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2010 Draft Prep: Moving beyond the obvious

by | Rotowire.com
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Any Fantasy player can select the top scorers. We all know that Alex Ovechkin is going to score 50+ goals and that Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will post similar totals. It doesn't take much thought to select these kinds of players as who you take in the first round of your draft will generally not make or break your team. It's the sleepers that you find later in your draft that will separate you from the pack. With that in mind we're going to give you a handful of players at each position that may slide in your draft that you might want to remember when it's your turn.

Centers

Brooks Laich, Capitals -- Laich's numbers have gone up now for three straight seasons as he set highs in goals (25), assists (34) and points (59) last season. What may be even more impressive is that he was also was a plus-16 which depending upon your scoring system can be a big bonus. Though Laich may anchor the second line on the power play he still managed to pot 12 PPGs making him quite valuable in most formats.

Valtteri Filppula, Red Wings -- When most people think of the Red Wings the names Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk come to mind, but Filppula is someone you don't want to forget come draft time. Big things were expected from Filppula last season but a wrist injury curtailed those expectations. This season even bigger things might be expected because of his potential line mates. If Tomas Holmstrom plays on the first line than Filppula could be flanked by Johan Franzen and the return of Jiri Hudler. That could be a top line for quite a few NHL teams.

Travis Zajac could be skating alongside some elite company this season. (US Presswire)  
Travis Zajac could be skating alongside some elite company this season. (US Presswire)  
Travis Zajac, Devils -- Zajac set a career high in goals last season with 25 and his line mates this season could be Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk (once the Devils sign him to a contract the NHL can live with). With those two on the ice teams won't be paying much attention to Zajac and it's easy to see how he 'll set career highs across the board. We may have to drop Zajac a notch or two if Kovalchuk does not sign with the Devils, but his chemistry with Parise is still impressive and I would still want him on my team, and so should you.

Jordan Staal, Penguins -- Staal has scored 49 points in each of the past two seasons. While I would agree that's not all that impressive, one has to remember that Stall is only 21 years of age and is still growing as an NHL player. What has me climbing aboard his bandwagon, however, is that the Penguins have stated that Staal or Malkin could play wing this season. If this were to happen then Staal would be a top six forward, increasing his value dramatically.

Wingers

Jiri Hudler, Red Wings -- Hudler was just starting to come into his own as an NHL player when he decided to go back home and play in the KHL last season. Hudler will give the Red Wings something they were missing last season, secondary scoring. Hudler has all the skills necessary to put up a 30 goal season. The biggest question regarding Hudler is what line does he end up with? Coach Mike Babcock hasn't set anything in stone as of yet but Hudler could be the answer to who will score goals for Detroit besides the big three of Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen.

Loui Eriksson, Stars -- I could have placed any of the Stars top line on this list as Brad Richards and James Neal also tend to fly under most fantasy players' radar. Eriksson seemed to grow as a player last season even though his goal total fell to 36 from 29. He put up 214 shots on goal, 36 more than his previous season, and he increased his assist total by 15. He should see more shots find the net this year as a result.

Nathan Horton, Bruins -- Even though he missed 17 games due to injury in 2009-10 Horton still posted a career high in assists. What may even be better for Horton is that he was traded from the offensive wasteland that is Florida to the Boston Bruins. Where Florida has been a playoff afterthought for quite a few years now, Boston is almost always in the mix. Perhaps a better atmosphere around Horton will finally allow him to put up the season most have been expecting of him since he came into the league.

Alexander Frolov, Rangers -- Like Horton, Frolov has much to prove after a disappointing season with the Kings. Whereas the Kings had a fantastic season, Frolov didn't and found himself in the doghouse on more than one occasion and led to Frolov having to accept a one-year deal from the Rangers. This may not be a bad thing as he will be motivated to have a big year, rehabilitate his image and try to sign that big contract next season.

Tomas Holmstrom, Red Wings -- Holmstrom rebounded from back to back below average seasons to post 25 goals, including 13 on the power play for the Wings last season. What made his rebound all the more impressive is that Holmstrom was being relied upon to score more with all of the injuries and free agent defections Detroit suffered. With Holmstrom lining up with Zetterberg and Datsyuk this season, it almost seems like he is being rewarded.

