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Cullen: Notes on Myers, Barrie, Duchene, Tatar and more

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Scott Cullen
2/18/2013 2:54:57 PM
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Scott Cullen has notes on one of the most notable struggling Sabres, an Avalanche forward back on track, a Wings prospect making the most of his opportunity and more.

LEANING TOWER
Sabres D Tyler Myers is a 23-year-old in his fourth NHL season and while he appeared to be a franchise defenceman in his first couple of seasons, there has been some decline since, with his start to this season resulting in a few games as a healthy scratch.

Myers' point production has declined every year and his time on ice is down, from 23:44 per game as a rookie, to 20:02 so far this season. In some ways, the 6-foot-8 blueliner is a victim of his size, because he doesn't play the kind of physical game or with the edge that one might expect from the second-tallest player in the league, but he's also a brilliant skater, which is why he should be the cornerstone of the Sabres' defence, capable of playing 25 minutes per night.

He's already played less than 20 minutes seven times this season, including the last two games, a threshold he missed only five times in 55 games last season, so he's at a relative low point in his value, for both fantasy owners and NHL teams that might come sniffing around the Sabres to see if they are willing to make a change.

TY ONE ON
Colorado has a dearth of puck-moving defencemen, so there is an opportunity for rookie Tyson Barrie, who has put up three points and averaged 24:23 of ice time in the last three games.

A third-round pick in 2009, Barrie has 59 points in 85 career AHL games, suggesting that he ought to be able to contribute offensively, and his 3:23 power play ice time per game (admittedly, in only six games) leads the Avalanche.

WELCOME MATT
Coming off the worst of his three pro seasons, Avalanche C Matt Duchene has improved his conditioning and is reaping the rewards, playing a career-high 21:35 per game (up from 16:17 per game last season), scoring 14 points in Colorado's first 13 games.

Some of the reason that Duchene is needed to play such a big role down the middle is that Ryan O'Reilly remains unsigned, but Duchene's production is back in line with what should have been expected from the 22-year-old who was the third overall pick in 2009 and scored 51 goals and 122 points in his first two seasons before slipping last season.

With captain Gabriel Landeskog injured, there has been a chance for Jamie McGinn to play on Duchene's wing and McGinn is impressing, putting up nine points in the last seven games. What's encouraging about McGinn's production is that he's also registered 28 shots on goal in those seven games and a winger putting up 4.0 shots per game (even one with two goals on 43 shots this season, like McGinn) is a decent bet to remain productive.

TATAR SAUCE
Red Wings LW Tomas Tatar has a lot of AHL games under his belt for a 22-year-old -- 248 to be precise -- after he was a second-round pick in 2009, moving straight from Slovakia to Grand Rapids.

He's shown plenty of skill but, with all that time in the minors, there have been ups and downs; times when other Detroit prospects have pulled ahead of him. This season, with injuries knocking out the likes of Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi, there has been room in Detroit for skilled forward prospects and while Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson have also had a chance, Tatar is the one making his mark.

Tatar scored goals in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Friday last week and while he was held off the shoresheet in Sunday's loss to Minnesota, he also recorded a season-high five shots on goal while playing with Andersson and Justin Abdelkader.

STEADY DEVELOPMENT
The Chicago Blackhawks have been patient with C Marcus Kruger, a fifth-round pick in 2009 and, now in his second full season with the club, Kruger is starting to pay dividends.

In the last six games, Kruger has three goals and two assists, to go with a plus-5 rating, production that might warrant an increase in the modest 12:44 ice time he's been averaging this season.

ALLEN KEY
With G Brian Elliott collapsing (3.57 GAA, .849 SV% in 9 GP) and Jaroslav Halak injured, Jake Allen got the call to St. Louis and won his first three starts.

While Halak is expected to return this week, Allen (2.76 GAA, .888 SV% in 4 GP) loses his appeal, but a decent initial showing keeps the 22-year-old ready for more work if Halak can't stay healthy and/or Elliott can't recapture last season's form.

BOLT ACTION
The fourth overall pick in 2005, Lightning LW Benoit Pouliot hasn't been terribly productive, connecting for a career-high 32 points for Boston last season. However, with Ryan Malone injured in Tampa Bay, Pouliot is getting a chance to play in a scoring role, most recently alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and he's put up a point-per-game in the last nine.

As long as he's getting those opportunities, 26-year-old Pouliot is alluring, if even in the short-term. Who knows, if he keeps putting up a point per game, maybe that term will get extended.

COYOTE PRETTY
I've mentioned him on the Fantasy Hockey Update once or twice and probably in a blog already, but Coyotes C Martin Hanzal is adding some offence to his game and now has seven goals and 10 points in 11 games this season.

He's not going to keep scoring on 26.7% of his shots, as he has so far, but is averaging 2.36 shots on goal per game, and plays on the Coyotes' first power play unit, with Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata (who, incidentally, has a lower body injury).

CRAFTY VETERAN
It's understandable that the Edmonton Oilers' young guns are the ones getting the pub. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov come with first-round pedigree and ooze promise, but that has also allowed another Oilers first-rounder, Ales Hemsky (13th overall in 2001) to fly under the radar somehwat.

Hemsky was the Oilers' best offensive threat for several seasons before injuries really cut into his playing time and then last season he played 69 games, but managed just 10 goals and 36 points.

This year, playing on Edmonton's second line with Sam Gagner and Yakupov, Hemsky has started to find his way, scoring five goals and seven points in the last seven games.

Hemsky won't keep scoring on more than 24% of his shots on goal, but he's been notorious for not shooting the puck enough throughout his career and he's averaged 2.57 shots per game over the last seven, a rate that rivals his full-season career-best.

UNDER-RATED
Unless you follow agent Allan Walsh's Twitter feed, Penguins RW Pascal Dupuis can be easy to overlook -- he's one of the guys skating alongside Sidney Crosby.

Dupuis scored 20 goals and 48 points for the Minnesota Wild in 2002-2003 and those totals remained career-highs until last season, when he scored 25 goals and 59 points, but what are the odds that the 33-year-old's production would continue to get better?

Dupuis is finishing at a higher rate than expected (seven goals on 35 shots = 20.0 SH%), but 12 points and a plus-7 rating while consistently playing alongside one of the game's premier talents, is enough reason to pay attention to Dupuis.

FIRST GOAL
A second-round pick in 2010, Wild LW Jason Zucker scored a goal in his first NHL game of the season (he had two assists in six games last year after he finished his sophomore season at the University of Denver) and could be an interesting option for a Wild team that has struggled offensively, ranking 29th in the league with 2.07 goals per game.

Zucker, who had 19 goals and 41 points in 47 AHL games with Houston before getting called up, played with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi against Detroit on Sunday.

KESLER RETURNS
Vancouver managed to do more than just tread water through injuries in the early portion of the season, but they're getting healthy now. C Ryan Kesler has two points (and is minus-3) in two games, while playing more than 20 minutes per, mostly with Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian on his wings.

Kesler's linemates may be changing soon, however, as LW David Booth is expected to return this week from a groin injury suffered on the first day of training camp.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Tyler Myers (Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
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