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Top 10 Fantasy Goalie Rankings for 2013-14

by Chewbacca 4. September 2013 19:01

The goalie position continues to be the hardest by far to predict with certainty.   I can only recommend two names to be sure winners worthy of a first round pick.  After that, you have a collections of very good options that are almost interchangeable parts.  Because of that, if you miss out on Lundqvist or Rask, I recommend waiting until the goalie run is over and picking the 8th or 9th goalie off the board, as there shouldn't be much drop off from the 3rd best option.

 

 

TIER 1

 

1. Henrik Lundqvist

While he fell just shy of another Vezina nod last season, you simply cannot get more in terms of reliability than Hank. I suspect that the coaching change will have an overall positive effect on his fantasy numbers. He should see significantly more shots this season, which means more saves. And the shots that Torts dictated be blocked out front tended to be the easier saves for a goalie. Logically, you should see a higher save percentage, more saves, and overall total domination for Lundqvist as this year's top goalie pick.

 

2. Tuukka Rask

If anyone can challenge Lundqvist for the top spot on the goalie list, it's Rask. He had to wait patiently for his opportunity as Boston's #1, but has proven to be worth the wait. His dominance in the regular season even carried through the playoffs. With Boston promising to be one of the most dominant teams this season, he is assured of large helping of Wins. Expect 40, perhaps even 50. Can't go wrong with Rask.

 

 

 

TIER 2

 

3. Sergei Bobrovsky

After a revelation of a season, all eyes will be on Bobrovsky to see if he can repeat the magic. The Jackets are clearly on rise and will rely on Sergei to keep them moving that way. There is no reason to doubt he will be a solid contributor once again fantasy wise, but expecting another Vezina may be overshooting. He is certainly a safe #1 option in net.

 

4. Jimmy Howard

Howard has been a reliable fantasy option for four years now. He stepped it up a notch last season, arguably carrying them into the playoffs. The Wings have committing to him for the long haul, so he won't have contract issues on his mind. Detroit's young defensive crew is coming together nicely and ought to provide enough support for Howard to make it 5 straight seasons as a solid fantasy keeper.

 

5. Jonathan Quick

Simply put, Quick tanked last season. He showed no signs of the man who dominated the position for the prior two years. That changed in the playoffs, as he returned to form and carried the team for 2 rounds. That run brings hope to fantasy owners looking for a top notch goalie that may be underrated at this year's draft. He didn't even crack the top 20 in fantasy points by the end of last season. Look for a rapid return to the top 5 this year.

 

6. Corey Crawford

If it's wins that you crave, consider holding out for Crawford as your #1 in net. The Hawks will surely deliver plenty in the W column again in 2013-14, and this time, assuming he stays healthy, Crawford won't have to share the net with Emery. Khabibulin will fill in only when Crawford needs a breather. His numbers last year were among the best in the league. He just needs more starts to rank with the elite.

 

 

7. Antti Niemi

According to my charts, Antti Niemi provided more fantasy points than any other player in the league. (I'll pause while you absorb that thought). (thought you might need more time...) Much of this came in the first 3 weeks of the season when San Jose seemingly couldn't lose a game. He finished the season strong as well, piling up 24 wins in 43 games. While I don't expect the Sharks to be as good this time around, he is the undisputed #1 in net for San Jose. He will again get his fair share of wins and will remain a viable #1 option. Just don't expect a repeat as the top fantasy man.

 

 

8. Craig Anderson

Statistically, Anderson was the best goalie in the league last season, by far. His 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage were silly good. He just needed to stay healthy a little longer. He didn't show a sign of weakness all season until the 2nd round of the playoffs, where the Pens made him look human. A full season in good health will show whether or not he is for real as a #1 option.

 


9. Pekka Rinne

Rinne, along with the entire Nashville team, took a big step backwards last season. Maybe they missed Suter that much. Despite the slip, Rinne remains the epitome of the word "workhorse". He will continue to own the pipes for 85% of the action in Nashville, which means wins should continue to pile up. Look for a bounce back in other categories, with a Preds team that just has to be better this season.

