Following the lead of my Western counterpart, I'll give you my perspective on 15 Eastern Conference players who could ultimately end up making or breaking your fantasy season.
Every year, there are always players that seemingly come from nowhere to post unexpectedly high numbers or record a significant jump in performance, pushing someone over the top to help them win their league. Players like Stamkos, Myers and Miller come readily to mind.
Conversely, players that grossly underperform can absolutely kill you. Last year I got hammered by Malkin and Phaneuf's hefty drop in production.
Zach Bogosian - D - Atlanta Thrashers
About to embark on his third NHL season, Bogosian is just 20-years-old. In his rookie year, he had nine goals and 19 points in 47 games (16 goals and 33 points pro-rated). The young defender regressed in his second NHL season recording only 23 points. With the departures of Kovalchuk and Kubina, it creates some room on the power play for Bogosian.
Also Considered - Niclas Bergfors, Dustin Byfuglien, Ondrej Pavelec
David Krejci - C - Boston Bruins
Last season Krejci spent the summer recovering from hip surgery, missing out on valuable off-season training and he might have even came back too soon. It showed in his point totals as they fell from 73 to 52 points. With Savard out indefinitely, Krejci is in line to inherit the number one centre spot, top wingers, plus some prime power play minutes. Look for a career year here.
Also Considered - Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Johnny Boychuk
Nathan Gerbe - C,LW - Buffalo Sabres
While many of the experts have rightfully been espousing the talents of Tyler Ennis, it is easy to overlook a fellow smurf in Sabre blue. Many have compared Nathan Gerbe to fellow Boston College alumni Brian Gionta. In Gerbe's most productive year of college hockey, he recorded 68 points in 43 games. Gionta hit 62 points in 40 games. Maybe size doesn't really matter.
Also Considered - Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers
Jamie McBain - D - Carolina
After an amazing run at the end of last season that saw McBain record 10 points in only 14 games, much is expected from the 22-year-old defenseman. That would be great, except that the team brought back former Hurricanes and fellow offensive-minded defensemen Anton Babchuk and Joe Corvo. And don't forget about Joni Pitkanen. The real issue is that there is only a finite amount of power play time to go around.
Also Considered - Erik Cole, Patrick O'Sullivan
David Booth - LW - Florida Panthers
The season before last, Booth took a step up when he recorded an even 60 points. Last year, concussions limited him to 28 games. What can we expect from Booth this season? Let's see, the team trades away one of their top offensive players in Horton and brings in Chris Higgins? Consider anything over 50 points a bonus.
Also Considered - Shawn Matthias, Chris Higgins
Carey Price - G - Montreal Canadiens
I am a big believer in Price. I know many who read this are skeptical, but the young goaltender has one of the most impressive resumes for a player of his age. CHL Goaltender of the Year, World Junior Gold, Tournament MVP and Top Goaltender, AHL Playoff MVP, all before his 21st birthday? Jacques Martin will have the team play a sound defensive system which is only going to make Price's job that much easier.
Also Considered - Tomas Plekanec, Dustin Boyd, Lars Eller
Travis Zajac - C - New Jersey Devils
Talk about a lucky guy, Zajac is set to start the season sandwiched between Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise! Now that's a plum assignment. Zajac won't start on the top power play unit, but he'll get a decent amount of time with the man advantage. One last point, he's durable, having missed only two games over his four NHL seasons.
Also Considered - Jason Arnott
Rick DiPietro - G - New York Islanders
Could this be the year DiPietro puts his health issues behind him? During the last two seasons, he only played in 13 NHL games, but in the three seasons prior to that, he recorded games played of 63, 62 and 63. Serious injuries to Streit and Okposo definitely hurt, but a healthy DiPietro could still post 25 wins, just don't expect it to be pretty.
Also Considered - John Tavares, Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey
Artem Anisimov - C - New York Rangers
So let me get this straight, the Rangers are going to start the season with Erik Christensen as their top pivot? This is the same guy that scored 26 points in 49 games (44 pro-rated points) with the Rangers last season. His career high is 33 points. No, he's not the answer. Super sophomore Artem Anisimov will be the one to step up this season. Yes, rookie Derek Stepan has received much of the attention, but the exhibition season can be misleading. Expect Anisimov to improve significantly on his 28 point rookie season. He recorded 81 points the previous year in the AHL.
Also Considered - Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan
Alexei Kovalev - RW - Ottawa
The talented and enigmatic winger scored only 49 points for the Sens last year. In the two previous seasons, Kovalev had 65 and 84 points. Does the 37-year-old Russian have another 65 point season in him? Yes is the short answer.
Also Considered - Peter Regin, Jason Spezza, Pascal Leclaire, Nick Foligno
Nikolay Zherdev - RW - Philadelphia
The last time Zherdev played in the NHL, we knew him as Nikolai. He scored 58 (Rangers) and 61 (Columbus) points before departing for a one year sabbatical in the KHL. Zherdev has looked good in the pre-season and is likely going to line up with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
Also Considered - Claude Giroux, Any Flyer Goaltender
Paul Martin - D - Pittsburgh
Heading into last season, Martin had averaged 32 points over each of the previous four seasons. Last year, he missed 59 games recovering from a broken arm and played only 22 games, while recording 11 points. That was with little or no competition for power play time. Now he comes to Pittsburgh and has to compete with both Goligoski and Letang for power play minutes. Give me either of the latter two over Martin.
Also Considered - Mike Comrie, Kris Letang
Victor Hedman - D - Tampa Bay
From a fantasy perspective, Victor Hedman had a less than impressive rookie campaign. He has so much more offensive talent than what he was allowed to show last year. Even Andrej Meszaros received more power play ice time than Hedman. With a new coach and system in place, look for this slick Swede to cook up some sweet numbers this season.
Also Considered - Vincent Lecavalier, Mike Smith
Mikhail Grabovski - C - Toronto
Other than being named in a lawsuit for an alleged assault at the Olympics, Grabovski has pretty much flown under the radar. Now that the hockey spotlight is focused elsewhere in Toronto, there will be less pressure to perform and that might just spur Grabovski to new heights.
Also Considered - Dion Phaneuf, Jonas Gustavsson, Nikolai Kulemin
Tomas Fleischmann - LW - Washington
It looks like Coach Boudreau is going to try Fleischmann between Semin and Laich as second line centre. Fleischmann stepped up his game last season with 51 points in 69 contests (61 pro-rated).
Also Considered - John Carlson, Eric Fehr
Enjoy opening night!