For a variety of reasons, NHL draft position is not always the best indication of how valuable a player will be to fantasy hockey owners. Fantasy hockey, except in the most complex and enlightened formats, usually awards offensive ability first, while NHL teams often draft for other characteristics and abilities.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, for instance, didn't draft Luke Schenn at No. 5 for his offensive potential, meaning he'll likely be a roster filler at best in most fantasy leagues. Some extremely talented players are either overlooked or downgraded due to other factors, both internal and external in nature. For example, the draft positions of many European prospects were negatively affected this year by the lack of a transfer agreement between the IIHF and the NHL. Other considerations, like maturity issues or defensive liabilities, can also cause a draft-eligible player to fall down the draft list—but won't necessarily reduce his fantasy potential. And then, of course, sometimes the scouts just get things wrong. The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings are a perfect example. Henrik Zetterberg (drafted in the seventh round, 210th overall in 1999) and Pavel Datsyuk (sixth round, 171st overall in 1998) are two of the countless number of players who turned into super NHLers without being highly regarded by the scouting fraternity. So which of the players drafted in 2008 will turn into the most prized players for fantasy owners? Here's our Top 10:
1) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (First Overall)
Okay, sometimes they do get it right. Stamkos is the complete package with outstanding skating and shooting abilities and that extra level of elusiveness that only true superstars possess. Projects as a player who could score between 95-100 points a season when he reaches his peak.
2) Nikita Filatov, Columbus Blue Jackets (Sixth overall)
Probably the most talented player in this year's draft, Filatov is a technically-perfect skater with elite hands—and maybe one of the best backhands in hockey. A potential 50-goal scorer when he matures.
3) Cody Hodgson, Vancouver Canucks (10th overall)
With a package that includes heart, leadership, defensive awareness, and elite vision, Hodgson reminds many of Flyers' star Mike Richards. Expect similar production—meaning 80-85 points when he matures.
4) Mattias Tedenby, New Jersey Devils (24th Overall)
Maybe the best skater in the draft, Tedenby goes from idle to top gear as quickly as anyone in the game. His size (5'10”) definitely hurt his draft position, but the Swede has great hands and isn't afraid to work the corners to create chances. Could be the sleeper in this year's draft, with 35-goal and 85-point potential.
5) Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers (20th Overall)
The 10th defenseman chosen, but maybe the most offensively gifted, Del Zotto was born to quarterback an NHL powerplay. Blessed with confidence, elite passing ability, and a bullet-like wrister, MDZ is a good bet to hit 60 points when his maturity level catches up with his ability.
6) Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (Fourth Overall)
The 6'4”, 210-lb giant has first-rate passing and decision-making skills, but must improve his first step to be considered a great skater. He's developed a bit of mean streak after years of being considered a gentle giant. 55-60 points could be possible in a power-play tandem with Erik Johnson.
7) Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers (Third Overall)
What sets the smooth-skating Bogosian apart from others in his draft class is his passion for the game. Add to that a all-around offensive game and a ton of creativity, and you have a player capable of being a big-time fantasy contributor. Should reach 20-goal and 55-point levels when he peaks.
8) Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Second Overall)
Doughty has all the tools to be a number-one fantasy defenseman, including size, skating, ability and offensive awareness. Needs to improve his decision making—but will gets lots of opportunity to play with young Kings. Expect 50 to 55 points in the prime of his career.
9) Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers (22nd Overall)
Although small by NHL standards, Eberle has all the skills needed to be a elite goal scorer—competitiveness, a nose for the net, and a great wrist shot. A perfect fit for the up-and-coming Oilers, the Regina Pats' center has 40-goal potential if given an opportunity.
10) Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes (Eighth Overall)
A great skater with explosive acceleration, Boedker is an elite passer who loves to quarterback the power play from his wing position. His combination of skills make him a good bet for 30 goals and 80 points in the not-too-distant future.