This week, the Eastern Edge will take a look at some Eastern Conference players who are very likely to help you win your league with a sweet second half.
I wrote in this year’s DobberHockey Fantasy Guide that the Flyers Travis Konecny was one of my Sleepers in the East. That prediction didn’t really look too good after his first 36 games, Konecny only had 10 points, a 22-point pace. Since December 28, a stretch of 13 games, he has a dozen points, a 76-point pace. He has a five-game point streak and is seeing an increasing amount of ice time, garnering a season high 18:22 minutes in his last contest.
His recent uptick in scoring is exactly what the Flyers had in mind when they dealt away Brayden Schenn to the Blues. Don’t forget, last season Konecny made the leap directly from junior to the NHL, recording 28 points in 70 games. In his final season of junior hockey, he scored 101 points in 60 contests and really impressed in last year’s World Championship, registering eight points in 10 matches.
He’s working his way back in the mix for top power play minutes and has recently been lining up with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier at even strength. Konecny is regaining his confidence and owned in only 23 per cent of Yahoo leagues. If he is available in your league, I highly recommend jumping on board for what I believe will be an excellent second half.
The Detroit Red Wings future isn’t as bleak as some might believe. Andreas Athanasiou has been playing beside Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. Over his 10 games in January, Athanasiou has registered five multi-point efforts for a total of 10 points.
Last season, he had 29 points in 64 NHL games, a 37-point pro-rated campaign and played an average of 13:27 minutes per contest, 1:12 of it with the man advantage. This year, he is up to 16:08 minutes per match, including 2:10 on the power play. In six of his last 12 games, AA has logged north of 20 minutes per contest.
He’ll need to start making better use of his power play time, his last power play point came 15 games ago. The good news is that he continues to get thrown out there, but if he doesn’t start producing, there is a risk of other players being given priority. That said, I like the way his ice time is trending and that he is able to record multi-point efforts, resulting in a point per game pace over the last 10 contests. Athanasiou is available in 81 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
The Sabres Kyle Okposo started the season with two points over his first 10 games. He followed that up with nine in 11 contests. Unfortunately, his next 13 matches saw him record only four points, but in his next (and most recent) 13 games, Okposo has 14 points, including 10 over the last seven contests.
Okay, by now, you’ve probably figured out that Okposo has been very streaky this season. I was curious as to whether or not he has a track record of finishing strong. I went back four seasons and was surprised to learn that last season, he finished with 14 points in his last 16 contests. In 2015/16, he had 18 points in his final 21 regular season matches and in the previous campaign, he recorded 23 points in his last 28 games. In the 2013/14 season, Okposo had 43 points in his final 40 contests. Not bad at all.
For someone with some name value, he is surprisingly owned in only 23 per cent of Yahoo leagues. With a track record reasonably established, it behooves you to grab him if he’s available in your league, that is unless you are worried about that rather large minus-17 hurting you. If your league doesn’t count the plus/minus category, then what are you waiting for?
The Canadiens have not returned the results that many thought they would this season. Injuries and poor play have been the trademark of the 2017/18 campaign. I see a mild resurgence coming in the second half.
One less than obvious player that might be worth a flyer in deep leagues is Paul Byron. Last year, he surprised everyone with a 43-point campaign, blowing away his previous career high of 21 points (in 47 games), set in the 2013/14 season.
Byron is on a six-game scoring streak and has seven points over that stretch. He’s been playing beside Max Pacioretty and Charles Hudon. He is also getting some love on the power play of late, always a good thing. Pacioretty has 11 points in his last 10 games, but he was due to heat up after a dreadful start. Back to Byron, as I said earlier, if you are in a deep league, this guy might give you a short-term boost and is available in 97 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
One more obvious Habs player that is due for a better second half is Alex Galchenyuk. After opening his NHL career with 31 points in 65 games as a 19-year-old, he built on that in his sophomore campaign with 46 points. His third season saw his best point total to date, 56 and last year’s 44 points in 61 matches would have seen a new high of 59 points.
While not everything was coming up roses for Galchenyuk, he was showing steady progress in the points per game department in successive seasons, at least until this year. He has played more than 85 per cent of his even-strength shifts this season with Jonathan Drouin over the last 10 games.
Even though Galchenyuk is on pace for only 47 points, he does have seven points in has last 10 contests and Montreal is a team I think will have a much better second half. Galchenyuk continues to receive top power play minutes and he has the talent to put up decent numbers in the final half of the year. He is owned in only 36 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
Thanks for reading.