Friday, September 30, 2011

2011-12 NHL Projections: Goalies

Top 60 Goalies to pick in 2011-12

This season, there are a lot of top goalies to select from.  In addition to the usual cast of characters, there are some new top keepers like Pekka Rinne out there.  Aside from the old and the new reliable picks, there may be a couple of goalies you may wish to avoid.  For one reason or another such as age, or a younger, skilled back-up, ice time may be on the decline for some of the league's elder statesmen.  

One of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) candidates for a decline this year may be Tim Thomas.  He had a dream season last year, leading the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup.

2011-12 NHL Projections: Forwards

Top 230 Forwards to pick in 2011-12 

Whether you are in the market for top-end talent, or simply seeking to augment your team with late round steals, the 230 players listed on this page unveil quite a few hidden gems / sleepers, and quite a few players who are on the come back trail or poised for a break out.


Players like John Tavares, Claude Giroux and Matt Duchene should be primed to enter the top 30 in NHL scoring year year, while other youngsters like James Neal and James Van Riemsdyk should take advantage of larger roles with their clubs to achieve stardom in the near future.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011-12 NHL Projections: Defense

Top 70 Defensemen to pick in 2011-12

Phoenix Coyotes' defender Keith Yandle
What makes a defender worth selecting in fantasy pools? 

Depending on which stats your league values or tracks, you may opt for defenders on more successful teams.

The better the team, the better the plus/minus, and the better the power play. If your defense has a few power play quarter backs on good teams, you’re bound to reap the rewards of increased goal totals, and increased power play point totals.

If your league values PIMs, make sure you take tougher defencemen that will rack up points as well, such as Dustin Byfuglien, Shea Weber, Chris Pronger Brent Burns or Kevin Bieksa.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Winnipeg Jets 2011-12 Preview


How will the Jets perform in their first year up north?

Andrew Ladd and the rest of the Jets will receive a tremendous reception upon their return to regular season action in Manitoba. But for just how long will that elation extend?

Knowing Winnipegers and their passion for hockey—the entire season. But how good will the Jets be?

They have a relatively young team and can expect improved performances from developing players like Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, and Zach Bogosian, and also a return to form for veterans like Bryan Little and Nik Antropov.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Washington Capitals 2011-12 Preview

Can the Caps overcome their underachiever label?
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are definitely trying to find a winning formula, but do they have an identity?

They were criticized for being all offense and no defense, and only after a late rally did they prove they could win defensively last year.

The Capitals seem to be juggling identities, and this year may be no different. After acquiring a bona fide, experienced starting goaltender in Tomas Vokoun, the Caps hope his experience and the addition of Troy Brouwer and return to health of Mike Green will be enough to get them over the hump.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vancouver Canucks 2011-12 Preview


Can the Canucks get back to the Cup and redeem themselves after heartbreak?
After falling one game short against the Boston Bruins, the Canucks endured a long summer of soul searching. Vancouver never trailed a series until they lost game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Their regular season was dominant, but they still lost. So where do you go from there?

Well, the Canucks lost Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass, but are hoping Marco Sturm, Owen Nolan, and others can fill in admirably.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2011-12 Preview

Do the Leafs have what it takes to make the playoffs?

After failing to acquire Brad Richards in the summer free agent frenzy, the Maple Leafs went out an acquired Tim Connolly. A dynamic offensive player, Connolly can impact a game at any time. The unfortunate thing for Connolly and the Leafs however, is that health and durability is often a concern.

For the Leafs this year, some off-season acquisitions will hope to make a difference and vault them into the playoffs.

John Michael-Liles, Cody Franson, and Dion Phaneuf will anchor the blue line with Luke Schenn, and Matthew Lombardi will hope to return to previous form and recover from his own injury struggles last year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 Preview

What do the Lightning have in store for an encore?
After a successful playoff run that saw them take down the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, and press the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to a seventh and deciding game, the Tampa Bay Lightning led by head coach Guy Boucher will be looking to take a step forward this year.

With departures including Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne and Mike Smith but no one brought in to replace them, they’ll have to rely upon existing resources to improve to get them to the next level.

San Jose Sharks 2011-12 Preview

Will the Sharks ever get over the hump? Will Brent Burns get them there?

Another year full of expectations and another disappointment for the San Jose Sharks. Eliminated from the playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks, they at least went one game further than they did against the Chicago Blackhawks the year before.

