This was submitted to and published by The Hockey News, ESPN.com, and MSN.ca on Monday the 12th.
Like all fantasy poolies, something happened on Saturday that turned my head. Jeff Hamilton of the Chicago Blackhawks tallied five points.
A five-point game is not common in the NHL. When a player hits that mark, it is a general sign that said player is either an established superstar or a future one. The only exceptions to that rule that come to mind are Charlie Huddy of the Edmonton Oilers (back in the 80s) and Czech disappointment Jiri Dopita of the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2002.
Hamilton, clearly a late-bloomer, has the background to show that he can produce decent numbers. He was a big scorer at the college level for Yale, but not quite enough to earn a selection at the NHL entry draft. The 29-year-old continued his torrid pace in Finland and again back in North America while playing for Bridgeport of the American League.
After a decent late-season showing for the Islanders last year, the Blackhawks signed him as an unrestricted free agent in hopes that he would provide an offensive presence on the third line and chip in on the second power play unit.
Hamilton was arguably the most impressive player in training camp and forced his way onto the roster. He has 33 points in 57 contests.
Things haven’t all been rosy this season for him, however. He has been a healthy scratch for his inconsistent play on three occasions and averages under 13 minutes per game. Not exactly the type of information you would expect from a player who notches five points, is it? Even on Saturday, Hamilton accomplished the feat despite just 14 minutes in ice time and less than two minutes of power-play time. This is an indication that Hamilton is not out of the woods yet. Proceed with caution, as he still has a lot to prove to his coach Denis Savard.
It would not surprise me if he stumbles out of the gate next season, posts one point in 15 games, and then is shipped to the minors. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he turned into a solid 65 or even 70-point player. This is high risk/high reward to the extreme, which means use him for your late-round dark horse selection this summer…
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Simon Gagne strained his groin on Saturday and will miss at least two contests for the Flyers. This will give more opportunity to the likes of R.J. Umberger and Scottie Upshall, two wingers who have been hot of late. Upshall has nine points in 11 games since joining the Flyers a couple of weeks ago, while Umberger has six points in his last six contests.
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