Well folks, it’s hockey season again. And no, we don’t mean a half-season. This year fans can sink their teeth into 82 full regular-season displays of fierce, frozen action. And while the NFL and MLB tend to take the cake for fantasy notoriety, don’t underestimate the intensity of a good old fashion NHL fantasy rivalry. So, in that spirit, we thought we’d offer a roundup of a few teams (and their key players) to watch out for when it comes to fantasy points. And to top our list? You might be surprised:
With the move last season to acquire Devils vet-wunderkind Zac Parise and the recent contract extension of Jason Pominville, the Wild are gearing up to make waves in the Midwest for the next few years. Of course, picking up these two stars would do wonders for any fantasy lineup, a promising prospect is their man between the pipes. Niklas Backstrom is slated to win 25 games for Minnesota, and with some solid scorers at the helm, it wouldn’t be surprising.
Stanley Cup bearers from two years ago, and of course runners-up last season, Boston’s crew always churns out a healthy dose of fantasy gems, although not notably in the standard “forwards” category. This year, the goalie who came in third overall for fantasy-point projections was the Czech wonder Tuukka Rask. Garnering chants of “Tuuuuuuuuka” on his home ice, in the fantasy sphere he’s projected to post more than 35 wins and 1,500 saves. So, if you’re looking to land him in a trade you’ll need to pony up some top-tier scorers.
Other players of note are Zdeno Chara (projected: 12 G and 34 A), new acquisition Loui Eriksson (projected: 31 G), Brad Marchand (projected: 30 G) and Jarome Iginla (projected 31 G). While Boston’s lineup has seen some shake-ups since last season, the new faces are exciting additions to an already dazzling franchise.
Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a surprise to see on this list. Their forwards often make up a disproportionately high percentage of top-projection lists. With Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz alone, you have an impressive crew. Dig a little deeper though; you could snag some sleepers that may have been overlooked. Take James Neal for example. While he can be easily overshadowed by the other guys, with a carefully orchestrated trade, you can add him (and his 38 projected goals) to even out your forwards.
As a side note, it might be best to avoid Fleury. He might be their franchise face of recent years, but if last year’s playoffs are any indication, his pressure play leaves something to be desired. Although, he did shut the devils out in their opener. Maybe he just lacked some vitamin fulfillment last year.
We couldn’t leave Canada out of this “teams to watch” list, and after a long tenure of disappointing seasons, the Leafs saw a seriously impressive influx of scoring and momentum last year — even if they were snuffed out of the playoffs in a nail-biting division play off against the Bruins.
Of all these teams, Toronto’s key faces tend to fly under the radar. Sure, you’ve got Kessel and his all-but-guaranteed 40+ goals. But don’t overlook their newcomers. The last two seasons saw Nazem Kadri’s name peppering the headlines. His worth isn’t measured only in tangibles (although his goal and assist numbers won’t disappointed). But he has a tendency to electrify the ice and the line he’s on—an impressive fact for such a newcomer to the NHL.
While this is just a surface look at high-scoring players, it’s helpful to delve further into each of these teams’ prospective lineups. While fantasy isn’t always the best indication of player success, it’s an interesting vehicle for monitoring team shake-ups, unearthing unexpected stars and, of course, cultivating some healthy sports bar trash talk.