To address concerns from the post-season, the under-producing Dany Heatley was shipped to Minnesota for Martin Havlat, while Dan Boyle will also receive some assistance on the back end with the acquisition of Brent Burns from Minnesota as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

St Louis Blues 2011-12 Preview

Can the Blues stay healthy and make a difference in the Western Conference this year? 


The injuries mounted and mounted last year for the St. Louis Blues. It’s a story that’s been repeated for a couple of seasons now. The Blues missed the playoffs, but there is plenty of reason for optimism this year.

The return of David Perron, the emergence of David Backes, Patrick Berglund, Alex Steen, and Alex Pietrangelo, and the arrival of Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. Add to that the acquisition of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott and the future looks mighty bright for the Blues.

Pittsburgh Penguins 2011-12 Preview

Will Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin be healthy enough to return to form and lead Pittsburgh?

The injury to Sidney Crosby and the loss of Evgeni Malkin were supposed to cripple the Penguins.

Instead, they showed that they are more than a two-man team. Their role players stepped up in a big way, leading them to the playoffs in strong position, where they came up short against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Obviously the big question heading into this year surrounds the health of Sidney Crosby. At this point, it’s unknown if he’ll be ready and just how healthy he’ll be to begin the year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phoenix Coyotes 2011-12 Preview


Can the Coyotes shake off their off-ice troubles and once again make the playoffs?

The departure of all-star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov may spell the end of playoff appearances for the Phoenix Coyotes. No disrespect to newcomer Mike Smith (Okay, maybe a little), but the departures did not end with Bryzgalov. Ed Jovanovski, Eric Belanger, and several role players also left.

In return, the Coyotes nabbed Boyd Gordon, Raffi Torres and Alex Bolduc, along with the aforementioned Mike Smith. This exchange of talent will open the door for youngsters to inherit more senior roles. The likes of Martin Hanzal and Kyle Turris will have greater expectations placed upon them this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Philadelphia Flyers 2011-12 Preview

What can fans expect from the re-vamped Philadelphia Flyers?
The Flyers have undergone a massive transformation in the off-season. Gone are Richards, Carter, Leino, Versteeg, Zherdev, O’Donnell, Carcillo and Boucher—just to name a few.

As far as new faces go, Jaromir Jagr headlines a group that includes Braydon Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Maxime Talbot, and Ilja Bryzgalov.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ottawa Senators 2011-12 Preview

Can the Sens rebound after a devastating season in 2011?

The Senators have experienced a decline from their prime seasons a few years ago. Being virtually eliminated from the playoffs eraly on last year did not instill confidence in fans. That being said, the team has acquired some solid young prospects and the future now once again looks bright.

The team will most likely not contend for a division title this year, but the wheels of change are in full swing and the rebuild has begun.

While Daniel Alfredsson is in the twilight of his career, Jason Spezza is evolving as a leader. Nick Foligno and Milan Michalek will have to shoulder more of the workload this year, and newcomers will be asked to produce as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New York Rangers 2011-12 Preview

How far can the new-look Rangers go in 2012?

The Rangers have happily held the identity of a responsible, defense-first team in the past few years. With Henrik Lundqvist at the helm, the Rangers seem to be in nearly every game they play.

This year, they’ll hope for some better luck on the health front. At some point last year, Gaborik, Callahan, Dubinsky, and Chris Drury were all injured. The addition of Brad Richards is the big transaction to take note of here, but they have a great corps of forwards with Wolski, Stepan and Anisimov likely to develop and turn in even better seasons.

Friday, September 9, 2011

New York Islanders 2011-12 Preview

Can the Islanders find some goaltending and contend for the playoffs?

There have been some long years on Long Island for quite some time now, but with the arrival of Michael Grabner last season, a pending break out from John Tavares, a solid supporting cast in Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson, and the two-way expertise of Frans Nielsen, the Isles look pretty dangerous up front this season.

On defense, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic will be aided by the return of Mark Streit to form a solid defense.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Jersey Devils 2011-12 Preview

Will the Devils return to form after a catastrophic 2010-11?

New Jersey ended with some tremendous hockey, but the writing was on the wall early on.

After opening the season with a horrible start, injuries to Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise did not help. The team struggled to find its game—especially of its best remaining player—Ilya Kovalchuk, and only a late season surge prompting playoff optimism lifted the spirits of the Devils’ faithful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nashville Predators 2011-12 Preview

Can the Predators repeat last season’s successes and earn home ice advantage for the playoffs?

