Your True Fantasy Hockey Preview (Complete with Rules and Rankings)

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Your True Fantasy Hockey Preview (Complete with Rules and Rankings)
(Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

I should start off by stating why you should even remotely attempt to consider the opinion of a guy that's never posted a piece of fantasy news or information on this site.

First and foremost, I have been playing Fantasy Hockey for over a decade now.  I remember my first few drafts, awaiting Yahoo's autopick to do it's thing.  Why I had to wait for what felt like a week to have my team was beyond me at that point.

Of course, I quickly grew in to live, online drafts and well, the rest is history.  But before I give my own personal rankings (which I have done for each and every position), I'd like to share a few rules that I have for drafting a good team. 

Call it: "Hockey's 10 Commandments."  You might like these rules or you might disagree with them entirely.  But I have found that, when followed, these rules generally help me to a good season:

  1. THE KOVALCHUK RULE:  That's what it's called this year because Ilya Kovalchuk is in a contract year.  In other words:  Do a quick check on which players contract's might be coming up at the end of the season.  There are few great sites for this but NHLnumbers is the best.
  2. THE FLEURY RULE:  Okay sure, he's currently trying to mount a comeback with the Flames, but do you remember his magical '01-'02 season when he had over 60 points and over 200 penalty minutes?  Power forwards are the bread and butter of fantasy drafts and they're not at all easy to come by.
  3. THE ZHERDEV RULE:  Know your wacky facts.  Here's a fact:  Nikolai Zherdev is ranked in Yahoo's top 100 this season, but guess what?  He's not playing in the NHL this year.  Injuries also fall under this category.  Marian Hossa is missing the first two months of the season and Phil Kessel is missing the first month.
  4. THE DAZE RULE:  I drafted Eric Daze in the 2nd round of my '02-'03 draft partially because he had a 70 point season the year before, but mostly because he was on my hometown Blackhawks.  It was a reach and a dumb one at that.  If your team stinks, limit yourself to one of their best players.  If they're good, limit yourself to two.  Oh, and don't reach!
  5. THE LEMAIRE RULE:  This might be going a bit deep for some, but if a team has a new coach this year, you might want to at least attempt to find out how that new coach might impact players fantasy value.  I'm downgraded all Devils this year because they now have Jaques Lemaire, the most defensive minded coach in the history of the universe.  Also of note:  Dave Tippett just took over for The Great One in Phoenix.  He will be a better coach by far, so perhaps Shane Doan moves up a notch.
  6. THE BRODEUR RULE:  Get a top 5 goalie if you can.  I have mine listed here, but feel free to make your own list if you disagree.  As you may or may not know, goalies are small in number on your team, but they contribute to many stat categories.  Thus, it makes sense to have some good ones, right?
  7. THE STREIT RULE:  I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  You don't need to have a top tier defensemen.  The top ten on my list?  Forget about them.  Get two or three mid-tier defensemen and you'll be fine.  Use those higher picks on solid offensive contributors and power forwards.  Most defensemen are only good for plus/minus, assists and penalty minutes.
  8. THE ALLISON-O'NEILL RULE:  Several years ago, I decided that I simply had to have Jeff O'Neill and Jason Allison on my team.  I was convinced that they were in line for huge seasons and I paid through the nose to get them.  The rule here?  Don't get attached to players.  Once you do, other good GMs will recognize this and they'll make you overpay.
  9. THE GABORIK RULE:  This one is simple.  I don't care how fantastic a player is when he's healthy.  If he routinely misses 20 or more games per season, he's not worth having on your team.  Let someone else have him.  They'll brag about what a steal they got in the draft, right up until the point where the dreaded groin injury or hamstring pull occurs.
  10. THE CHEECHOO RULE:  Also simple... Be weary of one year     wonders.  If you look in the top 20 and you see someone that had a breakout season the year before, devalue them ever so slightly.  Go for the guy that's been performing year in and year out that's still in his prime.  In baseball, you might call this the Josh Hamilton rule or the Adrian Beltre rule.  Sure, Jonathan Cheechoo looked like a world beater back in 05-06.  93 points!  He followed that season up with point totals in the 60's and 30's in the following two years.    

