The NHL and NHLPA may be going back and forth in CBA negotiations, but that isn't stopping die-hard fans from plotting out their draft boards and scouting for the 2012-13 NHL season.
Fantasy hockey gives fans the opportunity to channel their "armchair owner" fantasies.
In fantasy hockey, through proper drafting, trading and scouting, it is possible to craft a winning team that features players like Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara and various others.
While it is not likely to have all of these stars on one team, there are a ton of players that you should draft this year. This slideshow will take a look at the top 51 players for fantasy hockey 2012-13.
Kris Letang battled through concussions during the 2011-12 season but still was able to put up a respectable 42 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-21.
Letang will be starting the year off healthy, so there is no reason why 2012-13 won't be a productive year for him in fantasy hockey. Letang's instincts and power play prowess will enable him to be explosive offensively.
He is a defenseman that has the potential to put up 50 points or more. With his solid plus-minus numbers, Letang is a defenseman to draft early.
Eric Staal is a player who had an off and on year and for that reason, many owners may be wary in drafting him.
One thing to consider is that Staal rebounded well during the second half of 2011-12 and his future for 2012-13 is promising considering that he will be joined by his brother Jordan.
Staal is a solid offensive player with a ton of skill, so the first part of last season should be looked at as a fluke if you're a fantasy owner.
While Staal may not be a first, second, third or fourth round pick, consider the fact that he will be joined by his brother Jordan, and the two are expected to be linemates.
Expect Eric to have a big year and if you can pick up Jordan as well, it would be a huge bonus.
Jason Spezza is a young center that has tenure in the league and he is starting to realize his potential. Spezza had a solid 2011-12 season, scored 34 goals and assisted on 50 others for 84 points.
His offense helped lead the Senators into the playoffs and it is likely that Spezza will repeat his success in 2012-13. Spezza will certainly serve any team well because of his goal and assist totals.
The Finnish Flash is getting up there in age, but that hasn't stopped him yet. Selanne scored 26 goals and assisted on 40 others for 66 points last season, and he is returning at age 42 for one more year.
Expect the Flash to be a solid contributor because if this is indeed his last season, he will want to go out with a huge bang.
Selanne is a solid second or third winger to have on your roster because he will score close to 25 goals or more.
Max Pacioretty scored 33 goals and assisted on 32 others for a total of 65 points in 2011-12 and there is no reason to think he can't surpass that total next season.
Pacioretty is a solid player who rebounded from an injury in a huge way last season and he was able to be a star for the Montreal Canadiens. Max Pax is a player who may go under the radar in most draft pools, but he is a player who could really pay off in the long run.
In a worst case scenario, Pacioretty could be traded to a team that needs secondary scoring—so you won't be stuck with him if he isn't working out.
Alex Ovechkin is one of the NHL's best players. It is true that he is coming off a down year in which he tallied 85 points but Ovechkin will bounce back this year.
Adam Oates is a more offensive minded coach who will run plays to help Ovechkin rack up power play points. When you look at the talents Ovi has and factor in the addition of Adam Oates, it would be wise to pick up Ovechkin if other owners pass on him.
Patrick Kane is a solid player whose numbers over the past years suggest that he is trending downward. Kane has been shifted between positions and that can explain his slight dip in production. However, in fantasy hockey, Kane is a player who will help with goals and overall points.
If you can pick up a few 65 to 70-point players, your team will be in good shape offensively. So Kane is definetley a player to consider adding if he is still available in later rounds.
Marc-Andre Fleury had a solid year between the pipes in 2011-12 and he remains one of the best goaltenders to pick up in fantasy hockey.
Fleury posted a record of 42-17-4 with a 2.36 GAA with four shutouts. He was sub-par in the postseason, but the addition of Tomas Vokoun should have a solid impact for Fleury and the Penguins and that is something to keep in mind when selecting starting goaltenders.
It is unlikely that Fleury will be the workhorse he has been in previous years, but he would be a solid No. 2 goalie to keep on the payroll.
