The first full week of fantasy is now in the books over at Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey and its important now to look at who stood out and who surprised. In the early going in the Eastern conference, the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs are the biggest surprises team-wise, as they lead or tied for the lead in their respective divisions.
On the flip side, the high powered New Jersey Devils sit in the cellar of the Atlantic Division with just three points. In the Western Conference, Colorado and Dallas are surprising division leaders with eight points each. The Sharks have yet to get on track, as they sit in the basement of the Pacific Division with just three points in four games.
Individually, here are the top performers and surprises through the first scoring week of the season:
• Marian Hossa RW, Blackhawks – Hossa has gotten off to the hottest start of his career as he has scored 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists) through seven games for the Blackhawks. Production should continue as he has developed a stellar chemistry with linemates Patrick Sharp and Tomas Kopecky. Hossa has re-established himself as an offensive force in the early going.
• Brad Richards C, Star – Richards is fueling the fire behind Dallas’s fast start with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in five games. Richards is the pivot of the top line in Dallas, as he skates with James Neal on his left and Loui Eriksson on his right. Richards had 91 points last season and he looks to be well on his way this year to another.
• Daniel Sedin LW, Canucks – Sedin the winger continues to excel on the top line with his brother Henrik at center and Mason Raymond at right wing. Sedin has nine points (six goals, three assists) in the early going and will continue to be the top offensive option to receive passes from his brother (who has nine points, all assists, himself).
• Alex Goligoski D, Penguins – Goligoski has fueled one of the top powerplays in the NHL in Pittsburgh as he has seven points (three goals, four assists) with five of those points on the powerplay. He should continue to see significant powerplay time throughout the season and feed passes to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the top unit.
• Tim Thomas G, Bruins – Thomas has regained his Vezina form in the early going this season, having earned three wins in his past three starts. He has posted a 0.67 GAA in those games, while saving 97.9% of shots against him. Thomas may have wrestled the starting spot away from youngster Tuukka Rask for the time being. Rask hasn’t started since opening night when he gave up four goals to the Coyotes in a 5-2 loss.
TOP SURPRISES (% owned is in Yahoo leagues)
• Matt Cullen C, Wild (19% owned) – Cullen has found his offensive game again in Minnesota, as he leads the Wild with eight points (three goals, five assists) in the early going. Cullen is currently skating on the second line with left wing Guillame Latendresse and right wing Martin Havlat on even strength. He is also on the point on the powerplay with Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, and Marek Zidlicky in front of him.
• Blake Comeau LW, Islanders (25% owned) – In the early going, the Islanders have had to deal with injuries to defenseman Mark Streit and center John Tavares. Luckily for them, left wing Blake Comeau has pick up his play and has recorded six points (three goals, three assists) in six games. Comeau skates on the second line with left wing Josh Bailey and center Dough Weight. That line has been rather productive in the early going and could continue to surprise as the season goes on.
• John-Michael Liles D, Avalanche (75% owned) – Liles formerly was one of the top offensive defenseman in the game, with seasons of 49 points and 44 points in his career. Last season, Liles struggled mightly and even found himself scratched more often than not down the stretch. This year, he has come out to reestablish his value among the offensive elite at the blueline and has contributed eight points, all assists, in six games. Liles has a young team in front of him and gets top powerplay time with snipers Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart in front of him.
• Brent Johnson G, Penguins (31% owned) – Could a goalie controversy be developing in Pittsburgh? Johnson has far outplayed incumbent start Marc-Andre Fleury in the early going, winning his last four starts to the tune of a 1.49 GAA while saving 95% of shots against him. Owners of Fleury may want to invest in having Johnson as well, just in case a time share does develop. Johnson’s stock is quickly rising and it may be too late to grab him off the wire.
• Ondrej Pavelec G, Thrashers (Concussion) – Pavelec is back at practice but the time table for his return to game action is still up in the air. Pavelec fainted 2:30 minutes into the season opener against Washington and the blow to the ice lead to a concussion. The Thrashers have relied on Chris Mason in the early going, as he has gone 3-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA while saving 91.7% of shots against.
• Jason Pominville RW, Sabres (Concussion) – Pominville previously had the distinction as the league’s “iron man”, having played in 330 straight games prior to the Sabres’ tilt on October 11th with the Blackhawks. In that game, Blackhawks defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson checked Pominville from behind, sending him sprawling into the boards. Pominville left that game on a stretch and has missed Buffalo’s last three games. In the past few days, however, Pominville has returned to the ice and practice and is very close to return.
• Andrei Markov D, Canadiens (Knee surgery) – Markov appears to be even closer to returning to the ice way ahead of schedule following offseason knee surgery. The injury to the knee was first suffered in the playoffs and the subsequent surgery was supposed to keep the offensive rearguard out of the lineup until late November. Markov is making significant progress with the rehab and should be back on the ice very shortly to assume his role on the top powerplay unit for Montreal.