 

Alright, so now that you have a few ideas on what and what not to do in your draft, let's take a look at whom you might want draft.  I've been researching for my own fantasy drafts this year and I noticed a few glaring issues with several websites when it comes to fantasy analysis.

Maybe they're too busy talking about football or baseball or...Football, but ESPN and their wacky scoring system have some of the ugliest rankings I've ever seen.  If you have Miikka Kiprusoff ranked as your 42nd goalie on your cheat sheet, slap yourself, then move him up into the top 10 (at least!).

Also, it might come as a surprise to some, but ESPN tends to be a little bias toward the east coast in general.  I can only assume that's why they have Tim Thomas ranked as the best goalie ahead of perrenial stalwarts like Roberto Luongo and the 18th ranked Evgeni Nabokov.

Really ESPN?  Thomas at 4th overall?  Chara at 7th?  Dennis freakin Wideman at 20th overall?!  It's alright, that's his middle name.  I don't care if Time on Ice is a category (for some strange reason), you don't rank Dennis Wideman in the top 20.  You just don't.   

As for TSN's rankings, well, they're far more accurate than ESPN's in general, but they still seem to lean a bit toward the Canadian team spectrum.  I agree that Jason Spezza is a great player, but good enough to be ranked as the 12 best projected scorer this year?  No Heatley, and only 73 points last year.  It's possible, but also a bit bold.  TSN is the best at ranking players, but there are still a few odd picks here and there.

As for Yahoo.  Oh my poor, beleaeuered Yahoo.  What is Matt Romig doing to you?  Dan Boyle is ranked 38th while Niklas Lidstrom, the best defensemen in fantasy for the last 843 years is ranked 65 overall?  Sergei Gonchar is injured for one season and he ends up ranked 273? 

Marian "The Groin" Gaborik has only played more than 70 games once in the last five years, yet he's still ranked in the top 20 after playing 17 games last year? 

So instead of screaming at Yahoo or ESPN or TSN that their rankings need to be updated and improved, I have decided to make my own lists.  In my first article, I will focus on the top 30 players at each position.  Why only 30 defensemen, when most leagues start four at the position?  Because after the top 30, okay, really after the top 10, most of them are interchangeable, that's why.  So without further babbling:

CENTER TIER 1 [ANY OF THESE GUYS WOULD BE A GREAT TOP LINER]

  1. Evgeni Malkin [Another fantastic year, great in EVERY category]
  2. Sidney Crosby [Barely edges out Getzlaf.  Yes, it's that close.]
  3. Ryan Getzlaf [Over 90 points, 120 PIMs and 200 shots last year]
  4. Pavel Datsyuk [Another year, another 97 points, bank on him]
  5. Joe Thornton [86 pts a down year?  Jumbo will be back around 100 again]
  6. Marc Savard [Always underrated, yet always performs well]
  7. Jeff Carter [Goals, shots and plus minus were fantastic last year]
  8. Nicklas Backstrom [Shots, goals a bit lacking, but he's still very young]
  9. Vincent Lecavalier [Big drop in points, but new line should help rebound] 
  10. Henrik Zetterberg [Dropped a little in points last year, but he'll rebound]
  11. Eric Staal [Only Ovechkin consistently shoots more]
  12. Mike Richards [Proved breakout 07 wasn't a fluke, potential for more?]

CENTER TIER 2 [SOLID 2ND LINE CENTERS FOR YOUR SQUAD]

  1. Jason Spezza [73 points wasn't great, plus he loses Heatley]
  2. Anze Kopitar [On a line with Smyth-Brown, consistent 70+ pt player]
  3. Jonathan Toews [Started slow last year, still has elite level skill]
  4. Henrik Sedin [Daniel's creepy brother is an excellent source for assists]
  5. Mike Ribeiro [Put up surprisngly solid numbers last year, great on assists]
  6. Olli Jokinen [Great, he's playing with Iginla, but who's his 3rd?]
  7. Derek Roy [Centers the one line worth owning in Buffalo]
  8. Paul Stastny [very good player on a team that will be absolutely brutal]