Dustin Byfuglien is a defenseman who you could draft just for his offensive abilities. Byfuglien was second in scoring among defenseman with 53 points on a Winnipeg Jets team that didn't generate much offense.
Adding a 50-plus point defender to your blueline is a win-win in fantasy hockey and Byfuglien should remain available late in the draft.
Pekka Rinne led the NHL in wins with 43 and also posted a solid 2.39 GAA and recorded five shutouts during the 2011-12 season. He is a superstar netminder, and he should have no problem duplicating this success.
Rinne was one of the top point-getting goaltenders in 2011-12 because of his dominance in the major statistical goaltending categories.
Personally, I was able to have Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes last season and it was a huge gamble that paid off.
Patrick Sharp is an amazing player to have for fantasy hockey because of his versatility. Sharp is a dual winger/center for most leagues and that not only makes him a huge asset to the 'Hawks, but it makes him an asset to your fantasy team.
He has always been a two-way threat because of his lethal hands and shot, but Sharp kicked it into another gear this past year. He improved from a plus-minus rating of minus-one to finishing 11-12 with a plus-28 rating.
This turnaround makes Sharp one of the league's most complete fantasy hockey players.
Zach Parise is going to enter next season on a new team and he is going to look for a fresh start. He is a solid two-way fantasy hockey player and he will rack up points for offensive and defensive categories.
Parise will likely be paired with Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu off the bat, and that could be a pretty solid threesome.
He is a talented all-around player who will score 30 goals and should hit 75 points or more given his linemates.
Brad Richards trended slightly down in 2011-12 but it is understandable why. For most of the year, Rangers' bench boss John Tortorella shifted his former Tampa Bay Lightning pivot between multiple combinations of wingers.
However, when Tortorella allowed Richards to remain with linemates Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin longterm, Richards proved his worth. Richards was second in total points during the month of March with 22 and Gaborik was third with 21 points.
When you consider the fact that Richards is acclimated to Tortorella's new system and that he will be joined by Rick Nash, you can bank on Richards having a big 2012-13 year in fantasy hockey.
Kevin Shattenkirk should have a solid season in 2012-13 because he has continually grown over the past few seasons. Last year, Shattenkirk was a plus-20, scored nine goals and assisted on 34 others for 43 total points of offense.
He is a solid all-around defenseman that will give you stability, consistency and an offensive punch for your blue line.
This past season, Joe Thornton scored 18 goals and assisted on 59 goals and put up 77 points. Thornton was also a plus-17 while taking only 31 penalty minutes.
This is important to keep in mind because most fantasy owners pick up a center for offense and a center who will be solid in defensive stats and intangible stats like penalty minutes.
Thornton would be a solid pivot to have and he is a quality secondary scorer to add for your team in a second or third center capacity.
Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe trophy for his valiant run in the playoffs and finished second in the Vezina voting.
Quick posted an impressive stat line of 35-21-13 with an absurd GAA of 1.95 and 10 shutouts. Quick had an amazing season and was one of the league's best goalies and he will be one of the NHL's top fantasy hockey goaltenders in 2012-13.
Quick is good for 30 wins or more and his other stats will be good enough to put him in line with the league leaders.
Erik Karlsson had an outstanding 76-point 2011-12 season. Karlsson's game is high octane and he will be able to provide some solid offensive numbers in fantasy hockey.
Karlsson's offensive numbers will be good enough that he can serve as an extra forward in your overall projections so draft him as soon as possible.
It is fair to expect 50-70 points from Karlsson and a mid range plus-minus rating.
Alex Edler is one of the rising offensive defenseman stars in the NHL, and he will surely benefit from having Jason Garrison on the team. The two will likely be paired on the power play so there is a good chance that Edler's production could increase.
Edler is offensive-minded and scored 11 goals and assisted on 38 others for a total of 49 points. If he is paired with Garrison, there is a good chance Edler could hit the 50-point plateau next season.
