his offensive potential was stifled due to his role on the Bruins, such an exponential increase would be hard to maintain. In addition, with the return of veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from injury, a player with multiple 65-plus point seasons under his belt, Boychuk now has significant competition for the position on the point of the Islanders top power play unit alongside Hart Trophy candidate C John Tavares.
Jonas Hiller G, Calgary Flames: Few things are as frustrating for Fantasy Hockey owners than a goaltending time share. Unless you own both of the goalies that are splitting starts in net for a franchise, the limited amount of starts and not knowing who is playing on a given night can be a nightmare. The situation between the pipes in Calgary has been as clear cut a timeshare as possible, with Jonas Hiller clocking 303.14 minutes of playing time and counterpart Karri Ramo posting an incredibly similar 303.16 minutes in the crease through ten games. While Hiller has the better NHL resume, Coach Bob Hartley seems intent on splitting time evenly, at least in the early going. Hiller is no stranger to competition in net, sharing time with Frederik Andersen last season, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere earlier in his career. The competition appears to be motivating him, as he has posted sparkling ratios so far, with a 1.63 GAA and a .948 SV percentage, numbers well ahead of his career averages of 2.50 and .917 respectively. Now is the time to capitalize on Hiller’s strong start and deal him for a true number one goaltender that starts regularly.