Unplucked Sports is counting down the top performing players of the 2009-10 season. The home stretch of a great season provides an opportunity to look back at the difference makers for not only their team, but the balance of play in the league. Here’s a list top five players who play a wing as their primary position.
No. 5 - Dany Heatley: Heatley was the center of much attention prior to the current season. He wasn’t happy with his role with the Ottawa Senators and was publicly vocal with his displeasure. Senators’ GM Brian Murray worked out a possible deal with Edmonton only to have Heatley deny the movement.
He ended up with the San Jose Sharks and has posted 37 goals and 37 assists thus far. Seventeen of his goals have come with the man advantage, highlighting his impact with the Sharks powerplay. He also has five game-winning goals on the season.
No. 4 - Patrick Kane: The Blackhawks are a constant threat to any opponent and, aside from their recent struggles, are odds-on favorite to win the Western Conference. A big reason is the top line flanked by the 21-year old Kane on the right wing.
Kane, who also faced some bad press in the offseason, has registered 80 points in 71 games with a +/- differential of +18. He and fellow youngster Jonathan Towes each signed 6-year extensions this season and both will be solid contributors to the ‘Hawks and your fantasy pool for years to come.
No. 3 Zach Parise – Last season, Parise put up 94 points and everyone had high expectation for him this season. While he has chipped in 33 goals and 70 points in 70 games, he pace is down a bit from last year. He dealt with an upper-body injury right before the Olympic break with clearly impacted his performance.
When draft day comes next year, remember that his breakout season in 2008-09 was a huge improvement from the 65 points he put up in 2007-08. Even so, a realistic expectation is somewhere between 75-85 points for next season.
No. 2 Alex Semin – The Washington Capitals have an incredibly potent offense led by some of the hottest stars in the league. Naturally, playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom significantly raises Semin’s numbers. The Caps are certainly playoff bound and will likely meet the Blackhawks in the finals.
Semin dealt with some injuries last season that limited him to only 62 games. Still, he ended the season with 34 goals and 45 assists. The fact that he’s dealt with many injuries over his short career is one possible reason why GM George McPhee only signed Semin to a one-year extension. The other side is Semin is commanding larger paychecks each season and the Caps may feel they can invest more prudently.
No. 1 Alex Ovechkin – Ovechkin is not only the top performer in this category, but is hands-down the best player in the league. Arguments can be made to the contrary regarding his sometimes high-impact style on the ice, but the numbers don’t lie.
Ovechkin is currently on pace to reach the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in five NHL seasons. As mentioned previously, Ovechkin’s linemates are not only benefactors but contributors to Alexander the Great’s dominance on the scoresheet.
Ovechkin was named team captain this season, which curiously considered with a slight dip in production. While it’s purely speculation, one can’t help but wonder what type of impact the captaincy will play in his development as a player. For anyone involved with anything resembling a fantasy pool, Ovechkin should always be your first choice and he will likely stay the top choice for many seasons.