NHL Fantasy Preview!

Where does Malkin sit on the list of top centers for 2013?

Where does Malkin sit on the list of top centers for 2013?

With the lockout now over, the NHL is prepping for a marathon sprint of a season. With a 48-game schedule in the works and due to be released in the next day or so, the wheels of hockey are once again churning, and it is almost time to drop the puck. For those of us who play fantasy hockey, if you’re like me, you’ve probably not kept up with any of the players playing overseas, and have not had a chance to make your “big board” for your draft. Since autopick is never an option, here is your crash course for your top picks for your fantasy drafts. Please keep in mind these rankings are for standard scoring leagues.

Claude Giroux

Claude Giroux

Center

1. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh

*Coming off of an MVP season in the NHL last year, Malkin has continued his dominance overseas in the KHL posting 65 points in 37 games during the lockout. With a healthy Sidney Crosby back in the fold, look out.

2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh

*Speak of the devil, Crosby is primed to terrorize the NHL like he did prior to suffering multiple concussions. The best player in the world is back and healthy for the first time in two-and-a-half years, and with the short season, his point production heavily outweighs the risk of injury for your team.

3. Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay

*Stamkos is working his way to the prime of his career, and the goal scoring machine is usually a fast starter during the season, if he’s around when your pick is up, he’s a pretty safe pick.

4. Claude Giroux – Philadelphia

*While Giroux will push Crosby, Malkin and company for the scoring title and MVP, he was injured with another concussion while playing in Germany. He left his team a month or so ago to go seek help from Dr. Ted Carrick, the same doctor who helped return Sidney Crosby for good. While Giroux should be good to go, the injuries are a point of concern.

5. Henrik Sedin – Vancouver*Either Sedin is always a good pick up in fantasy. They always post globs of points and Henrik is terrific at faceoffs, but hits and PIMs are going to be hard to come by.

6. John Tavares – New York (Islanders)

*A budding superstar in the NHL, Tavares is a fantastic all-around talent and plays in every situation. He is the type of player that can keep your team competitive when you’re having the fantasy-dreaded “off week”.

7. Eric Staal – Carolina

*Staal has been around seemingly forever, but at age 28, he is in the prime of his career. Always a top fantasy player, the Hurricanes’ lineup will be bolstered by the addition of Jordan Staal, and that may energize Eric as well.

8. David Backes – St. Louis

*Backes could be a great sleeper pick. Not too many casual hockey fans know about him, but he makes a great addition to any team. While he won’t be pushing 100 points, even in an 82-game season, Backes is consistent point producer and plays with an edge helping out your hits and PIMs.

9. Brad Richards – New York (Rangers)

*Don’t let the addition of Rick Nash to the Rangers fool you, this is still a John Tortorella coached team and defense comes first. Thank being said, Richards is one of the premier passers in the league and is playing with Nash and Marian Gaborik.

10. Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles

*Kopitar burst on to the national scene last season during the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup. Kopitar though has always been a valuable fantasy player and looks only to continue that trend this season.

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin

Left Wingers

1. Alex Ovechkin – Washington

*The great 8 will be looking to burst out of the gates the season and one can expect that first year Caps coach Adam Oates will unleash Ovechkin without restriction. Looking to return to form and just oozing with talent and skill. Despite previous down seasons, Ovi is still a good choice as a top pick.

2. Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey

*Kovalchuk really came into his own as a Devil last season, and despite losing team captain Zach Parise through free agency, Kovalchuk looks to pick up right where he left off for the Eastern Conference champion Devils.

3. James Neal – Pittsburgh

*After a dreadful late 2010-’11  with the Pens after coming over from Dallas, Neal enjoyed a terrific full season with Pittsburgh last year posting 40 goals and 81 points. Oh yeah, he’ll be working a power play unit with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

4. Daniel Sedin – Vancouver

*See Henrik Sedin, subtract faceoffs

5. Milan Lucic – Boston

*Lucic is coming into the season healthy and that is huge for the style that he plays. Lucic will be a force at even strength and on the power play and will add to your fantasy teams toughness stats such as hits and PIMs

6. Zach Parise – Minnesota

*I wouldn’t expect Parise to come out of the gates hot. He spent his entire career with Jersey and now that he is in his first year with the Wild, you have to account for an adjustment period. With Parise’s talent and work ethic, don’t pencil in TOO much time to adjust, he will be a solid pick for any team sooner rather than later.

