NHL Fantasy Hockey: 15 hunches heading into the 2014-15 season

NHL Fantasy Hockey: 15 hunches heading into the 2014-15 season

Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009. 

We all have our hunches. And of course, we let them influence our selections at the draft table. But that's a good thing provided your hunch isn't completely ridiculous like believing Matt Moulson became a 30-goal scorer on his own merit. And you don't want to move a player up or down 10 rounds because of a hunch either. Hunches are just for tweaking.

If you want a few of my hunches, which will absolutely be better than yours (unless they're not), here you go…

The Dany Heatley experiment will fail

I don't think anyone is drafting Heatley in the first seven or eight rounds just because he's playing on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But some may be tempted in that 10th or 11th round to do so. No thank you. Of course, if he falls to 18 or 19 then of course I'll take him. But there are better gambles in those middle rounds than Heatley such as…well anyone, ever. 

One of Hodgson or Ennis breaks out

In my Fantasy Guide (buy it here), I have Cody Hodgson for 55 points and Tyler Ennis for 46 points (in six fewer games). As pathetic as the Sabres outlook is for 2014-15, either of these promising youngsters could break through with a 65-point campaign. I won't be betting the house on it, but it's enough for me to move them up a round or two in the draft. The Sabres sure could use this one coming true.

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Big year for Tlusty

It looked as though last season would be Tlusty's big breakout year. He was 25, coming off a strong finish to 2012-13, and he was playing with Eric Staal and Alex Semin. But he sustained a concussion in training camp last year and entered the season still not himself. He struggled to put points on the board and just when he started shaking it off, he had an emergency appendectomy (December). Shortly after his return he went on a run of 12 points in 19 games before sustaining a lower-body injury, and upon returning from that he had four points in five games before sustaining an injury to his upper body. He returned for the final three games of the season and picked up four points. If he can stay healthy, the line of Tlusty-Staal-Semin will fly. Tlusty is a player who will be drafted late in your leagues, or may not be drafted at all. But he is a must for your team.

Khudobin takes the starting job by Christmas

Cam Ward hasn't been a great goaltender since 2011. In fact, he hasn't even been good since then. But even if Ward finds his mojo (maybe it's between the couch cushions), Anton Khudobin has been spectacular as an NHLer. Not just because of his 0.926 save percentage last year in 36 outings, but his .928 career percentage over 57 outings. And that's with three NHL teams. Three completely different rosters and coaching systems. Eventually the Hurricanes will notice that they keep winning games when he's playing.

Richards a bust in Chicago

Perhaps 'bust' is a strong word. Let's use the term "will suck" instead. The name Brad Richards still carries some clout in fantasy circles because he's a two-time 90-point player who is still only 34. But the decline has been happening for three years now, with points-per-game averages of 0.80, 0.74 and 0.62. And this is with average ice time of at least 18:41, a crapload of power-play time and an offensive zone start percentage that was among the highest in the league. He'll flirt with 50 points, but don't expect a rebirth in his new city. In roto leagues without SOG as a category, I wouldn't be drafting him at all and instead let someone else worry about him.

Spezza/Hemsky won't be the studs you think they'll be

These two Band-Aid Boys start training camp with their new team amid plenty of fantasy buzz. This always happens with current or former top fantasy studs who get a change of scenery and the result is almost guaranteed not to meet the hype. Will they play 70 games? That's the first question - and both players have each only managed it four times in the last nine seasons. Assuming they play close to that number, I'm still taking the under if the over/under of their combined point total is 120. Hemsky and Spezza won't be busts - but dial down your expectations. 

Aaron Ekblad will be the only 2014 draftee in the NHL for the full season

While Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and Sam Bennett will all take healthy runs at a roster spot and perhaps stick around for nine NHL games, I won't be drafting them because I have little confidence that they will make the team. And with all due respect to the likes of William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers, who are having great camps, they aren't making the team either. 

If Granlund can play 75 games he can get 65 points

Poolies seem to be cautious with him. Mikael Granlund is coming off of a 41-point season and fantasy owners figure that a safe bet for him is 50 or perhaps 55 if he stays healthy. No…if he stays healthy, he's flirting with 65. A fantastic young player who had a second half (21 points in 24 games) that would seem to indicate that he is ready for that next step right now.

Sekac will disappoint you

I've been seeing a lot of hype around Jiri Sekac, the highly-touted undrafted European player whom the Canadiens signed in the offseason. He may one day become a quality NHLer and solid third-line or even second-line contributor. But that day is not today and there is no way that I draft him. Who is the last undrafted European to make an immediate impact right after signing with his team? The Jiri Dopitas, Janne Pesonens, Roman Cervenkas and Fabian Brunnstroms get all the hype year after year. But then what happens? You see this work when it comes to goaltenders and maybe the odd defenseman - but the only forwards with any luck at all are Mats Zuccarello and Ville Leino. And were they helping any fantasy squads in their first season? Nope - it took at least three.

Anderson bounces back with a big year

I always feel nervous owning Craig Anderson the season after he does extremely well. But I also feel confident owning him in the season after a bad one. Check his numbers and it will almost have an eerie Vinny Prospal feel to them.

Hornqvist replaces Neal goal for goal

Pretty much everyone believes that Patric Hornqvist's production will increase thanks to his trade to Pittsburgh. By a lot. After all, he's pegged to play on a line with Evgeni Malkin. But I think people are still reluctant to believe that he will score a goal every two games - which was Neal's pace over the last three seasons (88 goals, 179 games). Hornqvist, a 30-goal scorer himself on one of the most defensive teams in the league, will indeed score 40 if he plays 80 games this year. Playing 80 games should be the real question - he's missed an average of 12 games per year the last three campaigns. 

Stalock takes the starting job by February

Because of the wait time here, I wouldn't be taking Alex Stalock unless the rosters are big enough to warrant it. But I would be looking to scoop him off the wire towards Christmas. Antti Niemi's hold on the top job in San Jose may be slipping - his contract is up after this year and the Sharks seem to be wanting to groom Stalock for that job. 

Stamkos is a stud. But not a 90-point stud

All of my research indicates that Martin St. Louis played a pretty big role in Stamkos' huge numbers. He has enough talent around him to top 85 points, but I'm taking Claude Giroux ahead of him in most roto formats. Giroux ranks ahead of Stamkos when I ran the software from Fantasy Hockey Geek. 

Sedins + Vrbata = Huge

Okay, I'm exaggerating again. The term "huge" when it comes to Daniel and Henrik Sedin would refer to another 100-point season for each of them, and that's not happening. But just comparing to last season's meagre output, 2014-15 will be huge. Both should get to 70 points or close enough to it. This is the first time they have had a proven sniper on their wing (assuming Radim Vrbata goes there).

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Carlson finally arrives

John Carlson has been pretty steady so far, with a points-per-game average between 0.39 and 0.46 in each of his four full seasons. But poolies have been waiting for that big year where he hits his offensive potential. The new coach Barry Trotz has a history of leaning heavily on two defensemen in all situations and Carlson is sure to be his main guy.

Follow Dobber on Twitter @DobberHockey for more fantasy hockey tidbits, or better yet pick up his 9th annual Fantasy Hockey Guide