Fantasy: Palat closing in on MacKinnon

Tuesday, 03.18.2014 / 3:54 PM
Pete Jensen  - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Ondrej Palat's rookie season with the Tampa Bay Lightning has had its share of trials and tribulations.

But Palat hasn't been deterred by what has gone on around him. His season has been defined by results.

Riding a five-game point streak, Palat is the NHL's hottest point producer over the past 10 days (four goals, five assists). His 46 points in 68 games trail only Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (52 points in 68 games) in the rookie scoring race. Palat, 22, had his 13th multi-point game Monday against the Vancouver Canucks, pulling him ahead of MacKinnon (12) for the rookie lead.

His numbers are impressive when compared to his peers and his fantasy ownership should reflect that. At the moment, though, Palat is owned in 25 percent of Yahoo leagues. Regardless of your league format, it's time all owners consider adding Palat (left wing eligible) for the stretch run.

That's because Palat, a Czech Republic native who spent much of last season with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, has proved his adaptability to line changes early on in his NHL career. Considering what a strange but successful season it's been for Tampa Bay, it's not a stretch to call Palat the team's most valuable player outside of goalie Ben Bishop.

Starting the season in a depth-line role alongside fellow rookie Tyler Johnson, Palat was promoted to the top line with Johnson while the team's perennial goal-scoring leader, Stamkos, was sidelined for nearly four months due to a leg injury. During that time, Palat kicked his game into high gear playing with Johnson and Lightning captain Martin St. Louis.

St. Louis was a point-per-game player (45 in 45) while Stamkos was out due to the chemistry on the team's top unit with Palat and Johnson. But just before Stamkos returned, Palat saw St. Louis, his trusted linemate, traded to the New York Rangers on the day of the March 5 NHL Trade Deadline.

With Stamkos returning and Valtteri Filppula retaining second-line center duties, it was likely Palat and Johnson would be split up. But for Palat, it was yet another chance to shoulder the load for a team in the thick of Stanley Cup Playoff contention in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

Playing alongside Filppula and Ryan Callahan of late, Palat has put together his fourth point streak of four or more games this season. Seeing him near the top of the rookie leaderboard has been a pleasant surprise for the Lightning and the fantasy owners who took a waiver-wire flyer on him.

For those who are late to the party, he may still be available in your league to help your team in points, shots on goal (136) and rating (plus-28, T-9th in NHL). Palat also has the most goals (18) among the eight rookies with 100-plus hits this season.

If you've been following our Fantasy Spin blog this season, this isn't the first you're hearing of Palat. From his chemistry with Johnson and St. Louis earlier this season to the fantasy implications of him playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics, he's been on our radar for quite some time.

But with Palat's ownership still so low compared to MacKinnon's (79 percent) and the fantasy playoffs underway, it's clear he needed one more ringing endorsement. He could be an important piece to the puzzle as you pursue a fantasy championship in the coming weeks.

Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen

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