Alex Pietrangelo had a great season for the St. Louis Blues. He was an offensive force and racked up 13 goals and 39 assists for a total of 52 points and a plus-rating of plus-16.
He is a cornerstone of the Blues' current blue line, and he will likely replicate his performance next season. So pick up Pietrangelo for his offensive abilities.
Pietrangelo is a defender who will go early in your pool, so don't sleep on him when his name is still available on the board.
John Tavares is a player who will take the next step in 2012-13. 2011-12 was a huge step in the right direction for Tavares, but 2012-13 will be even better for him and he should be one of the league's top fantasy players.
Tavares' 81 points and 51 assists are something that should grab your attention because he is a star that is on the rise.
Marian Hossa had a solid season for the Chicago Blackhawks and he should make a healthy return during the 2012-13 campaign,
Hossa had 78 points last season and finished with a plus-rating of plus-18. He is a high-octane winger who will score a lot of goals—something that is always needed on a successful fantasy hockey team.
Hossa will look to come back with a vengeance next season after his 2011-12 season was cut short.
Ilya Kovalchuk led the New Jersey Devils with 83 points during the 2011-12 season. Kovy scored 37 goals and had a solid postseason.
He has the ability to return to his 50-goal potential, but he will need to come out with a booming start next season. Kovalchuk's recent history suggests that he will put up a lot of points in fantasy and he is a good player to have if your league keeps track of power play points.
Joffrey Lupul had a solid 2011-12 season and is a player that you should really pick up for your fantasy league.
If he can stay healthy, he could be a 30-goal scorer and an 80-point player in the NHL. But for fantasy hockey purposes, Lupul is a player who could be a real steal depending on the depth of your league.
Either way, Lupul is bound to score 20 goals or more. At the very least he is a solid secondary scorer who has boom potential.
Tyler Seguin is one of the youngest and most talented centers in the game today. He has grown so much as a player in such a short amount of time.
Seguin took a big leap for the Bruins and posted a stat line highlighted by 29 goals, 38 assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-34 in 2011-12, and there is no reason why Seguin can't be a 30-45-75 player next season.
Don't make the mistake of not drafting Seguin or trading him early like I did last season.
Scott Hartnell found lightning in a bottle alongside Claude Giroux during the 2011-12 season. He is a player who could go early on in drafts because of his physical play, penalty minutes and his offensive side.
Hartnell should have no problem duplicating his performance from last season as long as he is paired with Giroux. The Flyers just signed Hartnell to a six-year extension; expect him to do his best so he can reward management for their investment.
Mike Smith finished fourth in the Vezina voting this year and he was one of the NHL's best netminders in 2011-12.
Smith took a big step in the right direction and if you look at his stat line, he is a goaltender who you want to have on your fantasy hockey team.
He posted a record of 38-18-10 with a 2.21 GAA and eight shutouts in 2011-12 and you can expect him to win at least 30 next season.
James Neal emerged in a big way for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2011-12 campaign. Neal finished fourth in goal scoring with 40 goals and he also added 41 assists to his name for a grand total of 81 points.
Neal will likely remain Evgeni Malkin's linemate next season, so expect the duo to have repeat success in the NHL and in fantasy pools for owners every where.
Injuries and rehab from surgery limited Pavel Datsyuk's 2011-12 season, so he will come out like a man with a mission during the 2012-13 campaign.
Datsyuk is one of the NHL's top two-way forwards so he puts up points in both offensive and defensive categories for fantasy hockey purposes.
He is definitely a player that will go early in the first round.
Steven Stamkos is a bonafide No. 1 to No. 3 pick in almost every fantasy hockey pool in the world and it is easy to understand why.
The Tampa Bay Lightning rod scored 60 goals last season and he is going to be a top offensive threat again next season.
In 82 games, Stamkos finished with 97 points and there is no reason to think that he wont replicate that performance next season.
Patrice Bergeron had a standout season for the Boston Bruins, and he captured the Frank J. Selke trophy at the 2012 NHL Awards ceremony.
It is safe to say that he will be one of fantasy hockey's top two-way players in 2012-13.
