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Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Are You For Real?: Hartnell, Kane, Boyle

By Victoria Matiash and John Pereira
Special to ESPN.com

This week's edition features an unlikely trio with very little in common. We have a player who's come out of nowhere during the past month to become one of the best in the NHL. Another has set the league on fire to begin his rookie year, but has stumbled of late. And the last is a highly drafted defenseman who, after missing a significant bulk of the season due to injury, has since hit the ice with guns a blazin'.

Scott Hartnell, LW/RW, Flyers

Scott Hartnell
Scott Hartnell had 11 goals in January, including two hat tricks.
In the past month, Hartnell has arguably been the best skater in the NHL. With 11 goals and 32 penalty minutes, he's displayed that beautiful fantasy mix of scoring finesse and brute force. He's now on pace for a 50-point, 185-PIM season, which leads us to ask, how long can he keep this up?

Victoria: Despite a magnificent performance in January (17 points in 13 games), I'm politely shunning the Scott Hartnell bandwagon. There isn't enough historical evidence to convince me he's for real. Through six previous full seasons, the winger never even approached the point-per-game pace, and he's not that different a player now. Sure, skating alongside Mike Richards helps, but that won't be enough for the next two months. January's production must be acknowledged for what it was: A sustained stroke of good luck for a decent player on a red-hot team. And Hartnell has a well-worn reputation for being streaky as all get-out, so now's the perfect time to deal him off.

John: You're absolutely right. If Hartnell was able to keep up his current pace for a full season, he'd score roughly 60 goals. That, my friends, is Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk territory, not anywhere Hartnell is able to tread. Keep in mind, six of those 11 goals in the past month came in just two games, leading me to also believe this streak is a blip on the radar. Granted, Hartnell will continue to be a good source of penalty minutes and offense, but I'd be looking to sell high now.

Victoria: Besides, Philadelphia doesn't need this type of production from Hartnell anyway. With the likes of Simon Gagne, Daniel Briere, Richards, Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble and R.J. Umberger all contributing to varying degrees, the Flyers are showcasing an extremely well-balanced offense. Meanwhile, the team is still awaiting Joffrey Lupul's return, and there's also the (extremely slight) possibility of Peter Forsberg making a comeback. Then what? Hartnell's value will never be higher than it is right now. Trade him before his numbers decline.

Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks

Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane may have already hit the rookie wall.
At one point, the first overall pick from last year's draft looked like a runaway choice to win rookie of the year honors, but that's no longer the case. In the past month, his point production has slowed significantly, with only three goals and three assists -- a far cry from his early-season numbers. Is Kane finally slowing down to a more predictable pace? Is he tiring out? Or is the competition finally catching up with him?

John: Could Kane, despite leading the field by a mile earlier in the season, lose the Calder race? Sure, but that's irrelevant. I could care less if he wins or loses the award, I want to know if he'll continue to have fantasy value. The answer is yes, and there's never been a better time to pick him up from a frustrated owner. Keep in mind, Kane is missing fellow super rookie Jonathan Toews, as he sits out with a sprained ankle. Martin Havlat has also been mostly ineffective due to lingering injury issues. Once Havlat is back at full speed, and Toews returns, the team will have n excellent power-play unit to produce points once again.

Victoria: After appearing at the end of October, we should congratulate Patrick on being the first repeat guest here at "Are You For Real?" Unfortunately for him, the circumstances are quite different. There's no reason, however, to worry about the young lad too much. This latest four-game scoreless slide isn't that much of an anomaly. He experienced similar streaks in November and early January, rebounding from them well. And the influence of Toews' impending return will certainly help. But my biggest concerns remain Kane's lack of size and NHL experience. It's a long, rough season and his endurance is an uncertainty. So, with apologies for the soft opinion, if I already owned Kane, I'd hang on to him, but wouldn't pursue him otherwise.

Dan Boyle, D, Lightning

Dan Boyle
Logging major time on the top power-play unit will help Dan Boyle's value.
Boyle has been a hot topic in fantasy circles in recent weeks. He likely was one of the first defensemen picked up at draft time, but a serious wrist injury landed him on many a waiver wire shortly thereafter. Now, with an impressive return to the ice, his stock is on the rise once again and he currently sits at 100 percent ownership in ESPN leagues. He's a good player, granted -- but is he "point-per-game" good?

John: It would be silly to think that Boyle could continue at this pace. Frankly, it's too much to ask of any player, especially someone on one of the worst teams in the league. Fortunately for those who were lucky enough to grab him off the waiver wire, I still think he'll be a great source of points down the stretch. No matter how bad the Lightning are, a power-play group consisting of the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Boyle, Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal will do pretty darn well. For that reason alone, Boyle owners will be smiling for the rest of the season.

Victoria: I don't think it's silly at all to think he could continue at this pace. Mark my words, Boyle will finish this season as one of the hottest defenseman in the NHL. Since his return, he's logged a ton of ice time and has six points in five games. The Lightning have high expectations for Boyle now that he's entrenched on the first power-play unit, along with those you mentioned. Last season, he contributed 10 goals with the man-advantage -- despite a sluggish first quarter. He's, without question, the team's best offensive blueliner and I think he's going to score a ton. Furthermore, despite earlier trade rumors, it now seems Boyle is staying put in Tampa. Although a change of plus/minus scenery wouldn't have hurt, at least that element of uncertainty is gone. This guy should be acquired, if at all possible; he would be a huge asset to any fantasy squad through the final stretch.

Victoria Matiash and John Pereira are fantasy hockey analysts for ESPN.com.