Fantasy Hockey Stanley Cup Playoff Outlook: Eastern Conference

Dobber checks in every Thursday to force-feed you the latest fantasy hockey trends. The founder of and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this roller coaster world and is unable to escape.

Well that was fast.

Just four days of regular season hockey left (three if you're not a Boston or Ottawa fan). You know what that means? Playoff pool time!

This weekend, sit back with a bunch of your buddies, draft list in one hand, a beer in the other, and pick your winning team. To help you on your way, I've assembled a little primer for you. We'll tackle the Eastern Conference today, and the West tomorrow.

To get things started, I ran a quick report on Frozen Pool listing the top PP ice time per game among defensemen over the last three weeks. Because everyone knows that playoff scoring revolves around Bryzgalov and Fleury being in the nets the power play.

Boston Bruins

The Obvious - Brad Marchand, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara.

The Sleepers - Carl Soderberg is seeing plenty of ice time and playing with Jagr. He's been a highly-coveted prospect for close to a decade - when he was drafted in the second round, Dougie Hamilton was celebrating his 11th birthday. Soderberg has played just three games, but has two assists and could have a Ville-Leino-type (circa the Flyers, 2010) of impact.

Rookies to Watch - Soderberg is too old for rookie status, making defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski the only rookie regulars. Neither are worth drafting, unless your league is deep and you have several Bruins already - then Hamilton is worth grabbing in the final round.

Don't Overrate - Hamilton has been a healthy scratch in three of his last six games. Most rookies are hard to trust in a playoff draft, because the coach tends to keep a tight leash on them. Just nine rookies in the last two postseasons have tallied more than five points…

Also Milan Lucic. Big, bad Bruin has a reputation for playing a 'playoff' type of game. But pools don't give points for reputation, or player types. They give points for goals and assists. And Looch hasn't been getting many of them - just 15 points in his last 32 playoff contests.

Montreal Canadiens

The Obvious - Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta.

The Sleepers - Lars Eller has improved dramatically, in each of his three seasons in the NHL. Although his playoff experience is limited, he has plenty of experience on the world stage…

Raphael Diaz is going to slip through the draft unnoticed due to his point total, which is low because of the games missed with a concussion. If you need a defenseman in the late rounds, he's your guy.

Rookies to Watch - Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are key reasons why the Habs are even in this position. Adding a pair of young, energetic 50-point (pro-rated) players does wonders for a team. Galchenyuk has 10 points in his last 11 games and is the No.4 player on this team I would draft (after Pacioretty, Subban and Ryder)…

Gallagher is worth drafting, if you like the Habs to go deep, but he's certainly not a high pick. He has slowed down, with just four points in his last 11 games.

Don't Overrate - Rene Bourque has two points in his eight games since returning from a concussion…

Markov has just 18 points in 49 career playoff games. He also has just three points in his last 11 games.

New York Islanders

The Obvious - John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes, Frans Nielsen and Mark Streit.

The Sleepers - Josh Bailey has 14 points in his last 18 games…

And it's no coincidence that his linemate Kyle Okposo is similarly on fire. He also has 14 in 18…

Rookies to Watch - Anders Lee saw nine minutes in his first career game on April 2. Then he was scratched. Four days later, he got into his second career NHL game and played just under seven minutes, but added an assist. He's been a healthy scratch ever since. That'll teach him for being productive…

Casey Cizikas has been a real solid checking-line player. Not worth drafting, though.

Don't Overrate - Boyes has been shut out of 10 of the last 14 games, dating back to March 26. He has four playoff points in his career, in 11 games…

Michael Grabner has just eight points in his last 20 games.

New York Rangers

The Obvious - Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Derick Brassard and Ryan Callahan.

The Sleepers - Mats Zuccarello I was brought back to help the scoring and after an initial awkward moment while the team tried to get rid of Gaborik adjustment, Zuccarello has flourished. Not only does he have five points in his last five games, but he's also sparked Brad Richards…

Ryane Clowe was acquired from the Sharks and has eight points, is plus-6 with 14 PIM in 11 games. Now that's the Clowe we know and love. But casual hockey fan at the office looking at his stats sheet will see the 19 points in 39 games on the season. Of course, if everyone in your pool knows their hockey, then just ignore this little blurb.

Rookies to Watch - If you reeeeally like the Rangers to go deep, Chris Kreider is your best rookie option. He's had a tough year, not just with New York but with Connecticut as well. But he has the size, skill and tenacity to flourish in the postseason - as we saw last year with his seven points in 18 games…

The only other rookie of note is J.T. Miller, who is back with Connecticut once the Rangers added the forwards they did at the deadline.

Don't Overrate - Carl Hagelin disappeared around this time last year. This happened because Kreider joined the team. Since the trade deadline, Hagelin has four points in 11 games. It seems as though anytime the Rangers add a forward or two, Hagelin's production suffers.

Ottawa Senators

The Obvious - Cory Conacher, Kyle Turris, Sergei Gonchar, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson

The Sleepers - Depending on your competition, Karlsson is either 'obvious' or a 'sleeper'. He is ready return tonight from the injury to his Achilles tendon, yet his 10 points on the season keeps him low on the stats sheet…

For the same reason (low regular season point total due to injury), consider Milan Michalek. Now healthy, Michalek will get you seven or eight points if the Senators play 10 or 11 playoff games.

