Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Since Thanksgiving is this week in the States and most teams have hit the quarter pole, or will at some point this week, I figured it would be a good idea to list some of the things we should be thankful for so far this fantasy hockey season.
Simon Gagne, LW, Philadelphia Flyers - Yes, the speedy Flyers winger has returned to form after missing most of the 2007-2008 season due to concussion problems scoring 11 goals and adding 16 assists so far, but that's not why Gagne owners are thankful. There are two reasons to be thankful if you have Gagne on your squad: 1) His four shorthanded goals leads the NHL, a stat category in most leagues that is more luck-based than skill-based and 2) Gagne has not felt any ill effects from last years concussion problems, which had many owners worried in the preseason as they were trying to figure out where exactly to draft him.
Alexander Semin, LW, Washington Capitals - One of the most important aspects of building a winning fantasy roster is having players drafted in the mid-to-late rounds exceed their expectations. No one has done that more so through 20 games than Semin who is only four points out of the top spot in the league after being taken, on average, with the 69th pick. Semin took a step backwards a season ago watching his points-per-game average drop from nearly one point-per- game to almost half-a-point per game. But Semin came out of the gates hot this season and has only been slowed by an upper back strain that has forced him to miss his last five contests.
Tim Thomas, G, Boston Bruins - Coming into the season there were questions surrounding the Bruins goaltending. Would team brass stick with Thomas, who posted solid numbers a season ago and led them to a playoff berth, or would they turn the duties over to Manny Fernandez whom they acquired from Minnesota before last season to be their No.1 before he was lost to injury? Well, they never had to make a decision, as Thomas just took the job from Fernandez and ran with it posting a 9-2-3 record and a stellar .944 save percentage to go along with a league-best 1.80 Goals Against Average. In a season that has seen so much strife in the crease for fantasy owners, one owner in your league is extremely happy because he wound up with a steal, and an unlikely Vezina candidate, on his roster.
Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators - Yes, I've written about Weber in this space before, but the fact that he is leading all defenseman in goals and points and is second in "shots on goal" is an enormous feat. The 23-year-old blueliner struggled a year ago causing many to wonder if the one-time participant in the NHL's annual Young Stars Game was indeed going to be a star. Weber is leaving no doubts this year about what kind of player he is, netting a point-per-game and consistently being one of the best players on the ice.
Kris Versteeg, LW, Chicago Blackhawks - Like the Blackhawks needed more scoring depth, right? Versteeg has been doing his part to help the 'Hawks challenge Detroit for the top spot in the Central Division. In his last five games he has eight points and his 20 points on the season ties him with Patrick Sharp for second on the team. Not bad for a fifth-round draft pick out of Lethbridge, Alberta whom many thought would never contribute at the NHL level because of his size and lack of physical play. Versteeg leads all rookies in assists (13), points (20) and plus/minus (11) while ranking third in goals (7). Playing the wing on a line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Versteeg is a safe bet to continue the success he has had through the early portion of the season.