Open Ice: Sykora and Kozlov top the list
Life imitates art. Or in this case, fantasy. NHL teams aren't supposed to be able to "pick up" a star without giving up anything in return, but that's exactly what's been going on these days, isn't it? First, the Ducks "pick up" Scott Neidermayer, now they're "picking up" Teemu Selanne and, rumor has it, someone is going to be "picking up" Peter Forsberg very soon.
But enough of this reality nonsense. In fantasy, those guys are all owned already. Well, maybe not Forsberg, but you might want to make a preemptive pickup just in case, and while you're at it, check out if any of the guys below are available.
Petr Sykora, RW, Penguins: Although he will be falling very short of my lofty expectations for him in the preseason, Sykora seems to have found his way back into fantasy relevance. Barely rosterable most of the season, Sykora has clicked on the top line of Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Malone and himself. With 12 points and a plus-4 in 13 January games, Sykora will maintain such a pace as he and Malkin will remain lined up for the remainder of the season.
Viktor Kozlov, C, Capitals: Speaking of the linemates of young Russian superstars, Kozlov has come out in 2008 and finally looked like he is ready to play next to Alexander Ovechkin. Kozlov shifted over to the wing to allow rookie Nicklas Backstrom to complete the trio, and all three have been red-hot since. In 13 January games, Kozlov has 12 points and a plus-5. Since Ovechkin is thriving, this line will stick together and make Kozlov nearly a point-per-game player for the duration of the season.
Doug Weight, C, Ducks: This is just simple de-duck-tion on my part. Teemu Selanne hasn't lost a single step in his game based on last season's stellar performance. Andy McDonald -- who clicked really well with Selanne -- is gone, but a very replaceable talent. The Ducks added Selanne to improve their top six forwards. The line of Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry has been on a tear for the past month. Placeholder Brandon Bochenski has been the right winger for Weight and Chris Kunitz. Kunitz completed the Selanne-McDonald line last season. Weight and McDonald have a similar style and are very good playmakers. Combine all those facts and it seems very logical that the Ducks simply downgrade Bochenski and slot Selanne in beside Weight and Kunitz. That would mean a strong elevation to Weight's value.
David Backes, RW, Blues: As the Blues look for some consistency and depth in their top two lines, Backes is the big beneficiary. Slotted in as the winger for Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, the numbers have shown that the experiment is working. Backes has 10 points in 12 January games that includes a five-game point streak. Backes is even remaining with Kariya and Tkachuk on the power play, indicating that this might just be the beginning of his breakout.
Milan Lucic, LW, Bruins: I don't put a lot of stock in the All-Star game as a confidence booster, but I do believe the YoungStars game can be good for the ego. Lucic put on a show at the YoungStars game and has four points and a plus-4 in two games since the break. Never one to hesitate dropping his gloves, Lucic can bring value in penalty minutes as well, but it's his nifty hands that should provide most of his fantasy value in the coming years. Currently playing with Glen Metropolit and Chuck Kobasew, Boston has itself a pretty solid, yet underrated second line.
Chuck Kobasew, RW, Bruins: In fact, Boston's line is so solid I am going to keep talking about it. Kobasew is quietly on his way to the 30-goal season that has been predicted for him year after year while he was developing in Calgary. Playing with the powerful rookie, Lucic, and the former Swiss National League points leader, Metropolit, Kobasew is finally going to break through. After a brief gelling period, the line really started to take off and since mid-January Kobasew has eight points in six games. I can't see the return of Glen Murray breaking up this trio as they have been so effective, and Murray has not.
Sergei Fedorov, C, Blue Jackets: Fedorov is expected to begin skating very shortly, after being given the all-clear on the stationary bike. Although recovering from concussions is tricky business, riding the bike without feeling symptoms is traditionally a very good sign. Fedorov was a man on fire in early 2008. Through the first seven games of January, he had nine points. Go ahead and pick him up if he is on waivers. He may or may not recapture that form from earlier this month, but it's worth a chance.
Joel Perrault, C, Coyotes: Although he's getting a bit on in years as far as prospects are concerned, Perrault may finally be in the NHL to stick. He got a December callup after leading the AHL's San Antonio Rampage in points and leadership. Now on a line with Phoenix's best two players, Perrault is bound to start making some noise. He even stays on the power play with Shane Doan and Peter Mueller. Being a two-way hockey player as well, Perrault will help keep an even keel on all three players' plus/minus.
Jochen Hecht, C, Sabres: Usually I list some promising young rookies or potential breakout talent as a "Hardcore" pickup, but in this case I am going with a steady, fully-developed talent who I do not expect to improve. Hecht is the model of consistency, yet resides on most waiver wires. If you are sick of the never-ending rookie merry-go-round and just want some stability at center in deep leagues, grab Hecht and slot him in. You'll get just less than 10 points a month.
Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Canadiens: I have been advocating a pickup on his brother Andrei all season, and I figure Sergei deserves a little more stumping time. Playing with the talented Guillaume Latendresse and quickly developing Maxim Lapierre at even-strength, Sergei also lines up on the second power-play unit with Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder. So much talent to work with, it's no wonder the third man from the OHL's London Knights power line last season (the other two being Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner) is also making an impact. The impact isn't exactly overwhelming yet, but he'll help in deep leagues.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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