It’s the most wonderful time of the year, that time of year when your buddies come over wearing their favourite hockey jerseys, drinking their favourite beer, and once again arguing about what’s the best team in the NHL (face it, its Toronto, don’t deny it, just accept it). That’s right, its fantasy hockey season.
Who will win the Ovechkin lottery? Who will get that big late round steal? Who will be that big bust and who will be that solid free agent pick-up? All solid questions to ask, but what are the right answers? Now I am not saying I have all the right answers but with my prowess in NHL hockey, I think I will mostly have some accurate predictions.
Money In The Bank
Alexander Ovechkin—The man who won MVP honours, the Hart Trophy and Maurice Richard Trophy is probably the most reliable person to pick in fantasy hockey. He can score, set up plays, rack up points with consistency, never injured and isn’t scared to use the body. Easily the best pick to get in the draft.
Ilya Kovalchuk—Would have won the Maurice Richard title if not for Ovechkin’s freakish scoring. Loves to put the puck in the net and never gets injured. Will easily score 40 goals on his own and if not for a bad team would get more. Solid top five pick.
Martin Brodeur—The best fantasy goalie by far (even though he is notorious for slow starts). Has gotten 30 wins almost every year he has played and is always top ten in every goaltending category. Will play 65-70 games minimum and will play solid no matter what. Should be first goalie taken in most drafts.
Joe Thornton—Probably one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Always get at least 90 points a year and loves to set up plays. Always plays full out and is a point-a-game player who never gets injured. Will definitely be a top ten pick.
(The reason I did not mention Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is because Malkin will lose playing time to Sidney Crosby and Sidney Crosby has had injuries the past two years.)
Risk and Reward
Nik Antropov—You got to love this guy. The most hated of all Leafs for years then becomes best player. This guy is 50/50 when it comes to production because of so many variables. He will play on the first line, but have no one to play with. He didn’t get injured last year, but does that take away the injury prone tag for good? Worth a look with a late pick to see what he can do.
Marian Gaborik—You got to feel bad for the guy. He has the talent to be a leader in goal-scoring and in total points, but he plays in a Jacques Lemaire system and is injury prone. The main question here is can he stay healthy? Is worth a mid-round selection.
Martin Havlat—Man what a fall from grace. Went from a potent goal scorer with the potential to be a 50 goal scorer to fighting for significant time on a now talented Blackhawks roster. Will have one more kick at the can with the Blackhawks and is worth a mid to late round pick.
Rick DiPietro—Every year seems to do well then gets bit by the injury bug, leaving you scraping up goalies in free-agency. If he can stay healthy should be able to play solid for a weak team. Worth a mid-round pick.
Notables: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Marleau, Mathieu Garon, Scott Gomez, Mike Ribiero, Bryan McCabe
Dan Ellis—After taking the starting role from Chris Mason and playing at an all-star level in the playoffs, his stock has risen. But still a sleeper in most drafts because he hasn’t played a full season yet. Will be playing 65 games this year and does warrant a late round pick.
Dustin Brown—Plays on a terrible team and never gets noticed because of Anze Kopitar, this kid has some skill. He is in the mold of a more talented Ryan Malone and is able to get 50-60 points this year along with plenty of PIM’s. Worth spending a late round selection.
Filip Kuba—A very solid defensemen that no one has ever heard of before. On a terrible Tampa Bay team last year got over thirty points with a decent amount of goals for a defenseman. Will be on nobody’s boards come draft time and is worth a late pick selection.
Dustin Byfuglien—Probably the biggest sleeper in this year’s draft is Byfuglien. Can score goals and get points and pack penalty minutes on all at once. Plays both defense and forward so can be placed at both. Worth a late round pick and you will not regret it.
Notables: Steve Bernier, Jason Pominville, Peter Mueller, Scott Hartnell, R.J. Umberger
Erik Ersberg—Played late last year for the Los Angeles Kings and did very well as an unknown. Will be looking for a role with the big club this year and if he can get a back-up spot, will be battling by mid-season for the starting role. Worth a look at mid-season.
Danny Carcillo—Was a wildman last year and led the league by far with over 300 PIM’s. Will get more points this year with Phoenix and if you’re in a league that awards points for penalty minutes, will be a hidden gem for your club.
Fabian Brunnstrom—Had great numbers last year in the Swedish Elite League and was signed this off-season. Has a good shot and I believe once he gets used to the North America game, he will be a good point producer and a great mid-season pick-up.
Brendan Morrison—Once apart of one of the most feared lines in the NHL, Morrison has been on a slow decline ever since Todd Bertuzzi cross-checked Steve Moore from behind. Could find his legs on a new team with a new system along with some new line-mates.
Notables: Johan Franzen, Michael Ryder, Kyle Okposo, Alex Steen, Sergei Samsonov
So there we go, those are my picks that I will be thinking about for this year's draft. Hopefully I have been of some help and always be looking for those sleepers.