Bergeron's most memorable stat was his league leading plus-minus rating of plus-36 and he also tallied 64 points.
Expect big things out of Bergeron for the 2012-13 season and draft him early.
Marian Gaborik rebounded in a huge way for the Broadway Blueshirts this past season. Gaborik was third in the NHL with 41 goals and finished with 76 points.
He is expected to miss the first month of the season but that shouldn't hinder his overall stats. After all, Gaborik has been known to go on a scoring tear late in the year.
Gaborik had an explosive March and was third in the NHL with 21 points that month. He should be a late round pick that has an upside for your fantasy hockey league.
Shea Weber is arguably the NHL's best defenseman, and losing Ryan Suter won't have as big of an impact as you think. Weber will still be the offensive juggernaut with a booming shot and will still pile up hits and other defensive stats for fantasy hockey.
He is often one of the first defenseman drafted because he has a great shot, is sound defensively and is a very physical player who can be a total game changer.
Weber should be a 50-point player in 2012-13, so don't hesitate in drafting him.
Jordan Eberle was one of the best sleeper picks in all of fantasy hockey in 2011-12. He really had an explosive year and his production was very unexpected. Eberle scored 34 goals and assisted on 42 others for a solid 76-point season in 2011-12.
Eberle is still so young and so talented that it is safe to assume that he will replicate his performance next year. At the very least he will be a top or second tier winger on your fantasy team and will likely fly under the radar.
Zdeno Chara is one of the league's best defensemen, and that showed this past season. Chara finished the season with 12 goals, 40 assists, 52 points and a plus-rating of plus-33.
Chara just continues to get better with age, and his consistency is something that will benefit the Bruins. From a fantasy standpoint, Chara will provide offense, hits, plus-minus and other defensive stats. He really is the complete package.
Jonathan Toews was a point-per-game player during his shortened 2011-12 campaign and he would have probably finished with close to 90 points. In 2012-13, you can expect him to continue his superb play considering that he was symptom free during the postseason.
Toews is an elite two-way player so he will also contribute to defensive stats like plus-minus. Overall, Toews projects as an early pick in your fantasy draft.
Henrik Lundqvist will likely be the No. 1 or No. 2 drafted goalie in fantasy hockey 2012-13 because of his amazing 2011-12 season.
"King Henrik" captured his first Vezina Trophy after going 39-18-5 with a 1.97 GAA and a total of eight shutouts. Lundqvist is always near the top of the charts for goaltending league leaders so he will earn you a lot of points in fantasy hockey.
Lundqvist will also have a deeper and more mature defense core surrounding him, so he will benefit from the result of that.
Evgeni Malkin is going to be one of the top picks for fantasy hockey in 2012-13 because he is an amazing all-around player who scores a ton of points.
Malkin captured the Art Ross, Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies at the NHL Awards this year and that should be enough to show that he is one of the NHL's elite players.
Malkin scored an amazing 109 points in 75 games. Imagine what he can do for your fantasy team if he plays in all 82 games.
Phil Kessel scored 83 points last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is a top goal scorer who is hot and cold; timing is important when it comes to trading and drafting Kessel.
He is the type of player you can draft and hold onto while he is hot, and then you can trade him if he starts to get streaky.
Henrik Sedin finished with 17 goals, 67 assists and 84 points with a plus-minus rating of plus-23 in 2011-12. It was down from his 2010-11 campaign but it still allowed fantasy owners to rack up tons of points.
Sedin will help you pick up points in both offensive and defensive categories so adding Henrik to your fantasy team is a win-win proposition that will pay huge dividends.
Claude Giroux could become the league's next big star because of his explosive abilities.
Giroux had a monster year in which he scored 28 goals and assisted on 65 others for 93 points. These numbers really will help in fantasy hockey and he is likely to be one of the first overall picks in any draft.
If you decide to start a keeper league, Giroux is a player you could hold onto for many years to come.
