Though NHL training camps won’t open for another couple of weeks, it’s not too early to start cogitating about your fantasy hockey team. In a recent post, The Colonel listed his top fantasy player from each NHL club. That’s a great place to start, but…what if you’re playing in a Salary Cap league? If you want Ovechkin AND Malkin AND Luongo, fine – but you’re going to have to round out your roster with some bargain basement players in order to come in under the cap. While you often get what you pay for in salary cap leagues, there are some great deals to be had at garage-sale prices. The following is Part I of Big Tex’s list of 2009-10 Salary Cap Heroes – players who should deliver significant bang for your (fantasy) buck:
Steve Stamkos, TBL – Young master Stamkos got off to a slow and somewhat rocky start last season, but really got the hang of NHL hockey in the second half. His misleadingly middling final stats from 08-09 (79GP, 23-23-46, -13)will depress his fantasy cap hit this season. Get him while he’s cheap, as he’s only going to get hotter!
Dave Bolland, CHI – How can the Blackhawks’ 2nd-line centerman be so cheap? Bolland put up decent numbers last season (19-28-47, +19). This season, expect him to start piling up points as soon as Marian Hossa makes it into the lineup, as Bolland will center either Hossa or Patrick Sharp.
Derick Brassard, CLB – Were it not for a season-ending shoulder injury in Game 31, Brass would’ve been teammate Steve Mason’s top challenger for the Calder Memorial Trophy. Brassard’s injury is a cap league managers’ gain, however. Bottom line: He’s the cheapest top line center you’ll find, and he’ll be feeding pucks to Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius all season long.
Honorable Mention: Rich Peverley, ATL – Peverley split last season between Nashville and Atlanta. After a slow start with the Predators, he finished strong with the Thrashers, putting up 13-20-33 in 38 games. Can Peverley pick up in October where he left off in early April? If so, he’ll make you look like the smartest GM in your league.
One to Watch: Artem Anisimov, NYR – You’ll have to pay close attention through pre-season, but…as of right now, it looks like Anisimov will probably center the Rangers’ 3rd line in 09-10. If Brandon Dubinsky stumbles out of the gate, however, this rookie might very well find himself centering Marian Gaborik.
Ville Leino, DET – When Detroit lost the Fabian Brunnstrom sweepstakes last summer, Ville Leino was their consolation prize. This 25-year-old rookie had a good showing in his introduction to the NHL (13 GP, 5-4-9, +5). With this summer’s key departures, Leino will be a fixture on one of the Red Wings’ top two lines. Even without Hossa and Samuelsson, the Wings will be a high-scoring bunch, and Leino may very well prove to be the seasons’ best cap league bargain.
Steve Ott, DAL – Last season, the injury-riddled Stars pressed Otter into service on the top line, filling in for the out-for-the-season Brenden Morrow. He didn’t disappoint, putting up career numbers despite playing just 64 games: 19-27-46, +3, 135 PIM. In 09-10, don’t be surprised to see Ott on the 2nd line with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson.
Bryan Little, ATL – 2008-09 was a breakthrough season for The Little Sniper That Could, as he exploded for 31-20-51, -5, in 79 GP. Little’s 172 SOG proved 2nd-best in Atlanta, behind only Ilya Kovalchuk’s 275 SOG. While the Thrashers might not make the playoffs in 09-10, they will show improvement, and Bryan Little should make a big noise.
Honorable Mention: T.J. Oshie, STL – The first time I saw Oshie play was in the spring of 2008, in the Frozen Four. I remember going online in between periods to find out which team was smart/lucky enough to draft Oshie, who looked like a man among boys in the NCAA tournament. His rookie season with the Blues didn’t disappoint: 57 GP, 14-25-39, +16. If he can avoid the “sophomore slump”, look out.
One to Watch: Nikita Filatov, CBJ – Though he only played eight games in the NHL last season, Filatov made a splash: The 18-year-old scored four goals in his eight games, including a hat trick against Minnesota. This kid is an enormous talent, and if he ends up on the Blue Jackets’ 2nd line with Antoine Vermette and Jakub Voracek, Columbus might have to print up “Nikita Filatov Calder Trophy Winner” t-shirts next summer.
Tomorrow, the other end of the ice: Defensemen and Goalies.
Take me back to On Goal Analysis