As fantasy hockey leagues begin to open up, Philabright lists 10 players (in no particular order) that could become the biggest steals of the draft. These players could be initially overlooked by some players in your league and easily fall to the middle rounds, giving you the opportunity to look like a genius.
10. Marty Turco, G – DAL
With everyone jumping on Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov and Chris Osgood bandwagon early in the draft, eying Turco in the mid-rounds could allow you to select a position player while everyone is going backstop, and still snag a goalie that could top the league in wins. Turco is the number-one goaltender now that Mike Smith is gone, and with the addition of Sean Avery and a healthy blueline, Dallas is a legitimate cup contender. Turco will be taken eventually, so don’t wait too long to grab him up.
9. Alexander Semin, LW – WAS
Semin’s off year last season will turn some people off to selecting him early, leaving you to pounce in the middle rounds. But what people don’t realize is that Semin missed close to 20 games last season but still put up a quiet 26 goals. The 24-year old Russian returned from injury lacking the swagger and confidence he had in 2006-07, when he scored 38 goals and had 35 assists. A possible return to his old form is reason enough to keep an eye on him as other players pass.
8. Alex Tanguay, LW – MTL
No one wants to be the guy to select Tanguay and regret it for the third year straight, so many will pass. But this season could be different. Tanguay struggled in the Calgary system, scoring roughly 20 goals a season after putting up a big 30-goal year in 2005-06 with Colorado. Traded to Montreal in the offseason, Tanguay has a fresh start in a purely offensive system that has the potential to lead the league in goals scored.
7. Michael Ryder, RW – BOS
Much like Semin, after back-to-back 30 –goal seasons in Montreal, Ryder flopped last year, scoring only 14 goals and adding 17 assists, which may fly him under the fantasy radar. Signing with Boston in the offseason, Ryder has a chance to be a key contributor for a team on the rise. If Ryder is going to return to his 30-goal-a-year form, his stage is set in Boston.
6. Kyle Okposo, RW – NYI
Okposo got a taste for the NHL last season, scoring five points in nine games. That success should carry over into 2008-09 since he will be getting a ton of ice time and is surrounded by vets. Okposo should make great strides this season in becoming the excellent player he is projected to be. Most of the players in your league may pass on him since he’s from the Island and a relative unknown.
5. Ruslan Fedotenko, LW – PIT
Some players might take Miroslav Satan before Rusty, in an attempt to milk the Crosby-Malkin points cow. But Fedotenko was brought in to fill the slot left by Ryan Malone, a crash the net type, used to bang home rebounds and deflect shots. Crashing the net is what Fedotenko does best and he will get plenty of chances to score on rebounds. In my opinion, Rusty is a safer, more consistent choice than Satan.
4. Matt Carle, D – TAM
Acquired by Tampa Bay for Dan Boyle, Carle will lead special teams for the offensively gifted Bolts. 42 points in 2006-07, with eight power play goals, Carle was soured on in San Jose and was casted off into obscurity for most of the season, thus resulting in his poor numbers. With some new scenery and responsibility to be a first-pairing defender, Carle could repeat his 2006-07 year with some major points.
3. Mike Cammalleri, C – CGY
Coming off an inconsistent year with the Kings, Cammalleri should put up big numbers in Calgary. A top-two center, Cammalleri is in a contract year and could play center to Jerome Iginla, 5-on-5 and on the power play. Mike was a 20-goal scorer last season despite missing 19 games and in 2006-07, he scored a career-high 34 goals and 46 assists. Look for Cammalleri to do what Tanguay couldn’t — give the Flames some real scoring depth and potency on the power play.
2. Cory Stillman, LW – FLA
Literally one of the only offensive weapons Florida possesses, Stillman should be a top-line player that also logs time on the number-one power play unit. The Panthers need points to come from somewhere and Stillman is that likely place. Look for a 60-70-point year (with plenty of power play points) if he stays healthy.
1. Andy McDonald, C – STL
McDonald was close to a 30-goal player in Anaheim before being traded to St. Louis last season. Like Cammalleri, McDonald is in a contract year and wants to earn a big contract while he’s still in his prime. McDonald started slow in St. Louis, but once he got acclimated with the team he began to warm up, finishing the season with 18 goals and 34 assists. Look for McDonald to have a big year in the 50-70 point range.
Honorable Mention: R.J Umberger, Vinny Prospal , Kyle Turris, Simon Gagne, David Booth, Milan Lucic, Mikkel Boedker, Ryan Suter, Radim Vrbata, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Dustin Byfuglien, Joe Corvo.
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