Will these career years continue?
By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NHL season is more than a third over and many players are building impressive resumes.
Some are putting up better numbers than they ever have before.
With only 28-32 games remaining for most teams, these seven players only have to keep things up for two more months. Can they do it?
Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins - Kunitz is tied for second on the team with 21 points, an impressive feat considering he shares a locker room with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. The left wing has been around as a full- time NHL player since 2005-06 and has never had more than 61 points. That came last season, when he skated extensively with Malkin and Neal. It debunks the theory that Kunitz' big numbers will continue solely because he is skating with Crosby. After all, 2011-12 Malkin and 2012-13 Crosby aren't that far apart. Kunitz also had four of his seven goals in one game. In his other 18 games, he has three goals on 32 SOG (.094 percent).
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers - Voracek has exploded for five goals and 14 points over his last six games and 21 points over 14 games in February. The right wing has consistently been a 46- to 50-point player over his last three seasons, but he has never played as large of a role as he has this season. With Scott Hartnell out and Danny Briere struggling, Voracek has had to step up as the team's second-best player behind Claude Giroux. Voracek has skated with Giroux and Hartnell, the same line that helped Jaromir Jagr produce 54 points in 73 games last season, in the two games since Hartnell returned. While Hartnell will eventually return to the team's top power-play line, we doubt the Flyers will bump Voracek, who is first on the team with four power-play goals. Voracek won't be a point-per-game player over the remaining 27 games, but an 0.85 ppg pace is certainly within reach.
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche - This is the season Duchene, the No. 3 overall pick in 2009, was supposed to have last season after posting 67 points in his sophomore campaign, but he slumped to 28 points in 58 games. Training with Sidney Crosby last summer is paying off, as Duchene has produced six goals and 11 assists through 17 games. He has done this while producing zero goals and just two assists on the power play as Colorado has struggled with the few PP chances it has had. We expect the Avalanche's production with the man advantage to improve eventually. Consistency and supporting cast are two concerns, but this is Duchene's team now with restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly embroiled in a never-ending contract dispute.
James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs - A bust as Philadelphia's No. 2 overall pick in 2007, JVR has thrived in his first season in Toronto, tying for third in the NHL with 11 goals through 20 games. After getting his feet wet over the first six games of the season, van Riemsdyk has attempted 56 SOG over his last 14 games, an average of four per game. Fantasy owners have to be worried about the impending return of Joffrey Lupul, who has missed the last month with a fractured forearm. Lupul is still 2-3 weeks away, but he could re- assume his spot on Toronto's top line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel when he returns, bumping JVR down to the less-talented No. 2 line.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets - Ladd has been a strong goal scorer since joining the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise in 2010-11, but has never been this prolific. Ladd has 10 goals on 43 shots in 18 games, with eight goals coming in February. Unfortunately, Ladd doesn't offer much in terms of assists, so he won't be able to satisfy fantasy owners when his inevitable goal-scoring drought comes.
David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils - Clarkson does three things for fantasy owners -- scores goals, racks up penalty minutes and takes shots on net -- and he does them extremely well. He's just doing all three a little bit better than last season, including putting 10 in the net on 72 shots through 19 games. Clarkson has a top-six spot locked up, something he couldn't claim last season, and he does tremendous work with Patrick Elias on the power play, so there's no reason this can't continue.
Matt Moulson, New York Islanders - Moulson has progressed from 48 to 54 to 69 points over the last three seasons, so improving his total (per 82 games) again in 2012-13 wouldn't be that much of a surprise, but being on pace for 99 points per 82 games is. Moulson's inconsistency is worrisome -- 19 of his 23 points have come in eight games, and he has seven zero-point games. But he's also getting off more SOG than ever before, and it isn't close, so continuing to be a 0.50 goals-per-game player isn't farfetched. It's the 0.68 assists-per-game pace that is unrealistic, even with linemate John Tavares stepping into superstardom.
02/26 16:45:30 ET