That's sports for you. Each year, a handful of unknowns step up, making for some exciting story lines but wreaking havoc on the fantasy landscape, where us owners have to make the difficult decisions of whether the player is for real or only a short-term success story. The 2006-07 hockey season, like the many before it, has seen its share of no-names off to hot starts, but which of them are for real and which should be sell-high candidates? Taking a look at the top 100 on the Player Rater, I'll make the "keep" or "trade" calls for you:
Niklas Backstrom, G, Wild: For a guy who was fortunate to earn the backup role to Manny Fernandez entering the season, Backstrom has sure made the decision look good so far, ranking third in the league in goals-against average (2.05). And with Fernandez mired in a terrible slump, losing six of his last eight starts, Backstrom has been getting more chances of late to either earn the starting job, or at least a share of it. Still, while Backstrom has been one of the better backups/fantasy spot starters to date, he's nevertheless an inexperienced, occasionally shaky performer, as evidenced by his 30.0 shootout percentage, one of the worst in the NHL. Don't get too caught up in his hot streak. Trade!
Michael Cammalleri, F, Kings: Look at his team -- the Kings aren't considered by most a playoff-caliber squad -- and Cammalleri might appear a long-term risk for fantasy. But while Los Angeles might not provide him much in the way of support, the fourth-year player has all the skills of a future team leader, and he's extremely important to the offensive attack already. Even though plus/minus could be an issue for Cammalleri, look at his power-play numbers -- 11 of his 24 points have come there -- and you'll see why he should keep getting the prime scoring chances needed to be a solid starter. Keep!