Nik Antropov. Nikolai f’n Antropov. He actually wasn’t as bad as some people would have you think (fyi: I think Steve Simmons is a babbling idiot. He’s right up there with Bob McKowen and Roger Lajoie).
Antropov finished last season with a career high 59 points, including 28 goals! 28 goals! He accomplished this while playing on the offensively challenged Toronto Maple Leafs and the even more offensively challenged New York Rangers.
Despite all this, he gets no love. He still cannot live down his reputation he built in Toronto as being a first round bust. Perhaps the reasoning behind the frustrations of Leafs’ fans is because Antropov was taken 10th overall in the 1998 entry draft ahead of the likes of Alex Tanguay (12), Simon Gagne (22) and Scott Gomez (27).
He took a little longer to develop at the NHL level, and the fans, media and coaches grew impatient. Antropov became the scapegoat for 40+ years of Maple Leaf failure. He was the whipping boy of the franchise until he was run out of town.
While in Toronto, Antropov was my favorite Leaf. I saw potential and a misunderstanding on why he was continually scrutinized. He was also a leader in the community.
He would occasionally spend his Sunday afternoons at the Pickering Flea Market and sign autographs and interact with fans; however many he had. He was consistently on a local Ontario fishing show, FishTV, which I religiously watch on Saturday mornings. He even continued to be on the show after he was traded to New York.
This off season, the Atlanta Thrashers signed Antropov to a 4 year/$16 million deal. He was signed to center the top line which includes perennial 50 goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk and budding sensation Bryan Little (31 goals last year). I’m not strong in math, but basic arithmetic tells me that there is 80 goals between the two wings. Somebody is going to have to set up all those goals. I am not saying that Antropov is going to have 80 assists, but he will surely have a lot more chances to set up goalsin Atlanta than he did in Toronto or New York. Antropov has also proven he can put the puck in the net as well. He had a career high 28 goals last season and 26 the year before.
The question coming into camp is whether or not Antropov would be able to keep up with two dynamic skaters. I caution myself with preseason results, but Antropov has been clicking very well with his new linemates.
Last night versus the Carolina Hurricanes, Antropov had three assists including one from a goal from Little and one on the powerplay. It is evident that the Thrashers trust Antropov and are prepared to give him more ice time and responsibility. Again, it is only preseason, but it is refreshing to see that Antropov is compatible as a Thrasher.
He is 29, going into his tenth year in the league and has finally found his game. He is away from the hockey and media hubs and found a place in Atlanta (which could also be considered a media hub because of Ted Turner, but definitely not a hockey crazed market… you get it). He will not face the pressures he faced in Toronto and gets an opportunity to play with a legitimate goal scorer for the first time in his career. That alone makes him of fantasy significance.
Simply based on his reputation, he is surely to slip in your fantasy drafts. I fearlessly forecast Nik Antropov will score 23 goals and 42 assists for 65 points in a full season with Kovalchuk and Little (THN predicts – 72 games/30/35/65). Grab him in the late rounds as a depth center and you’re laughing.
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