Eight Players Primed for a Second Half Surge

by Chris Liggio on January 5, 2018


Now at the halfway mark for the regular season we can paint a clear and concise picture of how each and every one of our fantasy players are performing for fantasy purposes. Some good, some mediocre and some downright disappointing, there is hope though for some that started off in sluggish fashion and look poised to reward you for your patience in the second half. Me myself I’ve had some underperforming assets indeed, but I remain steadfast in my ownership of most for I can see the light on the horizon in hopes of better performances ahead. Let’s see if any of you are all too familiar with the following cases.


Jack Eichel/Rasmus Ristolainen/Kyle Okposo


Because they’re all Buffalo Sabres it makes sense to just cover them together. This team as a whole could really make a case for this article but let’s focus in on some core pieces and how they are faring in more recent times. For starters, if you are not already aware Eichel is finally firing on all cylinders where the month of December saw him pot eight goals and eight assists in 13 games played while putting the rubber on net 49 times in that timeframe. As a whole though it may not seem by their record, the Sabres have put together more consistent play behind a quietly solid Robin Lehner. With Eichel’s recent surge he is now on pace for his first 70-plus point season with a healthy dose of shots and if you count PIM he is also on pace for around 55 minutes with 26 minutes currently under his belt.


Ristolainen owners have had their head buried in their hands for some time but since returning from injury the uncontested blue line pillar is seemingly coming to life with back to back performances where he posted a goal and an assist. In the past 12 games played we’ve also seen his peripheral production bounce back to where we’ve come to expect of him with 27 shots, 33 hits and 22 blocks in that time. Though two games are not enough to say he’s back there is no denying the Sabres are playing more consistent, competitive hockey and if they’re going to have a shot Ristolainen will have to be a focal point. Though from a point production standpoint this season will be a letdown either way he is still on pace for 200-plus hits and a respectable 185 shots from the back end.


Kyle Okposo is slowly but surely rounding into form with two goals and five assists in the past 10 games played and this surely plays a major factor in the improved play of the Sabres. Okposo started the season off quite slow with only two assists in the first 10 games played but since late November he has been a steadier producer with four goals and seven assists in the past 18 games played though he’s not to be mistaken for a stud. Nonetheless with his top six deployment and spot on the primary power play unit alongside Eichel and Ristolainen, look for the improved play on his part to continue in the second half. Okposo is sitting on 31% ownership in ESPN leagues so if in need of a slight shake up on your roster he is more than worth at least the speculative add.


Leon Draisaitl


The constant line shakeups reminiscent of a John Tortorella regime are getting quite frustrating but I’ve sure had no qualms with Draisaitl since I traded for him around two week ago. With two goals and nine assists in his past 10 games played the big German playmaker seems to have reclaimed his 2016-17 scoring touch. Though we all savor those times when he’s deployed on ice with Connor McDavid anyone who owns him has to assume more often than not this won’t be the case and he’ll be centering a carousel of mediocre wingers. Although he was never a true disappointment at any time through the campaign, coming off signing a massive contract the world was and is expected of him so that when he endured a three-game pointless streak everyone was screaming mayday running frantically.


The Oilers have been a conundrum this season going from a dominant force in the season prior to a squad not as feared this time around. Their top three centers in McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have performed well yet the cast around them with the exception of Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic is just not getting the job done.On defense Klefbom is lost it seems and Cam Talbot has not replicated the prior campaign whatsoever. Nonetheless because of these inefficiencies across the board players like Draisaitl are going to be relied upon to produce the offense and he’s certainly more than capable of the task at hand. All of his advanced stats are right in line with the 77-point season he put up last season and this year sees him with an overall shooting percentage six percent below last season so be ready for a goal scoring surge.


Wayne Simmonds


I kept Wayne Simmonds over the likes of Taylor Hall and Jakub Voracek, which in a multi-cat league is more than warranted, but when you see those two’s point production, in comparison to the Wayne Train you may shed a tear. I’m putting Simmonds in this article more so out of faith than statistical reasoning as he has grown to become one of the most consistent producers in the game today with end of season point totals of 60/50/60/54 in the four campaigns prior to 2017-18. Currently on pace for a 25-goal, 48-point year, he is but one or two outbursts from being right back in that point range we’ve all come to expect of him. Peripherally though I cannot lie and say there is no reason for concern as his usual hits, PIM and shots production are cascading off a cliff. Barring a surreal surge in physical play out there on ice which I won’t count him out for, we are looking at his weakest multi-cat output in recent memory and with age 30 around the corner one has to start wondering whether the style of play has seemingly caught up to Simmonds.