CENTER TIER 3 [GREAT OPTIONS FOR THOSE WITH 2 CENTERS ALREADY]

  1. Derick Brassard [Very tempted to bump him up to 2nd tier]
  2. Mikko Koivu [no more Lemaire means no more stifling offensive system]
  3. Jason Arnott [The steady veteran is the definition of a no frills pick]
  4. Chris Drury [gets Naslund and at least a week or two of Gaborik]
  5. Brad Richards [always good for 60 pts or more, just watch his +/-]
  6. David Krejci [blooming assist guy great for +/-, watch for injury status]
  7. Steven Stamkos [the hype is gone, solid 2nd half a good indication]
  8. Scott Gomez [the Mini-Me line will be solid, but he's not top 20]
  9. Michael Frolik [came on late last year, potential breakout for sure]
  10. Danny Briere [draft him hoping for 70-80 pts but expect 50-60]

Analysis:  As always, center is the deepest position this year, as pretty much everyone will end up with at least one good center or a few solid ones.  The top tier is rather huge because, well, look at the names!

As far as rankings go, Yahoo is ranking Joe Thornton way too low at 41.  With Dany Heatley now on the Sharks and possibly on his line, he's a safe bet to return to 100 point caliber status. 

Also, you don't rank 78 points outside the overall top 100, but Yahoo has done just that with Mike Ribiero.  C'mon, he's the best point producer on the Stars AND he put up better stats than Spezza, who ranks exactly 70 points higher.

Yahoo loves Michael Frolik and while I like him, there's no logical reason why I'd rank him higher than Anze Kopitar, Steven Stamkos or especially Henrik Sedin.  Daniel's creepy twin brother is still a lock for 70+ points and very solid assist numbers. 

Also note that Yahoo currently has Paul Statsny ranked 201.  Yes, the Av's will be gunning for a top 5 pick again this year, but having the Av's best wings on his line should help his individual stats.  Last year he was ranked in the overall top 50 and I believe he'll be there again by season's end.

Look for Steven Stamkos to have a better than expected season in Tampa.  John Tavares probably should've made my top 30, but when you look at the names for center, I would simply rather go with more established names.  I'd still draft him, but the Isles are going to be brutal this year.

LEFT WING TIER 1 [YES, HE GETS HIS OWN TIER]

  1. Alex Ovechkin [League leader in goals, powerplay points and shots by far]

LEFT WING TIER 2 [SCORERS EVERYWHERE]

  1. Ilya Kovalchuk [Ovie Light a great goal scorer that shoots a ton]
  2. Dany Heatley [Possible Heater-Jumbo-Setoguchi line would be fantastic]
  3. Rick Nash [check his eligibility, he's top 5 at LW or RW wing either way]
  4. Daniel Sedin [Henrik's creepy brother always good for nearly 80 pts]
  5. Patrick Marleau [bounce back year last season more the norm for him]
  6. Thomas Vanek [Fantastic start lead to 40 goal season]
  7. Zach Parise [Lemaire won't kill his value, but he'll definitely hurt it]
  8. Simon Gagne [Health always a concern, but very solid when healthy]
  9. Brendan Morrow [He's a top 60 player when healthy, great pts and PIMs]
  10. Patrick Elias [Highly talented, no more Hepititus talk, still a solid player] 

LEFT WING TIER 3 [THE POWER FORWARD TIER]

  1. Alex Burrows [Played 30 gms with Sedins last year, in competition now]
  2. Scott Hartnell [The endangered power forward in it's natural habitat]
  3. Paul Kariya [Getting older, but full season might pay dividends]
  4. Alex Tanguay [Tier 2 caliber if he's healthy, on line with Vinny-Marty]
  5. Milan Michalek [If they put him on a line with Spezza-Alfredsson...]
  6. Milan Lucic [Another solid power forward, only he has upside]
  7. Ryan Smyth [Going out on a limb, but love a line with him-Kopitar-Brown]
  8. Daniel Carcillo [Need penalty minutes?  He wins the category for people]
  9. David Booth [Already having a solid preseason, he's in line to breakout]
  10. Alex Frolov [The most boring 60+ points you'll ever get.]
  11. Chris Kunitz [He'll keep feeding off of Pitts top talent]

LEFT WING TIER 4 [STILL SOME DECENT OPTIONS THIS LATE?]

