News, Analysis & UpdatesOctober 14, 2008

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Players to Watch

By Tony Huang

Since the majority of fantasy users use Yahoo! Sports to play their fantasy hockey, I figured it would be helpful if I gave a brief guide on players to keep an eye on in the 2008-09 season. There are 16 rounds in a standard Yahoo league. I will break up the draft in quartets and give you a line of players to follow for each quarter. These will be based on Yahoo ADP (average draft positions found the “Draft Central” section of your hockey league. The first group would be Rounds 1-4 (inclusive), then Rounds 5-8, then Rounds 9-12, followed by a round of late round/undrafted players.

Format: Pos – Name – ADP

Rounds 1-4

C – Eric Staal – 33.1 – finished the regular season blazing scoring 34 points in his last 24 games. Did he really find another level to his game, or was this just more inconsistent play from a young star? Without Justin Williams this year, keep a close eye on Staal to see how he starts the season.

LW – Henrik Zetterberg – 7.1 – with the addition of Hossa, Zetterberg finds him on the outside looking in, as he is booted off Detroit’s #1 PP unit. I would expect PPG numbers from Zetterberg still, but anything outside of that would be optimistic. If he starts off hot, sell him quick.

RW – Marion Gaborik – 20.4 – contract year for Gabby so follow his play closely. It was reported that he rejected a 9-year 80 million dollar deal. He really is intent on leaving that defensive trap in Minnesota and moving to a more offensive team. If he starts off slow, make a bid for his services. He should be explosive this year.

D – Nicklas Lidstrom – 15.7 – arguably the best fantasy defensemen, he looked sluggish and off beat in the opener against Toronto. While he might still dominate the pace of a game like no other, statistically, it would not surprise me to see Lidstrom’s numbers fading away this season. Just because he doesn’t play the game like a 38-year-old, it doesn’t make his stats invincible to time.

D – Mike Green – 37.9 – Ovechkin is hurt right now so Green may struggle to start the 08-09 season. King Alex’s injuries are minor and merely nagging so if Green’s stock falls, be prepared to make a solid bid for him. He should be good for 55+ points again after one year under his belt.

G – M.A. Fleury – 24.0 – It seems I may have overlooked the absence of Gonchar and Whitney. While defensively, they might not mean a lot, offensively that hole is looking more and more noticeable. Outlet passes are no longer crisp and fast, the Pens seem to have trouble breaking out of their own zone. This won’t hurt Fleury’s stats asides from wins. Instead of 45 wins, temper your expectations to high 30’s.

Rounds 5-8

C – Anze Kopitar – 64.0 – was destined for a great line with Brown and O’Sullivan. Patrick’s holdout has really put this monster line’s development on hold. Frolov is set to do second line duties, so Kopitar’s stats may be weak out of the gate. If so, try to find the impatient owner and snatch this guy. He will be a point per game player down the stretch.

LW –Tomas Vanek – 41.3 – he definitely has the potential to be 50 goal scorer. He notched 23 goals in 34 games to close off the season last year. The real question is, will his head be in the right place to start this season? From the GM that gave you Briere, Drury, Campbell, and Dumont, Vanek was the only one resigned to a superstar contract. Keep a close eye on this star-in-the-making.

RW – Alexei Kovalev – 60.2 – almost half his points came on the PP with Streit and Markov working the point. With the puck moving Streit out of Montreal, can this spin-o-rama forward find magic once again? Be careful with this dynamic right winger, I have no doubt that he has the talent to put up 100 points, but the will to do so has been missing on some nights.

D – Scott Neidermayer – 55.8 – skill is most definitely there but is the heart? This guy has done it all. He has won the Norris, won the cup, won the Conn Smythe, what else is left to prove? In my honest opinion, this guy was better than Lidstrom when he was on top of his game but his team is going through a light rebuilding stage and his desire to play the game has never been lower. Don’t be surprised to see him register only 40 points this season even with Mathieu Schneider gone.

