Zach Parise should bounce back this season. (Whatsupyasieve.wordpress.com)
By Chris Wassel and RotoRob
We are back, with another batch of the 2013-14 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit, as we near the completion of our forward position rankings. So while you marvel at how much money Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke is worth, we present you with the top 40 left wingers in Fantasy hockey.
The wings are positions in which you almost always see a few high end guys, a moderate dropoff tier, and then a much bigger cliff-like fall to the tiers of near mediocrity. A guy like Taylor Hall could come close to 90 points. Then players like Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Sedin could be in the 80s. After that, a drop to the 60s to low 70s is very likely. Basically that would almost cover the rest of our top 20. The centre position boasts more depth, but there is value with left wingers.
There are always sleepers and those we highlighted earlier in the week. We bumped Patrik Elias up to 17 based on the simple belief that he is ranked ridiculously low in Fantasy circles (too low). Elias actually has better line combination potential than Gabriel Landeskog. However, Landeskog is a horse that will prove his Fantasy mettle as the season wears on. These are the types of things to really look out for from the left wing position. Now, we present our top left wingers.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers (13): We knew we had been ranking Hall low the last couple of seasons, but we can’t hold him back any longer. The Oilers plans to try Hall at centre for a while to make up for the absence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If that means Hall can qualify at centre as well as left wing, it will be an even bigger boon to his already ample Fantasy value. Last season, he stayed moderately healthy and continued to mature into a serious offensive force. He’s already the best player on Edmonton; by season’s end, Hall could easily be a top 20 or even top 15 player. The sky’s the limit for this youngster, who can even stick handle brilliantly with a freaking golf ball (see video below).
2. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (3): Sedin is going to find he’s playing under different rules this as no-nonsense John Tortorella has taken over behind the Canuck bench. Whether that’s a good thing or not for his production remains to be seen, but after his numbers dipped for the second straight season, let’s hope Torts can light a fire under the twins. Both Sedins will need to reach down and put up one more monster season if Vancouver is going to get the playoff monkey off its back.
3. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings (7): Zetterberg only lit the lamp 11 times last season, yet five of them proved to be game-winners. Despite the lack of goals, Detroit’s captain averaged better than a point per game for the first time since 2007-08.
4. Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins (NR): After his breakout last season, Kunitz found himself at the Team Canada Olympic camp, playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Patrick Sharp. It’s an image that has many baffled. However, Kunitz really picked up his numbers, reaching 30 assists despite the lockout, and racking up a career best +30 ranking, which was second in the league behind only teammate Pascal Dupuis (+31).
5. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (6): Minnesota born Parise didn’t exactly light it up in his first season with his hometown team as his assists in particular dropped. One of the hardest workers in the NHL, Parise will likely do much better this season with a full training camp to learn the Wild way.
6. Rick Nash, New York Rangers (10): The two-time Canadian Olympic participant enjoyed a solid first season on Broadway, although he pretty much went AWOL during the playoffs. Nash remains in his prime, and if everything breaks right, he should top 35 and perhaps even flirt with 40 goals this season.
7. James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins (4): This big (6′2″, 215) winger missed some time last season and didn’t log as many assists in his second season in the Steel City. Neal enjoyed his best playoff run ever, firing six goals in 13 games.
8. Matt Moulson, New York Islanders (9): A finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy (awarded for sportsmanship), Moulson isn’t likely to be found having his knuckles wrapped by someone’s face. His goal scoring touch went into the tank last season after three straight 30-goal campaigns. The good news is that at age 29, he’s not in decline yet, so a bounce back is a reasonable expectation.
9. Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs (19 at RW): Lupul made headlines this summer by posing nude in ESPN The Magazine, but sorry, he didn’t earn any Fantasy points from us for his exploits. Perhaps instead of flashing his body, he should have been working on figuring out how to keep it healthy as he was once again decimated by injuries last season. Already this fall, he’s dealing with back spasms.
10. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (8): If Dallas is ever going to find itself back in the playoffs, Benn will need to rebound after last season’s regression. At least he provided more value in leagues that track penalty minutes. New Stars Coach Lindy Ruff believes Benn is the second coming of Daniel Briere – a gifted scorer that needs to improve in his own zone.
11. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens (20): Montreal’s top-line winger was dealing with a shoulder woe in the playoffs last season, which is probably why he was a complete non-factor after enjoying his best regular season yet. Pacioretty’s goal total dipped last season, but his helpers more than compensated as he flirted with a point per game. He spent the offseason rehabbing the separated shoulder and has reported to camp in fantastic shape, ready to take the next step.
12. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres (26): The Sabres’ top offensive weapon is on the trade block, but has reported to Buffalo as if it’s business as usual. Vanek’s scoring bounced back nicely last season as he reached 20 goals despite the shortened schedule. The Austrian star is entering his contract season, which usually is a great motivator. Hopefully, the trade talk doesn’t detract from his game.
13. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR): The third overall pick from this year’s draft could easily be the league’s top rookie this season. He’s that NHL-ready. The Lightning has enough faith in the youngster that it’s trying him at centre during training camp.
14. James Van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs (NR): JVR’s playoff experience was very beneficial to the Leafs last spring as they erased a 3-1 deficit to force a seventh game against Boston (which they proceeded to blow). Van Riesmdyk is big and skilled, and after coming over in a trade from Philly before last season, he quickly established himself as one of Toronto’s top young players.
