James van Riemsdyk – Once traded in a heist for Luke Schenn, JVR has formed great chemsitry with star sniper Phil Kessel and is having his much awaited breakout year. Finally near a point per game, van Riemsdyk has 9 points in his last 7 games on the Leafs top line. Toronto’s incumbent first line center Tyler Bozak is out for an extended absence, but the more offensively gifted Nazem Kadri will assume his role and help JVR even more.
Chris Kunitz – The 34 year old Kunitz with a career high 61 points has broken out in a big way with 17 goals and 31 points in 31 games this season. The upward trend started during last year’s lockout shortened season, as Kuntiz has formed great chemistry with uber star Sidney Crosby. With 10 points in his last 7 games, Kunitz is continuing to throw his name into the mix for Team Canada’s submission for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Taylor Hall – Former 2010 1st overall pick, Taylor Hall has established himself as a point a game player in the NHL with 50 points in 45 games last season, and now 25 points in 24 games this year. Currently, Hall is riding a 3 game scoring streak in which he registered a 4 point night, including a hat trick, against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec 5. Hall’s linemates change game to game but he is a consistent producer and is firing pucks on the net, with 27 shots in his last 4 games.
Brian Campbell – In his first season with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, Brian Campbell was a draft day steal as he finished 2nd in scoring among defenseman that year. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Campbell’s production has been on the decline ever since as he has a paltry 3 points in his last 10 games, and is a drain on plus minus. With the Panthers seemingly in a forever rebuild, it may be a few years before a Florida D man has fantasy value.
Stephen Weiss – Arrived from those lowly Panthers, Weiss was expected to assume the Red Wings 2nd line center role and finally take off with real talent around him. An anemic 2 goals and 4 points in 25 games won’t cut it for Valtteri Filppula’s replacement. Many Detroit players have been thriving this season, so its surely perplexing why Weiss can’t get it going.
Jack Johnson – As the Columbus Blue Jackets number one defenseman, more is expected than Johnson’s 5 points and -13 rating in 29 games. Long described as an offensive defenseman, Johnson has yet to live up to that billing. On a current 14 game pointless streak, don’t expect this former USA Olympian to turn it around any time soon despite top powerplay duties and big minutes.
Free Agent Pickups
Valeri Nichushkin – This Russian man child is starting to show the dominant offensive flash he was touted to have on draft day. Currently lined up with breakout young stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, Nichushkin has all the talent to take advantage of such a plum role. With 7 points in his last 3 games, nows the time to snatch Valeri up as he might not be available much longer.
Mats Zuccarello – Norwegian dynamo Zuccarello has been up and down this year, but has put up 8 points in his last 7 games on a line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. The Oslo native has always had offensive ability, and now combined with a prime scoring role, has lived up the billing. Widely available, Mats offers a useful scoring winger option for poolies.
Mike Santorelli – Former Florida 20 goal scorer, Santorelli was one of the most under the radar signings in the offseason but has paid immediate dividends for GM Mike Gillis. Centering the Canucks second line, this Vancouver born player feels at home in BC with 9 points in his last 10 games. Coach John Tortorella loves this player and leans on him heavily with over 20 minutes of ice time per game over the last week, so he should keep it up for career numbers.
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