Each week, Jordan will try to provide you with guidance and inside information as you pick your lineup in the Hockey Night in Canada Fantasy Pool presented by Kia, with a focus on finding "sleeper" picks to help fill the roster when cap space is low.
The NHL season is almost at its halfway point and looking at the standings things are pretty close.
The New York Rangers sit in first place in the Eastern Conference but are only eight points above New Jersey, the eighth place club. Over in the Western Conference it’s more of the same. Vancouver is up by the same margin over Los Angeles, who are currently holding down the last spot.
Parity is very apparent in today’s NHL and this makes it hard to make fantasy choices with numerous good teams containing many strong options. It’s also important to mention that this is the last week of the first half contest and that starting in Week 16 player values may be altered to reflect their current in-season performance.
Look for guys like Tyler Seguin, Jordan Eberle, and Joffrey Lupul to have their values increased as the second half contest begins.
Now on to the picks for this week.
For Week 15 I'm selecting Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard. He plays on a strong Red Wings team and leads the NHL in wins with 24. Howard also has 7 wins in his last 10 starts.
Detroit plays in four games this week (@ TOR, @ CHI, @NYI, VS. PHO) and I think Howard starts at least three of these games. With Detroit having three days off before their first Week 15 game in Toronto I think Howard starts that one and sits Sunday in Chicago.
So far this season he has won over 70 per cent of the games he’s played in and scored fantasy points in 74 per cent of his games played. In the Kia Fantasy Pool, goalie wins, shut outs, and overtime losses are what counts. For a player value of 3 you can add Howard for Week 15 and you should then make him your goalie 3-star selection.
In late October I wrote about third year Senators defencemen Erik Karlsson as a guy to add and one to watch. Now in January I want to recommend him again.
This guy has increased his point total in each season and will certainly set a new career high in 2012. He leads NHL defencemen with 37 points in 40 games played. On an almost point per game pace he is sure to cool down but has shown overall consistency being held off the score sheet 14 times.
This translates into Kia Fantasy points in 65 per cent of his games played. Very impressive for any defencemen, let alone a young one. In Week 15 Ottawa plays four games (@ PHI, VS PHI, @ PIT, @ NYR). These are tough opponents but Karlsson will log a lot of minutes and will see top time on the power play.
Since the Kia Fantasy Pool rewards goals and assists only, Karlsson’s 142 shots (1st among defencemen) will be invaluable. At a player value of 2 he is a good addition to your squad and if you give him your 3-star selection, his points are doubled.
My pick for forward this week is Toronto Maple Leaf winger Joffrey Lupul.
At a low player value of 2 he is a good pickup when filling in your last few forward spots. Lupul is currently fifth in the NHL point standings and accounts for 15 per cent his team’s goals and 12 per cent of the team's assists. He plays on the top line in Toronto and the top power play unit.
The most telling stat for Lupul’s Kia Fantasy Pool relevance is that he has recorded points in 80 per cent of the games he has played in. I think the best way to describe Lupul is to say that he produces like a player value 4 player, but at only half the cost. This is one of the guys who will sure to rise in player once the second half contest beings. Enjoy him one last time at the discount rate as the Leafs play three games in Week 15.
Lupul has a home game against Detroit and then a home and away match with Buffalo. Lupul is a perfect foil to any elite player on your squad and should be good for three or four pts.
Good luck with this week’s selections and remember to have your rosters set in time for the 1 pm ET deadline on Saturday.