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NHL Mini Draft Kit Part One

September 16, 2006 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

Hockey season is just around the corner, so it’s time to get your fantasy draft lists together. Here are my top 15 draft picks at each skating position for non-keeper leagues. I’m factoring in points, +/- (team quality), injury history, and PP points. No PIMs, though.

Centres

1. Joe Thornton — Imagine a whole year with Jonathon Cheechoo and the addition of Mark Bell to his line.
2. Jason Spezza — Remember when Spezza was almost as hyped up as Sidney Crosby?
3. Eric Staal — Staal’s one year older, one year better.
4. Sidney Crosby — Sid the Kid may challenge for the Art Ross, but his +/- will hurt you simply because his team ain’t that great.
5. Peter Forsberg — Forsberg’s points-per-game are as good as Thornton’s, but his health is always a risk. He can produce without Simon Gagne in the lineup, but not the other way around (to the same level, that is).
6. Brad Richards — Steady as she goes for this PEI native.
7. Pavel Datsyuk — Meet the new face of the Red Wings.
8. Henrik Zetterberg — Depending on your league, Big Z could be left wing or centre.
9. Joe Sakic — No Alex Tanguay, but Wojtek Wolski and/or Marek Svatos should help.
10. Scott Gomez — Will have Patrik Elias there full time, but Brian Gionta is still a question mark due to salary cap concerns, which may even cause Gomez to be traded. Notice the rise in goal scoring by Gomez?
11. Olli Jokinen — Will he mesh with Todd Bertuzzi? He’ll be given every opportunity to try.
12. Patrick Marleau — The Sharks’ forgotten superstar finally has steady linemates who are as fast and strong as he is. Look at Marleau’s power play goal totals if your league has bonuses for special teams points.
13. Marc Savard — Gaudy point totals last season, but he won’t be playing with Ilya Kovalchuk anymore.
14. Daniel Briere — If he’s healthy, look for him to shoot past the point-per-game mark. The loss of J.P. Dumont will hurt a little bit, but Briere’s able to create offense on his own.
15. Vincent Lecavalier — Vinny’s stock dipped a little bit after last season even though he put in an excellent amount of goals. No Fredrik Modin will affect the mix-n-match top two lines of the Lightning, but he’s still a pure talent and meshes well with Vaclav Prospal.

Wingers

1. Jaromir Jagr — He should have more overall points than Alexander Ovechkin simply because Ovechkin’s teammates don’t match Jagr’s. Plus-minus and power play are also taken into consideration.
2. Alexander Ovechkin — Fifty goals should be his standard for a long, long time.
3. Jonathon Cheechoo — Imagine the Thornton/Cheechoo combo together for the entire season.
4. Dany Heatley — The Spezza/Heatley/Daniel Alfredsson troika was unstoppable last season. No reason they can’t repeat it.
5. Daniel Alfredsson — See above.
6. Ilya Kovalchuk — Who will set up Kovalchuk with Savard gone? Bobby Holik ain’t the same thing.
7. Marion Hossa — See above.
8. Jarome Iginla — Iginla’s stock has fallen, but don’t count out the Calgary captain, especially with the arrival of Tanguay.
9. Patrik Elias — Hepatitus didn’t stop this Czech from getting well over a point per game last season.
10. Henrik Zetterberg — Depending on your league, Big Z could be a left wing or a centre.
11. Simon Gagne — Gagne’s a very good player, but the type that excels when paired with a great playmaker. If Forsberg wasn’t so injury prone, you could move Gagne up a few spots, but his production was noticeably different when Forsberg was out of the lineup.
12. Paul Kariya — Kariya’s numbers should go up with big Jason Arnott as his centre.
13. Marion Gaborik — Gaborik’s best bud Pavol Demitra should make the moody winger happy. Now, about those injuries…
14. Martin St. Louis — Should rebound from a sub-par year. Don’t count out a guy with a heart this big.
15. Brian Gionta — His lack of a contract hurts him. If he has signed by the time you draft, you can bump him up two to three spots.

Defense

1. Bryan McCabe — Folks, we’re not talking Norris here, and there’s no way McCabe’s soft defensive plays will pass on the ice. But you can’t deny his power play prowess and his points per game. Even with a depleted Maple Leafs’ offense, McCabe will still rule the point.
2. Scott Niedermayer — Considering the fact that Niedermayer had a slow start and still put up 63 points, chances are it will be higher this season, especially on a power play with Chris Pronger sharing the point.
3. Niklas Lidstrom — Take Brendan Shanahan’s 40 goals out of the equation and you have less punch for the Red Wings, thus less points for Lidstrom.
4. Chris Pronger — Everyone seems to forget about Pronger’s pretty bad first half of the season. He may not need quite as long to get acclimated in Anaheim, but don’t be surprised if he’s not lighting it up out of the gate.
5. Wade Redden — Wade’s the man now in Ottawa with Zdeno Chara gone. Redden QBs an incredible power play unit with Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson; his other point man will most likely be Joe Corvo.
6. Tomas Kaberle — McCabe’s partner in crime still hesitates to shoot quite a bit, making him less valuable than his Maple Leaf counterpart.
7. Sergei Gonchar — Sure, Gonchar had a piss-poor first half, but look at his numbers from the second half and you’ll see that he still has it. The Pens can’t be any worse than last season, and the addition of Evgeni Malkin means that there will be more power in their power play, which will only benefit Gonchar.
8. Sergei Zubov — Though the Stars are a team in transition, Zubov remains steady. He’s also a shootout demon if your fantasy league counts those points.
9. Zdeno Chara — The big man will have a bunch of untested elements around him, mainly the chemistry between Savard and Glen Murray. That means that Chara may be QBing a great power play or an awful one.
10. Lubomir Visnovsky — With Demitra hurt and Jeremy Roenick useless, Visnovsky carried the load for the Kings last season from the blueline. The Kings are about the same this year, but at least they’re younger and faster, which means they (and Visnovsky) have more upside.
11. Marek Zidlicky — Think Zidlicky’s happy about seeing big Arnott and Dumont as new options on the power play?
12. Rob Blake — Like Zubov, Blake is consistent. The Kings’ power play should be good with Blake and Visnovsky on the points.
13. Kimmo Timonen — See Zidlicky.
14. Jay Bouwmeester — Another “slow start/great finish” defenseman, Bouwmeester should reap the benefits from a Panthers’ offense that’s vastly improved.
15. Dan Boyle — He’s slightly under the radar, but the Lightning should play with more confidence with Marc Denis in net, meaning that some of their scoring swagger should return.

Tomorrow: Goalies, sleeper picks, and more.

For hockey analysis, rants, and random music references, visit Mike Chen’s Hockey Blog.

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