The 2009-10 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit continues today with another cheat sheet, this time focusing on the top centres in Fantasy hockey. These 20 stout guys should be on your team…period!
Last year’s rankings are in parenthesis.
1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (2): He led the league in points last year. Duh! He won the Stanley Cup…he is one of the best players in the game, was clutch last year and now he is ready to do it all again. By the way, he had 113 points (35 goals, 78 assists) and a nice 80 penalty minutes. Now, let’s go to the next level. Malkin does not need linemates to create offense for him…he creates his own. The 290 shots on goal is also nice and the fact that his 22:31 average ice time per game is tops amongst centres is also helpful. Malkin still needs to work on faceoffs a bit (a factor in those deeper leagues), but you can’t have everything. His three-year average is 101 points but it’s reasonable to expect another 110-point season. Malkin’s power play goals (14) will go up, and by the way, 41 points on the man advantage is still awfully good, ladies and gentlemen. He will and should go ahead of the guy next on this list. We’re predicting Malkin finishes about 40-74-114 this year for the Pens.
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (1): He is Sid The Kid and finds ways to get points…it’s that simple. He enjoyed a nice season, totaling 103 points (33 goals, 70 assists), but still there will always be one thing that haunts Crosby — the lack of a slap shot or even a quality wrist shot from a distance. Yes, he has great hands — no one can question that — but it is more than just how straight his hockey stick is, folks. The 40 Power Play points he put up was great, but only seven of those were goals. That is a concern. Crosby’s 21:51 ATOI (average time on ice) is also excellent. He is flanked by excellent guys on the wings (Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz), and a full season together will also help sort out any chemistry issues if there are any remaining. Malkin and Crosby are in their early 20s and just finding their games still. I can see Crosby finishing with about 35 goals, 72 assists and 107 points this year.
3. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (8): Yes, his three-year average comes to only 77 points, but think of how scary he can be with Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry for a whole season. Just visualize it and get back to me. Getzlaf ranked 4th amongst centres with 91 points last year. But he is only 24 as well and his linemates are very young, so that 25-66-91 total is a sign of things to come. Getzlaf has 100-point potential written all over him if he can be just a little more disciplined as far as the penalties he takes. He can also stand to shoot the puck more; he only had 221 shots last year, which is low for a guy of his caliber. Getzlaf even has the TV commercial thing down (Home Depot) and don’t worry, his balding spot will not stop him. Expect a season of 30-71-101 along with 80-90 PIMs and 12 PPGs. Getzlaf will be a force.
4. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (6): Datsyuk is at his prime at age 31 and he’s averaged 94 points per season over the last three years. Last year, he put up a line of 32-65-97 with a +34 ranking. Note that +34, as +/- is still one of those key points that can decide some weeks in Fantasy hockey leagues. As most people are aware, Datsyuk is pretty good at faceoffs and he takes few penalties. He is capable of taking over games, but is mostly consistent which is great for Fantasy hockey owners. If I am at the end of the first round, I am looking to snag this guy because he surely won’t be around in the late teens or 20s. Datsyuk will do his thing again, and I am expecting about 33-65-98 this year with 14 PPGs and a few more penalty minutes.
5. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (14): Backstrom can pass like so few can. Those 66 assists to go along with 22 goals belies the fact that this guy is a potential sniper breakout awaiting to happen. That line has all the makings of being scary for the next decade. Backstrom will get more scoring chances this year because teams will key on his linemates even more. Expect the shots to go up to almost 200 or more. ATOI will be over 20:00 and he is getting better on his faceoffs. I just like this kid’s mental makeup. I can see a year in which Backstrom tops 25 goals and busts over the 70-assist barrier with ease. A playmaking centre with size that can hit occasionally is refreshing so 97 points this year would not surprise me in the least. Look out, NHL — this one is only going to get better.
6. Marc Savard, Boston Bruins (10): I like Savard because he can now create his own offense and set up others. He has been steady, averaging around 88 points per year over the last three years. Savard has been shooting more (213 shots last year) and I think he will get rewarded for that at some point. Four straight years of 60+ assists makes him a no brainer to be this high on our list. Some think Joe Thornton should be here, but no, I am sticking with Savard. A 30-65-95 season is not out of the question for Savard, though a few points lower would not be so bad either. He should also get a bump in ice time with some of the Boston key cogs injured and expected to miss time early in the season. That will also help the Fantasy value for Savard owners.
7. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (3): He is declining ever so slightly…not at a Daniel Alfredsson rate, but close. Thornton put up 114 points three years ago, then 96 the season after that and then 86 last year. But he is still one of those rare guys with 60 or more assists in each of the last four years. The problem is Thornton used to shoot the puck and last year he only had 139 shots on goal. He did score 11 PPGs in 08-09 and I think he can increase that total. I think he will shoot the puck more as well, but it will still be a struggle. Thornton will be pass happy for the rest of his days and can only turn on the old goal scoring prowess for short periods at a time. Add the assists and he will likely be at 31-62-93 or somewhere around those numbers. His expected total of 13-15 goals on the man advantage and 150-160 shots will help Fantasy owners a bit.
8. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (7): If there was ever a time for Staal to play like during his rookie year it is now. He had a ton of shots last year (372) and I think this year that will serve him well. He’s also an above average passer — especially on the power play. The line of 40-35-75 he had last season was nice, but not for Staal. The +15 was encouraging (as were the eight game-winning goals) as he slowly takes the leadership reins of the club…and so comes the scoring burden again. I really do think Staal has a 90-point season in him just barely. Something along the lines of 44-46-90 with 18 PPGs and 10 GWGs is actually reasonable this season for a centre who should make the All-Star team.
9. Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers (9): Richards had seven SHGs and a +22 ranking last season and that translates into extra points for Fantasy owners as shorties are weighted a little more than your average goal or PPG. His 21:44 ATOI also gives him more opportunities and that is the type of player you want on your team. Richards is ranked above Jeff Carter by a hair because of his consistency. He gets decent PIMs (60-70), does well on faceoffs and is the type of player that can provide steady production which is what you need to help offset any droughts by your No. 1 Fantasy centre. Expect 32-53-85 with at least six SHG from Richards for the upcoming season. There are happy times ahead in Philly with this 24-year-old youngster.
10. Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers (NR): Carter has above average natural talent and can create his own offense, but he still goes through droughts and consistency issues. I like his shots on goal total (342) and ATOI (20:57) and the 13 PPGs and the 12 GWGs was a bonus. However, the latter number will come down a bit this year…sorry, Fantasy fans. I’m expecting a 40-44-84 season with nine GWGs and 15 PPGs — not so bad at all. Notice that I’m projecting more PPGs — I think Carter will actually pot a few more of those power play chances in the back of the net. A season with the same amount of points could actually be a good thing for Carter’s owners.
11. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (NR): Sedin is good enough to average a point per game. Any time the Sedins are on the ice they are dangerous, but particularly Henrik who is the better of the duo. The key will be at what point does Henrik take that next step? It is something all owners are truly waiting for and drooling over the prospect.
12. Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars (13): — Ribeiro can still can score, but will Loui Eriksson help again? Also, do healthier players eat into Ribeiro’s potential for more points? Probably not. The key will be his linemates as it always is. Ribeiro is a quality player with still much upside in Big D.
13. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators (5): Spezza can still play, and we think he’ll enjoy a bit of a rebound. That is the bottom line here. Spezza is likely to be with Alfredsson as always, but who will be the third linemate is anyone’s guess. Will it be Alexei Kovalev or Dany Heatley? But then again, does it really matter? Either way expect a nice season from the 26-year-old.
14. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks (NR): We expect his breakout goal season to continue a bit freer in this year. Marleau may not have the “C” anymore, but that chip on his shoulder is going to translate into more points and he will likely not be traded. Unless, of course, there is an offer that knocks the socks off the Sharks’ brass.
15. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning (4): I expect Lecavalier to have a strong second half, fueling 2010-11. The bottom line is that the French line will take some time to develop chemistry, but once they do I expect a furious second-half charge up the Fantasy rankings for Lecavalier. Just don’t be surprised if things start slowly.
16. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (15): Kopitar will benefit somewhat from Ryan Smyth’s arrival. Kopitar is too good to be kept down for long; he has to rebound. This is the Kings’ equivalent of Malkin — Kopitar needs the line support and now he has it. Let’s see what he can do with it. The time is now.
17. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (NR) — The Patrick Kane situation may motivate Toews early. He should start out hot because this team will need him, especially without Marian Hossa. Toews won’t torch the world with 80 points, but he will not be a 60-point guy either.
18. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings (NR): The spotlight is on now, there’s no turning back. Franzen has to be the third best scorer on this team for it to succeed again and, based on netting 30+ goals last year, he can do it if anyone can. He just has to worry about his coconut now and then with his style of play.
19. Nik Antropov, Atlanta Thrashers (NR): This may be a surprise pick, but Ilya Kovalchuk helps! The power of Kovalchuk puts Antropov in the Top 20; just ask Slava Kozlov what Kovalchuk has done for his career. Can the all Russian line do the job? For Fantasy owners, the answer is yes.
20. Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens (NR): For Gomez, being reunited with Brian Gionta “feels so goooood!” Mike Cammalleri-Gomez-Gionta is a line you will hear plenty about this year — one way or the other. However, I think the news will be more good than bad and Gomez could surprise, especially early.
Others to Consider
21. Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils (NR): Steady progress and high +/- again.
22. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (NR): Last year was not a fluke at all.
23. Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche (12): The go-to guy now, but he has to stay healthy!
24. Saku Koivu, Anaheim Ducks (NR): Playing with Teemu Selanne will rejuvenate him big-time!
25. Olli Jokinen, Calgary Flames (11): He’ll have nice year, but there is lots of balance in Calgary.