 

 

10. Marc-Andre Fleury

You'll need to focus hard, but try and forget what happened in last year's playoffs. And the playoffs the year before that. Focus. In the regular season (which is what we care about in fantasy town), Fleury has been a very good option. The Pens (for some unknown reason) insist on standing behind him as their #1, despite having a far more stable option in Vokoun at the ready. As long as that vote of confidence remains from the man behind the bench, Fleury will carry significant fantasy value. The Pens promise to rack up the wins again this year, and the Flower is the default option to gather those Ws. Because of his post-season struggles, you will probably see Fleury slide deep come draft time, making him a potential sleeper win.

 

 

 

To see the rest of my top 50 goalie rankings, visit:  http://www.landsharkhockey.com/LS/tools/DraftRankings.aspx.  You can also customize your own list there.

Yahoo Fantasy Hockey Draft Strategy

by chewy 18. January 2013 08:39

As a follow up to my previous article on CBS Fantasy Hockey Draft Strategy, I wanted to come back with a breakdown of how you should approach drafting in a standard head-to-head Yahoo league.  Many of the principals are the same as CBS (and any league for that matter), so if you missed it, check it out here:

 

http://www.landsharkhockey.com/post/2013/01/16/2013-CBS-NHL-Fantasy-Draft-Strategy.aspx

 

For now, I'll focus on the specific things you need to know for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues in order to draft a winning team.

 

Roster Limits

The first thing to note about the standard Yahoo settings is that they choose to break down forwards by specific position (C, LW, RW), as opposed to grouping wingers, or all forwards together.  This has a noticeable impact on your strategy.  It used to be on Yahoo, that Left Wingers came at a premium; however, this year they dramatically opened up the number of players that qualify at multiple positions.  That designation is gold here.  The flexibility gives you far more options when it comes to setting your day to day lineup.  So, while I would otherwise favor Stamkos and Crosby over Malkin, he's the only one of the three to (arbitrarily) be granted C/LW status.  That makes the reigning MVP the best option on offense this year.  I can't over-emphasize the edge that this gives you to have that flexibility.

 

I/R Spot

Yahoo has a unique option that lets you carry one player on the IR that won't count against your other roster spots.  Take advantage of this throughout the season, and even during the draft.  I recommend drafting a player you know will start the season injured (e.g. Kesler).  At the start of the season, you can put him into the IR spot and you'll have a free pick to backfill it.  Always look to pick up hurt stars and keep the spot filled.

 

 

Point System

As opposed to CBS, which awards fantasy points based on stats, the standard head-to-head Yahoo leagues are scored on an old-school rotisserie fashion.  (Note: this is one major reason I rarely play on Yahoo.)  This setup affects your strategy in several major ways.

 

1. Pay attention to all categories. 

In a points based system, +/- can largely be ignored.  In a Yahoo league,  having the best +/- is just as important as goals.  This makes no logical sense, but that's the way it is, so plan your draft accordingly.  If a guy is notoriously bad in +/- or refuses to take a penalty to save his life, downgrade that player. 

 

2. Goons are welcome. 

Because penalty minutes are valued equal to goals, why not draft a goon to round out your wingers?  One player could single-handedly win that category for you, so even if Zenon Konopka  only nets you 2 goals again next season, his 15 Pims a week may be worth it.

 

3. Bring on the backup goalies. 

Total goals allowed and saves matter not here.  It's all about the averages (GAA / save %).  What that means is that a workhorse who may lead the league in saves won't necessarily be as valuable as a guy who plays every other game and puts up a low GAA in the process.  So don't necessarily shy away from backups or goalies in a split-crease scenario.  You have to meet a minimum games played each week, so the best strategy here it to grab a top-notch, # 1 goalie early in the draft, then wait it out for your 2nd goalie.  There will be plenty of solid backups out there into the 10th round and beyond.   Options like the split crease in St. Louis become viable, as they'll both see a game or two a week and should register decent numbers behind that solid Blues defense.  In a points-based league, these two would slide to late in the draft.  This approach may hold you back in wins and shutouts, but you'll benefit in the other categories.

 

4. Sadly, Defense is irrelevant

It breaks my heart to say this, but in this format, you can and should treat defense as an afterthought.  If you can grab one of the top 5 defensemen early, go for it, because the talent level drops off significantly after that.  Karlsson and Weber will score like a forward and so they are worthy of early selection.  However, since defense and offense are grouped together in Yahoo leagues for scoring, they have relatively little value.  Best plan is to grab 1 elite defenseman if you can early, get your second D around round 8-10, then fill up your other starting spots before rounding out this position.

