Top 20 Eastern Conference Fantasy Left Wingers - Part 1 of 2
Now that we've covered Goaltenders and Defensemen, it's time to focus on the forwards. Over the next two weeks, we will look at Left Wingers. I'll be using Yahoo for positional eligibility, but will only use a player once if they qualify at more than one position, ideally where they are most valuable.
We're not looking at keeper value here, only what kind of return we can expect for the coming season, whenever that may be. Here are bottom half of the top 20 Eastern Conference fantasy Left Wingers as ranked by the Eastern Edge:
20) Ryan Malone - Tampa Bay Lightning
This 33-year-old may be feeling a little older, but he still managed to average the fourth most minutes amongst Lightning forwards, including top unit power play time. Tampa's man advantage unit is a threat to score every game with Stamkos and St. Louis as fixtures. Over each of the last two seasons, Malone has scored at a 58 point pace. He plays with a physical edge and that costs him some games every season, but if your league values penalty minutes and hits, this guy will chip in nicely.
19) Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins
Marchand is a ton of fun to watch, but not to play against. He kind of reminds me of a more talented Sean Avery. Agitating opponents to distraction and capitalizing on that is what makes Marchand so valuable to the Bruins. He received the third most time on ice amongst Boston forwards, but ranked seventh in power play time with 2:09 per game. He set career highs across the board last season, including a top five finish in the NHL plus/minus (plus-31) race and should provide more of the same or better next year.
18) Tomas Fleischmann - Florida Panthers
Flash recorded 51 points in only 69 games with Washington in 2009-10. He was dealt to Colorado the next season and rocked Denver to the tune of 21 points in 22 matches. That was enough to entice Florida to sign him to a four year deal. Don't let others convince you that Fleischmann is a band-aid boy; last season he was the only Panthers forward to play in all 82 games. He's sat out long stretches with odd injuries such as pneumonia, a blood clot and a mysterious "chest injury". Only 28-years-old, Fleischmann still has plenty of high-level hockey left in him.
17) Milan Michalek - Ottawa Senators
The 27-year-old hit for a career high in goals (35) playing over 80 per cent of his even strength shifts with the talented Jason Spezza. Michalek had been bitten by the injury bug in his previous two seasons since coming over to Ottawa from San Jose in the Dany Heatley (who?) trade. He only played in 66 games in each of his first two seasons with the Sens. In his last three seasons with the Sharks, Michalek posted 55, 57 and 66 point efforts. Provided he (and Spezza) can stay healthy, Michalek should have no problem repeating last seasons success.
16) Chris Kunitz - Pittsburgh Penguins
Kunitz easily fits into the Pens top six forwards, so he'll continue to spend quality time with one or both of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Assuming Crosby is back in the fold for more than 22 games, Kunitz may lose some power play minutes, but those points should be made up at even strength. The perfect complimentary player in a very good situation.
15) Tyler Ennis - Buffalo Sabres
Like Dobber, I love rooting for the under-sized player and Tyler Ennis is high on my list for the coming season. When the Sabres traded Derek Roy to Dallas, it was only partly to get tougher (Hello Steve Ott). It also freed up ice time for Ennis, who closed last season with 27 points in his final 26 games. In his only AHL season (2009-10), Ennis recorded 65 points in 69 games and took home the AHL's Rookie of the Year hardware. Big things are expected from Ennis as soon as this season.
14) Thomas Vanek - Buffalo Sabres
Not including his 48 point rookie NHL campaign, Vanek has averaged 67 points over his last six years. He has never recorded less than 25 goals in any of his seven NHL seasons. Vanek received the second most power play time on ice on the Sabres, behind only Jason Pominville last year. Look for this two time 40 goal sniper to rebound after last seasons disappointing 61 point effort.
13) Matt Moulson - New York Islanders
I wouldn't say John Tavares has a drinking problem, but he spends over 85 per cent of his even strength shifts on ice with Moulson, a Canadian beside him. Moulson's goal and point totals have risen each of his last three seasons; 30-48, 31-53 and 36-69. He receives the second most time on ice (19:18) amongst Isles forwards and plays on the top power play unit. While there will be no Parenteau supervision this season (the team let him go the free agent route), Moulson will continue to provide Tavares with excellent support.
12) Joffrey Lupul - Toronto Maple Leafs
Lupul completed an improbable comeback last season by winning the Masterton trophy for his perseverance and dedication in returning from a lengthy layoff due to a serious injury. He recorded 67 points in only 66 games playing primarily with Phil Kessel. It was a match made in heaven and Lupul's role was significant in Phil the Thrill challenging for the NHL scoring lead all season. Most pundits have the 29-year-old Lupul finishing a full season in the 60-65 point range, including yours truly.
11) Jordan Staal - Carolina Hurricanes
In Staal's first four NHL seasons, he missed only one contest. In his last two seasons, he's missed a total of 60 games to injury. That said, over those two years, he was on a 59 (2010-11) and 66 (last year) point pace respectively. Still only 24-years-old, Staal already has six NHL seasons under his belt. I don't see elite offensive upside in Staal, his defensive responsibilities run deep, but he was a point-per-game player in his last major junior season. He should get a breath of fresh air playing with the Hurricanes and score at a career high pace.
On November 1, 1924, Charles Francis Adams, a grocery store financier paid a rumoured $15,000 to buy the first U.S.-based NHL team. What team did he purchase?