The start of the fantasy season can be very tricky. Many managers get worried too quickly and make too many moves in the quest to get this season’s hottest players. Often times they give up on a player too soon. Do not be the person who drops a great player, be the person that is patient and smart. Guys like Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo and Brendan Shanahan will come through eventually. Some players are the real deal, but other players can be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Here is a list of some early notables.
Brad Boyes: Because St. Louis has not done well the last few seasons; their players often get overlooked. Manny Legace will prove many people wrong with his strong play, but he is not the only one. Last season Brad Boyes was one of the scapegoats on a struggling Boston team. He was shipped out to St. Louis. This season however he may make everyone forget his previous woes. So far he has four goals in five games - all of which are assisted by new teammate Paul Kariya. Throughout his career Kariya has been a very dynamic, explosive player who makes everyone around him better. Boyes could definitely see a career year riding his coattails. When you consider he also gets time on the top power-play unit he looks even better. Right now, he is an easy gamble to make.
Tom Preissing: Do not think for one moment that Preissing will come anywhere close to a repeat of his last season’s impressive +40 effort on Ottawa. The Kings are a different story. While they do have some offensively talented forwards and defensemen, their team defense and goaltending is questionable at best. As a team they are already minus-64. Not a single player is in the plus side. Yikes! Was the addition of offensive-minded defensemen (Preissing and Brad Stuart) even needed on a team that already had Lubomir Visnovsky and Rob Blake? Preissing will want to show off what he can do, which is move the puck. His efforts may interfere with Visnovsky’s overall numbers. Be on the lookout for this. Overall, try to stay away from Preissing.
Jason Blake: After last season’s 40-goal effort on an Islander team without consistent offensive support many people assumed he would thrive in Toronto. After seven games, Blake only has one goal. At times he has appeared with Mats Sundin and other times he hasn’t. Should you worry? Should you trade him? The answer is NO. He is on a new team and that may take some adjustment. One key indicator is his shots-on-goal. Blake is tied for the league-lead with 32 shots on goal. If he is getting offensive opportunities to put up those shots, then the goals will come. Toronto is a talented offensive team with multiple scoring threats. As the season progresses, they will begin to click much better. Blake will do well regardless of the line.
Scott Gomez and Chris Drury: Many hockey analysts have predicted the Rangers to be among the Cup favorites with their recent additions. However, early this season they have not played like one. While both are great players in their own respect, they might not be the right fit for the Rangers. Early in the season it appears to be a ‘too many stars and not enough role players’ situation. Both Gomez and Drury have seen time on the top line with Jaromir Jagr but nothing has really jelled. Coach Tom Renney plans to continue to experiment with his lines. Recently Drury was rumored to have switched to center the third line with Ryan Callahan. There have been multiple occasions so far this season where Drury has been completely invisible and unused on the ice. That’s a far departure from his very vocal captain status on Buffalo last season. Do not be alarmed – it’s early. Drury is too good of a finisher to not play on Jagr’s line and Renney will soon see this. In the meantime, Gomez may see time on Jagr’s line and may pick up a few more uncharacteristic rebound goals in front of the net. Although he just signed a big contract, the Rangers may realize Gomez is not the right fit for the team, their attitude and style of play.
Craig Rivet, Christian Ehrhoff, and Matt Carle: Last season former Hobey Baker award winner Matt Carle came into the league and put up great numbers as a rookie. He led all San Jose defensemen with 42 points. Christian Ehrhoff was not too far behind. His blistering hard shot on the power play was very effective. This season Ehrhoff has been logging the most minutes of all San Jose defensemen. Last season’s late addition of Craig Rivet did not seem to throw everything off. This season however, is a different story. The looming question is- which one of them will get shafted (likely only two of the three will produce). At this point in the season, Rivet is getting lots of time with the top line and is currently leading San Jose defensemen in scoring with six assists. San Jose has been very impressed with Rivet and is strong effort. Do not be surprised if he continues to be the top defensive stud on the team.
Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, and Jonathan Cheechoo: Joe Thornton is an offensive stud. It is no surprise he leads San Jose in points, but surprisingly he leads the team in shots-on-goal. He has been instructed to shoot more. Do not be alarmed - he may still lead the league in assists, which takes me to his shifting line mates; Michalek, Pavelski, Clowe, and Cheechoo. They have all seen time on a line with him. Former 56-goal scorer Cheechoo has only one goal in six games. It is likely that San Jose coach Ron Wilson will continue to shift players around and experiment. While they all will score goals with the help of Thornton and Marleau and see power play time, you could see a more even distribution of goals (in the 23-28 range for Michalek, Pavelski and Clowe) amongst them instead of one big scoring fantasy stud.
Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf: With Teemu Selanne out of the picture and Dustin Penner in Edmonton, other Anaheim players are stepping up. Getzlaf showed what he could do in last season’s playoffs. Both he and Perry continue to impress. They guys are the real deal. They will only continue to get better.