An important key to winning any fantasy hockey league is nabbing one or two steals in the draft. It's a wonderful feeling to call out a name late in the draft and then hear a guy or two mumbling about how they forgot about him on their list. These players may be overlooked or undervalued by other managers for a variety of reasons. Some of these guys had below average seasons last year, due to injury, etc. Others are just traditionally undervalued. These guys will slide a round or two beyond where they should. Don't miss out on them.
David Booth FLA
David Booth put up 31 goals in 2009-10 but was destroyed by concussion problems last season. He's a natural goal scorer and could be yours late in the draft. Reports say he's at 100% and will be ready to go for camp. Squeeze him onto your bench, as he could turn out to be a major find late in the draft.
Michael Cammalleri MON
Cammalleri was limited to 50 points in the regular season, due to a knee injury that kept him out a few weeks, and limited his effectiveness for a few more. However, he showed what he can do in the playoffs, ripping off 13 goals in just 19 games. He'll probably fly under the radar a bit, but don't forget about him. He has potential to win the Rocket Richard if he can get some help around him in Montreal.
Pavel Datsyuk DET
After two straight seasons at 97 points, Datsyuk toppled down to 70 points last season. That should be enough to see him slip through the first two rounds undetected. He and the rest of the Wings should score more goals in 2010, so you can bank on a return to at least 80 points / 30 goals from Pavel. If he slides to you in the 3rd or 4th round, he could be the steal of the draft.
Johan Franzen DET
Franzen is an absolute beast. When he's healthy. He missed 2/3 of last season, but was finally healed and ready to go for the playoffs. He registered at least one point in all 12 of the Wings postseason contests and scored 6 goals in those games. Given a full season of good health, you could expect close to 40 goals from Franzen. If you're willing to risk it, he'll reward you handsomely.
Jiri Hudler DET
The news flew under the radar this summer, but Jiri Hudler is in fact returning to play with the Redwings this season. He was just hitting his prime when he bolted to the KHL last season, where he was a point-per-game player. With his return, the Wings are expecting close to 70 points from him this season, which is probably a reasonable expectation, perhaps on the high side. Either way, he will certainly be overlooked in most drafts, so you can nab him in a later round.
Thomas Vanek BUF
If it's goals you hunger for, Vanek should be on your watch list. He has averaged more than 30 per season in his first 5 years. He was down a bit last season, missing time with 3 or 4 different random ailments, which held him back with each return. He came back to score a pair of goals in 3 playoff contests and should be healthy for the start of camp. He'll be downgraded by most GM's, which gives him potential for a mid-round steal. Set your expecations in the 35+ goal range once more.
Brent Burns MIN
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was talk of Brent Burns emerging as a Norris Trophy threat. The last two seasons have not been kind to Mr. Burns. In terms of fantasy hockey; however, that just means you can target him for a steal at this year's draft table. His point totals of 27 and 20 over the past two seasons will make most GMs forget he exists, but don't be fooled. Injuries account for most of the decline and he's the best Minnesota has to offer at that position. He should rebound this season to the 40+ point plateau, so grab him late and surprise your friends.
Niklas Kronwall DET
Kronwall was steadily becoming one of the top fantasy defensemen in the game, before his season was derailed last year by injury. He still managed to average close to .5 ppg and recorded 7 goals in just half a season's work. He may fly under the radar at the draft table due to his off season, so target him for a mid-round steal and you'll make out like a champ.
Paul Martin PIT
Martin's 11 point season in 2009-10 will cause him to go unnoticed by many managers. His new home and return to health should merit your notice. Look for 40 points in his new black and gold jersey.
Dion Phaneuf TOR
Phaneuf's ego took one on the chin over last season when he failed to reach the high expectations he set for himself early in his career. After his move to Toronto, he started to find his way a bit. He still finished the season with 12 goals, and while it falls short of the 20 he scored as a rookie, it's still a fine total for a defenseman. Phaneuf will be undervalued by most GMs, so you can get him at value. Expect him to climb back up towards 15 goals and 50 points again this season.
Brian Elliott OTT
At the start of last season, Elliot was presumed to be backing up Leclaire. After a series of injuries and spotty play by Leclaire, Elliot stepped in and stepped up. He finished with some pretty strong numbers and should have the upper hand to get the starts in 2010. However, don't count Leclaire out just yet. He's still a young goalie himself and couple very well get back into the mix. If Elliot gets the starts, he could be a steal, as the Senators should win some games next year.
Steve Mason COB
Steve Mason went from hero to goat boy in a matter of weeks. After a fantastic rookie campaign, he crapped the bed out of the gate last fall. He's still very young and the temptation may be to write him off. Don't be a fool. Mason has a bright future ahead of him, despite his sophomore setback. If you can get him as your 3rd goalie, consider it a steal.
Tomas Vokoun FLA
Vokoun doesn't get the credit that he deserved, mostly because of where he plays. He put up another great year with a .925 save percentage and 7 shutouts; however, a mediocre GAA of 2.55 holds him back. If your league values saves highly, he's a solid #1 goalie. He approached 2000 saves last season once again, and should see a good deal of action in 2010-11. Add to that the possibility that he could be moved in the spring to a contender, and you could find yourself in a good spot come playoff time.