It's the age-old question for fantasy sports managers around the globe - who's No. 1?
Arguably for the first time in several years, there is no easy answer when you're talking about hockey. Alex Ovechkin
is the reigning MVP, Sidney Crosby
is finally healthy, Steven Stamkos
continues to become more dominant with the puck every season, and 2011-12 Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin
will be looking to rebound from a mediocre year.
Then, once managers get past the rounds filled with all-stars and first-line talent, it's time to focus on those impact players that can be drafted low, but potentially pay huge dividends.
From top picks to steal picks to picking a player looking to rebound in 2013-14, here's what you need to know ahead of your draft:Who's No. 1?
The Professional Hockey Writers' Association decided to select Ovechkin as the league's MVP last season and award him the Hart Memorial Trophy. Though the Capitals' captain finished the year with an NHL-best 32 goals, to go along with 24 assists, his painfully slow start (10 goals in 27 games) was almost unbearable for those fantasy hockey managers that spent their first pick on him. And let's not forget that the previous year, Ovie finished with just 65 points in 78 games.
Meanwhile, Crosby recorded 56 points in 36 games in the lockout-shortened season. Despite being unable to stay healthy the past few years, he continues to put up well over a point per game. The Penguins captain registered 37 points in 22 games in 2011-12, 66 points in 41 games in 2010-11 and, in his last full campaign, 109 points in 81 games in 2009-10.
Then there's the guy that just scores lots and lots of goals. Last year, Stamkos scored 29 goals for a total of 57 points. In his previous three years, the all-star scored 51 (2009-10), 45 (2010-11) and 60 goals (2011-12). More importantly, the Lightning sniper has recorded a large amount of his points on the power play and consistently finds himself in the ever-elusive game-winning goals category as well.
Add in Malkin and his rather pedestrian nine goals and 33 points in 31 games last year and there are some questions surrounding the NHL's top four players. Can Ovie put up points over a full season like he hasn't done since 2010? Can Crosby stay healthy? The verdict
With all the distractions of the Olympics taking place in his native country (he's already accepted an invitation to carry the torch
for Russia after it is lit in Greece on Sept. 29, which is just two days before the Caps' first regular-season game in Chicago) not to mention the fact that centreman Mike Ribeiro
left via free agency, Ovechkin will be hard pressed to control seemingly his biggest demon - focus. Though Washington's captain did recently say in an interview
with Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman that he plans to stay in the NHL this season, his heart and mind may still be in Russia with the Games looming.
With a full pre-season under his belt, there's no reason to think Sid the Kid won't officially put his injury woes behind him. When healthy, there's really no one better or more well-rounded in this league than Crosby. But if you're looking for goals, power-play goals and potentially less risk (or should I say less bad luck), it's hard to argue against Stamkos. Steal picks
In 2010, I declared
a little-known late first-round pick from the 2006 draft Claude Giroux
to be the breakout player of the year. He then went on to record career-highs in goals (25) and points (76) in 82 games. Although I'm not sure there's another Giroux waiting in the wings this year (unless the planets align correctly for Calgary Flames rookie Sean Monahan), there are a few players that might be better than most people expect.Ryan Strome
- Drafted in 2011 after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
, Gabriel Landeskog
, Jonathan Huberdeau
and Adam Larsson
, has yet to taste an NHL regular-season game.
The New York Islanders forward has been productive since draft day, putting up 64 goals and 162 points in 99 games with the OHL's Niagara IceDogs, including 14 power-play goals and a whopping plus-80. Yes, you read that right. And he's been productive in the playoffs as well. Strome has registered 26 points in 25 post-season games with Niagara, and seven points in 10 games with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He also chipped in two years in a row on Canada's world junior team (15 points, plus-11 in 12 games).
With the Isles on the rise, if Strome finally cracks the team's roster and gets a chance to play with talents like John Tavares
or Matt Moulson
, the sky's the limit for the prospect from Mississauga, Ont.Slava Voynov
- 13 points in 18 playoff games last year, you could argue the Kings' Voynov was the biggest surprise among defencemen in the NHL's second season.
In his second year in the league, Voynov tallied 25 points in 48 games, including eight power-play points. More importantly, he jumped from fifth on the team in ice-time per game (18:32) to second (22:18) behind only Drew Doughty
In a full 82-game season as a go-to player on one of the NHL's most dangerous teams, look for Voynov to increase his totals significantly.Andrew Cogliano
- Six-year NHL veteran Cogliano has become all but an afterthought in fantasy hockey leagues. After his rookie season in Edmonton when he scored 18 goals for 45 points and added five game winners, Cogliano's career has been in decline. But last year, in his second season in Anaheim, the former first-round pick showed some value. He tallied 23 points in 48 games - only three less points than the previous season in 34 fewer games - on 15:22 of average ice-time per game and was tied for second on the team with a plus-14 rating. He's worth a look in deeper leagues.On the rebound
Many players missed plenty of time in last year's lockout-shortened season due to injury. Several of them, including Ottawa's Milan Michalek
and Erik Karlsson
, Toronto's Joffrey Lupul
and Colorado's Landeskog, will undoubtedly come back strong and put up the type of numbers we're used to seeing. Others like Winnipeg's Tobias Enstrom
and new Blues' centre Derek Roy
could return to form. But there's one more player you may have forgotten about or written off altogether that needs to be on your radar.Steve Downie
- After enduring the lockout like every NHL player (and fan) last year, Downie tore the ACL in his right knee on a hit by then Kings defenceman Davis Drewiske
just two games into the season. What could have been a promising season potentially playing alongside Matt Duchene
was erased. But this gritty Avalanche winger is healthy and looking to make his presence as a power forward known again.
Though he showed flashes of brilliance (and quite a lot of immaturity and recklessness) with the Flyers, Downie's career took off when he landed in Tampa Bay. In 2009-10, he had his best campaign in the league with 22 goals, 46 points and 208 penalty minutes in 79 games. The following season, Downie registered 32 points and 171 PIMs in 57 games, but was a force in the playoffs with 14 points and 40 PIMs in 17 games as the Bolts made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
In 2011-12 split between the Lightning and Avalanche, Downie put up 41 points and 137 PIMs in 75 games, including 13 points in 20 games in Colorado.
Whether he ends up playing with Duchene or rookie Nathan MacKinnon, look for the forgotten Downie to provide you with at least 50 points and 150 PIMs.
Have your say!
Who do you think will go first overall and be this year's steal pick? Leave a comment below to have your say.
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