 

 

Draft Room Rules

Unlike CBS, Yahoo leaves you the keys and lets you drive your car how you please.  There is no restriction on the number of players you can draft at any position.  If you want to fill your bench with 4 goalies, you're free to do so.  I only point this out, as it's a dramatic difference from the approach in CBS.  Here, you're free to take the best player available at all times.

 

 

Player Rankings

Finally, take a close look at those Yahoo player rankings and play off of them accordingly.  The average GM will tend to follow Yahoo's picks rather blindly.  Be informed and watch for these situations.

 

Undervalued

Here are some undervalued players that you can wait on and grab as a steal later than you would in other draft rooms:

Goalies: Halak!, Fleury, Lindback

Defense: Kronwall, Ekman-Larsson, Carlson

Centers: Nugent-Hopkins, Benn (despite the contract issues), Skinner

Left Wing: Lupul, Pacioretty, Clowe

Right Wing: Gaborik, Vrbata, Michalek

 

 

Overvalued

Here are some names that will fly off the board before their time, based on Yahoo overrating them:

Goalies: Lehtonen, Price, Howard

Defense: Timmonen, Seabrook, Bieksa

Centers: Datsyuk, Zetterberg (demise in Detroit is upon us), Backes

Left Wing: Heatley

Right Wing: Pominville, Alfredsson, Jagr

2013 CBS NHL Fantasy Draft Strategy

by chewy 16. January 2013 09:19

Everyone seems to be in scramble mode this week to pull together drafts, leaving very little time to prepare.  If you're like me and play on various sites, it's easy to forget the rules and nuances of each league.  Blindly drafting without regard to the rules can be fatal.   Even if you're Biff Tannen and you know exactly how many points each player will score next season, it's no guarantee for fantasy victory if you don't fashion your draft strategy to the league you're in.   In this post, I'll give you some tips and guidance on how to draft (and win) in a standard CBS fantasy hockey league.

 

Point System

The first step for any league is to study the point system so you know the relative value of each position.  CBS does a good job of weighting the value of offense, defense, and goaltending, to ensure that each position has somewhat equal weight.  Quick recap of points in key categories:

 

Offense:  Goals = 3, Assists = 2

Defense: Goals = 5, Assists = 3

Goalies: Win = 5, Saves=.2 , GA=-1

 

Offense/Defense

So what does this mean?  First off, the tendency for the inexperienced GM is to blow off drafting defensemen until the later rounds, since the big names and leading scorers obviously come from the forwards.  Huge mistake here.  Because of the weighting of points, a 20 goal scorer on offense will earn 60 points for his efforts, while a 20-goal performance by a defenseman will net 100 points.  Another critical factor to realize is the relative gap between the elite players on defense versus on offense.  When it comes to defensemen, there's a fairly small number of predictable, elite performing players.  After that group of 10 or so, it drops off considerably to the point where it doesn't matter much who you pick.  The story is different for forwards.  (Aside from a few obvious exceptions like Crosby, Stamkos, and Malkin), you won't see a huge point difference between the top 10 forwards and the next 20 or so on the list.

 

Bottom line here: don't be shy about drafting one or two defensemen in the first 4 rounds, even if it means enduring a laugh or two from your unschooled competition.

 

And what about the other stats categories?

  • Penalty Minutes - At .25 a piece, it's worth considering, but not worth planning your draft around it.  There are few players in the league that bring a steady diet of points and PIMs.  Those that do should be bumped up your list a few notches (Perry, Lucic, Clowe, Marchand); however, don't go crazy drafting goons.
  • +/- - Perhaps the most arbitrary stat in fantasy sports.  Don't waste your time trying to predict this one.  Generally speaking, favor players on good teams over those with poor goal ratios.  Often times a decent +/- will line up nicely with points, and when it doesn't, it's not worth worrying about.
  • SHG/PPG - For as often as a short handed goal is scored, pay no attention.  Power Play time (and goals) on the other hand are more predictable and should factor into your rankings.  CBS offers a bonus point for each goal on the power play, so give a slight boost to guys like Selanne and Franzen that might otherwise not be worth a look.