Nashville enjoyed its most successful season ever last year. Qualifying for the playoffs at the highest seed in franchise history, the Preds dispatched the Anaheim Ducks in six games, and pressed the Vancouver Canucks to six games before bowing out.

The season was a boon for their fan base, and that taste of modest success will only encourage expectations to rise this year.

Led by Shea Weber, the Predators’ strength is defense. Weber and Suter form one of the NHL’s best pairings on the back end. Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne and an embarrassment of riches on defense give the Predators a chance to compete in any game.

Their offense lacks a dynamic, game-breaking scorer, but possesses many solid two-way players capable of netting a timely goal.

Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand, Colin Wilson, Martin Erat and Patrick Hornqvist lead the attack up front.

The Predators will challenge the Red Wings for second place in the Central division and should qualify for the playoffs as the 5th or 6th seed, battling with Los Angeles and Detroit.


Forwards
Nashville possesses depth but no dynamic scorers. Younger forwards would be the best bet, as they will have potential for more.

Sergei Kostitsyn
The talented brother of Andrei and former Hab notched an 11-game point streak last season and was very effective in Nashville. 50 points seems very realistic for this skilled winger. If he finds chemistry with a playmaker, he could approach 60.

Martin Erat
Erat has been one of Nashville’s most pleasant surprises and more consistent scorers over the past few years. At times he appears as if he’ll break through, but it hasn’t happened yet. 45-50 points will probably be as high as he goes.

Colin Wilson
Wilson possesses the size and skill to be a very good scorer in the NHL. In a few years, he may be Nashville’s leading scorer. That year most likely will not be this year, but he’s not too far away from breaking out. Expect 45-50 points

Mike Fisher
Fisher is an instant fan favourite in Nashville due to his wife, but he’s a pretty good hockey player that deserves attention for his play. A solid two-way center, Fisher can pot 20-25 goals and play in all situations. Without a lot of offensive support, surpassing 45 points will be difficult though.

David Legwand
The former first rounder has never really lived up to expectations, but has rounded into a solid performer at both ends of the ice. Epitomizing Nashville hockey, he is a speedy, responsible player who can pot some timely goals.

Patrick Hornqvist
The talented Finn can be fairly streaky. Potent at some periods and dormant in others, consistency would go a long way in pushing Hornqvist to the next step. With so many similarly skilled players on the team, expecting anyone to exceed the 50 point barrier would be asking too much.

Nicklas Bergfors
Originally the key to the Kovalchuk deal between Atlanta and New Jersey, Bergfors took a step back last season and found himself traded to Florida and then Nashville. 40-50 points are possible, but he’ll need to prove himself to obtain the ice time to warrant that production.

Defence
Shea Weber

The best beard in hockey had a bit of an off year last season, but still recorded 48 points. Weber is one of the best in the game and possesses one of the hardest shots. As Nashville’s roster matures, Weber will be even better. He’s only 26. He could hit 20 goals and 55 points this year.

Ryan Suter
Playing second fiddle to Shea Weber, Suter flies under the radar but is a very capable and dangerous defender. No slouch with 39 points last year, Suter would surpass 40 this time around.

Jonathan Blum
Blum joined the team later in the season and played so well that he was regularly playing 20+ minutes during the playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks. Poised beyond his years, he’ll be a power play threat in no time,

Goaltending
Pekka Rinne

Rinne was arguably the best goaltender in the Western Conference last year and a very pleasant surprise for Nashville. He plays an exciting style frustrates opposing shooters. His goaltending could steal many games for the Preds this year.

Prediction - 36 Wins

Anders Lindback
When the Preds gave Rinne the night off, 6’6” Lindback stepped in admirably. Two shutouts and an 11-5 record will instill confidence in any coach. He may not see much action, but he’ll be steady.

Prediction - 10 wins

TOP SLEEPER
Sergei Kostitsyn

There are many options on Nashville that would qualify as sleepers. Buried in a non-traditional hockey market, few Preds get the attention they deserve. Sergei Kostitsyn shows flashes of being a premier talent, but the inconsistency of youth plagued him at times last season.

3 points in his first 19 games conceal the 47 in his last 56. 60 points are well within reach this season.

TOP ROOKIE
D– Jonathan Blum

The former Vancouver Giant looked right at home during the NHL playoffs, and in his brief stint during the regular season. By the time the year ended, he was produces at the 30+ point season clip, and logging about 20 minutes a night. There’s a lot of depth on Nashville’s blueine, but Blum should be a mainstay this year.