Rookies to Watch - Cory Conacher is tied for the rookie lead in scoring with 28 points and has four points in nine games since joining the Senators. Modest numbers, both. More on him later…

Jakob Silfverberg is a bit of a 'boom or bust' pick for this year. His production has really fallen off since Michalek's return, but that could just be your run-of-the-mill cold streak. Unless Ottawa is a key team you're banking on. But besides the six points in his first 24 games and his one point in his last seven, he has 11 in 14. That's where the 'boom' in the statement 'boom or bust' comes into play…

Mika Zibanejad also has just one point in his last seven games, but with Jason Spezza missing at least the first round (likely two rounds or more), Zibanejad will be leaned on for secondary offense with little risk of taking a hit in his ice time…

Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch is another risky rookie to consider. His production took off once Karlsson was injured, and he has 15 points in his last 28 games. With Karlsson back, there is some concern over the impact on Wiercioch's numbers.

Don't Overrate - As noted, Conacher has just four points in nine games since joining the team. But what's concerning the most is the fact that he averaged about 15 of ice time per game in his first four games with the team - but then about 12 minutes per game in the last five. He often saw 17 or more with Tampa…

Old man Gonchar (and I say this ignoring the fact that I was born 11 days before him) has just three points in his last 13 games. With Karlsson back, if Paul MacLean elects to continue giving Wiercioch power play time, Gonchar's numbers will suffer…

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Obvious - Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla, (types furiously for another five minutes), that drunk guy in the seventh row who takes off his shirt and starts dancing midway through the second period, the red light operator, (more typing), the guy shouting "Programs, Here!", the person running the refreshment stand in section C, etc, etc…

The Sleepers - Come on. It's the Penguins. They'll all be picked by the time you decide which chair you'll sit on for the draft. If you really want a name - Matt Cooke has 10 points in his last 19 playoff games.

Rookies to Watch - Beau Bennett is a great prospect and on 20 other teams we'd be including him in the Calder conversation. And 10 of his 14 points have come without Crosby or Malkin on the ice with him. Take a look, courtesy of Frozen Pool:

But with everybody healthy, Bennett is destined for the press box.

Don't Overrate - Although Jussi Jokinen has eight points in eight games since joining the Penguins, he has been held scoreless in four of his last five. With the injured Penguins filing back into the lineup, I have concerns over Jokinen's role.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Obvious - Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, …oh wait, the Leafs aren't in a golf tournament this year. Let's go with Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Cody Franson, Tyler Bozak and Dion Phaneuf.

The Sleepers - With 10 goals in 13 games for the Marlies last year in the postseason, it only serves to reinforce Matt Frattin's reputation as a gamer. He carries a risk, having been scratched from six of the last nine games - but he tends to score when it truly counts and once he starts doing that, it will be tough to keep him out of the lineup. Should only be considered for the last round, if you like the Leafs to go deep.

Rookies to Watch - The only rookie in the regular lineup is Leo Komarov. And although his style of hockey is suited for the postseason, even increased production won't justify a draft pick.

Don't Overrate - I hate putting this name here, because I'm a fan. But Kadri has just three points in his last 10 games. With the added attention he's garnered late in the season, he will struggle to put up a point-per-game in the second season.

Washington Capitals

The Obvious - Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer, Martin Erat, Mike Green, and John Carlson.

The Sleepers - Green is going to be underrated in your draft, in all likelihood. But with Ovechkin - the real Ovechkin - clearly back in fine form, Green's numbers have popped as well. To the tune of 14 points in his last 13 games…

Marcus Johansson has 20 points in his last 23 games and is often the third member of the Backstrom-Ovechkin line…

From the pages of 'Where the Hell Did This Guy Come From?' (a novel by John Druce) is defenseman Jack Hillen. The former Colorado College star has eight points in his last eight games and is worth a flier in the late rounds.

Rookies to Watch - Defenseman Steven Oleksy made a quick impact on the scoresheet after being called up for the first time, but as the adrenalin wore so did the offense. Any fantasy value lies only in his plus/minus, hits and penalty minutes.

Don't Overrate - Erat was often the best offensive forward in Nashville. To get that same title in Washington, about six or seven players need to collide at center ice during practice and get helped off.

Winnipeg Jets

The Obvious - Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien

The Sleepers - Grant Clitsome has 14 points in his last 30 games. He started off slowly because Tobias Enstrom was in the lineup. Then when Enstrom was hurt, the Jets tried out Paul Postma and Zach Redmond, as well as Clitsome. Eventually, Clitsome worked his way ahead of the other two (thanks in part to Redmond getting hurt as well)…

Nik Antropov has 11 points in his last 16 games, but unless the competitors in your draft have already taken six other Jets, there's really no point in looking here. So yeah, this blurb is really just for poolies living in Winnipeg.

Rookies to Watch - Paul Postma has had his moments, but really this season has been about his getting used to the higher level of hockey. He'll be a healthy scratch as often as not…

Zach Redmond was humming along with four points in his first eight games before suffering a serious cut on his leg. Now ready to return, the Jets are just waiting for a chance to put him in. Too risky to draft.

Don't Overrate - Tobias Enstrom's back injury has him listed as "week to week". That's generally a bad sign…

I wish I could pull any portion of Olli Jokinen's season and point it in a positive light. But there's really nothing. He's minus-19 and his point total is abysmal. Don't be fooled by the Jokinen name that once posted 91 points.

Also, hey, I have an Interactive Playoff Draft List that I'm selling. It will make things way easier for you at the draft table.

For more fantasy hockey tips, take a gander at DobberHockey. And while you’re at it, follow Dobber’s fantasy hockey musings on Twitter.

What to Read Next