It's almost draft time for many hockey poolies. So it's time to start getting prepared for your fantasy hockey draft. You don't want to come up short on draft day and loose those bragging rights. Let's face it boys, winning is a heck of a lot more fun than losing. There are some guys in my pool I hate losing to, they never shut up. That’s why I make it a point to come prepared.
Need a little help quieting some of your fellow GM’s, we can help.
Here’s our list of must-draft players, from the very obvious, to the not so obvious.
1. Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburg Penguins
Sidney should be on the top of everyone’s list. Need to know why, well you probably shouldn’t be in a fantasy league if you need to know why Crosby should be ranked number 1.
2. Alexander Ovechkin, Left Wing, Washinton Capitals
Okay this one is a little tighter, A.O. gets the nod over Big Joe Thornton for his goal scoring and the fact he plays a LW.
3. Joe Thornton, Center, San Jose Sharks
Mighty Joe Thornton puts up more assists then most guys point totals. He’s an assist machine, he will carry the Sharks, and your fantasy hockey team.
4. Evgeni Malkin, Center, Pittsburg Penguins
Malkin might be the only player that is young enough and talented enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Crosby and Ovechkin. The fact he plays with Crosby will only help his numbers. He also puts up some nice penalty minutes.
5. Roberto Luongo, Goalie, Vancouver Canucks
Pretty tough to pass on a guy that just won 47 games and is poised to play 70+ games a year. Luongo will be the heir apparent to Martin Brodeur. At 28 he is just entering his prime as a goalie.
6. Dany Heatley, Right Wing, Ottawa Senators
Dany comes in at number 6 on our list because he does everything well. Back to back 50 goal seasons, good PIM totals, and a nice +/- make him one of the top stat monsters in all of hockey. It doesn’t hurt that Dany boy has dual wing eligibility in Yahoo leagues.
7. Ilya Kovolchuk, Left Wing, Atlanta Thrashers
Ilya slipped a bit last year with the loss of Marc Savard but we still can’t overlook Ilya’s ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Kovolchuk might have the best shot in hockey. Combine that with his explosive speed, his young age, his left wing status, and his durability; you have a top producing left winger for the next decade.
8. Marian Hossa, Right Wing, Atlanta Thrashers
Kovolchuk’s partner in crime is one of the few players in the NHL capable of putting up 100+ points year in and year out. The only reason he’s down this low is that he’s a little older then some of the above and his contract is up after this year. Making his status for next season a little uncertain.
9. Martin Brodeur, Goalie, New Jersey
Brodeur has been the number one goalie in hockey for a long time. While we sometimes think that he’ll start to decline he never does. So we’ve stopped second guessing Martin and believe that he’ll one day replace Patrick Roy as the top goaltender to ever play the game.
10. Vinny Lecavalier, Center, Tampa Bat Lightning
Vinny gets the nod at number 10, because fantasy hockey is about production, and that just what Vinny did last season. After years of waiting for the next Michael Jordan to arrive, we finally caught a glimpse of Michael’s little sister last year and Lecavalier put up 100+ points for the first time in his career. Vinny is still young enough to duplicate his 50 goal performance a few times.
11. Jason Spezza, Center, Ottawa Senators
Spezza might win the scoring title someday if he could stay healthy for an entire season. Spezza’s point per game clip is among the best in the game. Translate that over a full 82 games and you’d have yourself a 100+ point center every year. It doesn’t hurt that Spezza plays on one of the best lines in hockey with Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredson.
12. Thomas Vanek, Left Wing, Buffalo Sabres
It was no accident that Vanek signed a 50 million dollar contract this summer. Vanek emerged in only his second season as one of the top young players in all of hockey. While some suggest the Sabres will have a tougher time scoring goals this season with the losses of Drury and Briere, let’s remember neither of the two played on Vanek’s line. Heck it’s possible that with Vanek’s linemates Derek Roy and Maxim Afinogenov intact, Vanek will improve on last years numbers. Expect Vanek to see a huge increase in the number of minutes he plays. Going from 16 minutes to somewhere around the 20 minute mark. With many more of those minutes spent on the power play.
