Now is the time to purchase the 2013-14 Fantasy Guide. The fantasy articles are as great as always, but I’ve really immersed myself in the team-by-team projections. There is a ton of valuable information available there that you just won’t get anywhere else.
New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer echoed previous statements made by GM Lou Lamoriello in saying that Martin Brodeur is the squad’s No. 1 goalie heading into the regular season. However, he also referred to newly-acquired netminder Cory Schneider is a “fantastic 1A” and mentioned that position battles like this one “sort themselves out.” I still expect Schneider to be the better option for fantasy, but statements like DeBoer’s further confirm my desire to avoid both goalies in fantasy drafts this fall.
While we’re on the topic of goalies… It seems longtime Calgary Flames workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff has yet to officially retire. I think this is much ado about nothing. The Flames have embraced a youth movement, and the soon-to-be 37-year-old Kiprusoff doesn’t fit into the organization’s long-term plans. Don’t even give Kipper another thought. After all, Dobber doesn’t even have him ranked among his top 50 goalies.
Two fantasy-relevant players still dealing with injuries as fantasy drafts approach are Montreal ‘s Brian Gionta and Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen. Gionta is still dealing rehabbing from surgery on a torn biceps tendon. The lingering ailment could cause him to miss the start of the regular season, but it isn’t expected to keep him out of the lineup for long. Then there’s Pitkanen. I always targeted him as a well-rounded and cost-effective defenseman to round out my fantasy blueline, but Pitkanen’s missed 78 games over the course of the past two seasons and has never been the most durable of players. Now he’s struggling to deal with a lingering heel injury sustained last April, one which caused to him to have surgery. There is no timetable for his recovery, so Pitkanen is someone to avoid in drafts. However, this news does bode well for Ryan Murphy’s fantasy value. The top prospect and Calder Trophy candidate could be in line for significant time on the power play in Pitkanen’s absence.
The Chicago Blackhawks have retained yet another member of their Stanley Cup champion squad of 2013. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson gets a five-year, $20.5 million deal, one which will keep him under contract through the 2018-19 season.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I plan to approach my drafts in the coming weeks. My strategy almost always involves taking the best player available in the first four or five rounds (with an emphasis on forwards with multi-position eligibility) before starting to target certain positions to fill out my starting lineup. My approach toward selecting bench players in the late rounds is to select high-upside young players and proven players coming off injury-riddled campaigns. That being said, I’m always one to reevaluate my draft strategy from year to year. Does anyone have a particular approach that works well for them? I know Amato does.
Sometimes I think I imagined that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored four goals this past season. Let me put that stat into context: Matt Stajan and Chuck Kobasew each scored five goals during the 2013 campaign. To make matters worse, a lingering shoulder injury makes him a difficult player to project in the short term. While there’s no doubting his status as a budding franchise center and dominant power-play weapon, I’m a little concerned about how Nugent Hopkins’s surgically-repaired shoulder will affect what he’s able to offer his fantasy owners during the season’s first several weeks. It’s a good sign that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft recently hit the ice during an informal skate, but there’s no telling when he’ll be ready for game action. Nugent-Hopkins is an incredibly risky pick in fantasy drafts, but you can be sure I’ll be targeting him in trades once he returns in the lineup and proves his shoulder woes are behind him. I fully expect him to shoot more than he did a year ago. Furthermore, I think he will see his shooting percentage rebound from last year’s ghastly .051, especially since he’s a key cog in an up-and-coming Edmonton power-play unit.
Be sure to check out yesterday's ramblings from Brendan Ross over at DobberProspects as he touches on one, or two, or three players from each team to keep an eye on as the season approaches.
Alright, let’s talk some draft-day targets…
Jeff Skinner, C, Carolina – Multiple concussions and more than his fair share of bad luck have caused the former Calder Trophy winner’s fantasy value to plummet in recent seasons. His PDO, a solid indicator of luck and a statistic that tends to regress toward 1000, has dropped considerably over the course of the past three seasons: from 1025 in his Calder-winning rookie season to 993 and 940 in the past two years, respectively. He’s got a solid supporting cast in Carolina, so expect a significant rebound (provided he stays healthy). Simply stated, I think he’s this season’s Matt Duchene.
Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay – I think this is Hedman’s breakout year. The size and pedigree have always been there for Hedman, and he really started to translate all that talent into on-ice production in 2013. All he needs now is some time on the power play to help him fully realize his potential.
Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary – I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for Backlund to have widespread value in fantasy. His defensive ability has never been in question, but injuries have prevented him from being able to prove himself worthy of a top-six role in Calgary. However, the Flames need more from Backlund this upcoming season, partly because they don’t have any better options. The opportunity is there. Now it’s up to the 24-year-old center to seize it.
Just because, here are three more value picks to pull the trigger on in drafts:
Colin Wilson, C, Nashville – Lingering injury concerns will make him a great value pick in drafts this fall. Check his numbers from last year. He’s finally coming into his own as a player.
Paul Stastny, C, Colorado (for now) – He’s my fantasy kryptonite. Who's yours?
Jakob Silfverberg, LW, Anaheim – I’d target just about anyone slated to play on the same line as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Looking for more sleepers to target (and busts to avoid)? Let me direct you to Dobber’s Puck Daddy column from earlier this week.
Here’s some Skinner highlights. Expect to see more of this from him in 2013-14: