By Janet Eagleson, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’re at the halfway point of the season. The bye week has bored me, just like it has you. At least the All-Star teams were announced.
Yawn. No, double yawn.
I do like the 3-on-3 approach to today’s All-Star game. At least there’s some excitement now. Not like the kiss-and-giggle approach from years past.
But it’s still frustrating to see Mike Green on the Atlantic squad instead of the more-deserving Charlie McAvoy. Ditto Noah Hanifin on the Metropolitan when Zach Werenski makes much more sense.
But such is the stupidity when the league dictates that every team must be represented, rather than take the best 11 guys in the division. Sometimes, a berth just isn’t deserved.
Sometimes it is, several times over. Like the Bolts. They’re on home ice and until Thursday night, they would have been able to ice an all-Tampa 3-on-3 lineup with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Sigh. Maybe next time.
Let’s look at my midseason awards. Some are All-Stars; others are not.
MVP: Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay (runners-up: Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay) Best of an incredible trio of potential MVPs.
Best defender: John Klingberg, Dallas (runners-up: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis) Best Swedish defender in the NHL? He’d get a lot more attention in another city.
Best goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay (runners-up: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles. Rising: Marc-Andre Fleury, Los Vegas and Tuukka Rask, Boston) Simply the best among starters in wins (27), GAA (2.18) and save percentage (.930).
Rebound: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay (runners-up: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles) He’s back, but wrap him up in bubble wrap. And pray the injuries are permanently behind him.
Surprise (team): Vegas Golden Knights. The best in the West. And second overall. Yowza!
Surprise (player): Josh Bailey, New York Islanders (runners-up: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado; Frederik Andersen, Toronto) Lightning. In. A. Bottle. 50 points in 42 games. His previous best? 56 in 82 games. Wow.
Dud (team): Ottawa Senators (runner-up: Edmonton Oilers) Sitting 29th after being a goal from the Cup Finals last year. A goal in double OT in Game 7. #hairball
Dud (player): Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (runners-up: Cam Talbot, Edmonton; Carey Price, Montreal) Five points and a plus-6 rating in his last four games don’t make up for a clunker of a first half.
Top Rookie: Brock Boeser, Vancouver (runners-up: Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders; Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay) On track to top 40 goals and deliver better than a point-per-game. How soon will he overtake Patrick Laine as the best young right-winger?
Now, let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Joel Armia, RW, Winnipeg (1 percent Yahoo! owned) – Armia is a shooting machine. In five games in January, he has fired 19 shots on net and earned a goal and an assist; the points have come in two games this week. And Armia has 34 shots in his last nine games. He can help if you need to pad that category.
Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto (8 percent) – Leaf fans love to pour hate on Bozak, who just goes about his business without fanfare, game-in and game-out. Most of the negativity is undeserved, but they need someone to blame. Fans are like that. Bozak goes on long droughts, but right now, he’s riding a three-game, four-point streak (one goal, three assists). Roll him on and then dump his butt when he goes to sleep again.
Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa (4 percent) – Chabot is already looking like a grizzled veteran. He’s playing on the top pairing alongside Erik Karlsson and the Sens have even started using him on the first power-play unit, as the QB no less. At 20. Chabot hasn’t picked up any points with the man advantage, but he does have a goal and assist in last three games. The second half could put him on the Calder radar if his game continues to grow. That would look as good on your roster as it would on mine.
Andrew Copp, LW/C, Winnipeg (0 percent) – Copp went into Friday’s game on a three-game, four-assist scoring streak. He’s been the Jets’ fourth-line center, but the absence of Mark Scheifele has moved him up one unit. Copp is a lunch-bucket player with decent playmaking skills and excellent leadership skills. His upside is limited, but owners in deep leagues may need his help, at least in the short term.
Anthony Duclair, LW/RW, Chicago (13 percent) – Duclair’s ownership shot up 11 percent with news of his trade north. Is it warranted? I’m not sure, but playing in Chicago is heck of a lot better than the desert. Duclair has talent – he already picked up an assist in his debut. But Chicago is his third team in four seasons. Maybe the Hawks’ veterans will help him find his way. At minimum, you should scoop Duclair up and then trade him at the first sign of offense. Someone will bite and overpay on the possibility he’ll play with Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews. He might, but he’s not about to become a star.
Ryan Dzingel, LW/RW, Ottawa (2 percent) – Don’t look now, but Dzingel sits second on the Sens in goals. Yes, you read that right. Dzingel put in four in the first week of January alone (three games). And he has five points (four goals, one assist) in his last five games. He’s playing on the Sens’ top line, so snap him up.
Anton Forsberg, G, Chicago (23 percent) – Snap him up if he’s on the wire. Rumors are starting to circulate that it could be a long time before we see Corey Crawford again. Forsberg has risen to the top of the goalie depth chart in Chicago with two wins in three starts last week. And just five goals allowed.
Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim (14 percent) – Lindholm is under the radar, but shouldn’t be. He’s been a plus-minus machine of late – try plus-7 in his last four games. And he’s chugging along at close to a 40-point pace. Lindholm’s offense seems to come in spurts, but that’s fine if he can stabilize – or grow your plus-minus. Grab him for a category boost and enjoy the points if they come.
Patrick Sharp, LW/RW, Chicago (11 percent) – Is he waking up? Maybe. Sharp has been awful this season, but some recent healthy scratches may have lit a fire under his game. He has four points, including three goals, in his last seven games and could be a decent second-half play.
Carl Soderberg, C, Colorado (2 percent) – Soderberg’s two power-play goals last Saturday leapt off the page for me. Power play? Aren’t there other (read: better) guys on the Avs that should be playing with the man advantage? Those power-play goals gave him seven points, including five goals, in his last seven games. Soderberg won’t keep up that pace, but he has real value right now. And 98 percent of owners are sleeping on him.
Daniel Sprong, RW, Pittsburgh (13 percent) – Sprong is the latest contestant as Sid the Kid’s linemate. This time, the guy has real talent, but it remains to be seen how long he’ll stick. Sprong had an outstanding game against the Isles last week – he sniped two goals and added one helper. And he’s fired 18 shots in five games since his call up; that includes two games where the puck left his stick six times each. Again, he’s a single-category producer, but he might net you more than that.
Back to the midseason awards.
I hate to put Carey Price in the duds section, but admittedly, I’m thrilled I couldn’t get anyone to trade him to me earlier this year. There has been no real rebound there.
It’s really too bad.
Sometimes, there are things that just aren’t explainable. Fans in Ottawa understand. That team pushed the Pens to double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern final.
Can you imagine if the Sens had made it to the Cup Finals last year? #FallFromGrace. I’m looking at you, Mr. Karlsson and Craig Anderson.