One important factor to consider as you're putting the finishing touches on your draft list, is how well the players performed down the stretch last season. Consider two guys who finished last season with 48 points: Lee Stempniak stormed the castle down the stretch, racking up 14 goals in his last 19 games. Meanwhile, David Backes limped across the plate with just 10 points in his final 17 contests. While it's not a full-proof indicator of things to come, it's certainly a pattern worth considering. For this post, I'll ignore the obvious players who were strong from start to finish and focus on those who really turned it on in the last quarter, from the Olympic break on. If that momentum carries into 2010-11, these guys could be on the way up in terms of fantasy value.
• Derek Roy (BUF) - Roy flew under the radar in 2009-10, finishing under 70 points for the season; however, he was one of the hottest players post-Olympics. He recorded 10 goals and 16 assists in his final 22 games for the Sabres.
• Jason Spezza (OTT) - Spezza was criticized by many for a slow start, but few noticed his late season surge. He ripped off 24 points in his final 19 games, including 8 goals.
• Henrik Zetterberg (DET) - While it was a down year overall again for Hank, he wrapped up the final quarter above a point per game average (22 points in 20 games).
• Daniel Alfredsson (OTT) - Like Spezza, Alfie came on strong for the Senators in the stretch run. He finished with 22 points in the final quarter, though most of those were assists.
• Peter Mueller (COL) - Mueller came alive after arriving in Colorado at the deadline. He arrived with 17 points in 54 games with Phoenix, then transformed with 9 goals and 11 assists in 15 games with the Avalanche.
• Lee Stempniak (PHO) - Stempniak went on an inexplicable tear after arriving in Phoenix late last year. He was scoring at a goal a game pace for several weeks.
• Teemu Selanne (ANA) - Despite missing considerable time earlier in the year, Selanne showed how young he is, scoring 9 goals and adding 10 assists in his final 17 games to salvage a decent season.
• David Krejci (BOS) - Hard to believe Krejci finished the season with just 52 points, considering he piled up nearly half of those in the stretch run. 21 points in 22 games was a good end to a bad season.
• John Tavares (NYI) - Crazy up and down season for the high-profile rookie ended on the good side. He wrapped up his final 20 games with 20 points. Should be a sign of what's to come for his sophomore season.
A few other guys that wrapped up the final quarter around a point-per-game pace, after starting much slower: Ryan Kesler, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Alex Steen, Chad LaRose, Wojtek Wolski, Kristian Huselius.
• Tom Gilbert (EDM) - Who? That's right. Tom Gilbert. Finished the season with just 31 points. 20 of those came in the final quarter. At that pace for an entire season, he would have challenged the likes of Mike Green. Not going to happen, but it's nice to dream if you're an Oilers fan.
• Bryan McCabe (FLA) - McCabe was average in the first 3/4 of the season, but erupted when the games stopped counting for Florida. He closed out 2010 with 17 points in his final 21 contests.
• Erik Karlsson (OTT) - Here is a name to note for your draft list. It took him awhile to stick with the big club, but this rookie finished the season with an impressive 14 points in 19 games for the Sens.
• Carlo Colaiacovo (STL) - 32 points in 67 don't really catch your eye. 14 points over his last 19 might get your attention.
• Dennis Wideman (FLA) - Fantasy owners who drafted him based on his 2008-09 season won't forgive him for last year, but he offered some redemption, registering 11 points in his last 22 games.
• Paul Martin (PIT) - He missed most of the season, but still came up with 9 points in 13 games at the end.
• Jamie McBain (CAR) - The rookie didn't play until the stretch drive, but open eyes with 10 points in those 14 games.
A few other guys who turned up the pace down the stretch: Alex Edler, Andy Greene, Alex Goligoski, Ian White, Brent Burns.
• Jimmy Howard (DET) - Don't forget about the tear this guy went on last spring. He couldn't lose. He piled up 15 wins after the Olympic break to top the NHL in that span.
• Pekka Rinne (NAS) - Rinne inserted himself into trophy consideration with his late season heroics. He won 12 games (4 by shutout) in his final 18.
• Jose Theodore (WAS) - Still looking for a job for the fall of 2010, but that doesn't take away from his fabulous run in the spring of 2010. 10 wins in his last 12 starts.
• Antti Niemi (SJ) - Neimi didn't really claim the number 1 job in Chicago until late last season, when he garnered 3 shutouts after the break (not to mention those 16 post-season wins).
• Jaroslav Halak (STL) - Fans took notice when he put Slovakia on his back, then did the same for the Canadiens both leading up to and throughout the playoffs. He won 9 of his last 15 regular season games, including 2 shutouts.
• Jonas Gustavsson (TOR) - While it wasn't enough to earn him the starting job going into 2010-11, it's worth noting that Gustavsson won 7 of 10 games down the stretch.
• Cam Ward (CAR) - While last season was a write off due to injuries and total team collapse, he got into 6 games down the final run. He won 4 of them with a GAA around 2.
So which of these stories has a happy ending? Who will keep the magic alive to start the 2010 season? And who will let that streak of good fortunate die to start the new campaign?
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