15. Patrick Sharp, LW/C, Chicago Blackhawks (7 at RW): Sharp is a winger by trade, but he’s good on the draw that there’s talk the Hawks may employ him on the faceoffs more often this season. He’s looking to bounce back after struggling offensively last season thanks to a shoulder injury.
16. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets (31): Ladd’s game has come along — to the point he was actually invited to the Team Canada Olympic camp. The durable winger broke through with a near point-per-game showing last season and the Jets’ captain is young enough that he’s just entering his prime, so there may be plenty more where that came from.
17. Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils (5): The old Devil has been rather durable the past few seasons, and he enjoyed a bounce back season defensively. He may be revitalized further this season playing on the same line as fellow Czech legend Jaromir Jagr.
18. Jeff Carter, LW/C, Los Angeles Kings (29 at C): After landing Carter from Columbus near the end of the 2011-12 season, the Kings became a much better puck possession team — and they rode it to a Cup win. Last season, he was more responsible defensively and went on a goal-scoring bonanza. Carter has quickly become a key component on a very talented LA squad that again should compete for the Stanley Cup.
19. Jiri Tlusty, Carolina Hurricanes (NR): Tlusty enjoyed a breakout campaign, in a shortened season nearly matching his full-season assist high and shattering his personal best in goals. He got hurt early in camp, but reports suggest it’s nothing to worry about.
20. Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay Lightning (12 at RW): After a breakout season two years ago, Purcell only managed 11 goals last season, but two of them were game-winners. Salvaging his season was the fact that his helper count rose.
21. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche (15): Landeskog dealt with some injury issues last season and his sophomore effort was disappointing, especially the fact he was shut out in the PPG department. The Avalanche captain is an intense player capable of dishing out punishment in many ways.
22. Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens (NR): The American born youngster enjoyed a fine rookie campaign and Montreal is counting on him as it tries to improve itself organically this season. Galchenyuk started to get it down the stretch, recording 12 points in the final 14 games and we expect that momentum to carry into this season.
23. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets (11): Kane stayed healthy last season, but his development stalled a tad and the Jets will need him to keep getting better if they are going to become a playoff team. The fact that he’s looked impressive at camp is a good start.
24. Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators (NR): Wilson’s had a tough time staying healthy the last couple of years, but he did take a step forward offensively in 2012-13. This kid has speed.
25. Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes (NR): Phoenix dragged its heels a bit, but finally locked up Boedker – one of its brightest young stars – to a new two-year deal just before camp started. He’s been durable the past couple of years and was a bit better defensively last season.
26. Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins (19): Lucic will stay with longtime centre David Krejci, but now have Jarome Iginla on the other side. Last season, Lucic’s assists were up slightly, but he struggled to score.
27. Ryan O’Reilly, LW/C, Colorado Avalanche (28 at C): Part of a good young nucleus of Avalanche forwards, O’Reilly had injury issues last season, but showed a bit of progress offensively. He’ll play on Colorado’s top line this season with Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau.
28. Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers (NR): Schenn didn’t have an awful season, but his game didn’t develop in his sophomore effort as much as the Flyers had hoped. He did stay healthy and we’re expecting bigger things this season as he teams with Wayne Simmonds and newcomer Vincent Lecavalier on the second line.
29. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings (NR): Franzen is in the midst of an 11-year, $43.5-million deal which has proved okay for Detroit so far. The Mule is consistent, we’ll give him that, but there are concerns about his work ethic.
30. Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers (14): The normally durable Hartnell got hurt last season and was unable to come close to duplicating his career year from 2011-12. He’s healthy now, so should bounce back big time and help get the Flyers back to the playoffs. It’s time for Hartnell to prove he was worth that mega extension Philly gave him in 2011-12.
31. Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks (NR): Bickell could play opposite Patrick Kane this season which could spell a breakout. Bickell was healthy in the regular season, but tore a tendon in his thumb in the playoffs and needed surgery.
32. David Perron, Edmonton Oilers (21): St. Louis dealt Perron to the Oilers this summer after he stayed healthy, but regressed offensively last season. Still, he’ll bring even more offense to a talent-laden Edmonton squad.
33. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings (27): This generally durable American has hurt his hammy this fall, but it’s not serious. The Kings’ captain will be good to go when the games count.
34. Patrick Marleau, LW/C, San Jose Sharks (32 at C): The durable veteran slipped offensively last season despite tons of shots on goal. The 34-year-old is definitely on the downward trajectory of a splendid career.
35. Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks (NR): Saad has been playing centre at camp and apparently adjusting well to it, so bear in mind he could earn multi-position eligibility after showing a nice scoring touch as a rookie last season.
Others to Consider
36. Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators (28): Michalek will play on Ottawa’s top line with Jason Spezza and possibly Mark Stone.
37. Viktor Stalberg, Nashville Predators (NR): Right after winning a Cup in Chicago, Stalberg bolted for the Preds for four years and $12 million.
38. Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers (29): The durable Czech regressed a tad offensively last season.
39. Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues (NR): Steen enjoyed his best playoff showing, but it wasn’t enough to help the Blues advance.
40. Curtis Glencross, Calgary Flames (NR): Glencross had trouble staying healthy again last season, but he still wound up pacing the Flames in goals. Having said that, he wasn’t nearly as potent as the season before when he broke out for 26 goals in just 67 games.