With the All-Star game just a few weeks away to mark the official halfway point of the season, now is as important a time than ever to make sure you’ve got the right guys that will lead your team to victory before the second half gets underway.
Justin Williams – RW (WAS)
Lately, one of the hottest guys in the league playing on one of the hottest teams in the league, is Washington Capitals right-winger Justin Williams. In his last game against the Penguins on Monday, Williams notched a goal in an 8-7 loss while in the previous game against the Flyers he tallied two in a 5-0 win. Before that loss to the Penguins, his team had been on a nine-game winning streak in which Williams had six goals and five assists. The surge he has been on dates back to December 7th, which he has scored 13 goals since that time in 20 games, whereas he only managed to find the back of the net twice in the previous 24 games to open up the season. As Williams is having loads of success these past few weeks, look for him to continue the outburst and reach the 40-point total for the fourth straight year. With the Capitals scoring on average more than three goals per game, the offense can come from just about anywhere, so Williams will get the opportunities, even if he is skating on the second line. Try to pick him up if possible.
Vincent Trocheck – C (FLA)
On pace to just about equal or surpass his career-high numbers from last season, Vincent Trocheck, center for the Florida Panthers, is having another tremendous season. Last season, Trocheck registered 25 goals and 28 assists, but with his 16 goals and 15 assists so far this season, he is projected to finish with similar totals of 26 goals and 27 assists if he were to keep up with his current stats. Trocheck’s last game saw him once again contribute offensively as he put two pucks into the back of the net. The game log looks pretty solid for Trocheck, as he is riding a current five-game point streak with multi-point games in four of the five including five goals. One issue that could cause problems with Trocheck is his -10 plus/minus rating, but his other stats should more than make up for it. Shots are being fired in large bunches too, as evident by the many games he has taken five or more shots this season. Look to add Trocheck to your lineup as soon as possible.
Thomas Vanek – LW (DET)
After having a couple of good years in Minnesota, left-winger Thomas Vanek came to Detroit this season and has replicated that success so far. Though not the same player he was when he broke into the league in 2005 and had a couple of 40-goal seasons with Buffalo, the 32 year-old can still get it done. The season totals for Vanek of 12 goals and 18 assists puts him on pace for 25 goals and 38 assists and his numbers would be higher had he not missed 11 games due to injury. Even with the Red Wings struggling to score – they are 24th in the league with 2.43 goals per game – it has not affected Vanek at all, as demonstrated by his current six-game point streak. More impressively, he has attained points in ten of his last eleven including an extraordinary seven goals during that time frame. In his last game against Montreal, Vanek scored the team’s lone goal in a 1-0 Detroit win. As far as the points per game department is concerned, Vanek ranks in the top 30 with 0.91 points per game, which is always a good thing. Right now, he is a must-own and must-start in all leagues.
Viktor Arvidsson – RW (NSH)
Nashville Predators right-winger Viktor Arvidsson came out of the gates swinging, but has fizzled since. With 10 goals on the season, Arvidsson has only scored once since December 10th, a span of 16 games. Somewhat of an inconsistent player, Arvidsson will have games where he gets many shots on net such as three games ago when he recorded six, and then he will have games where he hardly gets any shots, such as the single shot he achieved two games ago, so there is an element of the unknown with him. Being on the third line and second powerplay unit won’t help much and may be the reason why he has just two points in his last ten games played. Nashville is not scoring many goals at the moment either with seven in the last four games, so it’s not just Arvidsson – it is the whole Predators team looking for answers. Last week, he missed two games due to an upper-body injury and although he has returned to action, upper-body injuries are never fun and it could potentially impact his play moving forward. With Arvidsson struggling to score at the moment, the smart move would be to release him and look elsewhere.
Sam Gagner – C (CLS)
Once on the other side of things, Columbus Blue Jackets center Sam Gagner now finds himself on the snorers side. Since his four-game point streak in late December, Gagner has done virtually nothing since on the stats sheet, recording just three points – all assists – in the nine games that followed. Though he has 14 goals on the season, Gagner has managed only one in a month’s worth of games. The last four games have not been very kind to Gagner, as he has produced a -1 plus/minus rating in three of them and zero in the fourth. After the Blue Jackets franchise-best 16-game winning streak, the team has lost four of seven and scoring has not been as favorable for them as it once was, as they averaging 2.7 goals per game in those seven games. The ice time is not there either for Gagner, illustrated by him skating 15 minutes in a game just three times in the past 15 games, so that coupled with all the other negative factors, it’s best to steer clear of Gagner at this time.