Potential Breakout Player
Colin Wilson

Wilson is poised to break out. Solid with the puck and demonstrating good size, he simply needs to iron out the defensive side of his game.

He was not used extensively during stretches of the playoffs, but has the potential to be a top-6 forward in Nashville this year. They like his size and strength and could use his offensive skill.

If you are in the market for a young Predator forward, Colin Wilson is your best bet for offense. Bergfors is a risky pick, but Wilson has the confidence of many fantasy hockey experts and should be on your radar this season.







Fantasy Hockey Toolkit Central 
 2011-12 Season Previews
Previous: Montreal Canadiens | Next: New Jersey Devils

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Montreal Canadiens 2011-12 Preview

Are the Canadiens strong enough to top the Bruins in the Northeast Division?

After a memorable playoff run two seasons ago, the Montreal Canadiens took the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to overtime of Game 7 in their opening round series, only to lose and be filled with thoughts of what could have been.

This time around, the team will have Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges back from injury, and has added Erik Cole to provide some size up front. The Habs already possess depth up front with Cammalleri, Gionta, Gomez, Plekanec, Kostitsyn and Pacioretty.

Minnesota Wild 2011-12 Preview

Are the new-look Wild good enough to make the playoffs?

The Minnesota Wild have had a busy off-season. First, they traded Martin Havlat away for Dany Heatley, and then dealt Devin Setoguchi or Brent Burns.

The Wild now boast a decent amount of skill up front with Koivu, Heatley, Setoguchi, Bouchard, Latendresse and Cullen, among others. But while their forward ranks have gained depth, their defence will have to accommodate the loss of their best all-around rear guard, Brent Burns.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Los Angeles Kings 2011-12 Preview

Can these dangerous Los Angeles Kings win the tough Western Conference? 


Last year, the Los Angeles Kings entered the year with a great deal of optimism. A young core was supposed to take the next step, but mid-season struggles and a first round exit against the Sharks sealed the same fate (a first round exit) for the second straight year.

This year, the Kings will begin the season with Dustin Penner, and newly acquired Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Sure, they lost Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, but they’re better off up front this year.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Florida Panthers 2011-12 Preview

Will the Panthers’ infusion of talent gel quickly and make noise in the East?

Can a new nucleus form in Florida?  Eternal optimism for mediocrity in Florida reigns supreme, or does it? Years of rebuilding (after rebuild, after rebuild) led to GM Dale Tallon blowing things up this year. Aside from a glut of ex-Blackhawks, the Panthers went out and signed almost everyone they could—and to big contracts.

Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski on defense, Scottie Upshall, Kris Fersteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann at forward are among the new faces.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Edmonton Oilers 2011-12 Preview

Is the Oilers' young core of Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins ready for Prime time?

A few years being relegated to the bottom of standings has meant great things for their depth chart and future.  The arrival of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle last year did not disappoint.  Both players had excellent rookie seasons by most standards and showcased their talent.



Joined by exciting youngsters Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi, the Oilers have a solid nucleus.  When you add Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to that, alone with Ales Hemsky and the return of Ryan Smyth, the Oilers have an exciting blend of forwards that deserve some fantasy attention.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Detroit Red Wings 2011-12 Preview

Is Detroit still the powerhouse they’ve been in past years Or are they on the decline? 
Last season, the Detroit Red Wings struggled to find their grove and endured a series of notable injuries to top players. As a result, they suffered in the standings and entered the playoffs as a lower seed than in recent memory.


This time around, the Wings will hope to remain healthy, and so they should. Due to their dormant off-season, they did little to improve their existing line up. Nicklas Lidstrom is another year older, (though he appears timeless), and Brian Rafalski retired. Nicklas Kronwall will take on a larger role, but they will miss Rafalski’s experience.

Up front, the Wings will hope to keep Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen healthy, as well as their supporting cast including Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary. If the Wings are hoping to regain their President’s Trophy form, they will need players like Jiri Hudler, Valteri Filppula, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to take on larger roles.

In net, Jimmy Howard shows flashes of brilliance, but his inconsistency may be unsettling for a team no longer loaded with talent to the extent that non-exceptional goaltending was acceptable.

