I always find it fun to browse the Player Rater in the early stages of a season, perusing some of those names that seem just a tad out of place among fantasy hockey's elite. Of course, the odd rankings make sense so early in the year, since it's an awfully small sample size of statistics, but it's important to recognize some of these hot starters as useful fantasy players, not only for now, but perhaps for weeks to come. Taking a look at some of those top-100 types so far, here are 10 quick starts that matter for fantasy:
Alex Auld, G, Panthers: He didn't step into the easiest of situations this year, replacing a franchise goaltender in Roberto Luongo, coincidentally a player he had been traded for in the offseason (he came to Florida along with Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen). Then again, Auld faced a similarly challenging task last season, forced to stand in as the Canucks' starting goaltender after Dan Cloutier succumbed to knee surgery in December. Auld was up to the task then, posting a 20-13 record, 2.99 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 56 games between the time Cloutier was hurt and the Olympic break, but he wore down after that, with an 8-10 record, 3.13 GAA and .893 save percentage in his final 21 games, perhaps costing Vancouver a shot at the playoffs. The experience helped Auld, though, and while he's not in the best of situations for a goaltender, the Panthers aren't the clawless creature they were a half-decade or so ago. He should receive enough support to win 30 games, making him a useful No. 2 fantasy option, particularly when exploiting matchups. Don't worry about Ed Belfour; he's backup material at this stage of his career.
Mike Commodore, D, Hurricanes: He's a tough guy with 150-penalty minute potential, and in today's game of lower PIM totals -- only three players topped 200 last season! -- that's awfully valuable from your defenseman if your league counts the category. Plus, Commodore's only beginning to develop as a scorer, with one goal and three assists so far, and if he can squeak out 25-30 points, that's going to make him one of the more complete defensemen in fantasy. Carolina still doesn't regard him as a power-play factor, but Commodore does provide enough to a fantasy team to be a smart fourth or fifth defenseman, so long as your other D-men can score and you need a bit of a PIM push.