 

 

Goalies

CBS strikes a decent balance when valuing goaltenders between wins, saves, and goals against.  A player who sees a ton of shots (Rinne, Ward, Smith) has an edge out of the gate over a guy who only has to wake up every few minutes to turn aside a casual kick save (Lundqvist).  So don't completely shy away from a good goalie on a poor defensive team.  Shutouts are hard to predict, but there are certain goalie who historically will give you that added bonus on a regular basis (Smith, Lundqvist).  The obvious category (and the one that may be easiest to predict) is wins.  At 5 points a piece, this is where you'll want to weight a good bit of your ranking for this league.

Bottom line: focus on Wins and Saves.

 

 

Points Per Game Rule

One last point worth noting in CBS scoring rules is how they award points.  It's not the total points earned that matter in a head-to-head matchup.  It's fantasy points per game played.  While this won't affect most of your decisions at draft time for forwards and defense, it's something to think about for goaltenders.  This makes a split-crease situation somewhat more palatable.   This makes the goalies in St. Louis a prime target in CBS, whereas they may be overlooked in other formats.  Halak could be the most valuable player in the league.   It's still risky to go with a part-time goalie in net, but in this format, you can pull it off.

 

Roster Limits

Then 2nd thing to consider for any league is the number of players per position, and how the league breaks down offense.  The standard CBS rules call for:

  • 2 goalies
  • 4 defense
  • 6 forwards
  • 4 bench spots

 

One of the nuances with the CBS draft rules merits serious consideration.  While you can mix and match centers and wingers once the season begins, CBS limits you to selecting just 3 total centers at draft time.  I don't understand why they do it, but if you don't play to this rule, you could seriously hurt yourself late in the draft.  First off, high-scoring fantasy centers are abundant.  It's tempting to jump all over guys like Stamkos, Malkin, and Giroux in the early rounds, but step back and look further down the list.  Guys like Backstrom, Jordan Staal, and Benn will be around much later in the draft, and is that really so bad?  If you spend 3 early picks on centers, you'll be regretting it in round 14 when you see that Henrique and  Jeff Carter are still available, but CBS won't let you pick them.  Budget your center selection for value and save one of the 3 for the final couple of rounds.  Give yourself room to cash in on a sleeper.

 

Note: Perhaps the most frustrating part about this rule is that it's different in the mock drafts.  In a mock draft, CBS will let you pick up to 6 centers.  I had to learn this the hard way two years back in my Premium League when I went to take Anze Kopitar in round 9, only to have the unfriendly red text tell me somebody else would be benefiting from his breakout campaign.  Consider yourself warned.

 

Also note, some CBS leagues draw distinction between left wing and right wing (as opposed to grouping them all together).  If this is the case, you must mock draft this way to learn a thing or two.  You'll quickly find the talent pool drops off considerably by position in these drafts.    Centers are a dime a dozen, relatively speaking here, and shouldn't be drafted until round 5 or later.

 

Goalies

In a 12 team league starting 2 goalies, it's critical to get at least one elite player at this position.  Having two is even better.  If you don't pick a goalie in either round 1 or 2, you may lose interest quickly, because you'll be losing on a regular basis.  There's only so much talent to go around, and you'll only find a handful of useful options on the waiver wire over the course of the year.  Contrast that with the forward position.  You're guaranteed to always have a serviceable forward available throughout the season when the need arises, purely based on quantity.

Note: The 3 player limit also applies to goalies during the draft, so if you're the type that likes to stash 2 backups on your bench, you'll have to wait until after the draft to add #4.  The approach here should be different than for centers, however.  There are only 25 or so goalies worth drafting, and you need a good player in your 3rd slot, so do not wait past round 11 or 12 to grab your backup.

 

Bench

CBS grants you 4 bench spots, one for each position.  Again, once the draft is done, you can fill those 4 spots with any mix of position.  At draft time, you'll obviously want to place 1 center and 1 goalie in there.  Beyond that, feel free to grab 2 defense, 2 wingers or 1 of each.  You'll probably end up dropping one of those within a few weeks anyway (possibly for 4th center or goalie), so don't sweat it much.

