letang

 

In my hockey pools, I somehow always seem to end up with a strong defense. Once the top talent is off the table, I find it worthwhile to take one or two top offensive defensemen.

 


 
If your pool requires a certain number of defensemen, then it is important that your defensemen be superior in comparison to your competitors. Look at your roster in groups; goaltenders, defensemen and forwards.

When your defensemen are better as a group when compared to your competition, then your forwards need to score fewer points. It is much easier to find a scoring forward than a scoring defenseman. This strategy has helped me win many pools.

The most important indicator of whether or not a defenseman will score points is power play ice time. If a defenseman doesn’t get appreciable time on the power play, then his point totals will likely not make him worth drafting.

After the top defensemen have been taken, here are some defensemen from the East that might help you later in your draft:

Kris Letang’s stock just skyrocketed in one-year pools. Bad news for owners of Ryan Whitney means good news for Letang owners. With Whitney expected to miss the next three to five months, Letang stands to be the main beneficiary. He is likely to join Crosby, Malkin and Gonchar on the Pens top power play unit. Try not to drool on your draft sheets.

Many poolies want nothing to do with the much-maligned Joni Pitkanen. Take advantage of that by selecting him in your pool. Carolina has been the place where players go to resurrect their careers. Look no further than Ray Whitney, Sergei Samsonov or Joe Corvo.

Pitkanen is only 24-years-old and has had two seasons of 40 plus points. At that age, Chris Pronger recorded his first 40-point season. Last season, Pitkanen was on pace for 34 points. This season with Carolina, he could hit 40-45 points.

Sami Lepisto may be the next Capital defenseman to break out offensively. After scoring 45 points in 55 AHL games last season, he is set to show us what he can do at the NHL level. His plus-29 speaks volumes about whether or not he is ready for NHL duty. It is very possible that he ends up on that potent Caps power play. Just don’t expect him to be the next Mike Green.

It’s easy to predict a comeback season for Matt Carle, but who will play on the other point? Kuba? Maybe, but even with an average of 3:37 on the power play last year, he still only had 11 power play points in 75 games. That’s not nearly good enough. Paul Ranger’s not the answer. Alexandre Picard has an outside chance, but my money is on one of these two guys:

Andrew Hutchinson was the AHL Defenseman of the Year last season after scoring 64 points in 67 games. The 28-year-old has scored 33 points in 95 games over parts of three NHL seasons. Is this the season he cracks the NHL full-time?

During 2006-07 in the Swedish Elite League, Janne Niskala scored 19 goals and 49 points in 53 games. In 2007-08, he scored 19 goals and 44 points in 80 AHL games. Don’t be surprised if Niskala showcases his big shot with the man advantage.

Jack Hillen is getting some recognition in our forums lately. Okay, so he led all NCAA Division I defensemen in scoring last year. Other than Streit, the Islander defenseman likely to make a bigger impact this year is Chris Campoli. Campoli was on pace for 32 points last season before a shoulder injury ended his year. As a rookie, Campoli scored 34 points (2005-06). Without the distraction of Marc-Andre Bergeron or Bryan Berard, Campoli should be good for 35-40 points.

Dare I mention Anton Stralman. He’s a big part of the reason Bryan McCabe was run out of town. After a promising World Championship, it looks like the 22-year-old Swede will get his shot with the Leafs this year.

Andrej Sekera’s been getting quite a bit of hype. In 94 AHL games, Sekera has scored 36 points. Last year he scored only eight points in 37 NHL games.

While I do like Sekera, there are many potential obstacles if he should struggle out of the gate this season. There is of course Spacek, but the Sabres brought in Craig Rivet, who occasionally spends time on the power play. To a lesser degree, Paetsch and Numminen are capable of stealing valuable man advantage minutes.

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