Open Ice:Perron ahead of the game
Until we get some more injuries rolling in, or some trades going down we are going to have to start looking to some of the younger players to make an impact on your waiver wire moves. Here are a few rookies (and veterans) who caught my eye this week.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, Sharks: Nothing more needs to be said. Pick him up, in every format. Now.
Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, Devils: The chemistry between Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac and Zach Parise picked up exactly where it was left last season. Langenbrunner is a must-add. His ownership shot up from 10 percent to 25 percent in a day after his return. Don't wait much longer.
Chris Conner, RW, Stars: Conner's value is going to hinge on how coach Dave Tippet arranges his lines. Right now, Conner is in a good situation (playing with Mike Modano and Jeff Halpern), but not a great one. When he led the preseason in points for Dallas, Conner was lined up with Modano and Brenden Morrow. That would be a great situation. I'm not convinced he needs to be picked up right away, but I am checking every Dallas box score to see who Conner is playing with. Incidentally, if he every lines up with Modano and Jussi Jokinen, I am calling the naming rights for the Alliteration Line.
David Perron, LW, Blues: Here is word for word, what I wrote in my NHL draft review in June: "Perron has hands that have to be seen to be believed. His offensive skills rival anyone's in the draft, but he lacks the ability to go into the corners and play tough. Big defenders will be able to push him around. He needs more time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and maybe a year in the AHL, too, as he has been a late-bloomer to this point in his career. Fantasy owners should cross their fingers hoping he has a good attitude and is able to develop, because he has the hands of Alexei Kovalev." Clearly, he is set to battle at the NHL level, so I underestimated the speed of his development. I was not wrong about his hands though. As long as he keeps playing with impact players (Doug Weight and Lee Stempniak at even-strength, and Keith Tkachuk and Stempniak on the power play), he will be an impact player in his own right.
James Sheppard, C, Wild: I like to bring up players, on occasion, who I feel I am talking about a little bit prematurely. The "If You're Hardcore" section doesn't apply to guys who aren't useful now, but I expect will be in the not too distant future. I reserve that section for players who are surprisingly useful in really deep leagues. So, I am left with nowhere to include Sheppard except for right here with a big asterisk. I think he is going to break out soon. I didn't get very excited when Sheppard spent a little bit of time centering Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, namely because I didn't expect it to last long. However, his new home (Thursday night) between Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston gives him some potential staying power. Coach Jacques Lemaire did commit to having Sheppard in the press box a lot during the season, but it seems as though he has played his way into the everyday lineup. I just think if you pick him up now, you will be rewarded later. Especially in leagues that count plus/minus. There has been not impact yet, but his fast, two-way style with solid offensive skills should combine well with the sniping styles of Bouchard and Rolston.
Robert Nilsson, C, Oilers: While we are talking about pre-emptive pickups, let's talk about my favorite of them all, Nilsson. I don't need to ramble on again about the skills, untapped, that Nilsson displays sometimes. What I do need to point out is that for well-nigh the entire month of November, Nilsson has been on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner, two of the Oilers three established offensive stars (Ales Hemsky being the third). Coach Craig MacTavish is showing commitment to the trio, and the sparks are bound to set a fire.
Dennis Wideman, D, Bruins: A real rough-and-tumble type, Wideman plays a tough style of defense. He is another member of the mid-2000's London Knights teams I like to reference so much nowadays (seriously, look up how many relevant fantasy players there already are from the 2003-2005 squads, and how many are on the doorstep). Wideman can be a playmaker when he needs to be though. With Zdeno Chara looking like he won't ever be the offensive force he was in Ottawa, the Bruins are going to need some offense from the back end. In the meantime, Wideman will be offering PIMs and plus/minus while you wait for his offensive game to catch up to his defense. It'll happen, and this could be the season.
Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings: We've been waiting for a break out from Kronwall since the lockout ended, with no rewards in sight up until this point. This cloud, however, has a silver lining. For the first time in his career with Detroit, coach Mike Babcock is starting to use Kronwall as a power-play option. Kronwall almost played as many minutes as Nicklas Lidstrom on the power play Wednesday. He's always had above-average puck moving skills, but not a big shot. In fact, he is basically in the mold of Brian Rafalski. It's possible the Devils veteran's game is rubbing off on the quasi-sophomore.
Mathieu Garon, G, Oilers: Although my first advice would be to seek goaltending elsewhere, that isn't always an option. There is a changing of the guards brewing in Edmonton, and if I had to pick one of Dwayne Roloson or Garon to start for fantasy purposes, it would be Garon. If he can wrestle a two-thirds share of the netminding away from Roloson, Garon will be worth the while.
Stephane Veilleux, LW, Wild: Although it was only one game, if Sheppard sticks with Rolston and Bouchard, that leaves Eric Belanger free to center the Wild's third line between Veilleux and Branko Radivojevic. I don't expect a ton of offense from the three of them, but a reasonable plus/minus should be in the offing and Veilleux has added value with his PIMs.
Teemu Selanne, RW & Scott Niedermayer, D, Ducks: It's time to check the wires and roster these Anaheim, semi-retired, potential fantasy studs. The rumor mill is red-hot for Niedermayer and is lukewarm surrounding Selanne. If either returns you are talking about a top-5 player at their respective position. Pick them up now, through the New Year. If they haven't announced a return by January, they aren't coming back.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can Email him here.
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