We continue our Fantasy Hockey Preview by looking at the class of Western Conference forwards. Make sure you check out our Blues Fantasy Preview and Western Conference Goalies, and as always, pick at your own risk! Here are Bleedin’ Blue’s top picks, overrated players, and those who may come out of nowhere to win your league:
Can’t Miss Selections
Pavel Datsyuk, C Detroit Red Wings-
Datsyuk is one of the most consistent players in the NHL, averaging 78 points in his last five seasons, culminating in 67 points in only 70 games last season. As Detroit maintained a majority of their roster in the hopes of making one more run at a Stanley Cup, Datsyuk, along with Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, will be leaned upon for both ice time and playmaking. With the loss of Jiri Hudler, Detroit will probably put even more emphasis on its core group of scorers, possibly increasing the tendency to double shift Datsyuk. Beyond just the point totals, Datsyuk had a 21 +/- last season, and his power play production was huge, tallying 23 points. Datsyuk is definitely worthy of a first or second round selection, and will definitely be the major fantasy hockey contributor at the center position.
Taylor Hall, LW Edmonton Oilers-
Entering his third NHL season, Hall has achieved phenom status through his first two years. Playing a total of only 126 games, hall has put up 95 points, including 53 points in only 61 games last season. As he continues to develop, along with teammates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, I expect Hall to put up massive fantasy hockey numbers this season. That scoring line, even though without a player over the age of 22, will be one of the most potent in the league, and will score a majority of points for the Oilers. Hall would not be considered a first round selection, but is definitely a can’t miss choice, with a ton of upside and being part of an improved Oiler roster.
[Either] Sedin, C/LW Vancouver Canucks-
Both Sedins (Henrik and Daniel) are perennial 65 point scorers, with Henrik generating 81 points and
Daniel 67 last season. Henrik is definitely the more potent offensive threat, putting up more than 80 points in each of the past four seasons, and maintain at least a +/- of 22 over that span. Daniel is no slouch, putting up an average of 84 points over the last four season, along with an average +/- of 26 over that span. Although both of their numbers have slipped of late as they enter their 12th NHL season, both are legitimate first round picks, and will be sure to generate the bulk of your forward points.
Overrated, Risky Propositions
Zach Parise, LW Minnesota Wild-
Even as he signed a 13-year, 98 million dollar contract, I couldn’t help but think how overrated Zach Parise is. Seemingly in his prime at 28, Parise tallied 69 points last season, nothing to sneeze at by any stretch of the imagination. But, you have to question whether he has the talent and size to be a consistent top line forward. He averaged 58 points in his 7 seasons, but after missing much of 2010-2011 season, you have to be weary of his durability in the coming seasons. Also, after playing his entire career in New Jersey thus far, it will be a good test to see how he gels with his new teammates, in a system that he is unfamiliar with. I would be hesitant to draft Parise before the fourth round of your fantasy hockey draft.
Corey Perry, RW Anaheim Ducks-
Although Perry won the NHL MVP award in 2010-2011, with a career best 98 points (50 goals, 48 assists), his other season numbers suggest that his amazing season was simply a fluke. Last year, he registered only 60 points, along with a -7 +/-, and decreased from 31 to 23 power play points. Excluding his MVP season, Perry has averaged 61 points per season, which is not worthy of a first or maybe even second round selection. Not to mention, with the probable trade of Bobby Ryan and the recent inconsistency of Ryan Getzlaf, Perry’s production could further decrease.
Jaromir Jagr, RW Dallas Stars-
The perennial all-star Jagr came to Dallas this summer, along with fellow 40 year old Ray Whitney, in the hopes of lending a young team a veteran presence to carry them into the playoffs. Even though he had a solid season last year, putting up 54 points with 35 assists (including 20 power play points), but his production fell off considerably in the second half of the season. In addition, Jagr’s point totals have decreased significantly since his stint in the KHL, and at 40 years old, it will be difficult for him to remain a consistent playmaker. As Jagr attempts to move on from a scoring line with Cladue Giroux and Scott Hartnell, do not expect him to put up more than 55 points, and his +/- and shots on goal will definitely decrease.
Mikko Koivu, C Minnesota Wild-
Often overlooked in Minnesota, Koivu has been a consistently productive forward in his 7 NHL seasons. Spending all of those in the
“state of hockey” Koivu has averaged over 51 points along that stretch, including 44 points last season in only 55 games, while playing for a team that is perennially in the bottom half of the Western Conference. Since 2008-2009, his numbers have improved significantly, and has even been able to keep a positive +/- in three of the past four seasons, despite the Wild being under .500. I expect Koivu’s point numbers to continue to rise with the addition of Zach Parise, which will surely aid a power play that was ranked 27thin the NHL last year. I wouldn’t use my top center pick on Koivu, but he is definitely a productive player who will be better than expected.
Dustin Brown, RW Los Angeles Kings-
The LA Kings captain is mostly known for his irritating antics and physical play on the ice. But, his often overlooked skill has been in effect since the 2007 season, and last year tallied 54 points (22 G, 32 A), while playing in all 82 games. Further, his power play ability has increased in every NHL season, which culminated in 16 PP points last season. The most impressive thing about Brown, is his +/-, which was a team leading 18, as well as his ability to make an impact through penalty minutes and the penalty kill (putting in 1 SH goal and 2 assists). Brown is a great overall player, who can provide scoring depth to your fantasy hockey team.
Derek Roy, C Dallas Stars-
A change of scenery is probably the best medicine for Derek Roy, who got complacent playing for an underachieving team in Buffalo. Last season, he greatly underperformed, putting up only 44 points. But before that, Roy was a force on the offensive end, averaging 73 points from 2008-2010, and then putting up 35 points in only 35 games in 2010-2011. With the additions of Jagr and Whitney, along with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder, the Dallas roster is filled with skilled offensive players to aid Roy’s comeback. Expect him to put up at least 55 points, and look for him still on the board in the fourth or fifth round of your fantasy hockey draft.