5 NHL Fantasy Players to Watch: Atlantic Division
Here are five player profiles taken from the 2011-12 FHC Fantasy Hockey Pool Guide from the Atlantic Division.
Jonathon Merrill (New Jersey)
The New Jersey Devils used to be the defensive envy of the league with names like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and Brian Rafalski shoring up their blue line, and leading them to several Championships. New Jersey hopes they have one of those pieces to rebuild with in Merrill who capped off a brilliant freshman year in Michigan.
A well-rounded two-way player, the Michigan native is a big body who doesn’t get beaten wide, makes the right pass and jumps into the play at the right times. Coaches rave about this kid's skill and smarts. He just finished as the highest scoring defenseman for the Wolverines at age 18, and was the USA’s best defender at the WJC’s. Needs another year in college, but the Devils may come calling in 2012-2013.
Ryan Strome (New York I)
How does one go about getting themselves to be a top five pick in the upcoming Entry draft? Well you could improve your point total by 79 points from the year before and be part of several highlight reel goals…that is the route the Mississauga native chose to take.
After a combined 27 points with the Barrie Colts and the Niagara Ice Dogs last year, Strome blistered the opposition this season on his way to a 106-point season good for third best in the OHL.
Strome has many similarities to last year's second overall pick, Tyler Seguin, including size, point totals and skillful hands aided by time spent playing lacrosse.
Strome is extremely crafty with the puck and is good at finding the open man. He will be a better playmaker than goal scorer, but will certainly fill a formidable one-two punch down the middle for NYI.
Strome could be the Jeff Skinner of this year's draft class.
Marc Staal (New York R)
Staal is the New York Rangers' top defender, and the 12th overall pick from 2005 was drafted as a shutdown defender.
In the last two seasons, Staal has begun to discover some offensive abilities. Staal is a very smart and defensively reliable player, and at 6’4 and 209 pounds, he is a very physical presence. Size combined with excellent mobility and skating makes Staal a future potential Norris contender if he can continue to develop his offensive game.
Not a natural powerplay quarterback, Staal will continue to log prime minutes even-strength and some powerplay as well. Forecast: five goals, 25 assists for 30 points.
Claude Giroux (Philadelphia)
What a season the pride of Hearst, Ontario had in the city of brotherly love. Perhaps that is why the Philadelphia Flyers felt comfortable in trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Giroux was a delight as he ended the season with 76 points, while netting three shorties and eight powerplay tallies. He will be just as good, if not better this season as the top dog in Philly.
Ben Lovejoy (Pittsburgh)
Undrafted, Lovejoy signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent in 2008.
A late bloomer at 27, last season Lovejoy scored three goals and 17 points in 47 games (0.36 points per game).
With Kris Letang and Paul Martin firmly entrenched as the primary offensive options, Lovejoy is left to compete with Matt Niskanen and Zbynek Michalek for offensive responsibilities. Lovejoy is more reliable than any of the other secondary options and plays a more complete game, which leads me to believe that the coaches will have more confidence in Lovejoy and reward him with the premium ice time.
Forecast: five goals, 20 assists for 25 points over a full season.
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Be sure to check out the two free fantasy hockey pools we are running this year. One pool is a regular hockey pool where you pick players and get points for different stats they accumulate. The second pool is a “Saturday Pick’Em” pool where you pick the winner of each NHL game that Saturday.