When you think of the Atlantic Division and fantasy picks you think of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Martin Brodeur, Mike Richards and Marian Gaborik. But every year is different and players rise and fall in the stats column.
Off-season moves make each team slightly different and many times a star player will be paired with a new partner during the season making that partner a valuable fantasy pick-up. Maybe a player who was a point producer last season will see a decrease in production next season.
There are many variables to think of when drafting your team especially when it comes to the later rounds. The top seven picks are usually obvious; you want goal scorers, a solid goaltender and defensemen who contribute offensively while maintaining a good plus/minus. There are obvious picks and there are not so obvious picks.
From the Atlantic Division what players are obvious, no-brainer picks and which might have some value as a late round addition?
I should not even have to list the obvious Pittsburgh Penguins fantasy superstars but I will for the sake of this column.
Crosby and Malkin are always at the top of the league’s scoring charts and that will not change next season. Each will see plenty of time on the power-play together but during 5-on-5 play look for Chris Kunitz to improve on his 32-point season. With Bill Guerin out of the picture, Kunitz will feed the puck to the goal scorers more often and even net a few himself.
Defensively, the only two worth a look are Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. Of the two, Letang will end up with more assists and total points by the end of the season. For total wins by a goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury is worth a pick-up but I hope you have a more consistent netminder on your roster.
The Philadelphia Flyers have many players who contribute in scoring. Richards always has a solid season and Jeff Carter will lead the team in goals with 35-38. Even as he grows older, Chris Pronger continues to dominate on defense with an excellent plus/minus rating and solid scoring production. Pronger is a player you want on your fantasy team.
Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Simon Gagne are all players who will earn between 40-55 total points making them decent fill-in players should one of your usual starters get injured but do not bank on them for consistent scoring. James van Riemsdyk posted 35 points last season but showed a lot of promise and poise on the ice. I would not be surprised if van Riemsdyk becomes a 55-65 point player this season.
On the goaltending end of it, I would steer clear of this team until they determine who the starter will be.
The New Jersey Devils have some offense to offer a fantasy team but this might be the year their star goaltender does not reach 40 wins. Who knows if turning 40 will slow Brodeur down, especially after a 45 win season with nine shutouts, but it should. Reflexes tend to fade and recovery time tends to increase. Maybe the move to add Johan Hedburg to the roster will prove beneficial to keeping Marty healthy and rested but for fantasy teams that means less playing time and less wins.
Offensively Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac will all be back with Jason Arnott rejoining the team. The biggest news is whether or not Ilya Kovalchuk will be returning as well. If he decides to play elsewhere, look for Patrick Elias and Brian Rolston to pick up some of the scoring slack making them worth a second look in the draft.
The New York Rangers also have some offense to offer a fantasy team but in this case it’s all bottled up in Gaborik. Hopefully, Vinny Prospal, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan can take some of the pressure off Gaborik but as Jaromir Jagr has shown us, the Rangers offense has been a one-man show for years will probably remain that way next season.
Gaborik will post another 85-90 point season while Prospal should increase his production to 60+ total points. Brandon Dubinsky has shown his ability to make plays and has the talent to become a solid offensive threat this coming season with point totals reaching 55-58.
The most consistent and trustworthy goaltender in the Atlantic Division is Henrik Lundqvist. If the Rangers can put together some goals this season we will see an increase in wins for Henrik as well as goals against average and save percentage.
The other New York team, the Islanders, have less to offer. Leading the team in scoring last season with 54 total points, John Tavares can only improve this season. I would not be surprised to see Tavares end the season as a 70 point offensive threat.
Kyle Okposo also shows signs of offensive talent and could follow Tavares in a path to improvement but be careful with these players because where you might gain in points you will lose in plus/minus rating.
The most solid of Islander additions is Mark Streit. Streit had almost a 50 point season last year with an even plus/minus rating. He has shown his solidity as a defenseman in the NHL and will continue to get better.
When it comes to goaltending, Rick Dipietro is the only option and I would avoid him unless I needed a third back-up to my usual two starters. If he stays healthy Dipietro could put together a .500 season with a decent goals against average but be careful what teams you play him against. With a shaky defense, Dipetro sees too many shots on goal making the Islanders a team that goal scorers love to play.
The top ten fantasy picks from the Atlantic Division are:
- Sidney Crosby
- Evgeni Malkin
- Marian Gaborik
- Zach Parise (insert Ilya Kovalchuk here if he signs)
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Jeff Carter
- Martin Brodeur
- Chris Pronger
- Mike Richards
- John Tavares