50MC's 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Valtteri Filppula

Miikeee D.Correspondent ISeptember 9, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  Valtteri Filppula #51 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

A lot of buzz this off season has been around the Philadelphia Flyers and where they are going to replace the 52 goals that Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul left behind. There is a similar, and possibly more enticing situation for fantasy in Detroit, where the Red Wings lost Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson. Between those three players, there is a total of 82 goals that have to be made up.

Eighty-two goals.

Who in the world is going to score enough goals in Detroit to supplement that huge loss?

Enter a fantasy stud, who has been buried on a deep Red Wings roster for three years: Valtteri Filppula. On any other team, Filppula would have been a regular contributor for the last two seasons. Due to Detroit’s depth, Filppula is simply a skilled centerman who has the potential to be a top six forward, but is more concentrated on taking care of his own end.

As mentioned, Hossa jetted to Chicago, Samuelsson joined Team Sweden in Vancouver and Hudler has finally made it to Russia.

Filppula didn’t have to move a muscle and, in a matter of months, he instantly moved into a top six role on a very potent offense. Most importantly, he is surely to receive a career-high in minutes, including powerplay time—something he is excited about and willing to work hard for.

Filppula will definitely start on the second line, but whether as a center or a winger remains to be seen. Mike Babcock has two options:

A) line 1: Tomas Holmstrom – Pavel Datsyuk – Henrik Zetterberg; line 2: Johan Franzen – Valtteri Filppula – Dan Cleary

B) line 1: Tomas Holmstrom -Pavel Datsyuk – Dan Cleary; line 2: Johan Franzen – Henrik Zetterberg – Valtteri Filppula

Filppula is in a great position to improve on his point totals from last season, something he has done in each season since he broke into the league.

2006-2007: 10G 7A 17P

2007-2008: 19G 17A 36P

2008-2009: 12G 28A 40P

I would not worry about his downward spike in goals from 2008 to 2009, mainly because the Red Wings acquired a legitimate goal-scorer in Hossa (40) and had a breakout goal scoring season from Franzen (34). Therefore, Filppula did not have to worry about putting pucks in the net, just playing good defensive hockey.

What was impressive and encouraging about Filppula’s 2009 season was his playoff performance. He was third in playoff scoring for the Red Wings with 16 points (3 goals) in 23 games. If he can continue his play-making abilities in his increased role on the second line he showed in the playoffs, he is surely going to make a fantasy impact.

If there was one thing to worry potential fantasy owners, it is the wild card player that could sneak into Detroit’s top six: Ville Leino. Last year, Leino broke into the league after establishing himself in the Finnish National League and by scoring five goals in 13 games with the Wings.

He will likely start on the third line and, based on how Hudler and Filppula were gently handled by the Red Wings when they broke into the league, Leino will probably see limited minutes. However, a good camp or an injury could force Babcock to put Leino into the top six. Just something to be watch out for during training camp.

For fantasy, Filppula’s plus/minus will remain high because he has been a depth forward, where the main focus is defense. Now that he has entered the more offensive-minded top six group, not only will his ratio remain high but his point totals will rise as well.

Putting it all together: 82 goals to make up from last season, increased ice time, increased powerplay time, top six forward on a very effective offensive team, and an improvement of production for three years running. 50MC fearlessly forecasts 17 goals, 39 assists for 58 points (THN predicts: 79 games – 20/30/50). This production makes him a solid fantasy late round pick and a must have in deep leagues.

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