Narrowing the Gap

Dobber Sports


Nicklas Backstrom


In most preseason fantasy guides, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom was predicted to be the top-scoring rookie this season. As Chicago’s Patrick Kane started piling up the points, that opinion quickly changed. For a while there, it looked to be a two-man race between teammates Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Not so fast.


While Kane and Toews lead all rookies with 28 and 21 points respectively, Backstrom and the other preseason favorite, Phoenix pivot Peter Mueller, have been closing the gap lately.

Kane has struggled a little, with no goals and seven assists in his last 11 contests. Toews has just five points in his last nine games.

Backstrom, meanwhile, had a three-point effort Saturday, giving him nine in his last nine. It took him 20 games to get his first nine. Backstrom saw over 19 minutes of ice time (5:12 on the power play) and lined up with Ovechkin, as many fantasy poolies envisioned when they drafted him. With Michal Nylander on the shelf with an undisclosed injury, Backstrom will continue to see time on the big line and will likely make a race of things on the rookie-scoring chart.

Mueller has been steadily raising his stature in the eyes of coach Wayne Gretzky, being used more and more in key situations and seeing plenty of quality time with Shane Doan and Steve Reinprecht on the first line. After posting just a pair of points in his first 11 games – plus a healthy scratch – the 19-year-old has 13 in his last 16.

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In the end, I can see Kane taking the crown with about 70 points, but I think Backstrom will heat up as the season wears on and will flirt with 65. Toews seems destined to reach in the neighborhood of 60 points, while Mueller will see 55. All four of these future stars will regularly top a point per game throughout their NHL careers…


As I’m sure you already know, Atlanta has picked up Mark Recchi off of waivers. He is still a very serviceable fantasy player in my books, but if preseason projections had him at 70 points with Pittsburgh, it would be more like 60 in Atlanta. Sixty, prorated over the 50-odd games that are left is 32 or 33 points. If you add in the eight points that he already has, you wind up with about 41 by the end of the season. Like most players who have something to prove – even veterans on the downside (see Peter Bondra’s Chicago experience for details) – in his first few games look for a big impact of a point per game. Trade him after about three games, while your competitors start to get excited about him. If you hang onto him too long, I assure you that you will be holding onto him while he heads for another slump…

Ryan Smyth has seven points and was a plus-4 in his last four games for the Avs. He is turning it around after a slow start. His joining the team has had a detrimental affect on Andrew Brunette. Brunette’s 56-point pace would be by far his worst season in Colorado…