 

 

Player Rankings

The third major factor to consider is the default player rankings in CBS.  Each site features their own set of player rankings, and it's worth studying them in order to guess the tendencies of your opposition.  Most GMs will tend to lean on the default rankings, particularly late in the draft.  With this in mind, you can learn a lot by searching for both underrated and overrated players in their listings. 

 

Undervalued Players

If you run through a mock draft or two, and look through the rankings, you should find some players significantly undervalued in their rankings.  While you may have ranked these players quite high on your list, they may just go a few rounds later than you would have picked them.  Take advantage of this information and spend that early pick on a another position and get the value in the next round.  This is a risky strategy, but if you're in it to win, you've got to take some chances to cash in big.  Here are some players that I find to be noticeably undervalued by CBS's rankings:

 

Goalies:  Halak, Fleury, Schneider (perhaps they don't get news out of Vancouver?)

Defense: Ekman-Larsson, Streit

Centers: Nugent-Hopkins, J. Staal

Wingers: Neal, Gaborik, Vrbata, Lupul

 

NOTE: if you're in a more serious league with established managers, take this advice with a grain of salt.  If you know what you're doing, you'll have done your own homework and have your own custom draft list.

 

Overvalued Players

On the opposite end, it's worth looking for players that CBS has rated artificially high against your personal draft list.  In this case, you have a decision to make.  If you want the player badly enough, know that you'll have to grab him earlier than you would like.  A better bet may be to resign yourself to finding value someplace else.  Here are a handful of players that probably won't make it on to my squad, as somebody is bound to grab them way too early for my liking:

 

Goalies: Howard, Bryzgalov, Luongo (see Schneider above)

Defense: Ehrhoff, Del Zotto, Brendan Smith

Centers: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kopitar (hurt)

Wingers: P. Kane, Parise, Brunner

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the Yahoo fantasy draft strategy.

2013 Fantasy Hockey Crash Course

by chewy 8. January 2013 09:21

If you're like most and haven't given much thought to fantasy hockey over the past 8 months (either out of self-defense, spite, or indifference), you may need a little help getting grounded before piecing together your fantasy squad this week.  So, here's a quick primer to get your mind back on important matters:

 

2011-12 RECAP

 

  • Last season was largely about the dominance of the Penguins (at least in the regular season).  Malkin and Neal were unstoppable.  Crosby was dominant as ever in half a season of action.  Jordan Staal played his way out of town with a career season.  Kris Letang would have been in the running for the Norris, had he stayed healthy.
  • Steven Stamkos ran away with the goal scoring title, pounding in another 60 tallies
  • Claude Giroux continued to show he deserves a spot among the elite, with a 93 point effort
  • Jason Spezza returned to star status, finishing 4th in scoring
  • Erik Karlsson was in a class by himself on defense, amassing 78 points and 19 goals

 

 

IN THE CREASE

 

  • After several years of being overlooked, Lundqvist finally earned a Vezina
  • Jonathan Quick made his case for top goalie, piling up 10 shutouts
  • Mike Smith emerged as a top tier goalie in Phoenix with a .930 save percentage and 8 shutouts of his own
  • Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak formed the best 1-2 punch in the league, combining for 13 shutouts
  • Tim Thomas likely played out his final campaign, opening the door for Tuukka Rask to emerge this year
  • Roberto Luongo slowly slid back in favor of Cory Schneider, opening the door for a likely trade this season
  • Ilya Bryzgalov mostly crashed and burned in his Philly debut

 

 

SURPRISES

 

  • Patrik Elias and Ray Whitney showed they still had something to give, piling up 78 and 77 points, respectively
  • Scott Hartnell became a serious fantasy factor.  Paired with Giroux, he put up 37 goals on top of 136 PIMs
  • Radim Vrbata was among the league leaders in goals through the first 3/4 of the season, before fading…
  • Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel brought fantasy relevance back to Toronto
  • Alex Ovechkin and the Caps disappeared.
  • Marian Gaborik played 82 games

 

 

THE (LONG AND PAINFUL) OFF SEASON

 

  • Jordan Staal joined big brother and looks to get a more prominent top line center role
  • The Minnesota Wild claimed the big double-whammy, signing Parise and Suter
  • Rick Nash finally found his way out of Columbus and into New York
  • Tomas Vokoun was brought into Pittsburgh to spur Fleury on to post-season success
  • Anders Lindback became the man in the Tampa net
  • The decline in Detroit is eminent.  Lidstrom has finally hung 'em up.  With Stuart gone, too, look for the playoff streak to end.
  • Lubomir Visnovsky was dealt to the Isles, against his wishes, went to Russia, and may never come back
  • Alex Semin will try to reignite his scoring touch, moving to divisional rival Carolina

