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NO CENTER DRIVE
published 10/24/13 8:30am
Most surprisingly, the Kings' Anze Kopitar has yet to thread the needle in 10 outings thus far this year.
Photo: Robin Alam / Icon SMI
FANTASY SPIN: No goals for LA's centers; Arcobello, the rookie revelation; and the Connor McDavid watch is on in this week's fantasy hockey news…

NO CENTER DRIVE

After 10 games, the Los Angeles Kings are still in search of their first goal of 2013-14 from the center position. Five players have lined up at center in the early Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis and Colin Fraser--and none have lit the lamp yet. It's a bizarre coincidence, but it may also lead to changes in personnel this season. Kopitar and Richards are still producing offensively (8 and 6 assists, respectively), but the Kings are relying too heavily on Jeff Carter (5 goals) and Justin Williams (4) for goal-scoring. Down on the farm, centers Linden Vey and Jordan Weal have produced five assists and six points in the AHL so far, so they might become options at some point in '13-14 if LA's centers continue to struggle on offense. Of the two, Vey is the one to watch. The 22-year-old has intriguing upside.

DETROIT'S DEFENSIVE DEPTH

The Red Wings have dodged a major bullet with No. 1 defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who recovered from a mild concussion well before he was expected to do so. That's great news for a Detroit team that recently lost Kronwall's defense partner Jonathan Ericsson (upper body, IR) for the foreseeable future. Kronwall also has facial injury that he's dealing with. As a result, Detroit's younger defensemen such as Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff should see increased minutes and responsibilities in the coming weeks. Look for one of them to emerge as a good fantasy sleeper, especially the one who emerges as Ericsson's replacement next to Kronwall--with DeKeyser the favorite to take over that role. Smith may have more upside than DeKeyser, but the latter is steadier and better suited to the Wings' puck-possession style.

ARC DE TRIUMPH

It's early but 25-year-old center Mark Arcobello of the Oilers could emerge as a legitimate Calder trophy candidate as the NHL's rookie of the year for 2013-14. With 10 assists in his first 10 games this season, the diminutive playmaker has done yeoman work as Sam Gagner's injury replacement. In fact, don't be surprised if Arcobello keeps his spot in the Edmonton lineup even after Gagner returns to action from a broken jaw--which should occur fairly soon. The Oilers boast enough scoring wingers for all three of their playmaking pivots: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner and Arcobello. Un-drafted in the NHL, Arcobello produced 46 assists and 68 points in 74 AHL contests last year. He's been a great story so far, not to mention a massive fantasy sleeper.

THE McDAVID WATCH

There will be no stopping the hype machine surrounding Erie Otters (OHL) center Connor McDavid from now until the 2015 NHL Entry Draft--the first year McDavid is eligible. With 16 assists and 21 points in 12 games so far in 2013-14, McDavid is just starting to dominate games for his junior squad. Still only 16, McDavid should be a big part of what looks like an OHL powerhouse in Erie this season. He's a virtual lock to play for Canada at the 2014 WJC, and there's even an outside chance that McDavid could be a consideration for the '14 senior world championship club at season's end. A lot may depend on how far the Otters go in the OHL playoffs. Next season, McDavid could opt to play at a higher level than Canadian major junior, since he appears to be quite good enough to do so. The KHL (Russia) or SHL (Sweden) may be options. Needless to say, McDavid should already be an early pick in any keeper league that allows the drafting of 16-year-old prospects.

AROUND THE LEAGUES

Here are a few names to ponder from around the top developmental leagues outside of the NHL: Tampa Bay winger prospect Nikita Kucherov (AHL) is currently among the top scoring minor-league freshmen so far in 2013-14; Rimouski center Anthony DeLuca (QMJHL), who was passed over in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, is among the early-season scoring leaders in the 'Q'; Winnipeg Jets center prospect Nicolas Petan (WHL) is again among the scoring stars in the 'Dub' this season, while Carolina prospect Brock McGinn (OHL)--the brother of both Colorado's Jamie McGinn and Philadelphia's Tye McGinn--is off to a great start with Guelph. In Europe, keep a close eye on Kings winger prospect Nikolay Prokhorkin (KHL) and Buffalo property Gustav Possler (SHL), who are both producing good numbers against top competition.

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