Brian Gionta, Canadiens -- When Gionta signed with Montreal last offseason you could hear some snickering around the NHL about why the Canadiens would give such a big contract to a player who seemed to be on the decline. No one is snickering anymore after 28 goals in 61 games. Gionta also had a big playoff season for Montreal proving he is at home when the pressure is on.

Defensemen

Mark Streit, Islanders -- When anyone thinks of the Islanders they think of a team that has been buried in the Eastern Conference for most of the 21st Century, a team that may have the worst building in the NHL or a team that hired their backup goaltender to be their general manager. All of this may be true but that doesn't mean they don't have a useful player or two for fantasy purposes and their best may be Mark Streit. He is the leader of that team and plays in every situation. He may not have the sexy name as say a Sergei Gonchar or Dan Boyle but is just about as valuable and can be had a few rounds later in your draft.

Christian Ehrhoff, Canucks -- Talk about a player who responded to a change of scenery. Ehrhoff had eight goals, 42 points and was a minus-12 in his last season in San Jose, but he had 14 goals, 44 points and was an amazing plus-36 in his first season in Vancouver along with being a Norris Trophy candidate. Canada definitely agreed with him. Marc-Andre Bergeron, MON -- After Andrei Markov went down with injury early last season, Bergeron picked up the slack by scoring 13 goals in only 60 games. Bergeron has always been known for his tremendous shot, and it is a rocket when he has time to get it off. The knock on Bergeron is that he is not all that great in his own zone, but as fantasy players this is not our concern. We only care that he lights the lamp.

Alex Goligoski/Kris Letang, Penguins -- Sergei Gonchar is no longer a Penguin which means that one or both of these players may step up and have a big season. Goligoski has never scored more than eight goals, but he'll get more playing time on the power play where the Penguins will have one of the most feared units in the NHL. Letang saw his goal total tumble to three last season but that may have been more of a byproduct of a focus on his defensive game. Both of these players will be counted on to replace the offense that Gonchar provided.

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne, Predators -- At the beginning of last season Rinne was in the short side of a platoon with Dan Ellis, but his spectacular play won him the starting job and a two-year contract extension. He's now the undisputed starter in Nashville and if he posts another season with a 2.53 GAA and 91.1 SV%, he will make a smart addition to any fantasy team.

Jimmy Howard, Red Wings -- The Red Wings were sputtering at the beginning of last season as they lost Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler to Chicago to the KHL and then suffering injury after injury seemed to take away most of the Detroit mystique. It didn't help that starting goaltender Chris Osgood just couldn't handle the extra shots that were coming his way. Inserting Howard into the starting job made good things start to happen. Howard should lead the Red Wings back into the playoffs and may give the Wings the best starting goalie they have had since Dominik Hasek retired.

Jonas Hiller, Ducks -- For the past two seasons Hiller has been in a battle for the starting job with Jean-Sebastien Giguere. His trade to the Maple Leafs last season means Hiller can relax knowing that one bad game won't find him riding the bench this season. The Ducks may not be an elite team and there are certainly questions about their defense, but Hiller will give them the best chance to win this season and in the immediate future.

Semyon Varlamov, Capitals -- Anyone who starts for Washington knows they are going to get goal support. They don't have to worry about letting in one bad goal and losing the game. What's even better for Varlamov is that he doesn't have to worry about Jose Theodore either. He will still be in a time share with Michael Neuvirth, but Varlamov is still expected to start more often than not.

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Player News
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Jeremy Welsh
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News: Jeremy Welsh signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Monday.
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Nate Prosser
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Analysis: The Wild elected not to extend a qualifying offer to Nate Prosser this summer after he totaled a meager eight points, 22 hits and 83 blocks over 53 regular-season contests. He'll compete for a depth role with the Blues.

Vladimir Sobotka
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News: Vladimir Sobotka was awarded a one-year deal with the Blues on Monday, which will take effect if he returns from the KHL, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
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Cody Franson
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News: Cody Franson signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Maple Leafs on Monday, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
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