13. Jerome Iginla, Right Wing, Calgary Flames
Who wants to be unlucky number 13 on our list – let’s give it to Iginla. Jerome can handle just about anything you throw at him. He’s been carrying the Calgary Flames on his back for years. There are some doubts with Keenan coming in and whether Huselius and Langkow can repeat last season’s performances. But since when has Iginla ever needed any help?
14. Marion Gaborik, Right Wing, Minnesota Wild
There will be some doubters as to why band-aid boy is this high up on the list but if Marion ever overcomes his injury woes he’ll be taking home the Rocket Richard Trophy. We believe that Marion is young enough to overcome his groin problems. He also might be the most explosive player in the NHL. Bold prediction: Marion Gaborik wins the Rocket Richard Trophy this year!
15. Pavel Datsyuk, Center, Detroit Red Wings
Eighty-seven points has to get you something, right? Well 87pts solidifies your spot at number 15 on the big list. That combined with what seems to be Datsyuk and Zetterberg finally emerging as the go to guys in Motown.
16. Henrik Zetterberg, Left Wing, Detroit Red Wings
On the strength of 24 points in only 12 games down the stretch Henrik moves into the number 16 spot right behind teammate Pavel Datsyuk. Expect a big season from both as they finally appear to have matured and are ready to lead the Red Wings to greener pastures.
17. Marc Savard, Center, Boston Bruins
Like most we doubt Savard’s ability to consistently put up 90+ points but like most he has proven us wrong. There is no doubting that Savard has an elite ability to pass the puck. Those skills combined with the burr in his saddle make for a nice amount of points and penalty minutes that shouldn’t go overlooked at your fantasy draft.
18. Ray Whitney, Defense, Pittsburg Penguins
We have to put the first defenseman in somewhere. So why not put in a guy that has the chance to get as many points as most forwards. Playing with the soon to be high octane Penguin’s gives Whitney more upside then any defenseman in the NHL. Seventy plus points and a healthy number of penalty minutes are numbers that we should see from Whitney in the future. If you need a defenseman you might want to bump Whitney up a few slots on the list.
19. Dion Phaneuf, Defense, Calgary Flames
Dion has come into the NHL and put up back to back 50 point seasons. This kid is still 4-5 years away from his prime. While it’s tough to see any defenseman not named Coffey or Bourque breaking the 80 points barrier Dion has the ability to put up 60 plus points a year for a long time.
20. Eric Staal, Center, Carolina Hurricanes
Where does a guy that put up 100 points in his second season and 70 points in his third season belong? Answer at number 20 on our list. Eric will put up 80 plus points next season and for the next 10 as well. If he puts up 100+ that makes him a steal at number 20.
21. Alexander Semin, Left Wing, Washington Capitals
Semin broke out in fine form last year putting up 77 points and making many ESPN highlight reels. We also like Semins 90+ penalty minutes. With Nik Backstrom arriving soon in the nations capital expect Semin to keep on producing at an elite level.
22. Oli Jokinen, Center, Florida Panthers
You don’t hear Jokinen’s name much when you hear NHL’s elite mentioned. But Jokinen has put together a couple of back to back seasons that are well worth mentioning. If he keeps it up how can we not start mentioning his name among the NHL’s elite? Oh, that’s right, he plays for the Florida Panthers.
23. Maxim Afinogenov, Right Wing, Buffalo Sabres
For the same reasons Vaneks totals might rise, icetime, we see big things ahead for Maxim. Afinogenov, Roy, and Vanek will now become the number one line for the top scoring NHL team.
24. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Center and Left Wing, Vancouver Canucks
Why bother covering them separately. Yes one plays left wing and one center. Yes one gets more goals than the other, but the other guy is usually assisting his twins goal. Expect their production to be almost identical, which should be 80+ points per season for the next 5 years.
25. Martin Havlat, Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks
Martin was the best player in the NHL the first month of the season. Too bad for Martin the season is 7-8 months long. Still we like taking risks and if Havlat can stay healthy he’ll put up the points with the best of them.
26. Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings
Not many 19 year olds come into the league and put up 63 points. That’s exactly what Anze did and he would have put up more if it wasn’t for a late season injury. We have high hopes at THN for Kopitar and expect him to lead the new high powered L.A. attack for many years.
27. Alexander Radulov, Right Wing, Nashville Predators
This is a sleeper pick for some and a no brainer for others. Radulov has the potential to join the league leaders and even surpass many of them. With the departures in Nashville we expect Radulov will start to get some quality minutes and his totals to take a big jump this season.
28. Nik Backstrom, Center, Washington Capitals
Bacstrom is the early favorite for the Calder. After leading his team in scoring in the Swedish Elite League and drawing comparisons to Peter Forsberg, big things are expected. Not to worry playing with Ovechkin, Semin, and fellow Swede Nylander will ease the transition. It’s entirely possible we see Backstrom put up 70 points in his first season. After that the sky is the limit.
29. Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews is a coveted young player who’s drawn comparisons to Steve Yzerman. While there are some doubts about his offensive ceiling, he’s got a quality about him that is hard to deny. Many observers of the World Juniors were witness to one of the greatest shootout displays ever.
30. Zach Parise, Center, New Jersey Devils
If Toews doesn’t reach the heights of Steve Yzerman we expect he’ll be a lot like Parise. Still Parise is poised to become the leader of the Devils and put up around 80 points a year.
31. Jordan Staal, Center, Pittsburg Pebguins
What’s the ceiling of a guy that comes into the league and pots 29 in his first year. A lot like his brother Eric in Carolina, some say he has even more talent than his brother. More talent then his 100 point brother? Hmmmm.
32. Corey Perry, Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks
The former junior star had many doubters and went lower then he should have in the NHL entry draft. However, after a fine performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs it looks again like the sky is the limit for this kid. Don’t let him slip to far on draft day.
33. Phil Kessel, Center, Boston Bruins
With his share of problems in his rookie year he still performed very well for an 18 year old. Kessel does one thing very well, and that’s score. That’s a quality Fantasy Hockey GM’s should value very highly.
34. Carey Price, Goalie, Montreal Canadiens
After winning just about everything humanly possible last season, Price is poised to become the next great Montreal goalie. While those are big shoes to fill, Price might be ready to fill them starting this season. Is it possible Price might be mentioned among the league elite goalies? We’ll find out very shortly.
35. Jack Johnson, Defense, Los Angeles Kings
Where's Eric Johnson you say? Well Eric will be a fine defenceman in his own right. Probably a better defender, but this is fantasy hockey, and we don't draft guys for their defensive ability. Jack is probably the better offensive defenseman of the two and has a mean streak that isn't seen in many prospects. All this translates into big points for fantasy owners.
36. Patrick Kane, Right Wing, Chicago Blackhawks
There is a chance we’ll see Kane in a Blackhawk's uniform next season. Some are questioning his size but no one is questioning his ability. Kane has some of the best hands in tight that we’ve seen in a while. He also has the boom or bust tag, but we’re here to tell you that if size is the only question, it shouldn’t be a question at all.
37. Josh Harding, Goalie, Minnesota Wild
One of our personal favorites, Harding has done what should be considered the most important thing in fantasy hockey, put up amazing numbers at every level he has played. If he can continue those number in the NHL, and there is every indication he can, he will be among the leagues elite.
38. Steve Downie, Right Wing, Philadelphia Flyers
Quit scratching your eyes, I know it’s a long column, but yes you read correctly. Steve Downie shouldn’t be considered highly in leagues that don’t reward penalty minutes, but in leagues that do, he’ll be something special. Downie can best be described as a combination of Fleury and Avery, probably somewhere in the middle. He has more skill then Avery but not as much as Fleury. We expect Downie to be an impact player and producing at a better rate then Darcy Tucker before long.
Well that’s it folks. What about all the other guys we left off the list? Jagr? Superstars? Let somebody else draft them.