The "Nuge" was a rookie many owners drafted in fantasy hockey last year and it is a move that should be replicated this season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would have likely captured the Calder Trophy if he stayed healthy for a full season. However, what he was able to accomplish in 62 games was impressive. RNH tallied 18 goals, added 34 markers and ended up with 52 total points.
It shouldn't be out of RNH's abilities to hit the 70-point plateau this season.
Henrik Zetterberg has a solid season in which he recorded 69 points and a rating of plus-14. Zetterberg is a player who is vital to the Red Wings, and his offense came in handy for Detroit this season.
He is considered a top player to have in fantasy hockey because in most leagues Zetterberg can be lined up as a winger and a center.
It is easy to look at Rick Nash's salary and line it up with his overall statistics and form the conclusion that he is overrated and overpaid. However, it is lost in the mist that he was the Columbus Blue Jackets and if you shut Nash down, you shut the Blue Jackets down.
Nash has never played with a legitimate No. 1 center and he still was able to record seven 30-goal seasons and two 40-goal seasons.
In New York, Nash will be surrounded by complimentary players so it is safe to draft Nash early in your fantasy hockey league because he is primed to have a killer year.
Bobby Ryan is a perennial 30-goal scorer who has constantly gotten better with age. He is a young and talented winger who has a good blend of speed, size and a goal scoring accumen.
Ryan is likely to hit the 70-point mark and he will score at least 30 goals. Ryan is a player that other owners may sleep on so pick him up when it makes sense in your fantasy league.
Corey Perry is another Anaheim Ducks forward who should be picked up in fantasy hockey. He will help you score in offensive categories and he will also help you pick up points if your counting penalty minutes.
Perry had 37 goals and 23 assists for a total of 60 points last season.
Perry is a year removed from a 50-goal campaign so don't be surprised if he has an explosive 2012-13 season.
Anze Kopitar was a star for the Los Angeles Kings all year long and he would have been worthy of the Conn Smythe because of his playoff excellence.
During the regular season, Kopitar scored 25 goals and assisted on 51 others for a grand total of 76 points during the 2011-12 campaign.
Kopitar is a player trending up so don't be surprised if he is drafted early in your fantasy hockey pool.
David Backes is a player that not many individuals would consider drafting but he can earn you a lot of points. Backes scored 24 goals and assisted on 30 others for 54 points. He also had a plus-minus rating of plus-15 and he racked up 17 power play points.
Backes will earn points in many different categories and the aggregate result will be a favorable one.
Nicklas Backstrom is a center who will fall down the charts for owners who draft by purely offensive instincts. Backstrom was injured last season and didn't play in all 82 games so many draft owners may forget about him. In 42 games, Backstrom racked up 14 goals, 30 assists and 44 points, though.
Backstrom also racked up 19 power play points and that is an interesting statistic to keep track of. If you draft wisely, you can pick up a top-10 center in Backstrom very late in your draft.
Jimmy Howard was on pace to run away with the Vezina trophy before he went down with an injury. Despite his shortened season, Howard finished with a record of 35-17-6 with four shutouts and a 2.12 GAA in 57 games.
Howard is a goalie you can depend on and he is a solid pickup as a No. 1 or No. 2 goalie.
Cory Schneider is set to inherit the starting job in Vancouver and he should have a big year in net. Schneider went 20-8-1 with a 1.96 GAA and three shutouts in 33 appearances last season.
These numbers suggest that with more starts, it is likely that Schneider will win 30 games and 40 wins is within reach. He is a goaltender with a ton of potential and one that you should pickup to be your No. 2 goaltender.
Sidney Crosby spent most of the 2011-12 season injured but he was still able to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with. Crosby is an individual who has undeniable talent and a set of skills that make him one of the league's most dominant players.
He will be drafted in the top 10 for fantasy hockey because there will be owners who are wary of Crosby because of his past injuries.
Crosby is a generational player who has done amazing things statistically in such a short time, so if he remains healthy for an 82-game schedule, he could make some serious noise for the Penguins and any fantasy owner in 2012-13.