 

 

INJURY NEWS

  • Ryan Kesler remains on the shelf in Vancouver with no timeline for return from wrist and should woes
  • Marian Hossa appears to be recovered from the concussion that ended his playoffs
  • Anze Kopitar injured his knee last week and may need a month to recover
  • Rick Nash injured his groin in December, but should be ready to make his Rangers debut on time

 

 

 

Be sure to check out our free player rankings by position.  You can drag and drop / customize your own fantasy rankings from there as well.  Welcome back, NHL.

Fantasy Hockey - Safe Picks for 2012

by chewy 17. October 2012 09:51

Now that there is some glimmer of light appearing under the door, it may be time to start getting serious about preparing for some last-minute hockey drafts.  We've previously highlighted some breakout and rebound candidates to spice up your roster, but for the most part, it's not a bad idea to play it safe.  These guys aren't the superstars, but they're a solid, safe pick. They probably won't compete for the Art Ross, but you know what you're getting with these guys and can sleep at night with them on your roster.

Offense

Loui Eriksson                     DAL         

Check out Loui's point totals for the last three seasons: 71, 73, 71. His goal totals have lingered between 26 and 29 as well. Gotta love that consistency. And the truth is, he's capable of more. The Stars brought in some help for the top 2 lines, but Eriksson will still be counted on to be the team's top sniper. I fully expect 35 goals out of brother Loui in 2012-13.

Anze Kopitar                     LOS         

Kopitar seems to start each season with a bang, giving hope that he'll emerge as an elite fantasy forward. Mid season struggles have kept him from reaching the next level, but few fantasy options have been as consistent as this one over the past few years. He's good for 25-30 goals and close to 80 points.

Milan Lucic                     BOS         

Lucic managed to repeat the solid effort he displayed in 2010-11 that vaulted into the fantasy conversation. His blend of production in goals, assists, and PIMs make him a safe 4th or 5th round pick.

Jason Pominville                     BUF         

Pominville's numbers had been on the decline for the past few seasons, but 2011-12 brought a sudden bump in production. He hit the 30 goal mark for the 2nd time in his career. #29 turned 29 this year and there's no reason to predict a major dropoff. Another 70 point season should be in the cards, though banking on 30 goals may be optimistic. Flag him as a safe mid-round selection.

Henrik Sedin                     VAN         

If you're looking for a safe, reliable pick early in your draft, Henrik Sedin is a good place to start. His numbers have noticeably dipped for two straight seasons, but that still kept him at a point a game. The biggest drawback here will always be his lack of goal-scoring. If goals matter more to you than assists, adjust him accordingly. Either way, you have a guy who has put up 7 consecutive seasons of 75+ points. During that stretch, he hasn't missed a single game.

Patrick Sharp                     CHI         

If it's goals that you seek, Sharp has been one of the most consistent producers in recent years. He has topped 30 goals in 3 of the last 5 seasons, including the last two. He has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, which has kept him shy of hitting the 40 goal mark. 8 Game Winners and a +/- of +28 helped boost his overall fantasy rank to 12th best among forwards. Some of the young guns in the NHL will likely pass him by this season, but he's still a reliable contributor, particularly at right wing. He'll retain his place on the top unit in Chicago, which ensures him plenty of opportunity to pop in another 30+ tallies.

Martin St. Louis                     TAM         

True, his stats took a dive last season, dropping by 25 points and registering his lowest goal total in a decade. He's also 37 years of age. It's tempting to assume the end is drawing near; however, he's been overcoming doubts his entire career. As long as he remains the Stamkos wingman, (no reason to believe that will change) he has significant value. When you're trying to rank St. Louis, you also must consider your point system. He doesn't take penalties. All told, he's one of the safest 4th or 5th round picks out there.

