2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Top Fantasy Picks from All 16 Teams
Another season has come and gone, and once again you've finished dead last in your annual hockey pool.
You thought this year would be different. You had the first overall pick, and you took Sidney Crosby. He was on pace towards his most productive season yet, and you were well ahead of your fellow poolies.
The rest is history.
Crosby got a concussion, and you took your usual place behind your luckier friends.
Luckily for you, the playoffs have come around to give you a second chance at glory, A second chance to show all your friends that you're not as dumb as you look and you actually know something about hockey.
To help you with your playoff pool, and your ego, here are the top fantasy picks from each team who made it into the second season.
New York Rangers
First Choice: Brandon Dubinsky
Dubinsky had himself a breakout year. He led his team with 54 points in 77 games, and carried the offensive load while Marion Gaborik was injured in the early parts of the season. Dubinsky's gritty game is one that seems suited to the playoffs, and could make him this year's breakout star.
Second Choice: Marion Gaborik
Despite missing 20 games this year, Gaborik was able to net a very respectable 48 points. He also has a history of being able to perform in the playoffs, having once recorded 17 points in 18 games with the Wild.
Keep in mind that the Blue Shirts are playing a Capitals team that has suddenly learned how to play defense. Their odds of making it out of the first round are slim. So if you're not in a pool that allows you to change players after the first round, avoid picking any Rangers.
First Choice: Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek's performance this season seems to have missed fans and analysts across the board. Despite losing Derek Roy in the early part of the season, Vanek managed to put up 32 goals and 41 assists. He's also heating up at the right time. In his last 17 games, with the team in a dog fight just to make the playoffs, Vanek has 21 points. He's shown he's capable of performing when the pressure is at its highest.
Second Choice: Drew Stafford
Despite missing 20 games this season, Stafford managed to end up second on his team in scoring. Stafford is the next-best bet on a team that's short on offensive talent.
You may notice that Ryan Miller didn't make it on this list. The Sabres have the same problem as the Rangers: they aren't likely to make it past their first round opponent. If you think Miller is capable of carrying his team past the Flyers, then by all means take him...but you've been warned.
First Choice: James Wisniewski
Wisniewski has been dynamite for the Habs since they traded for him earlier in the year. In 43 games for the Canadiens, Wisniewski has scored 30 points. He plays on the first wave of the power play, and is leading his team in ice time.
Second Choice: Mike Cammalleri
Last season, Cammalleri had some trouble coming back from an injury. But started to round into form towards the end of the season, and then went on to score 13 goals in 19 games last spring. This season, he had some difficulty coming back from an injury, but has now scored six points in his last six games. He looks like he's primed for another big performance.
The Habs have had difficulty scoring in five on five situations this year. We all know that less penalties are called in the playoffs, so Habs players might have some difficulty racking up points.
Tampa Bay Lightning
First Choice: Martin St-Louis
St-Louis is his team's best player. Yeah, I said it. At this point in their careers, St-Louis is better able to help your hockey pool position than Stamkos. Aside from leading his team in scoring, he has a wealth of playoff experience, and has proven capable of scoring in pressure packed moments—something Stamkos hasn't proved just yet.
Second Choice: Dwayne Roloson
In 34 games with the Bolts this season, Roloson has 18 wins, four shutouts, a 912 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average. Without him, the Bolts would have been a borderline playoff team. With Crosby and Malkin missing in action, Roloson may be able to win the series for the Lighting and pick up four wins for your pool.
Crosby hasn't been ruled out just yet. If he is declared fit to play before the playoffs start, I'd stay away from Roloson.
First Choice: Kris Letang
Kris Letang will be on the first wave of the power play, and will undoubtedly lead his team in ice time during the playoffs. He is also a proven playoff scorer, having netted 26 points in the Penguins' 2009 Cup run.
Second Choice: Jordan Staal
Having assumed the number one center role for the first time in his career, Staal has performed admirably thus far, scoring 30 points in 42 games. Unfortunately for the Pens, he's been the only reliable source of offense up front since Crosby went down.
If Crosby were healthy, he would likely have made this list along with Fleury. Until further notice, Letang and Staal are your most reliable options.
First Choice: Milan Lucic
Lucic had a breakout year this season, scoring 30 goals for the first time in his young career. He is a monster of a man, and will likely be a nightmare for a smallish Canadiens team.
Second Choice: Nathan Horton
Much like Lucic, Horton is a large player capable of making life difficult for the Habs. Also, despite a slow start to the season, Horton has been heating up as of late with six goals in his last 10 games. With his size and recently regained scoring touch, he could very well be a very valuable sleeper pick.
Some of you may be screaming about the omission of Tim Thomas from this list. Keep in mind that he has historically had difficulty in the Bell Center, and the Bruins only won two of six meeting with the Canadiens this season.
First Choice: Claude Giroux
After a breakout performance in last year's deep playoff run for the Flyers, Giroux led his team in scoring during the 2010/2011 campaign. He's been the team's best player from start to finish this season, and has proven to be a force come playoff time.
Second Choice: Danny Briere
Daniel Briere has been, throughout his career, a dominant playoff performer. Last season, the diminutive center scored 30 points in 23 games. He has scored 54 points in his last 57 playoff games. That should be enough to convince you that Briere is worth an early selection.
The only reason these two wouldn't rack up points would be an out of this world performance by Ryan Miller. Knowing Miller, it isn't out of the question.
