Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Strong Up the Middle

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In my last article on left wings, a few of you mentioned the positional dilemmas that we seem to face when drafting forwards. This is a great point, since not only do position eligibilities change from league to league (eg. Yahoo/ESPN/CBS), but also from year to year. As well, we also need to keep our eye on forwards with dual position eligibility.

A few notable examples of players with dual position eligibility from Yahoo leagues are as follows:

Jeff Carter – C/RW
Ilya Kovalchuk – LW/RW
Rick Nash – LW/RW
Danny Briere – C/RW

Expect more names to be added to this list. Certainly there is additional appeal to drafting these players, as you can move them to whichever position your team has a greater need for, or just to be able to maximize the number of active players each day.

One challenge that I faced occurred in a CBS keeper league, where I found out that Jordan Eberle is no longer a center and had to be move to right wing. As a result, I needed to add another center via free agency in order to ensure that I held enough depth at the position. So be sure to check your keeper league roster in case any of your key players have moved positions and have created a surplus or shortage at a particular position. 

For what it’s worth, none of these top-ranked centers listed below have any positional eligibility issues. In other words, all were centers last year, and all are centers this year and should stay that way.

Sidney Crosby
If all the speculation surrounding Crosby’s concussion health is true, then let someone else gamble on him as a first-round pick. If none of it is true and Crosby is ready for camp and back to normal, then the guy who picks him in the first round could look like a genius. However, there’s no guarantee that he will be the same player when he returns. (Note: Crosby will provide an update on his status at a Wednesday press conference. My guess is that he won’t provide any definitive statements regarding his short-term playing future.)

Steven Stamkos
If Crosby is sidelined even longer, then Stamkos moves up to the number one ranked center. See my previous article on potential first overall picks for more on Stamkos.

Henrik Sedin
The Hart and Art Ross winner in 2009-10, Henrik didn’t regress much in 2010-11, leading the NHL again with 75 assists. Henrik is easily a deserving first-round pick, since he has reached 80 points in four of his past five seasons. Make sure you draft a proven goal scorer early if you draft Hank, as he has reached 20 goals only twice in his career. You probably won’t have to put him on IR, since he has not missed a game in six consecutive seasons.

Anze Kopitar
Kopitar may not be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts this season, but I have a feeling that he might next season. He was a point-per-game player (73 points in 75 games) before a season-ending broken ankle in late March. I love the Mike Richards trade as far as how it could affect Kopitar’s production. Expect an arrangement similar to the one in Vancouver, where the presence of second-line center Ryan Kesler takes some of the pressure off the Sedins.

Ryan Kesler
Speaking of Kesler, he was a top-5 NHL scorer during the first half of last season before largely struggling in the second half. Kesler’s 41 goals, tied for fourth in the NHL with teammate Daniel Sedin, is nothing to sneeze at considering that Stamkos was the only center with more goals. Just be wary that Kesler is recovering from late-summer hip surgery, so he may miss some action at the start of the season. He is targeting an opening-night return and returned earlier than expected from a similar surgery in 2007, for what it’s worth.

Ryan Getzlaf
The more goals Corey Perry scores this season, the more assists Getzlaf will put up. He has never scored more than 25 goals in a season, but he has exceeded point-per-game totals in each of his past four seasons. The bad news? Getzlaf has missed at least 15 games over each of the past two seasons, and he is now officially a candidate for the Lady Byng (121 PIM in 2008-09 to 79 PIM in 2009-10 to 35 PIM last season). He also doesn’t shoot the puck much anymore (227 SOG in 2008-09 to 149 SOG in 2009-10 to 117 SOG last season).

Eric Staal
Eric the Eldest Staal is also a lock for consistency, having reached at least 30 goals in five of his past six seasons and 70 points in each of his last six seasons. He has only one 100-point season under his belt, and that was the season after the lockout. He probably won’t reach that point total this season, which means that he should finish outside of the top-5 centers in fantasy. Expect him to be a top-10 forward in shots on goal, which is no doubt influenced by the run-and-gun style of the Hurricanes in particular and the Southeast Division in general.

Brad Richards
The most significant signing of the offseason, Richards is taking his playmaking style from Big D to the Big Apple. If he can’t light a fire under Marian Gaborik after Gaborik’s subpar season (48 points in 62 games), then nothing will. As for Richards, he will accumulate points anywhere, as he did in both Tampa Bay and Dallas. Don’t expect anything different on Broadway from what we’ve seen in recent seasons.

Jonathan Toews
Toews was arguably the NHL’s strongest scorer during the second half of last season, racking up 35 points during a hot stretch in February and March last season. Toews might be one of the first players that you would select if you were building a real-life NHL roster, but the same cannot quite be said in fantasy (career-high 76 points last season). Since fantasy hockey is all about numbers and not intangibles, don’t overrate Toews on draft day.

Looking to bounce back…

Evgeni Malkin
Unlike fellow Penguin Crosby, it’s all systems go for Malkin this season following a season-ending injury. Malkin will be looking to reverse two consecutive declining point-per-game seasons following his Art Ross-leading 113 points from 2008-09. Malkin’s icetime and scoring opportunities would increase even more with no Crosby, so don’t let him fall too far in your draft.

Nicklas Backstrom
Like Malkin, Backstrom is a former 100-point scorer who is looking to bounce back and is still considered a young player. Backstrom seemed adversely affected by the Capitals’ new defensive system, as his point total fell by a whopping 36 points. Perhaps his numbers were tied to Alex Ovechkin’s drop in goal production – or was it the other way around? Either way, Backstrom’s assist production seems to be heavily contingent on Ovechkin’s goal production, so where you draft Backstrom should depend on how confident you feel about Ovechkin.

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: anze+kopitar, brad+richards, eric+staal, evgeni+malkin, fantasy+hockey, henrik+sedin, ian+gooding, jonathan+toews, nicklas+backstrom, ryan+getzlaf, ryan+kesler, sidney+crosby, steven+stamkos, the+goods

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com