Eric Staal                     CAR         

Aside from one monster season coming out of the lockout (100 points in '05-06), Staal has been remarkably consistent from year to year, lingering between 70 and 80 points. Could the arrival of little brother be enough to spur him on to greater heights once more? He's been one of the most durable forwards in the league, playing just one season with less than 81 games. With the moves Carolina made to boost his support, you should expect Staal to take at least a 10 point jump back into the 80's in 2012-13.

Joe Thornton                     SAN         

It seems like Thornton has been playing hockey forever. He started dominating the NHL at such a young age, it's tempting to assume he's nearing the end. In reality, he's "just" 33, plenty young enough to continue to near point-a-game storyline he has written for years now. As always, the problem is all assists, no goals, but man, those are a lot of assists. The man hasn't put up less than 68 points in a season yet this millennium. So, just write in 24 goals and 50 assists minimum. Use pen.

Defense

Matt Carle                     TAM         

Matt Carle is another safe, if un-sexy, pick for you to fall back on late in the draft. For the last 3 seasons, he's popped in a handful of goals and lingered between 35 and 40 points. He will be the go-to guy for the Lightning this season and will probably remain in that territory.

Alexander Edler                     VAN         

When Ehrhoff bolted for Buffalo last summer, Edler slid into the #1 man job description. He seemed to fill that role nicely, racking up close to 50 points, including an impressive 228 shots on net. Even with the addition of Garrison and the presence of a healthy Bieksa, Edler will continue to carry the mail for one of the league's top contenders. Look for another strong effort in the 10 goal, 50 point territory.

Dion Phaneuf                     TOR         

Phaneuf put together a solid comeback season last year, restoring faith in his ability to rejoin the ranks of the top fantasy D. His 12 goals ranked 6th at his position and helped him slide into 6th in total fantasy production. Look for another solid play in 2012-13 from the Leafs captain.

Brent Seabrook                     CHI         

If you're looking for a safe pick on defense, you can't do much better than Seabrook. His potential is probably limited, but you can't beat the reliability. For seven years, he's been very healthy and has regularly put up decent goal and point totals for the Hawks. Expect another decent go in the realm of 8 goals and 40 points.

Mark Streit                     NYI         

Bad news first: -27 on the +/- hurt his overall fantasy value in a big way in many league formats. He's also seen his point totals decline for four straight seasons. However, he had set the bar extremely high. Despite another slip, he still posted 47 points for a team going nowhere. Streit showed no ill affects after missing all of 2010-11, having played in all 82 games last season. Expect another solid season from Streit.

Goalies

Ryan Miller                     BUF         

Miller had a rough start to the season, which included missing a few weeks with concussion issues. It took him (and the Sabres) just a bit too long to salvage the season, but man did they look solid down the stretch. Miller was playing at All-Star levels through most of the spring, which may bode very well for his prospects heading into 2012-13. The Sabres are now a confident bunch and their young forwards are starting to click. This means more help for Miller in getting those W's on the stat sheet. Look for a solid, bounce-back year for Miller to re-establish himself as a top-notch fantasy starter.

Antti Niemi                     SAN         

Niemi's second season with the Sharks was much like his first. Another solid 34 wins to complement a respectable 2.42 GAA. He's still unchallenged for the #1 job and will see close to 70 games again this year if healthy. While the Sharks no longer get a regular mention with the league's elite, they're good enough to put wins on the table and keep Niemi as a safe, low-end #1 option.

Carey Price                     MON         

Price had plenty of pressure (nothing new) after the Habs dealt away Halak. He rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations. Montreal is clearly not among the elite teams in the league, so he won't challenge for tops in wins; however, he'll give you good stats across the board. Strong #2 goalie option.

Pekka Rinne                     NAS         

Rinne put together another fine season as the Predator's workhorse, amassing a whopping 43 wins in 73 attempts. That would be good enough for 1st in the NHL last season. On the positive side, Rinne has seen his wins increase every season and he's really just entering his prime. On the downside, he's going to feel somewhat abandoned when camp opens and one of his two prime protectors is MIA. The loss of Suter will be felt. The Nashville defense goes from being one of the best in the business to somewhat undefined, as they're forced to promote some of their younger talent. It may be unreasonable to expect Rinne to compete for the Vezina again this season, and a repeat of the 43 wins is a long shot. That said, as far as Rinne himself is concerned, he's done nothing to this point in his career that would suggest he's not worthy of remaining among the elite at this position from a fantasy perspective.

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