COMMENTARY | With last season's lockout-shortened schedule mandating intra-conference play only, this coming season gives hockey fans an opportunity to see all the teams, and fantasy leagues can get them better acquainted with some players who haven't visited the local rink in two years.
For fantasy owners looking to the San Jose Sharks, there are a few players they want to consider drafting; there are also a few they might want to stay away from.
3 Sharks to draft
G Antti Niemi
A Vezina Trophy finalist last season, the durable Niemi was rock-solid in goal for the Sharks. When the team struggled to score midway through the season, Niemi's stellar play single-handedly kept the team in playoff contention, and his performance in the playoffs was just one goal away from pushing the Sharks to the Western Conference finals. Last season, Niemi produced a career high in save percentage (.924) and a career low in goals against average (2.16). Entering his sixth season and just turning 30 later this month, Niemi is only getting better.
D Dan Boyle
Boyle suffered through a sub-standard (for him) regular season only to turn it up in the Sharks' two playoff series. His minutes decreased to just 22:48 a game in the regular season, his lowest since the 2003-04 season, and coach Todd McLellan is sure to do the same this year to keep Boyle fresh and at his best come spring. Still, Boyle will be called upon to lead the Sharks' power play from the point and will regularly be called on to swap over the forward line into the slot for scoring opportunities. Maybe not your first defenseman taken, Boyle is a strong bet to score double-digit goals and break the 50 point total.
Take Couture over superstar center Joe Thornton. Thornton's production has clearly diminished from its high point several years back. However, his name recognition is high, and he will go early on most draft boards. Better to let others make the mistake and take Couture as a value pick, a young skater getting better with each season. Couture has scored 30+ goals twice, and if half of last season wasn't wiped out due to the lockout, he surely would have made it three straight. Look for Couture to get top-six minutes every night and the first shift on every power play, delivering you a solid net full of points every week.
3 Sharks to avoid drafting
A great defenseman and one of the Sharks' most valuable players, Vlasic is a shutdown blueliner and a must-have on a real team. In fantasy, however, Vlasic is a stay-at-home D who doesn't get time on the power play, scores points only approximately every equinox, and doesn't acquire many penalty minutes. Simply, Vlasic's defensive play just won't get rewarded in fantasy leagues.
F Martin Havlat
Havlat has struggled ever since he put on the Sharks' teal and black to begin the 2011-12 season. The oft-injured Havlat has missed big chunks of each of his two seasons on the club, and appears to be nowhere near his 20+ goal seasons as his shooting percentage, once hovering near 18%, has been halved. With new, young talent deserving an extended evaluation on the Sharks' top three lines, Havlat should not be counted on regular point production in fantasy leagues.
D Brad Stuart
Stuart has had a long, solid career in the NHL and even has his name on the Stanley Cup. He also put up a big "goose egg" in the goals scored column last year. In 48 games played in the regular season, Stuart had zero goals and just six assists. While he's solid at his own end, at this stage in his career, Stuart is unlikely to put up significant offensive numbers.
Wild card consideration - D Brent Burns
If your fantasy draft roster has Burns listed as a defenseman, take him, for the Sharks' coaching staff has designs on making last season's switch of Burns to forward a permanent move for the upcoming season. With Burns producing top-six forward numbers in a D position, you'll laugh all the way to the bank.
@RayHartjen is a longtime rink rat who's been on a decades-long quest to get the stink of hockey gloves off his hands.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- San Jose Sharks