Cullen: Kessel still searching for first goal

Scott Cullen
1/28/2013 5:55:57 PM
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Some notes, including a goalless start for Phil Kessel, New Jersey's productive wingers, a good start for Bertuzzi and more.

It's easy to point the finger at Maple Leafs RW Phil Kessel when he hasn't scored a goal in five games, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. With 24 shots on goal in five games, Kessel is averaging 4.8 shots on goal per game, tied for fifth in the league. Last year's league leader in shots on goal per game, Evgeni Malkin, had 4.5, so Kessel is getting chances and they will start to go in.

There's no guarantee involved, but when a goal-scorer is playing more than 20 minutes per night and getting more than four shots on a consistent basis, it's highly likely that the pucks will start going in the net.

Tyler Seguin, who was rather infamously selected with one of the draft picks that Boston received in exchange for Kessel, has struggled in the early going of his third NHL season. Considered a potential breakout star, the 21-year-old scored 25 goals and 40 points in 29 Swiss League games with Biel during the lockout, but had just one assist in the first four games and finally notched his first goal of the season on Monday night.

It's a very small sample, so nothing get worked up about, but Seguin's ice time (16:34) and shot on goal per game (2.75) are both down a bit from last season.

Devils RW David Clarkson isn't sneaking up on anyone after scoring 30 goals last season, but early indications are that he could keep producing along those lines. Through New Jersey's first four games, Clarkson is playing a career-high 17:42 and averaging 4.25 shots on goal per game, leading to three goals and three assists. He's a beast in leagues that count penalty minutes, currently one of five players with at least five points and 10 penalty minutes (Marian Hossa, Evgeni Malkin, David Perron and Mike Ribeiro are the others).

The New Jersey Devils signed LW Ilya Kovalchuk to a monster contract and seem determined to make the most of it. He played a career-high 24:26 per game last season and sits at 26:24 per game early in this season, going over 30 minutes in Friday's win over Washington. He has five points and is plus-5 in four games, and the Devils don't have a lot of scoring depth up front, so Kovalchuk's heavy usage seems likely to continue.

Red Wings winger Todd Bertuzzi has returned to the lineup, re-joining C Pavel Datsyuk. Bertuzzi scored a pair of goals in his first game (vs. Minnesota) and played 19:50 Sunday (at Chicago; a total he exceeded once last season).

With the Red Wings looking for more complementary scoring, there will be opportunities for Bertuzzi to produce, but he will be 38 this week and hasn't scored more than 45 points in a season since 2005-2006, so his value may only exist in short burts.

There aren't a lot of teams without clearly defined goaltending situations, but Washington might be one of them. While Braden Holtby was assumed to be the No. 1 coming into the season, after a strong playoff performance last year, but after a couple tough starts this year (5.04 GAA, .863 SV%), Michal Neuvirth is creeping back into the picture.

It's easy to be skeptical about the production of Canucks winger Alex Burrows, particularly if he's not going to be skating with the Sedins. While his ice time is down (16:33 ATOI), he's creating chances, with 4.2 shots on goal per game.

The quality of his opportunities is likely not what it was when he was taking feeds from Henrik Sedin, but Burrows shouldn't be given up on either, particularly in leagues that reward penalty minutes because over the last four seasons, Ducks RW Corey Perry is the only player in the league with more goals and penalty minutes over that span.

Playing more than 26 minutes against Toronto Saturday, contributing a couple of assists and a plus-4 rating, Rangers D Michael Del Zotto is gaining appeal as the most capable puck-mover on the Rangers' blueline.

In the first five games, Del Zotto has four assists and is playing an average of 24:18 per game. If he continues to spend time with the Blueshirts' loaded number one line, Del Zotto should be more productive (on a per-game basis, of course) than he was last year, when he scored 41 points in 77 games.

It might take some time for the Columbus Blue Jackets to be good enough for his production to really matter in fantasy circles, but second-year Blue Jackets C Ryan Johansen has drawn raves for his play and he has the best shot differential (+1.1 per 60 mins of 5x5) of any Blue Jackets player. Basically, don't be snowed by his current minus-4 in five games because this 20-year-old is going to be a good one once he's strong enough to take advantage of his skills.

The Flyers have defensive needs, to be sure, but they're getting the physical presence that they anticipated from Luke Schenn. After registering 11 hits against Florida Saturday, Schenn dropped the gloves with Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier Sunday. Playing more than 19 minutes per game, Schenn ranks sixth among defencemen with 3.17 hits per game and is plus-2 on a Flyers team with a minus-5 goal differential.

With injuries up front, the Panthers didn't wait long to call up Drew Shore, who turns 22 Tuesday. The second-round pick in 2009 had 30 points in 41 AHL games with San Antonio and has joined Jonathan Huberdeayu and Peter Mueller on what is effectively the Panthers' second line. It might take some time, but Shore did put up five shots on goal in 16:12 of ice time against Philadelphia Saturday, so he's worth keeping on your radar.

Calgary earned their first win of the season Saturday night, against Edmonton, the first game of the year for both Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler. Both played more than 17 minutes in the win, primarily with Matt Stajan, and Hudler picked up an assist. The Flames need more complementary scoring and Hudler and Cervenka are both skilled enough that they may be able to contribute.

As the Washington Capitals mix and match lines, putting Alexander Ovechkin with the likes of Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb, the most productive unit for the Capitals has been C Mike Ribeiro with LW Jason Chimera and RW Joel Ward.

Ward has the capability to be a streaky scorer, putting up 13 points in 12 playoff games in 2011, but has never scored more than 35 points in an NHL season, so it's hard to expect his production to remain that high. The longer he stays with a playmaker like Ribeiro, though, the greater likelihood that he holds value for fantasy owners needing help on the wing.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin (Photo: Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
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