Fantasy Pool Look: NHL hunches for 2010-11

Recently, I had my first of five drafts. It is a one-year rotisserie league with standard categories (three for goalies, six for skaters) and teams made up of four players from each forward position, six defensemen, two goalies and five bench spots. I walked away from it feeling quite pleased. In fact, I don’t remember ever walking away from that one feeling so good about it.

So imagine my shock when the feedback I received from competitors as well as my readers leaned toward the negative. I took another look at my team and remained happy with it, but I could see their point. I was relying on my hunches as if they were fact. I’m so confident in them that I drafted my team accordingly, so I thought I would share. Here are my hunches, in no particular order.

The Oilers will be the most improved team

Edmonton is not only adding Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and possibly Magnus Paajarvi, but also Ales Hemsky, who missed all but 22 games last season with an injury. Add those four players to any team and you are adding 15 wins. Furthermore, with those wingers around, the numbers of Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner will jump. Dramatically.

Hall and Eberle will debut with strong numbers

This branches off somewhat from the above point. Alone, you would probably get Hall and Eberle in that 55 to 60 range, as most prognosticators have them. Alone, you would probably see Horcoff and Gagner in the low-50s, for that matter. But adding all of the aforementioned pieces to this team at the same time will result in padded numbers for everybody. Hall and Eberle will put up totals similar to what you saw from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews when they were rookies (Kane had 72 points, whereas Toews’ numbers prorated to 69 over a full season).

Vincent Lecavalier will bounce back

He is not a 70-point player, as he produced last season when he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Or in 2008-09 when he was recovering from wrist surgery. He is a 90- to 100-point player, like he showed when he wasn’t recovering from any surgery at all. The guy is 30 and still in his prime. I drafted him in a spot where 80-point centers were available. To me, 80 is his downside for this year. Think 90.

P.K. Subban is a slam dunk

Subban adapted quickly to the American League and similarly took to the NHL right away. You could tell coach Jacques Martin did not want to rush him into playoff action, but when everything Subban touched turned to gold, Martin found himself leaning on the defenseman more and more. The coach needed to ice the team that had the best shot at winning and that team included Subban playing more than 20 minutes (which he did in nine of his last 11 playoff contests). In 16 career games, regular season and playoff, he has 10 points. His downside for this year is 40 points and 45 penalty minutes. But I would not be shocked to see 55 and 70. I drafted him accepting the risk of the downside.

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Pekka Rinne will approach 40 wins

Bah, Nashville won’t win games…right? You keep believing that, while I win your fantasy league. Nashville has won at least 40 games each of the past five seasons and 47 or more in three of those five with far worse teams than they have now. Last year, Rinne had 32 wins in just 58 starts. He no longer has Dan Ellis to cannibalize his win total, so 40 should be in the cards. Mark Dekanich will be lucky to get into a dozen games.

Michael Leighton is this year’s Craig Anderson

Anderson dominated the American League and as he got into his mid-20s he finally got some NHL starts. Things were rocky early on, but after a couple of up-and-down seasons the numbers started to stabilize and impress. All he needed was a shot as the undisputed No. 1 goaltender. This also describes 29-year-old Michael Leighton. Granted, Anderson had two solid years as a backup in Florida before getting his shot, versus Leighton only getting in a couple dozen impressive games down the stretch last season for the Flyers. But that’s balanced off by the fact Philadelphia has one of the best teams in the NHL, which means Leighton doesn’t have to be as good as Anderson was to put up better numbers.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league – check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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