This year, how the Red Wings fare against division rivals will go a long way to determining where they will sit by season’s end. The re-tooled Blackhawks are the favourites to win the division, while Nashville, St. Louis and Columbus all appear stronger than last year. If the Red Wings off-season can be summed up by ‘standing still’, they may have in fact moved backwards.



Forwards Detroit needs to avoid injury to regain their form. Will they be able to stay healthy this year?

Pavel Datsyuk
Regarded as perhaps the best overall player in the game, Datsyuk is gaining superstar status for his tremendous stickhandling and puck protection ability. His wizardry with the puck is second to none. 80 points is almost a guarantee if healthy.

Henrik Zetterberg
The talented winger has been a model of consistency and also displays a sound two way game. 80 points is also a good expectation for him. He may be the most durable option for a Red Wing of elite level, and is a model of consistency.

Johan Franzen As if ‘Mule’s reputation wasn’t solidied as a playoff performer, the big Swede took a huge hit in the playoffs against Phoenix, only to return later that game—albeit looking like Frankenstein. Franzen is a handful but struggles to stay healthy. Hope for 55-60 points.

Valtteri Filppula Filpulla could become more durable as well, but did enjoy a solid campaign last year. This time out, the slippery forward could exceed 40 points and get closer to 50 if he’s aligned with more talented linemates, or granted more ice time. If Bertuzzi and Holmstrom fall to injury or decline with age, a spot with Zetterberg or Datsyuk may be in line.

Jiri Hudler The Russian winger took off to the KHL a while ago but was not the same upon his return. The Wings hope he can rejoin his form from a couple of years ago and push the 50 point barrier. Expect 40 and be pleased with anything more.

Todd Bertuzzi Big Bert had a great start to last season, but faded as the year went on. He’s getting long in the tooth and his best days obviously appear to be behind him. This season, Bertuzzi could hit the 40 point mark, but that’s probably the top of the mountain for him at this point.

Daniel Cleary Despite missing a lot of time due to injury, Cleary still posted record numbers in goals and points. Cleary is a well-rounded player who compliments skilled scorers like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Once again, 40 points is a solid expectation for this wily veteran.

Tomas Holmstrom Is there any player in the NHL who takes more abuse in front of the net than Holmstrom? These have been long, hard years for the resilient Swede. Expect a decline in point totals this year. 40 would be a steal.

Defence
Nicklas Lidstrom
The perennial all-star and consummate defender is nearing the end of his career. Lidstrom has a rebound year last season, notching 62 points and his first career hat-trick. A decline may be in order this year. 50 points would be great, but expect 40-45.

Nicklas Kronwall Kronwall is the future of the Detroit blueline. One of the best all-around defenders in the league, he can deliver crushing hits, join the rush, and pinch at the right time to snipe a goal. His best years are yet to come. Expect 50+ points.

Goaltending
Jimmy Howard
Howard shows flashes of brilliance and periods of inconsistency. As he enters this year, he’ll be leaned on more heavily to carry the Red Wings goaltending. He is a pretty good goaltender on a good team, so expect a fair share of wins.

Prediction - 33 Wins

Joey MacDonald MacDonald will serve Jimmy Howard as a credible back up. He received a share of the goaltending duties last season and will be ready to appear when needed.

Prediction - 5 wins

TOP SLEEPER 

Nicklas Kronwall With the retirement of Brian Rafalski, Kronwall will be encouraged to take on a larger role this season. Effective on the power play, and one of the league’s best all around defenders, this may be the year that Kronwall takes over the Red Wings defense from the aging Nicklas Lidstrom.

50-60 points are possible if he can stay healthy, as are a myriad of hits and a solid plus/minus rating.

TOP ROOKIE 
Valtteri Filppula

C-L—Tomas Tatar The speedy rookie had a nine game audition with the Wings last season. He showed potential and notched his first goal during the brief stint.

This year, Tatar may find himself on one of the bottom two lines more frequently, and his sped and skill may land him a promotion as an injury replacement or if he acquits himself well early on.

Tatar is probably one of the next good finds from the Detroit Scouting and Player Development system.

Potential Breakout Player
Valtteri Filppula

Filppula broke out a little bit last year, but contains a good amount of skill and could take the next step this season.

As some Red Wings decline due to age, Filppula will fill that void, along with Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler.

Filppula had a strong playoff last year and could score 50-60 points this year if all goes well. If you’re in a keeper league, Filppula is one of your best options on Detroit after Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

2011-12 Season Previews
Previous: Dallas Stars | Next: Edmonton Oilers