Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 09/04/11 at 02:00 PM ET
We continue our preview of the top players at each position with a look at the left wing. In my auction league with bidding that is taking place all month, I am currently looking for a low-cost left wing option, of which there are plenty. But here are the options that you can reasonably pay top dollar for or feel comfortable drafting with an early-round pick.
Surprising to me (at least) is the fact that Daniel is listed as the number one ranked player in Yahoo rankings. Heading into last season, he had never really been considered an elite option at the level of say, a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or even Steven Stamkos. However, as I mentioned in one of my articles about who the first overall pick should be, Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been in the top 5 in scoring over the past two seasons. Daniel happens to be the more highly-ranked Sedin because he plays at a position where top scorers are harder to find.
A solid case could still be made about Ovechkin as the top left wing option. In my opinion, he possesses more raw talent and higher upside potential than Daniel. However, Ovie has a few things going against him right now. First, he was held to just 32 goals in a more defensive-minded Capitals system last season. Second are the rumblings that he has a weight problem, following footage from an offseason interview. This season, there seems to be a little more risk in using your high first-round pick on Ovechkin. However, he is still a top-5 fantasy option and one of the two top players at his position.
Yahoo caught me by surprise by ranking Ryan 10th overall. So how can we explain/justify this ranking? Ryan has three consecutive 30-goal seasons under his belt, and he should play on one of the league’s top forward units this season alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (although a Teemu Selanne return would probably juggle things a little). Perhaps the potential for more penalty minutes in Anaheim adds to his appeal, as well as the vast potential for reaching 50 goals if he can be a little more consistent. However, I’m still not sold on him being as high a pick as he is, or even that he should be ahead of some of the options listed below.
In “real-life” hockey, Datsyuk is a top-5 NHLer, based on his two-way skill and for playing the game the right way. He has been a point-per-game player since the lockout, so you know exactly what you will receive from him if you draft him. Penalty minutes will always be a liability for the Lady Byng candidate, which is something you’ll have to keep in mind if you draft both him and Martin St. Louis. Also keep in mind that Datsyuk is LW-eligible in Yahoo leagues, but he may be C-eligible in other leagues (eg. CBS), which would drop his ranking a little.
Like his Red Wings teammate Datsyuk, Zetterberg may also be C-eligible in some leagues (I am basing my writing on Yahoo, where I play most of my leagues). Zetterberg is a very similar player to Datsyuk, which explains the chemistry they have when they are on the ice and the lack of scoring they seem to show whenever they have been placed on separate lines. The only question left is which Red Wing would I pick first in a fantasy draft: Datsyuk or Zetterberg? Datsyuk has posted higher career point-per-game totals, which I would assume is why Yahoo gives him the edge here.
Now we focus on other possible elite options that were disappointments in some way, shape, or form last season:
Marleau wasn’t necessarily a bust last season, but he did experience drops in goals, points, and plus/minus last season. A player I spent major dollars on in an auction draft last season, Marleau was able to salvage his season for fantasy owners after a very slow first half. We’ve actually seen this before from Mr. Marleau (48 points and a (-19) in 2007-08), which is why I’d only consider him a borderline elite option. But we know that the Sharks can score, and we know that he’ll probably play on the top line. He should be in line for another 35 goal, 70 point season, even if you believe Jeremy Roenick’s comments about him during last season’s playoffs.
Just like a quarterback losing his starting job to injury, is it fair for a player to lose elite status because of injury? We need to ask the question for Parise, who was held to just six points and 13 games last season because of a significant knee injury. Let’s give the Devil his due here, as Parise was a back-to-back 80-point scorer last season. Parise will be motivated not only to prove that he is past this injury, but also to prove that he is deserving of a lucrative long-term contract from the Devils (or some other team). His ranking may fall a little because of last season’s injury, but don’t allow him to fall too far in your draft.
I just cringe whenever I think of Kovalchuk’s 0 point, -1 or -2 or -3 outings that he seemed to post frequently during the first half of last season. After being patient for far too long, I eventually shipped Kovy in a package deal for Anze Kopitar - a deal that seemed to work well for both sides. I say this because the other owner reaped all the benefits from owning Kovy. He was finally scoring a goal-per-game, and the the minus totals were less frequent. Things can only get better for Kovy this season – after all, do you think that a lucrative long-term contract such as his can be that bad? Never mind, now that you mention Rick DiPietro.
Heatley has easily been worth mention as a top-5 option at either left wing or right wing since the lockout. However, a 64 point season and disappointing playoffs resulted in both the Sharks and fantasy owners in downgrading his value. After just two seasons in San Jose, Heatley was dealt to Minny in perhaps the most out-of-left-field deal of the summer. He will have a lot to prove in Minny, but he’ll need to find chemistry with Mikko Koivu, the Wild’s only other legitimate scoring option. If Heatley is unable to do this, he’ll only deserve mention as a good fantasy option, not a great one, from now on.
Comments? Compliments? Criticism? Complaints? Please weigh in with your comments, and follow me on Twitter. You can also email me at gooding74 “at” shaw “dot” ca with your fantasy hockey question for a future mailbag article.
Filed in: Fantasy Hockey and Gaming, thegoods13, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: alex+ovechkin, bobby+ryan, daniel+sedin, dany+heatley, fantasy+hockey, henrik+zetterberg, ian+gooding, ilya+kovalchuk, left+wing, patrick+marleau, pavel+datsyuk, the+goods, zach+parise
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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