Time has come to drop the puck for the coolest sport on earth. The National Hockey season is just around the corner—and to all those who can’t be in the NHL, that means the fantasy hockey season is on its way too.
The season opens up on Saturday, October 4 in Prague, where the New York Rangers will take on the Tampa Bay Lighting. Two teams full of new faces will look to build some chemistry on their long two-game trip in the Czech Republic.
Also, the defending Eastern Conference-champion Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the always-strong Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden.
All four teams look to get a good start to their season, while fantasy owners can’t wait to watch their superstars play. So here are the top ten players you’re going to want to have on your team:
1. Alexander Ovechkin, WAS
Following his best season of his three-year career, Ovechkin is looking to have an even better season. Last year, Ovechkin finished a league-leading 112 points and an outstanding 65 goals.
Not only is he an hard-working athlete, but he is a beast of a, man not missing a single game in his last two seasons of play. Look for him to play in all 82 this year. Playing with a very skilled Nicklas Backstrom as his center, expect similar numbers, in the 115-point range, for him this season.
2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
There is not enough to say about the natural skill that Evgeni Malkin brings to the NHL. Malkin increased in every single stat category from his rookie to sophomore year in ’07-’08.
He may not be playing alongside the amazing Crosby, but look for Malkin to be just as or even more effective for the Penguins. Malkin will once again increase his season highs in multiple categories, especially in his power-play totals. Look for Malkin to get about 108 points and break the 20 ppg mark.
3. Vincent Lecavalier, TB
With the potential to be part of the number-one line in the National Hockey League, Lecavalier will be playing with pure chemistry. He will be the center between Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal, who are both offensive threats on the ice.
Three very talented forwards who have played together for a long time, expect them to do well with the leadership of the big powerful Lecavalier. Don’t expect more than a 45-goal season out of Vinny—but don’t be surprised if he breaks his career high and goes for more than 60 assists.
4. Jarome Iginla, CGY
Jarome Iginla is a fan favorite of many because not only is he a goal scorer and a strong leader, he also is a beast of a fighter. Iginla is the entire package, and will get any fantasy owner good stats in every category. Look for him to have a solid 50-goal, 45-assist season and have a few fights turn into a solid 80 penalty minutes.
5. Sidney Crosby, PIT
Sid the Kid is back, and ready to start off a fresh season. After a disappointing end to last season, Crosby is back and going to have a great year.
But when you are drafting him, remember he does have some questions. Who is he going to have to complement him? Will he be able to go the whole season without getting injured? Look for him to make it through the season and come close to the 100-point mark.
6. Joe Thornton, SJ
Talk about a playmaker—this guy is the definition of one. Joey Thornton automatically makes any player that he’s playing with that much better. Thornton has not missed a game in his last two seasons, and expect him to play the whole season again. Also look for him to once again lead the league in assists, racking up a big 75 and finishing the season with a solid 90-95 points.
7. Dany Heatley, OTT
There’s not a ton to say about Dany Heatley. He is a solid, consistent player on one of the best lines in the league. Though it may not as big of a season as his two previous campaigns, Heatley will still have a great year, like always. Look for him to get around 90 points for the season playing next to Spezza and Alfredsson.
8. Henrik Zetterberg, DET
Pretty simple. Detroit is the best team in the league. The best player on that team is Henrik Zetterberg. Once again, Zetterberg will be on a line with Pavel Datsyuk—who could not be a better complement to him.
The Detroit Red Wings are always a contender because of the skills that Zetterberg brings to them. Zetterberg will have a team-high 45 goals, and a solid 40 assists to go with them.
9. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ
Nabokov had a career-high 46 wins last season, because his amazing skill and a strong defense in front of him. With the upgrade of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, look for him to match and possible break that career high.
Nabokov is should be the number-one goalie taken in all drafts. Expect him to start at least 76 games and finish with 48 wins.
10. Daniel Alfredsson, OTT
Once again, being on one of the best lines in the league is going to help one of the best players get a lot of points. Daniel Alfredsson has some of the best eyes in the league, and could be the number-one sniper in the entire NHL.
Alfredsson will have another strong year. Don’t expect more than 75 games out of him, as his 36th birthday is just around the corner. But you can expect to see a solid 35 goals and 52 assists.
Top 5 Goalies:
1. Evgeni Nabokov
2. Henrik Lundqvist
3. Martin Brodeur
4. Roberto Luongo
5. Marty Turco