Open Ice: Helping forgotten categories
It's high time we have another look at the "forgotten" categories for some help off the waiver wire this week.
David Clarkson, RW, Devils: With 70 penalty minutes, Clarkson is good, not great for this category. Think about this though, in 30 games this season, there have only been 12 where Clarkson didn't register at least a point, a plus-1 or five PIMs. I love multi-categorical contribution from players, and Clarkson covers PIMs and gives you a fighting chance at points, at least much more so than any goon. With Jay Pandolfo out, Clarkson has drawn the checking line assignment with John Madden. That should limit his scoring opportunities for a bit, but when Pandolfo comes back, I am expecting more fighting and mild scoring from Clarkson.
Shane O'Brien, D, Lightning: Thursday's incredible fantasy performance aside (but seriously, how do you go plus-4 when your team loses 9-6?), O'Brien has been up to his old tricks again. "Old" may be an inappropriate term considering we are talking about a sophomore, but it seems so long ago when the fantasy community was excited about him. O'Brien gets penalty minutes, (this much is clear) and that's why he's owned in 45 percent of ESPN leagues. His offensive contributions, however, are too often overlooked. O'Brien will wind up with triple the points of any goon and about the same number of penalty minutes. He is an excellent addition to a defense on any team looking for an edge in PIMs.
Eric Godard, RW, Flames: If you are going to go with a straight goon on your team somewhere, go with Godard. He dresses just about every night, as coach Mike Keenan never wants to appear anything less than tough as nails. That already gives Godard a leg up on a lot of goons, many of whom spend a lot of nights in press boxes. Then consider the fact that Godard just racks up the PIMs. He has had a slow start to December but is still on pace for about 300 PIMs this season. It's easy and you don't have to think about it; roll Godard and rack 'em up.
Ales Kotalik, RW, Sabres: Fourteen (or over 80 percent) of Kotalik's 17 points this season have come on the power play. Fourteen power-play points is good for top-25 in the league and is only five short of Sidney Crosby's league-leading 19. Overlook the fact that Kotalik won't do much else, and he could win you the power-play points category in a given week. His ownership ranks down around 40 percent in ESPN leagues, so he should be an easy add to the end of your bench to help in one category. Kotalik has been playing the point on the man advantage, so there is no reason to expect any slow down.
Kimmo Timonen, D, Flyers: Timonen's 16 points are OK; nothing special; maybe No. 3 defenseman caliber. Really, he has been a bit disappointing on this potent Flyers offense. Check this out, though: Fourteen of those 16 points have been on the power play, which ranks Timonen tied for third among all defenseman in power-play scoring. He is tied with Sergei Zubov and Andrei Markov, one point ahead of Dion Phaneuf and just four points behind league leaders Sergei Gonchar and Chris Pronger. If you play in a league that counts power-play points, Timonen just got a lot more valuable in your eyes, didn't he?
Alexander Edler, D, Canucks: When your team has one of the best goalies in the NHL and your coach employs a shut-down style of play, the resulting plus/minus is going to look good for some players. Edler is one of them. He's been paired with Mattias Ohlund in recent weeks, making a strong punch on the blue line. Even if you ignore the fact that he has offensive-zone skills, Edler's plus-12 is enough to use him. Now throw in the nine points he already has this year, and he is a No. 3 defenseman, from a multi-categorical view.
Chris Phillips, D, Senators: You already know that Phillips can be a terrific source of plus/minus, but maybe you looked at his overall stats and hummed and hawed over the fact that his plus-12 has been stalled out. Well, you're right. He registered a zero for the month of November. But Phillips is already back on track -- as are the Senators -- in December, with a plus-3.
P.J. Axelsson, LW, Bruins: One of the consummate defensive forwards in the game, Axelsson has been a staple of Boston's checking line for the past decade. Only once ever making it into the 30s for points, Axelsson just hasn't been that useful to fantasy players other than helping to make Boston's defense better than average. Very quietly, for a little more than a month now, Per Johan has been the top-line winger for the Bruins. He sits on the bench when it's time for a power play, but the rest of the night, whenever Marc Savard and Glen Murray are on the ice, so is Axelsson. So, Mr. Defensive-Forward himself has been sharing the ice with one of the premiere set-up men in the league and one of the better snipers of his day. He still has only eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) since taking up roost on the top line, but his plus/minus since then is plus-11. That's where the main benefit will come from with Axelsson. He can chip in a few points here or there, but the main reason to own him in a deep league is for the plus/minus. Think about it: An incredibly responsible forward who is on the ice with Boston's top guns. It's a formula for plus/minus success.
Ty Conklin, G, Penguins: This is quite simple: If you are in a deep league where goaltending is scarce, get Conklin on your bench. I have no idea why the Penguins are trusting the next two months of this season to Dany Sabourin, but I'm not. Until Marc-Andre Fleury's ankle is healed, I expect Conklin to get a lot of work. There is no way Sabourin can carry this load.
Jaroslav Hlinka, LW, Avalanche: After the initial fanfare following two assists by Hlinka in his debut on opening night of the NHL season, not a whole lot has been said. Why? Because he hasn't done anything worth saying. Very quietly in December, Hlinka has matched his output from October and November combined, already with five points this month. With Joe Sakic nursing his groin, Hlinka has been skating with Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Brunette (though both his assists Thursday came on line changes). His value likely drops again when Sakic returns, but we'll have to see exactly what coach Joel Quenneville has in store for the 31-year-old rookie.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can Email him here.