NHL Fantasy Playoff Preview: Western Conference

Anjul VirkContributor IApril 14, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 31:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings  prepares for a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on January 31, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Red Wings 2-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As everybody reading this will know, the Stanley Cup playoffs are all set to go, and it will be an interesting two months, that’s for sure. There are a couple of teams that are considered major contenders for the Cup, but there are a handful of other teams that could easily go all the way, and it wouldn’t surprise anybody.

Of course, with the playoffs starting, that means the regular season fantasy leagues are all done, and attention turns to playoff pools. With that in mind, I’ve broken down some players to draft, and avoid, as you make your picks.

Don’t forget the one general rule of thumb: try to pick players from the four teams that you think will play in the Conference Finals. That will give you your best shot at winning your league, if everything falls into place of course.

Let’s start by looking at the Western Conference today:

Colorado Avalanche

Player to Avoid: This is an easy one: do not draft Peter Mueller. Unless you think that the Avs are going to pull off an upset and make a deep run, chances are that the young upstarts from Denver won’t get out of the first round.

Mueller is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series with his concussion problems, but that could easily change into three or four games. There isn’t any need to waste a pick on a guy that might only suit up for a few games, if any at all.

The Guaranteed Money Pick: Paul Stastny. There might be pressure on the top-line centre to perform, but with some firepower around him, expect Colorado’s leading scorer during the regular season to be the leading scorer in the playoffs as well.

San Jose Sharks

Avoid: For the Sharks, do not draft Evgeni Nabokov as your goalie. He has not been the same since the Olympics, and chances are that the perennial underachievers will fall short again this season, so you are better off running with a weaker goalie on a strong team (Jose Theodore and Antti Niemi come to mind).

Money: It has to be Dany Heatley. He has played tremendously all season for the Sharks, and he hasn’t been here for the past playoff failures. Perhaps he will be the difference for the club, as it tries to go deep this postseason.

Nashville Predators

Avoid: The guy not to touch here will be JP Dumont, who has fallen off the face of the earth this year. He has been in Barry Trotz’s doghouse all year long, and there is no reason to think that he will all of a sudden start scoring.

Money: Jason Arnott. The playoff warrior is now back healthy after missing some time, and should be the main cog on offense for the Predators. Although he won’t post big totals, he will see the majority of the minutes on the top line, as well as the top powerplay unit.

Chicago Blackhawks

Avoid: Andrew Ladd. Although he played well during last year’s run, with the addition of Marian Hossa and the secondary scoring provided by Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp, Ladd won’t produce as much this postseason strictly in a third-line role.

Money: Although the club has firepower up front in Hossa, Sharp, and Jonathan Toews, the player to pick here will be Patrick Kane. He’ll fly out of the gates for the Hawks, and will easily get at least 10-12 points, even if the team gets bounced out in the first round due to an upset.

Detroit Red Wings

Avoid: It will have to be Jason Williams. The Red Wings are expected to go far, now that everybody is back healthy, and the top six group of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, and Valtteri Filppula will be eating up a big chunk of minutes. It won’t be a surprise if Williams even sit out a few games, especially if players like Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm step up their play.

Money: You can’t go wrong with a lot of guys on this squad, but let’s go with Henrik Zetterberg. He was a key cog for the Wings a couple of years ago in their march to the Cup, and was all over the place last year as well.

Phoenix Coyotes

Avoid: Derek Morris would be the guy not to draft here. He won’t provide much offense, even if the Coyotes went all the way to the Finals. With Keith Yandle, Adrian Aucoin, and Ed Jovanovski on the back end, Morris will be counted on to provide solid defensive play, not goals.

Money: Wojtek Wolski…yes, this might be the year that we actually see Wolski do something in a pressure situation. The safe pick might have been Shane Doan, but the ex-Av has played well since coming over last month from Colorado, and should be able to continue to produce in the postseason.

Vancouver Canucks

Avoid: Kyle Wellwood. He might score a key goal here or there, but overall, he’s never provided the consistency needed to be successful. Don’t be surprised to see him even get bumped down to the fourth line in place of someone else.

Money: Who else do you think it would be? Of course it’s the Art Ross champ Henrik Sedin. He has been a model of consistency all season long, and there is no reason that he, or even his brother Daniel, will need to change their games in the postseason.

Los Angeles Kings

Avoid: Fredrik Modin. GM Dean Lombardi acquired the veteran more for his leadership than anything else (at least, that’s what I’m hoping)…anyway, don’t expect anything substantial from the ex-Jacket. He doesn’t have much left in him in terms of offense.

Money: You would think that I’m going to say Anze Kopitar, but nope, he’s not it. The pick to go with here would be the wily veteran Ryan Smyth. The Kings could pull off the upset if they can get the goaltending, but man, Smytty has shown in the past that he can score the big goal and crash the net when necessary, so don’t be surprised if LA wins because of Smyth carrying the team.

Register for The FHW 2009-10 Fantasy Hockey Playoff Pool for your chance to win some autographed memorabilia, or cash prizes. Entry Deadline is Monday, April 19. Go to Fantasy Hockey Wire to sign up now!


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