  1. Johan Franzen [Typical average numbers, see Frolov, Alex]
  2. Loui Eriksson [60 point potential, but not much more than that]
  3. Steve Ott [40 point upside with penalty minutes to spare]
  4. Ray Whitney [Also getting older, but highly consistent]
  5. Patrick O'Sullivan [This is the year he breaks out.  Right?  RIGHT??]
  6. Jason Blake [On a line with Grabovski and Kessel?  Not bad for this spot]
  7. Slava Kozlov [Contract year, but wants to keep playing]
  8. David Perron [One of the many that stepped up for St. Louis last year]

Analysis:  Yes, Ovechin gets his own tier.  If you don't like it, go watch a Caps game and then disagree with me.  As for Parise getting ranked so low, I really believe that Jaques Lemaire will harm the value of Jersey's best. 

The Left Wing position is surprisingly deep this year.  Usually it's a bit hard to find a good left wing after the top four or five go, but this year you'll find 20+ in the top 100.

Yahoo has Brendan Morrow ranked 138, but he's way better than that ranking.  Also note that Rick Nash is still listed on Yahoo as a left wing, though he's actually a right wing now and is listed as such in TSNs rankings.  As a left wing or right wing, he's easily one of the top five best. 

Michael Cammalleri also falls into this issue.  Left wing on Yahoo is right wing on TSN.  Cammalleri gained LW-C-RW eligibility last year in Yahoo, so hopefully that might happen again this year.  If Cammalleri is a left wing in your league, I'd rank him behind Parise, but ahead of Gagne.

RIGHT WING TIER 1 [YOU HAVE TO GRAB AT LEAST ONE OF THESE GUYS IF NOT 2]

  1. Jarome Iginla [Like you didn't already know]
  2. Corey Perry [The newly crowned king of the power forwards will be solid]
  3. Martin St. Louis [It's the ebb portion of his ebb and flow career]
  4. Alexander Semin [You'll pay a premium, but he's worth it]
  5. Patrick Kane [Solid line mates plus high level skill]
  6. Daniel Alfredsson [Down year and getting older, but still good]
  7. Mike Cammalleri [Check his elibibility, decent line = 70 point potential]
  8. Bobby Ryan [Underranked? Only because I like everyone else here more]
  9. Devin Setoguchi [If paired with Heatley-Thornton, 80 pts possible]
  10. Dustin Brown [Solid linemates and a great shot source]

RIGHT WING TIER 2 [POLISH THEM OFF AND THEY'RE GOOD AS NEW]

  1. Marian Gaborik [Elite talent, but groin already acting up]
  2. Alex Kovalev [On again-off again talent is great, but who are his mates?]
  3. Mike Knuble [Drop him ten spots if he's not on Ovechkin's line]
  4. Shane Doan [Solid potential with Tippett as coach, no linemates though]
  5. Teemu Selanne [He could be elite, or he could play like his age]
  6. Martin Havlat [Healthy year last season for first in a LONG time]
  7. David Backes [40+ points and 120+ PIM okay by me]
  8. Jason Pominville [Hopefull stays on line with Vanek-Roy]
  9. Ales Hemsky [Consistent assist getter still needing better linemates]
  10. Marian Hossa [Obviously a top 10 overall talent, out for 2 months]   

RIGHT WING TIER 3 [SOME DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH]

  1. Bill Guerin [Still good, but for how much longer?]
  2. Brian Little [Should be on Kovalchuk's line for a full season this year]
  3. Nik Antropov [If he's on a line with Kovalchuk-Little, he'll be solid]
  4. Nathan Horton [Consistently midlevel player also has C elig on Yahoo]
  5. Milan Hejduk [Should be better with a full seaon on Stastny's line]
  6. Patrick Sharp [A full season with Toews-Kane should bring #'s up]
  7. Ryan Kesler [Almost put Langebrunner here, but I still like RK's upside]
  8. Steve Sullivan [Injuries behind him, now back on Nashville's top line]
  9. Claude Giroux [Everyone's favorite sleeper has solid potential]
  10. Sean Avery [Makes up for 30 point potential with nearly 200 PIMs]

