This week, I’d like to talk about players that might be lesser known outside of their own fanbases. One of the players that has caught my eye over the past week or so is a Red Wing with a great big name. Andreas Athanasiou missed the first seven games of the season due to a contract dispute. He signed a one-year deal on October 20.
The 23-year-old was hoping to build on last year’s 18 goal, 29-point effort. He accomplished this in only 64 games, which pro-rates to a 37-point campaign. In his final year of junior hockey, he recorded 49 goals and 95 points in 66 contests. He has 51 points in 83 career AHL matches. On the season, he has 17 points in 31 games, a 45-point pace.
Over his last five contests, Athanasiou has logged five of his top ice times on the season. In those four games, he has five points and 24 shots on goal, nearly five per game while playing north of 20 minutes of ice time per contest. On the season, he averages 15:39 minutes per match, so he is trending up along with a decent amount of power play time (2:09 per game). He plays the majority of his even-strength shifts with Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar, two talented offensive players.
Athanasiou is in his third NHL campaign and it appears as though he is gaining confidence in his offensive abilities. He is only six per cent owned in Yahoo leagues and the left wing eligible player gets a decent amount of face-off wins. Something to keep in mind if you are looking for a short-term injury replacement.
Over the last 10 contests, Ryan Spooner has split his even-strength ice time between Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork and DeBrusk and David Krejci. Spooner has nine points in his last ten games and 13 points in 20 games on the season. He’s proven himself in the AHL, registering 136 points in 150 career AHL contests.
Last year, Spooner recorded 39 points in 78 matches, including 18 power play points. He scored 49 points the season prior, 17 of which were with the man advantage. While he only has two power-play points thus far, he does average 3:00 minutes on the power play.
The soon to be 26-year-old will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, so if you believe that some players play better in contract years, he might be in line for a decent second half. Spooner is owned in three per cent of Yahoo leagues.
In the second of a five-year, $36-million contract, David Backes has been on fire of late with 13 points in his last 10 contests. He’s been finding some sweet chemistry with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash (huh?) at even strength and has four power play points over that stretch.
Backes is scoring at a 61-point pace, but the 33-year-old has already missed 19 games this season. His power play time should help keep the points coming when his even-strength point production inevitably slows down. He also contributes in leagues that count penalty minutes, hits and shots on goal. If he’s available in your league, he might be a nice short-term substitute, at least until his next injury.
I’ve got to be honest here, I had no idea who Danton Heinen was before this season. Sure, I looked at his statistics and saw that he went from the BCHL to the University of Denver where he had two very productive seasons, recording 45 and 48 points. In 2016-17, he scored 44 points in 64 AHL contests, while getting in eight NHL games (zero points).
There was nothing to suggest that he would score at a 64-point pace in the NHL this campaign. Before graduating to the NHL on what should be a permanent basis, he did record eight points in four AHL matches this year. Heinen is averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time per contest, 2:15 with the man advantage. He has 12 points over his last 10 matches.
While I’m definitely not sold on Heinen as being a 60-point player, half the season is in the books and he sits at 30 points. It’s not unreasonable to think that he could score 20 points over the Bruins final 42 contests. He is eligible at all three forward positions and only owned in 39 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
I never thought I would write about Riley Nash. The 28-year-old is best described as a journeyman player. His career high in the NHL is 25 points. He has 18 points in 39 matches this year and has six points in his last six contests. If you are in a deep league and want to ride a “hot hand”, you could do worse than Nash.
I’ll finish up with one player is who not a “lesser light”. Derick Brassard has been heating up for the Senators. Over his last nine games, he has nine points. Overall, he’s on a 55-point pace, which is more in line with his previous two seasons before last year’s disappointing 39-point effort.
Brassard has spent the majority of his even-strength ice time with Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel and has been getting significant power play minutes of late. He’s been on a tear over the last three games, recording 14 shots on goal and 37 face-off wins. He is owned in only 29 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
Thanks for reading.
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