The Kevin Stevens Theory

Nicklas Backstrom's value is increased thanks to playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Do you remember the first year Wayne Gretzky recorded 200 points?

How about the 1992-93 season when Mario Lemieux scored 69 goals and added 91 assists?

Those are two of the greatest single season scoring outputs in recent NHL history (recent being the last 30 years or so).

If fantasy had been as big a thing in those days as it is now, these seasons would rank as a couple of the best ever and Gretzky's will probably never be topped.

So why am I bringing this up in 2008? And what possible connection does it have to this fantasy season?

Here's the reason: Do you remember how many points Glenn Anderson put up in Gretzky's first magical 200-point campaign? Or how many Kevin Stevens put up that year playing alongside Lemieux in Pittsburgh?

Not without hitting the old NHL Almanac, that's for sure. Both Anderson (38-67-105 points) and Stevens (55-56-111 points) were great players in their own right, but playing alongside these two greats increased their productivity.

(For the record, every one of Anderson's 80-point seasons came while playing alongside No.99 and Stevens never scored 80 points without Mario as a line mate.)

This lesson can be applied to today's superstars. Take for example Nicklas Backstrom and Victor Kozlov in Washington, playing on the same line as Alex Ovechkin. Backstrom is a solid mid-to-lower level fantasy player in his own right, while Kozlov is more of a fringe fantasy players given his consistency problems, but add Ovechkin on their wing, and all of the sudden their values are much stronger.

Much of Backstrom's early season struggles (four points in 11 games), as well as Kozlov's (three points, but only in seven games), stem from Ovechkin's early season difficulties (five points in nine games).

After putting up nearly 70 points one season ago, while helping Ovechkin hit the 60-goal mark and capture the Hart Trophy as the leagues Most Valuable Player, big things are expected from Backstrom this year. Some are even saying he could hit the 100-point mark.

But when you are merely a moon rotating around the sun that is Ovechkin, you are bound to get lost in the shadows.

A slightly different scenario is going on in Pittsburgh, where Sidney Crosby has been centering a line with Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis for the last few weeks. The line has been shuffled a bit the last week or so, and Dupuis is now hurt, but he is not expected to be out long and should still get some time of the top line.

Malkin is an A+ fantasy player by himself, the combination of he and Sid together just makes both even more incredibly difficult to contain and defense against.

Dupuis' value is the one that gets the largest boost. After scoring only 12 goals and 15 points a season ago, split between Atlanta and Pittsburgh, Dupuis could find himself looking at his first 20-goal campaign since 2002-2003 when he was a member of the Minnesota Wild. And it is a reach, but a 50, or maybe even 60, point season could be in the cards if Dupuis can play with those two superstars for the majority of the season.

Dupuis did account for almost one point per game last season after joining the Penguins in the Marian Hossa trade. This is a scenario that plays out in many an NHL rinks across North America, this is just not limited to Washington and Pittsburgh. Take a look across a teams stat sheet and see who is playing with their top scorer. He could be a viable option for your squad.

After all, playing with one of the top players in the game is a sure fire way for your fantasy value to skyrocket, history, and Kevin Stevens, prove it.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Tim Godfrey at tgodfrey@sportsnetwork.com.

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