7. Taylor Hall – Edmonton

*With the shortened schedule, young guys like Hall and his Oiler teammates could be surprise names at the top of the scoring charts. Hall has improved his play every year since being the first overall pick in 2010. If Hall can stay healthy, he has the potential to be one of your team’s top players.

8. Scott Hartnell – Philadelphia

*The long-maned Hartnell will miss departed future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr from his line, but playing with Claude Giroux still bodes well for Hartnell’s fantasy line. Hartnell also isn’t afraid of  a little confrontation  and gets significant power play time.

9. Rick Nash – New York (Rangers)

*While the newly acquired Nash could be a force in the stats, his attitude (at times) mixed with coach Tortorella’s attitude (at times) may not be a good mixture and with Torts running an extremely defensive minded team, the fantasy points by Nash may come at a slower clip than expected.

10. Loui Eriksson – Dallas

*Eriksson is bar none the most underrated player in the NHL today. With a ton of size and a great skill set, he will flourish offensively with the additions of Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr to the Stars and the emergence of Stars’ star Jamie Benn

Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane

Right Wing

1. Phil Kessel – Toronto

*This may be the year that Toronto finally reaches the postseason,and Phil Kessel will be a big part of that. After finding his scoring stride early last year, he anchored the Leafs top line through a tantalizing three-quarters  of a season before the Leafs collapsed and fell out of contention. Look for Kessel and the Leafs to come out of the gates hot again.

2. Patrick Sharp – Chicago

*Sharp has the ability to play any forward position and is a consistent point producer. He will add to your team’s entire offensive stat line and plus-minus as well.

3. Corey Perry – Anaheim

*Entering a contract year, Perry will look to get off to a great start. If you can overcome the plus-minus stat that is sure to be lousy from playing on Anaheim’s lousy team, Perry will be a great draft choice. A 50-goal scorer and former MVP, he should still look every bit of each of those.

4. Tyler Seguin – Boston

*Another budding superstar in the league, the blazing fast Seguin sees time in every situation for the Bruins. Look for him to be a consistent producer of every good stat your fantasy league has to offer.

5. Jarome Iginla – Calgary

*While entering the twilight of his career, Iginla can still play at a high level. He may be a good investment pick seeing as he will still produce with Calgary’s OK team, but should the Flames fall out of contention, Iginla may be moved to a contender.

6. Jordan Eberle – Edmonton

*While he hasn’t put his skills together to the fullest yet and pushed the Ovechkins and Malkins of the league for a scoring title, Eberle has still been a consistent young star with the upstart Oilers. With the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakapov, and Ryan Whitney playing with Eberle, the point potential is there.

7. Patrick Kane – Chicago

*After an off season, Kane looks back to return to his dynamic form  from the Cup winning season. Loaded with talent and playing with Jonathan Toews, Kane is another safe, proven pick for your team.

8. Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay

*A perennial fantasy stud, St. Louis is getting older, however he still provides valuable production for any fantasy team even in the most competitive of leagues. Playing with Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier won’t hurt either.

9. Jeff Skinner – Carolina

*Skinner is another young emerging star that the NHL boasts, however he has had injury trouble the last couple years. Being a smaller player, he faces that risk, but the additions of Jordan Staal and Alex Semin to the Hurricanes should offer more time and space for Skinner.

10. Joe Pavelski – San Jose

*A type of under-the-radar player, Pavelski has seen better and better seasons each year he has been around. Although he is listed as a winger, he also sees time at center, adding to your squad’s faceoff stats.

Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson

Defense

1.Erik Karlsson – Ottawa

*The defending Norris Trophy winner, and deservedly so, Karlsson is primed for another great season. Although Ottawa’s season was somewhat of an overachievement last year, a lot of its  success hinges on Karlsson. He will see plenty of ice time and will put up a ton of points.

