FHL: Ten Things: The Early Returns

Updated: October 10, 2006, 10:00 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN Fantasy Games
Only a week of the fantasy hockey season is in the books, but remember, this is a sport that, these days, changes awfully quickly. Trends are already beginning to develop, so while it's still far too early to panic regarding any of your slow starters, let's take a look at 10 of the more interesting developments of the first week:

Some teams are OK with platoons. Like the platoon running back in football, or the closer-by-committee in baseball, goalie platoons can be among the most frustrating things in all of fantasy hockey. This season, it seems like a growing number of contending teams are fine with splitting the starts in net, with Anaheim, Montreal, Philadelphia and San Jose all employing virtual 50-50 timeshares. Of course, the Ducks seem to be playing Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Sharks Evgeni Nabokov only in an attempt to increase their trade value, as Ilya Bryzgalov and Vesa Toskala are widely considered the future for either team, but didn't we see how that strategy panned out in Buffalo last season? Martin Biron never got traded, and now he's a backup. It's the same thing that could happen in either city this year, or with the Flyers' platoon of Robert Esche and Antero Niitymaki -- what a quick return from his hip injury! -- or the Canadiens' apparent timeshare between Cristobal Huet and David Aebischer. Anyone can lay claim to a starting job, or even two-third of the starts, with a hot streak, which is why performances like Nabokov's Oct. 7 shutout should be closely watched. Don't trust any of these guys as every-game types of players, but forced to pick with the better fantasy player of the two in each instance, I'm taking Bryzgalov in Anaheim, Nabokov in San Jose, Huet in Montreal and Niittymaki in Philadelphia.

There's no denying Alexander Ovechkin's overwhelming talent. It's not like fantasy owners doubt Ovechkin's ability; after all, he was the No. 2 player picked on average in preseason drafts, and tops among skaters. But after Alexander the Great's miserable 0-fer, minus-4 performance in the season opener against the Rangers, some might have wondered whether even this kid could fall prey to the dreaded sophomore slump. Well, worry no more, as Ovechkin, one of the best bounce-back performers in all the NHL, notched two goals in Washington's home opener last Saturday, against a pretty sound Carolina team. Incidentally, last year, in games after Ovechkin went without a point, he managed 10 goals and 23 points in 16 contests, which shows how infrequently he was kept off the scoreboard, and how little slumps affect him. He's simply a special player, one so talented that honestly, about the only reason he warrants inclusion in my column the remainder of the year is to rave about how dazzling a performer he is. Ovechkin's a virtual lock for 50 goals, 50 assists and 50 power-play points -- with upside from that -- and I don't think you could find a better candidate for No. 1 overall status. You can write that down in ink.

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