Analysis:  Right Wing is a surprisingly mixed bag this year.  On one hand, you have a pretty consistent group near the top from last year to this year.  No real surprises, but a few new faces in Perry, Ryan and Setoguchi.  But what's rather alarming is the complete lack of depth at the position.

Alfredsson, Kovalev and Selanne are still getting older, while Gaborik and Havlat haven't shown that they can stay healthy for more than one season in a row.  I know, Havlat's 2nd shoulder surgery is why he was able to play all of last year and it had nothing to do with him being in a contract year.  But I'm not 100% sold on that either.

I came very close to ranking Martin St. Louis ahead of Corey Perry, if only by the slimmest of margins.  Perry has the edge due to his penalty minutes, but on a line with Tanguay and Lecavalier, I think that St. Louis has a chance to edge out Anaheim's gritty forward.

A few notables that didnt make the top 30 for me would be Brad Boyes (sorry, but the guy is a plus/minus killer that gets almost no penalty minutes), Brian Rolston (I love his shots, but I really think he had the dreaded "fall off" season last year.  Langenbrunner is a solid player, but he also gets my Devils downgrade.

As for underrated players, Selanne and Hejduk should be better than their 104 and 106 rankings, if only by a little.  Hejduk will benefit from the return of Stastny to his line.  Same goes for Hemsky at 110 and Antropov at 118 in Yahoo.

JP Dumont, Brian Little and Claude Giroux own the criminally underrated category though.  Dumont is ranked 146 on Yahoo, while Little comes in at 173. Like Brassard, he's a VERY solid looking young player that missed time last season.  Giroux has a ton of potential, but due to his miniscule point total last year, Yahoo has seen fit to rank him 464. 

DEFENSE TIER 1 [THE SUPERSTARS OF THE WHO CARES POSITION]

  1. Mike Green [30+ goals/70+ pts:  Only Dman I care about in Rds 1-4]
  2. Nick Lidstrom [Perenially fantastic +/-, always near top in D pts]
  3. Dion Phaneuf [He has the PIMs and the shots, though pts were down]
  4. Zdeno Chara [Watch his groin injury, always source for shots, pims]
  5. Sheldon Souray [Always underrated, slight injury risk, watch +/-]
  6. Chris Pronger [Move to Philly might help already solid PIMs]
  7. Sergei Gonchar [High potential for solid rebound from injuries]
  8. Scott Neidermayer [Solid source of points, solid on powerplay]
  9. Dan Boyle [Good for assits, powerplay points and shots, watch health]
  10. Shea Weber [A defensemen that actually got 20 goals & 250+ shots!]
  11. Rob Blake [Still a great source for +/-, PIMs and shots even now]
  12. Andrei Markov [Another assist getting D man]
  13. Brian Rafalski [Great for assists and +/-, not much else]

DEFENSE TIER 2 [THE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN TIER]

  1. Brian Campbell [Hawks better hope he's better than last season]
  2. Mark Streit [It's a miracle his +/- wasn't horrendous last year]
  3. Jay Bouwmeester [All around decent, but great at no particular stat]
  4. Dennis Wideman [Solid points, fantastic +/- least year]
  5. Duncan Keith [ALWAYS a good source of +/-, needs to score more]
  6. Cam Barker [solid point potential along with decent PIMs]
  7. Ryan Whitney [Good source for points, but also needs to score more]
  8. James Wisniewski [The next tough guy on Neidermayer's line? Great PIMs]
  9. Ryan Suter [Possible breakout candidate very solid last year]
  10. Kevin Bieksa [midrange source for PIMs, assists, shots, powerplay pts]
  11. Erik Johnson [Former #1 overall pick still has huge potential]
  12. Kimmo Timonen [The powerplay anchor for a good Philly team]
  13. Tomas Kaberle [Down year, but still highly skilled]
  14. Mathieu Schneider [Walked into a great situation in Vancouver]
  15. Lubomir Visnovsky [Good, but not overly so at any particular category]
  16. Ed Jovanovski [Terrible +/- negated by shots and PIMs]
  17. Drew Doughty [Up and coming talent on up and coming team]