With 34 shots, 20 hits, five goals and four assists in his past 13 games played albeit in a spread-out fashion, I am not ready to jump ship on Simmonds just yet. The expectations are naturally downscaled at this point but as stated it’ll just take one or two outbursts to put him right back in his typical point range. As long as he does not lose his primary power play deployment which is highly unlikely with him being right handed and willing to go to the net, expect him to find a way to salvage this campaign.


Ryan Getzlaf/Cam Fowler


Enduring Getzlaf’s injury riddled first half was truly painful for his owners; believe me I know firsthand. But if you were patient and did not part ways my goodness are you being rewarded immensely now for your loyalty. With three goals and 20 assists Getzlaf is included here because we’re bound to see him be one of the more prominent offensive producers across the league in the second half. This barring any more freakish injuries of course but there is no denying that despite his advancing age he is still a dominant force on ice. How any player who routinely pots 70 points and led the league in postseason production in 2016-17 prior to his Anaheim Ducks elimination can fall to an ADP of 66 in ESPN drafts is beyond me. Currently sporting a ridiculous pts/60 of 4.0, Getzlaf has picked up where he left off in the postseason and is squashing any semblance of thought he is declining.


I am willing to go out on a limb right now and say that in the second half with the Ducks at full health they shall go on to absolutely dominate this league. A beautiful blend of skill, size, grit, and deceptive speed in the likes of Andrew Cogliano and Cam Fowler, they will be an absolute handful. Good luck overtaking them in the faceoff circle too as no team comes close to their center depth. Going back to Cam Fowler, he shall feed off the presence of this team’s star forward in Getzlaf and the likes of Corey Perry upon return. His 39-point showing last season was no fluke and now 26 years of age, the prototypical age in which defenders flourish, expect him to flirt with 40-point territory in lieu of some missed time earlier in the year. In 22 games throughout the second quarter, Fowler posted five goals and eight assists, a 48-point pace. Expect a production pace in line with this as the season progresses especially with his place at the helm of an offensively talented first power play unit. Fowler is reminiscent of Nick Leddy in regard to his ascent offensively, and like Leddy he should have no issue providing you a healthy dose of points from the back end from here forth.


Derek Stepan


I’ll be eviscerated for putting him in this article, but I believe in Derek Stepan, one of the most consistent producers this league has to offer. Stepan’s prior four season point totals are 57/55/53/55. These outputs come in full seasons of 80 or more games played and seasons in 70 game territory. In a nutshell, he always seems to find a way into this point range via some extended hot streaks. Yes, he is on a different squad now that most any will say is less talented than the New York Rangers, but he didn’t have Patrick Kane 2.0 in Clayton Keller to set up in his time there either. Beyond being the playmaker, Stepan is currently sporting a 7.1% shooting percentage, which is 3% below the average over the course of the past five seasons. Therefore, with a little statistical correction Stepan can easily ascertain 50-point territory by season’s end with a goal scoring bump.


As a Rangers fan I’ve watched Stepan in depth throughout his career and am sad he is gone, especially due to the fact they received such a terrible return for him. In the second quarter he’s sustaining a 0.74 ppg pace (60 pt. pace) with a healthy dose of shots and ample faceoff wins as bonus for those that count them in their league(s). Though he will never be a 70-point player there’s absolutely nothing wrong with owning a solid depth piece that is a lock for 50-55 points year in and year out with 60-point upside. Because of his importance as a leader on this squad he’ll always receive desirable deployments so keep the faith and know that come season’s end he’ll have provided his customary point totals. People desire flash which nobody will associate with Stepan but consistency should be something more highly valued by any and all fantasy managers.


  • JT

    Needed help on D. Dropped Tom Wilson (whose been shifted to 3rd line duty) and Fowler was available. Now I’m swimming with three Ducks – Manson, Silfverberg, and Fowler. Hope your prediction is right and that they’ll have a dominant second half of the season.

  • QW

    Do you think Oesterle will continue doing well?

    • Chris Liggio

      I’m not very familiar with him therefore I really cannot say. He’s certainly impressed at the AHL level from a production standpoint but he’s never sniffed the demands of an NHL schedule so one would always have to be on the lookout for when and if he hits the wall.