2008-09 NHL Draft Kit: Centre Rankings
A lot of RotoRob readers are still shaking off the effects of their football drafts, but don’t look now — hockey’s right around the corner! For the next few weeks, RotoRob will be rolling out its 2008-09 NHL Draft Kit to help you prepare for your pool/fantasy league. Let’s start with everyone’s favourite — cheat sheets, today focusing on the centre position, where a couple of flightless waterfowl from the Steel City are the obvious top choices.
Please note that while different fantasy leagues may shift players around from wing to centre and vice versa, all players on this list were listed at centre as per Yahoo!
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Duh. After Crosby’s stellar playoff performance, there’s not too much more to say about him. Can his magical passing revive Miroslav Satan’s goal-scoring ability? I’m guessing so, as Satan has more natural talent than Crosby’s non-Marian Hossa linemates from last season. Don’t forget that Sid the Kid also shares power play time with Evgeni Malkin.
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin’s Crosby-less trial-by-fire last season was a resounding success. What to do for an encore? Ryan Malone is replaced with Ruslan Fedotenko, but Malkin’s chemistry with Petr Sykora should remain strong. Like Crosby, Malkin still has years before he gets to his physical peak.
3. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: Consider this — Thornton’s usual linemate Jonathan Cheechoo was recovering from double-sports hernia surgery for two-thirds of the season and Big Joe still led the league in assists. A healthy Cheechoo, a more offensive blueline, and a new coach with an offensive mindset should mean that Thornton eclipses 100 points again — and very likely the 30-goal barrier (he had 29 last year) for the first time as a Shark.
4. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning: Lecavalier’s season was short-circuited by the Lightning’s total collapse. The Bolts are much stronger up front, meaning that Lecavalier can focus on producing with linemates Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal (along with creating shorthanded situations with St. Louis) without worrying about being the only offensive threat on the team.
5. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators: Poor Spezza. Even though he consistently has 90-point seasons, he’s constantly criticized for not being better. After coaching him at the World Championships, Ken Hitchcock noted that Spezza has maxxed out his natural skills and needs structure to be better. New Coach Craig Hartsburg might be the right person to take Spezza to the next level.
6. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: Is it a bad thing to have too many quality players? The Red Wings not only kept their team together, they added Marian Hossa to the mix. Early lines show that Coach Mike Babcock is sticking with the Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg/Tomas Holmstrom combination while Hossa will flank Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula. Will that mark a decrease in special teams time for Datsyuk? With so many options, look for his point totals to stay around where they were last year — a stellar 97 — but not increase too much.
7. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes: For a long time, Staal has had Erik Cole riding shotgun. With Cole shipped out to Edmonton, that tandem is no more. However, Staal was a force after team captain Rod Brind’Amour went down last season, almost single-handedly willing the Hurricanes into a playoff spot. Look for Staal to push back towards elite status rather than the 70-80 point area he’s been in for the past couple of seasons.
8. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks: The torch has officially been passed to Getzlaf and teammate Corey Perry; even if Teemu Selanne comes back, it’s really now the Getzlaf/Perry era in Anaheim. There’s no telling how much second-line support Getzlaf will have, but he still put up strong numbers even during the Scott Niedermayer-Selanne-less part of last season. Getzlaf should eclipse the 30-goal mark for the first time in his young career.
9. Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers: Say hello to the new face of the Flyers — or as many Philly fans like to think, the second coming of Bobby Clarke. Richards definitely has a long ways to go in order to live up to that, but he’s still trending upwards. And, unlike teammate Daniel Briere, Richards is more adept at producing points in all situations.
10. Marc Savard, Boston Bruins: Savard just keeps quietly putting up the points. While he’d certainly have more if he still had Ilya Kovalchuk on his wing, Savard’s second season in Beantown was still successful. If Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic have breakout seasons, look for Savard’s passing to be the catalyst for that.
11. Olli Jokinen, Phoenix Coyotes: For years, Olli Jokinen kept producing points despite revolving linemates and the frustratingly slow development of Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton. Now Jokinen has proven scorer Shane Doan on his wing; at the same time, the young Coyotes are developing enough that they’ve got the secondary scoring to alleviate some pressure from the top unit. Look for Jokinen to eclipse his point totals from Florida.
12. Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche: Regardless of Joe Sakic’s return, Stastny is now the main man in Colorado. While the team was ravaged by injuries, Stastny continued to put up points — that is, until he was hit by his own injuries. With a refreshed Avalanche lineup, look for Stastny to continue to get better. And with Sakic officially back, Stastny should have an even better year and the Avs should have two solid lines as they look to rebound. Somewhere, Peter Forsberg’s foot is hurting in jealousy.
13. Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars: Left for dead in Montreal, Ribeiro found new life in Dallas by meshing with captain Brenden Morrow. Morrow’s bull-in-a-China-shop work on the boards and in front of the net are the perfect fit for Ribeiro’s slick puck control and deft passing skills.
14. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: Is Backstrom ready to be a 90-point guy yet? The up-and-coming Capitals have enough talent to mix-and-match Backstrom’s wing slot. There’s always the fear of a sophomore slump, but don’t expect Backstrom to disappear from the map; expect a slight improvement over his 69 points and hope for an 80-point campaign.
15. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Kopitar skates with the puck on a string and little help from a frustrating Kings’ team. If Kopitar played for the Rangers or Leafs, he’d be getting a ton of press but he skates with little fanfare in L.A. other than from the Kings’ die-hard fanbase. Still, the young King forwards will continue to develop as a team, meaning that they should all progressively get better, Kopitar included.
Others to Consider
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres
Scott Gomez, New York Rangers