D – Joe Corvo – 75.1 – was on a point per game pace after the trade, but can he continue his ways? My answer is no. Corvo is good, but not Nick Lidstrom good. His career will be revived in Carolina and he’ll be the PP quarterback that everybody had him destined to be. I have him going for 60 points this season but if people get optimistic with this guy, sell him high.

G – Nicklas Backstrom – 54.6 – while Backstrom may still be a NHL starter, Josh Harding is going to be pushing him hard for that #1 spot. Because Minny plays such a defensive system, games are usually decided by single goals. It’s hard to tell when a stretch of games are going to fall on the wrong side of the coin. Track his status carefully and if you haven’t already, pick up Harding.

Rounds 9-12

C – Scott Gomez – 114.4 – one of the best playermakers in the NHL, he is being heavily underrated in most Yahoo! drafts. While he’s not ever going to be a second round pick, Gomez remains a solid 70 point center each and every season. The Rangers are looking good early. He could have an upside as a PPG player.

LW – Michael Cammelleri – 80.1 – his ice time will heavily dictate his production. He’s not getting any ice time with Iggy and Langkow right now, but he is still looking sharp. It’ll only be a matter of time before he breaks out onto the 1st line. He might start slow, but he’ll finish off the season strong.

RW – Nikolai Zherdev – 90.8 – he’s getting snubbed on the 1st PP unit right now. Still he’s looking good to start the year. Probably won’t get the 40 goals that we all know he’s capable of, but watch his line mates early on. He could surprised quite a few people now that he’s free from Hitchcock’s defensive system.

D – Jay Bouwmeester – 84.3 – contract year for the talented rearguard. I’m expecting good things even with McCabe out. 15 goals and 50 point is where I have him at. Pending on how the Panthers hold up early, I’d follow his progress carefully.

D – Sheldon Sourray – 89.5 – could be the fantasy equivalent of Zdeno Chara or Kevin Bieska. I don’t believe his slow stride is designed for the uptempo system of the Oilers but on that PP, he’ll create havoc for opposing penalty killers. Follow his status closely and be ready to sell on this all or nothing defensemen.

G – Dan Ellis – 80.4 – Chris Mason ring a bell? Pekka Rinne is nothing to scoff at. The Preds will miss Radulov a lot more than they are willing to let on. If they start to lose games early, I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull the plug on Ellis in favour of Rinne.

Late round flyers

C – Patrice Bergeron – 142.7 – looked real good in his first game back. I’m still considered about his concussion since these things tend not to flare up in the first couple of games back. He’s still a health risk so if he starts off hot for the first 20 games, I’d look to trade him in leagues of all formats.

LW – Jordan Staal – 152.0 – free from 3rd line duties, Staal is now on a line with Malkin. He’s fantasy impact this year won’t be that great, but a lot of fantasy owners are drooling at his upside. It’s contract year for Staal and you can bet Shero won’t give Staal the opportunity to rack up major points. It’s the only way the Pens can keep him. If somebody wants Staal at a premium price, let them have him.

RW – Maxim Afinogenov – 148.9 – another contract year forward. I don’t expect him to play the full 82 games, but I do expect him to be productive when he does suit up. Monitor his health status and enjoy this streaky forward’s stats this year.

D – Mark Streit – 123.0 – he won’t touch 60 points for a while, but he will still be a lock for 40+ points. Don’t let his value slip too far. If the Isles don’t click early on, try to pry him as a solid #3 defensivemen.

D – Ron Hainsey – 133.8 – he’s slated for the 2nd PP unit, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet. This former 1st rounder is just one nagging Schneider injury away from landing back onto the top man-advantage unit. Either way, he’s nowhere near as invaluable as his value right now.

G – Tim Thomas – 148.0 – yes, he’s unorthodox in his goalie stance and many are doubting him despite last year’s success, but I have all but written Manny Fernandez off. His starter position is as safe as some of the Tier 2 goalies right now. If the Bruins start off sluggish, don’t hesitate to try to bid for this guy.

Tony Huang has been a member of the Cafe since 2004. He finished 3rd in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League in 2007-2008 and is always looking for a competitive league to join. You can find Tony on the Cafe's forum, posting under the name Masarume.
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