Analysis:  I loathe defensemen.  Not in real hockey, of course.  But in fantasy hockey, they're one step above kickers for me.  ESPN's fantasy expert will tell you that defensemen are incredibly important.  But why?

Sure, there are a few that are at the top year after year (and yes, it's a complete toss up between Lidstrom and Green this season, if Nick were a few years younger it'd be no contest).

But other than the top tier of players and that grouping of solid bruisers, all other defensemen are virtually interchangeable.  Sure, Campbell could be a top ten defensemen this upcoming year, or he could be outside the top 30.  Same goes for Wideman, who ESPN LOVES for some reason.  They have him ranked as the 20th OVERALL rated player. 

Yes, you read that right.  See why I wrote this article?  If you draft Dennis Wideman inside the first six or seven rounds based on ESPN hype, well, you get what you deserve, and it's certainly NOT what you paid for.

Yahoo has Rob Blake ranked a bit low at 147 and while I know he's older than dirt, the guy just gets it done year in and year out.  You can't argue with that, and I would've put him somewhere around 90. 

Andrei Markov could be a little better than 96, same goes for Timonen at 193.  Steve Montador nearly made my list due to his penalty minutes and is a solid value at a 194 ranking.   

Weber's too high at 49, but he did have a solid season last year and has the ability to be this year's Mike Green.  Still, I'd rather not pay such a high price to find out, especially when I could have Sheldon Souray later. 

Dion Phaneuf also falls into the "too rich for my blood" category.  He had a decent year, but nothing that says he should be ranked 18th overall while most players similar to him in stats and ability (most notably Chara and Pronger) are down in the 50's.    

If you're looking at your team and find that plus/minus is lacking, take a flier on Johnny Oduya.  He was plus 21 last year, plus 27 the year before and only going into his 3rd full season.  If I were making a list for next year, Oduya would be on it for sure.  Willie Mitchell also falls into the solid +/- camp, but doesn't have Oduya's upside.

If you're in a draft on Yahoo and you can't seem to find Sergei Gonchar, he's ranked 273.  You're welcome.

GOALTENDERS TIER 1 [THE MORTAL LOCKS?]

  1. Roberto Luongo [Neck and neck with Brodeur, but youth wins out]
  2. Henrik Lundqvist [Always good for the average stats]
  3. Evgeni Nabokov [Always steady, still youngish and on a great team]
  4. Nicklas Backstrom [TSN has him rated way too low and I can't see why]
  5. Martin Brodeur [Older and had health issues last year, watch out]

GOALTENDERS TIER 2 [THE SOLID STARTERS THAT DON'T MAKE THE TOP 5]

  1. Tim Thomas [Can a 35 year old really be this good?  Again?]
  2. Miikka Kiprusoff [Knock him down 3 spots if your league has no saves cat]
  3. Ryan Miller [Very solid in preseason has him bumped up a few spots]
  4. Marc-Andre Fleury [Watch for injuries, good goalie on a great team]
  5. Cam Ward [I just don't trust his on again-off again seasons]
  6. Tomas Vokoun [Loss of Jay-Bo hurts, but he's looking good in preseason]
  7. Steve Mason [Is he for real or is he Pascal Leclaire part 2?]
  8. Cristobal Huet [Finally gets to silence his critics, he'll thrive without Khabi]
  9. Pekka Rinne [ESPN loves him, but I'm not entirely sold just yet]
  10. Nikolai Khabibulin [Solid for Chicago last year, fairly mediocre before]

GOALTENDERS TIER 3 [I HOPE YOU ALREADY HAVE A HIGH END NETMINDER]

