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Crosby or Ovechkin one of several burning questions for poolies to ponder

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The dilemma is reminiscent of the good old days when you had to choose between Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, knowing you can't really go wrong with either one but wanting to get the best possible bang for your buck.

That's the type of decision poolies lucky enough to be drafting first overall are facing this season with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Both are generational talents coming into their own and are clear candidates for the No. 1 pick.

So what should you do?

Good question, making it one of the burning draft-day issues that we debate below.

Crosby or Ovechkin?

SD: Hate to sit on the fence here, but the answer will depend on what type of pool you're in. If straight points is the game, take Sid the Kid and his playmaking skills plus the talent around him. If goals matter, Ovie is the man since no one can score like him.

JB: Since most pools reward players in a number of goal-related categories, Ovechkin has to be the top choice here. No one will touch him, and with another year of seasoning for Nicklas Backstrom, Ovie might be good for 70 goals this season.

Who can I rely on in goal?

SD: My strategy is to pick the team as much as the goalie, which is why I'm a bit worried about Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo this season. Injuries to the Pens defence are cause for concern with Marc-Andre Fleury. Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Turco are all safe, productive choices. Roll the dice on Mike Smith in Tampa.

JB: Stick with the usual suspects here - be sure to nab one of Brodeur, Luongo, Kiprusoff, Nabokov, Lundqvist or Fleury to ensure you remain in the hunt in the goaltending categories. Dark horse: Cristobal Huet, who should get the majority of starts for an improved Blackhawks team.

Who do I build my blue-line around?

SD: Nicklas Lidstrom, if you can get him, is a rock for your defence corps. His plus-minus rating is off the charts, he gets tons of points and is on the deepest team in the NHL. Dion Phaneuf is a smart back-up plan while Brian Campbell may go crazy in Chicago.

JB: Lidstrom is the obvious choice here, but I would rather have Phaneuf. Lidstrom isn't a spring chicken anymore, after all. And Phaneuf will score more goals, record 60-plus points and put up a decent plus-minus. If you're in a league that includes penalty minutes, he'll reward you handsomely there, as well.

Who is primed for a breakout?

SD: Given his ample skills, it's hard to believe that 31 goals and 38 assists represented career-highs for Rick Nash last season. There's plenty more game there, and this should be the season he finally pushes 100 points.

JB: Johan Franzen showed off his goal-scoring prowess in the Stanley Cup final, but let's not forget that he managed 27 goals in the regular season. If the Wings remain true to their promise of keeping Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on separate lines, Franzen will get to line up with one of them. He could end up with 40 goals as a result.

Who is ready for a fall?

SD: Wade Redden's numbers have been steadily slipping and don't count on a change of scenery acting as a miracle cure-all. Points were hard to come by for the Rangers' top players last season under head coach Tom Renney's defensive system, so a declining Redden may struggle badly.

JB: It's going to be a very long year for Ilya Kovalchuk, who has been saddled with one of the worst supporting casts of any 50-goal scorer in the history of the NHL. Without a trade to a better team or if the Thrashers don't acquire some help, Kovalchuk won't even sniff the 50-goal plateau. And enjoy that abysmal plus-minus, too.

What can I expect from Steven Stamkos?

SD: Rookies have been making immediate impacts in the post-lockout era and Stamkos has a good chance to continue that trend with Tampa Bay. But don't get carried away. The Lightning have thrown a lot of different ingredients into a strange brew that could blow up in their face.

JB: Stamkos is expected to see plenty of ice time right from the get-go, and while his plus-minus will sag, the kid is far too talented to finish below the 60-point mark. Keep an eye on Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who could score 60 points.

Who is totally overrated?

SD: A lot of people still go gaga for Simon Gagne, but only once in his career has he been a point-a-game player and that was three years ago. That he was sidelined three times last season with concussions is further reason to stay away.

JB: People remember Cam Ward for his sensational performance in Carolina's run to the 2006 Stanley Cup. But here's what poolies need to know: His career GAA (2.97) and save percentage (.897) are well below average for fantasy purposes.

Who can I steal in the later rounds?

SD: Phil Kessel doesn't get as much attention as he used to but he quietly put up decent numbers in Boston last year and is heading into his third NHL season, a time when many players turn their games up a notch. Stephen Weiss, Jarret Stoll, Brent Burns and Shea Weber are other potential finds.

JB: Nikolai Zherdev could be a steal as a fixture on the top line of a talented New York Rangers team. Shawn Horcoff will be forgotten by many, but had 53 points in 50 games before a season-ending shoulder injury. Other potential steals: Joffrey Lupul, Mikko Koivu, Tim Connolly, Michael Nylander and Martin Havlat.

How do I handle Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan and Alex Radulov?

SD: Don't let greed get the best of you. These guys should be waiver-wire fodder and nothing more.

JB: Unless you have plenty of bench space, avoid them like the plague. While any of them may make a return to the NHL at some point, it's not worth the risk.

Who should I avoid like the second coming of Dmitri Khristich?

SD: Patrick Marleau took a huge step backwards last season after consecutive point-a-game seasons, sinking back to mediocre career-norms. Alex Kovalev was interested last year. You willing to gamble a high draft pick that he will be again?

JB: Any member of the Atlanta Thrashers (except for Kovalchuk), New York Islanders (except for rookie Kyle Okposo) or Toronto Maple Leafs (except for goaltender Vesa Toskala and defenceman Tomas Kaberle). If more than 25 per cent of your team comes from this trifecta of terror, then better luck next year.


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