First Choice: Alex Ovechkin
A sub-par season for Ovy still translated into 85 points. He's always scored over a point per game in the second season, and nothing tells me the Rangers' inexperienced defense will be able to stop him.
Second Choice: Dennis Wideman
If you're looking for a defenseman, Wideman may be a strong sleeper pick. He's played very well for the Caps since being acquired, and is a proven scorer come playoff time (he scored 12 points in 13 games last year). If he gets any time on the first wave of the power play, Wideman is going to be very dangerous.
Much like the Flyers, the Caps will be facing a world class goalie. Lundqvist is capable of stealing games, so keep that in mind when selecting Capitals players.
First Choice: Jonathan Toews
Toews is the unquestioned leader in Chicago. He's a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and has lead his team in scoring this season. He's the most obvious choice among Blackhawks players
Second Choice: Patrick Kane
It's hard to stay away from Kane. Like Toews, he has put up big numbers in the playoffs over the past two years. He's also the team's most gifted scorer. With Sharp's uncertain condition, and Hossa's hot and cold history in the playoffs, he's the most obvious second choice.
The Hawks are playing a much different Vancouver team this season. The Hawks may have difficulty against a retooled Canucks team, especially without Dustin Byfuglien, who was an absolute nightmare for Roberto Luongo last year.
Los Angeles Kings
First Choice: Drew Doughty
With Kopitar out of the picture, Doughty is the most attractive option out of L.A. Despite his difficult season, he will still be on the first wave of the power play, and will be the engine behind his team's attack. Great players tend to show up in the playoffs, and Doughty will be aiming to show his critics that he hasn't lost a step since his brilliant Olympic performance.
Second Choice: Jack Johnson
Johnson is a reliable scoring threat from the point, having led his team in scoring from the blueline. Furthermore, in his only trip to the playoffs, Johnson scored seven points in six games.
With Kopitar out with an injury, the already weak Kings offense will have a mighty hard time scoring. I would try and stay away from this team as much as possible.
First Choice: Keith Yandle
Yandle has emerged as one of the league's best young defenders. The Yotes are a team that relies heavily on its blue liners for offense, and Yandle will be expected to carry the load. If his 59-point season is any indication, he could force a lot of people to start paying attention to the Coyotes.
Second Choice: Ilya Brygalov
Bryzgalov is one of the best/least talked about goalies in the league. He's fully capable of stealing games, and has the potential to slip pretty far in a fantasy draft due to the fact that he'll be going up against the Red Wings
They're playing the Red Wings in the playoffs.
First Choice: Shea Weber
Shea Weber has one of the most lethal shots in the world. He plays big minutes, and will continue to do so latter this spring. After a slow start, he managed to tally 48 points—tied for third on his team. Based on his Olympic performance, Weber is capable of playing in pressure-packed situations, and will be a key cog in any potential success his team may have.
Second Choice: Pekka Rinne
Rinne has had a Vezina-caliber season. Unfortunately, he plays in Nashville, so nobody noticed. He may slip in a fantasy draft because of this.
Picking Rinne may be a bit risky. He'll be going up against one of the most dangerous forward groups in the league.
First Choice: Corey Perry
Perry is the front runner for the Hart Trophy, and for good reason. He's been dominant all year, and there are no indications that he'll slow down any time soon. He's also a proven playoff scorer, having scored 17 points in his last 16 playoff games.
Second Choice: Ryan Getzlaf
Getzlaf has been great in the playoffs, having scored 40 points in his past 40 playoff games. Also, he should benefit from playing on a line with the league's top goal scorer.
I would stay away from Cam Fowler. After a hot start to the season, Fowler went through a long drought. He doesn't have any playoff experience, and doesn't have many experienced defenders around him to rely on.
Detroit Red Wings
First Choice: Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg is an absolute monster in the playoffs. In his past three trips to the playoffs, he has always managed over a point per game. He scored 80 points this season, and looks primed for another deep playoff run. Zetterberg is especially valuable in pools that don't allow you to change players after the first round, due to the annual success of the Wings.
Second Choice: Johan Franzen
Much like Zetterberg, the Mule saves his best for the playoffs. He has 59 points in his last 50 games in the second season, and may slip in a fantasy draft due to his average regular season totals.
The Wings had some difficulty against the 'Yotes last season. With some experience under their belt, the Coyotes may cause them some problems this time around.
San Jose Sharks
First Choice: Antti Niemi
The Sharks will be playing a Kings team that is without its best forward. They'll be heavy favorites, and with good reason. The Kings struggled to score all season, and it's only going to get worse. Niemi should be able to pick up the four wins pretty easily.
Second Choice: Joe Thornton
Despite the misconception, Thornton has been a pretty stable playoff performer for the Shark. Since his time in San Jose, Big Joe has always hovered around a point per game clip in the playoffs. Because of his reputation, he may slip a little in fantasy drafts.
This is the Sharks. Nothing is certain with this team.
First Choice: Daniel and Henrik Sedin
This is a tie. They're both incredible players, and both have roughly similar stats in the playoffs. Last year, they both had 14 points in 12 games. They are a guarantee to rack up points.
Second Choice: Ryan Kesler
Kesler has had a breakout year this season, scoring 41 goals for Vancouver. Also, his performance in the Olympics last season has shown us that he can completely dominate a game when the pressure is ramped up.
I would caution against taking Roberto Luongo, at least in the first round. Vancouver still hasn't shown that they can beat Chicago.