  1. Semyon Varlamov [In a dog fight with Theodore for top spot in WSH]
  2. Carey Price [Down year hopefully improves with reloaded Canadiens]
  3. Chris Mason [Put up shockingly good numbers after bad year in NSH]
  4. Pascal Leclaire [Solid preseason, could be a steal if he stays healthy]
  5. Ray Emery [Bruising team in front of him, could have comeback season]
  6. Marty Turco [Horrific start to season last few years now, avoid]
  7. Chris Osgood [Has to do MUCH better than his averages last season]
  8. Vesa Toskala [Working with goalie coach a plus, awesome D up front]
  9. Ilya Bryzgalov [Looked like a sleeper last year, this year, not so much]
  10. Mike Smith [Tampa's starter is still coming back after concussion]
  11. Jon Quick [LA's defense could be alot better this year, though young]
  12. Craig Anderson [Did he find his groove in Florida? Doesn't matter now]
  13. Jean Sebastian Giguere [Will split time with Hiller toopen season]
  14. Jonas Hiller [If one takes over as starter, that guy would shoot up ranks]
  15. Kari Lehtonen [Luongo in his FLA days? Doesn't matter, he's still in ATL]

Analysis:  Never am I more indecisive during a draft than the moment I pick my first goalie.  Forget Crosby or Ovechkin or Malkin, This is the anchor for your entire team.  Choose wisely and you'll have a great player that gathers quality numbers for almost half the stats in your league.  That's HUGE. 

Pick the wrong player, say Martin Brodeur last season, and it can tank your entire season.  Marty has been a year in/year out source for fantastic numbers, but when he went down with an injury last season, alot of fantasy teams went down with him.

So this year, I approach goalies with 2 rules:  1)  Always have three STARTERS on your team.  Take the guess work out of who's getting the nod.  Yes, Josh Harding will be a solid goalie for some team at some point, but as long as Backstrom is as good as he is in Minnesota, you'll never know when Harding's playing until it's too late. 

Rule number 2: This year, only 5 goalies are worth a high draft pick.  Those are the players that seem to do it year after year.  Though I hesitated to put Marty on this list, he's had a relatively healthy career thus far, so I'd be willing to put aside one off year, even at his age. 

After the top 5 though, anything goes.  Tim Thomas was a Vezina winner last season, but at 35, is he still destined for great things this season?  Kiprusoff is fantastic if you're in a league that has wins and saves as categories.  No goalie sees more shots and while those numbers might fall a bit with Bouwmeester trolling the blueline at the Technodrome (sorry, Saddledome), I'm thinking (okay hoping) his averages will rebound in kind. 

As far as rankings go, TSN has Nicklas Backstrom rated as the 15th best goalie.  If you take Semyon Varlamov, Jonas Hiller or well, anyone outside of the top four or five goalies ahead of Minnesota's dynamite netminder, you're insane. 

They also have Marty Turco at 18 (his Yahoo rank is 46th overall).  For me, that's WAY too high.  Turco destroyed fantasy teams last year, but for an entirely different reason than Brodeur. 

If Pascal Leclaire can follow up on his solid preseason, he could be a steal for fantasy GMs and at a ranking of 175, he's at least worth a flier as a 3rd goalie.  Same goes for Mike Smith at 189, Jon Quick at 161 and Chris Mason at 126.

I really think that Mason has the potential to be a top 15 or even top 10 goalie this year if his defense can stay healthy. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot my 3rd goaltender rule this year:  Avoid the Islanders goaltending situation at all costs during your draft.  Okay, say it's the last round and you already have 3 goalies and there's no one jumping out at you for offensive and defensive players.  Then and ONLY then are you to look up Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron or Rick DiPiertro. 

Not only will that team be horrendous this season, but if one of those goalies posts a sub 2.80 GAA with more than 15 wins I'll be shocked. 

Well, that's it for now.  I'll probably come back on with a sleeper/bust article, but I hope you enjoyed these rankings.  I hope they're relatively helpful.  Always remember to set your preranks on the off chance that your computer explodes minutes before you're set to begin.  Last rule:  Have some fun!  Hockey's almost here!

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