Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In this day of a weak American economy and tight money, it seems we are always looking for the best bargains. The same can be said for fantasy owners.
Steven Stamkos, no matter how much he scores, isn't a bargain because he's a top-three pick. Nor is Evgeni Malkin (Yahoo ADP 5) and his 32 goals. Claude Giroux is a bit of a bargain as a fourth-round choice after posting 67 points to date (22G, 45A), but not close to the guys listed below.
The best bargains are the late-round selections who turn into top picks by the end of the year.
Below are 10th-round or later picks who are on their way to becoming top "best bargain" candidates.
James Neal, Pittsburgh - Neal is tied for first in the NHL with 13 power-play goals this season and along with Malkin is the offensive force the team needed to help replace the still-injured Sidney Crosby. Neal (Yahoo ADP 115) has already surpasses last year's season totals with goals (29), assists (26), shots (235) and power play points (21).
Joffrey Lupul, Toronto - The former Mighty Duck, Oiler, Flyer and current Maple Leaf is the No.1 candidate for the "Best Fantasy Bargain Award." As a 21st-round fantasy pick (ADP 241), Lupul is having his best season with 23 goals and 38 assists for a personal record 61 points. The line of Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel has been extremely successful and each has performed above expectations.
Tyler Seguin, Boston - The 2010 No.2 overall pick from Brampton, Ontario has become an offensive force in his second year. In preseason drafts he got little respect after his 11G, 11A rookie season, but those who took a late- round flier (Yahoo ADP 215) have been rewarded with great production. Seguin has 20 goals and 26 assists along with the league's best plus/minus ratings (+29). There is still a one-in-10 chance that he's available in your league.
Olli Jokinen, Calgary - At the beginning of the season, Jokinen was told he would center the Flames' shutdown line, designed to play tough defense against the opponent's top line. That must have scared off fantasy owners who didn't pick Jokinen until the 19th round (ADP 229). Jokinen fooled all of us, by producing his best season since leaving Florida. Through the first 58 games, he's scored 18 goals and 31 assists and has his best plus/minus rating since 2006-07. For those still needing a center, he's available in one out of every three leagues. I just picked him up in one of my leagues this morning.
Ray Whitney, Phoenix - Whitney has almost matched his previous season's totals with still 20+ games to go. His 16 goals 36 assists and +19 rating makes him a top-10 left-winger, yet might still be available in your league with just a 68-percent ownership rate. Pierre Lebrun is reporting that the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins are interested in acquiring Whitney before the late February trade deadline.
Kris Versteeg, Florida - After doing very little in Philadelphia and Toronto the previous two seasons, Versteeg has exploded in a Panthers' uniform with 22 goals and 26 assists through 55 games. Although he has just two goals and two assists in his last seven games, he's still been a fantasy star this season on Florida's top line with center Stephen Weiss and winger Tomas Fleischmann.