2. Kris Letang – Pittsburgh

*After an injury-derailing season last year, Letang looks to get back on track as an elite defender in the NHL. Before concussion issues sidelined him last year, Letang was neck-and-neck with Karlsson for the defensive scoring lead and Norris consideration. As far as fantasy goes, Letang may not put up as many points playing on a star-studded Penguins team, but Letang plays with more of an edge than Karlsson, so his PIMs will help, and his +/- will probably be better as well.

3. Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg

*All around talent aside, Byfuglien brings versatility to your lineup, as well as Winnipeg’s. In most leagues, he is listed as a defenseman and a winger. Although he will see the occasional forward shift with the Jets, he is a top pairing defenseman. This bodes well for your team if he is on it because you can slot him in a forward position, while he is playing defense, therefore he sees more ice time. His style of play sees him stock up on a ton hits and shots, along with working the point on the power play.

4. Brian Campbell – Florida

*A solid overall pickup every year, expect a pump in Campbell’s numbers coming off of a solid year last season. The Panthers were an underrated squad last year, and took the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils to double OT of Game 7 in their series. Campbell’s fantasy numbers dropped late last season, so as a veteran, he may benefit from the short season.

5. Zdeno Chara – Boston

*Chara is a fantasy stud year after year and this season should be no different. One of the safest picks on D as his production is consistent and being a behemoth, his durability is of little concern.

6. Shea Weber – Nashville

*While Weber is still the premier total package defenseman in the league today, the loss of Ryan Suter via free agency could hurt Weber’s fantasy numbers. Don’t be surprised if, in typical Predators’ fashion, the next man steps up (Kevin Klein), and Weber and the Preds don’t miss a beat.

7. Alex Pietrangelo – St. Louis

*This will be the year that Pietrangelo solidifies himself as a top-tier defenseman in the NHL. Benefitting from the great coaching of Ken Hitchcock, the Blues rode Hitch all the way to the playoffs last season. In a jam-packed Western Conference and Central Division, the young Blues team is primed to make a run this season, and Pietrangelo will be a catalyst for that. A wildcard in terms of fantasy players, Pietrangelo sees a ton of ice time for the Blues in all situations, but the Blues have been inconsistent in the scoring department winning a lot of goaltending duels.

8. Dan Boyle – San Jose

*Another perennial fantasy producer, Boyle is in good position to put up another good season with the Sharks. Boyle is not an overwhelmingly physical player, but he puts a ton of pucks on net, works the point on the power play and has a great outlet pass that can set some of the younger Sharks’ players up to score off the rush. Expect his plus-minus, assists and power play Points to compete for best in the league, however don’t expect a ton of goals.

9. Ryan Suter – Minnesota

*Suter is finally out from the Shea Weber shadow he played his entire career under and is now the top dog on the Minnesota Wild blueline. While he may not see too much of an increase in time on the power play, expect an increase in shots, goals and assists, now that he won’t have to defer to Weber. The only caveat to his fantasy numbers maybe his plus-minus seeing as the Wild are not nearly as sound defensively or in net as the Predators were with Suter.

10. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles

*Doughty is looking to build off of an impressive run to the Cup with the Kings last season, that saw him provide some splash plays. Doughty’s offensive numbers will be there as he quarterbacks the Kings top power play unit, but defensively he is not on an elite level yet. While still young and learning the position, Doughty’s fantasy value can vary from offensive specialist to all-around stud.

Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Quick

Goalies

1.Henrik Lundqvist – New York (Rangers)

*Coming off an exceptional year that saw him win the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender and garner serious MVP consideration, look for more of the same from King Henrik this season. The Rangers play a stifling defense-first system and sport an impressive core of young defensive talent who gained some valuable experience last year with the Rangers’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The addition of Rick Nash will also help Lundqvist as it will be hard for the other team to get quality scoring chances on him while they are playing more defense in their own end.

2. Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles

*Last year’s Conn Smythe winner, Quick was no doubt the single biggest reason that the Kings not only won the Cup, but even made the playoffs. Quick backstopped an abysmal Kings’ offense by posting shutout after shutout last season and keeping every game within reach for the Kings to win. Once the Kings found their scoring touch, well the rest is history. Look for Quick to see less shots per game this season behind a defending champion Kings team that is only getting better.

3. Pekka Rinne – Nashville

*Although the Preds lost a top-pairing defenseman in Ryan Suter, expect this season to be more of the same Nashville Predators perseverance against all odds type of year. Although, aside from Shea Weber, the Predators lack superstar power up front, Rinne is a superstar caliber player, destined to toil in the anonymity of Nashville in the NHL. Rinne will be available in many leagues for a while, while bigger names come off the board. Don’t be afraid to take Rinne over the likes of Ward, Fleury or even Luongo.

4. Mike Smith – Phoenix

*Another leader of a band of misfits, the Phoenix Coyotes will go as far as Mike Smith takes them. From a fantasy perspective, Smith may not post the most shutouts, but his goals against average and save percentage will be tough to match. Smith could even compete for the Vezina this year if Phoenix has another outstanding year.

5. Jaroslav Halak – St. Louis

*Halak is another solid overall choice and shutout machine playing in a defensive system. Halak has proven himself as a big time goalie in Montreal and St. Louis, single-handedly shutting down the likes of Malkin, Ovechkin, and Crosby in playoff series. One problem that presents itself with Halak is the stellar play of his goaltending partner, Brian Elliot. The tandem posted outstanding numbers last year and although Halak’s stellar play earned him the starting gig, Elliot’s play earned him significant playing time, even in a backup role.

6. Cory Schneider – Vancouver

*Schneider is in line for his first season as a starter in the NHL after overtaking the much maligned Roberto Luongo as the starter in Vancouver. Although Luongo’s play has been wildly inconsistent, Schneider’s outstanding play down the stretch last season cemented his role as starter this season and forcing the Canucks hand in probably dealing Luongo. With amazing talent himself while getting the majority of the starts, Schneider will be playing behind one of the best defensive corps in the game, so expect his wins to be near the top of the league along with his goals against average.

7. Ryan Miller – Buffalo

*Buffalo’s only hope at a successful season, Miller is looking to rebound off a sub-par season for himself. Miller is one of the most talented goaltenders in the league and arguably the most valuable to his team. If Miller’s save percentage and goals against numbers are in good standing, so will his, and Buffalo’s wins. You can also expect Miller to face a lot of shots playing behind a less than overwhelming Sabres offense.

8. Carey Price – Montreal

*Price is a phenomenal talent that has people drawing comparisons between him and Patrick Roy. Although he isn’t quite in the same breath as Roy, he is a fantastic goalie on an average team. Price’s shots faced and save percentage look to be quite high, although his wins and goals against average may leave a lot to be desired playing behind the Habs skaters.

9. Tuukka Rask – Boston

*After losing his starting job to the enigmatic Tim Thomas and seeing Thomas post one of the best seasons from a goalie in recent history, Rask has his starting job back with Thomas sitting out the year because he’s a complete weirdo. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that Rask is a terrific goaltender playing on a great team. Rask’s stat line probably won’t feature one mind-blowing stat after another but will see a solid line all the way across. Rask is not an ideal workhorse for a fantasy team but can be a tremendous compliment to your main keeper.

10. Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh

*Ok, forget about the redonkulous playoff series loss to the Flyers last year. Fleury is a perennial  regular season stud. Last season, many of the Penguins players were pushing for Fleury to receive MVP and Vezina consideration. While teammate Evgeni Malkin won the MVP and Fleury wound up with consideration for neither award, he still posted a fantastic regular season. This season, Fleury has the privilege of playing behind the likes of Crosby, Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang, just to name a few. Fleury may be a fantasy trap though as he will not put up too many shutouts and his save percentage and shots faced will not be overwhelming, however his wins, and goals against average may be too good to pass up.

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Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
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