We all remember great line combinations and their often flashier names, such as the Production Line in Detroit’s golden era (Gordie Howe, Sid Abel, and Ted Lindsey), and the French Connection up in Buffalo (Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, and Rick Martin) to give a few examples. Many times though, the third “silent partner” so to speak is left out of the mix with two great line mates like Wayne Gretzky and Jarri Kurri, or Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson.
To the point, name the third line mates for each of those combos during the Oilers four Stanley Cups with Gretz as Captain? Esa Tikkanen and Kenny Linesman is your answer, but I will bet you had to google them as I did, and I grew up watching Edmonton destroy all comers like Godzilla. Many of these players are forgotten in deference to the goings on of their top end line mates, but these guys do score points. So, here are a few names to keep on the back burner as we enter full NHL Fantasy draft season.
1) Tomas Hertl (LW, San Jose Sharks): Entering his third full campaign, Hertl is again placed in one of the most coveted spots in the NHL, alongside Jumbo Joe Thornton and the Little General Joe Pavelski. With an increasing stat line each year, the young Czech has no place to go but up as he continues to grow as a young player in the NHL. This role is multi-fold for Hertl as well. Along with the numbers jump in his stats, he gets to watch and learn from two of the better players in the league, one of those statistics not counted on the score sheets.
2) Troy Brouwer (RW, Calgary Flames): Brouwer signed on in Calgary this past summer as a free agent and it looks like he’s landed a plum assignment playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. After just 18 goals last year in St. Louis, Troy will be on the top line in Calgary and has a great chance to have a career season. The Right Wing's previous bests were 25 goals, 18 assists in Washington a few seasons back, but now, as a secondary scorer, he will be getting top line minutes at even strength and on the Flames power play.
3) Artem Anisimov (C, Chicago Blackhawks): Centering one of the most potent lines in the NHL, I would have guessed more than just 42 points in his first season in the Windy City. Now, after a year of acclimation, I’m hoping Anisimov will join his line mates Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin in the scoring bonanza and with that gain more power play time with the top unit in the process. Hitting the 20-goal marker last year is a step in the right direction for the young Russian, and he won’t be flying under the radar much longer with his name attached to all the Kane goals.
4) Brendan Gallagher (RW, Montreal Canadians): Gallagher is another winger in a prime position, playing with two all-star caliber players, regardless of what John Tortorella thinks of Max Pacioretty. The diminutive forward fell just 7 points short of his career high last year (47), and played 29 fewer games at 53. Another young player on a great line and great defenseman, with the best goalie on Earth to back him up, Gallagher will have some more wiggle space for error knowing Price is on the back end. Brendan will top 50 points this season, and possibly 60, so he is certainly worth a mid-round grab in your drafts.
5) P.A. Parenteau (RW, New York Islanders): Out of Toronto and back in a Islander uniform, P.A. landed in a dream spot on the right side of all-world center John Tavares, and along with UFA signing Andrew Ladd, forms one very solid line in the greater New York area. I’m not expecting the 67-point season from his prime, but way better than the 41 points of last season. With both top end and power play minutes as part of a very active unit, expect P.A. to be a reliable late-round grab for your teams who can fill the stat sheet.
6) Conor Sheary (LW, Pittsburgh Penguins): After popping up on the fantasy radar towards the end of last season, and then throughout the playoffs, Sheary has the best seat in Pittsburgh alongside all-world Sidney Crosby. With just 10 points in 44 regular season contests, Sheary matched that total in 23 playoff games and a Stanley Cup parade in his rookie year. How could things possibly get better? How about a huge statistical gain for all the fantasy drafters? That’s what a late-round flier may get us this season. With everyone in the building watching Crosby, Sheary can just sneak behind the defense and pot a good 20 goals for us drafters.