I might be wrong, but …
– Groin pulls and other injuries are going to impact the NHL more than usual with the heavy schedules. I almost wonder if the top goalies like Henrik Lundqvist and especially Jonathan Quick are going too early, given the risk of injury. That said, if I ever drafted higher than eighth I might take one of them.
– Looking over weekly schedules will be more important than ever, The Penguins, for example, have a rough start with plenty of four-game weeks but play no more than three games in any April week.
– Speaking of the Penguins, don't rely on Marc-Andre Fleury getting into 82 percent of regular-season games like he did last year. If the Flower starts 65 percent of games this season, then he'll play 31 or 32 times with Tomas Vokoun starting the other 16 or 17.
– I discounted rookies in my fantasy drafts. Teams don't have enough time to gauge their abilities in the shortened camp. Justin Schultz, ranked #862 in Yahoo!, might be one of the exceptions but how many rookie blueliners come in and produce right away?
– Some of the lower ranked Yahoo! guys I've targeted include Jonathan Toews (#38), Marion Gaborik (he was #136 but I believe he's 90-something now), Jakub Voracek (#197). The Red Wings' Damien Brunner was listed at #847. Whether you think the latest Euro in Detroit is worth the risk will determine your selection. Fabian Brunnstrom, Janne Pesonen, the scorched earth is long.
– Since teams will only play within their conferences, make sure you aware of divisional and conference records. Anything can happen, but matchups in hockey are always important to consider. Here are some 2011-12 divisional records for your review:
New York Rangers: 15-7-2
The only question mark here is how well Tuukka responds mentally to being the starter and how well his health holds up. Boston is set up as a fantasy hockey heaven. Perhaps backup Anton Khodobin comes out of nowhere and does well if something happens to Rask, but I wouldn't want to bet my fantasy season on it. A real longshot would see Tim Thomas returning this season, not next.
This is a surprise. It will be interesting to see how well Tyler Ennis does, if he can take the next step for a whole (well, 48-game) season. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko has reported looked good but I find it difficult banking on any rookies in the short year. I'd rather wait and check waivers on first-year guys who look good in-season.
Ondrej Pavelec springs to mind as a goalie that might go late and do well, based on the team's divisional record (Disclaimer: I'm not a big fan of his). I've been picking up Antti Niemi late as Yahoo! seems to have him ranked pretty low. Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk seems to be the trendy goalie.
I'm not so sure the loss of Ryan Suter sets the defensive-minded Preds back, but I'm wondering if Shea Weber is worth his high rating with Suter gone and the pressure of his big contract. He probably will be after the first drop of the puck, but sometimes I find myself risk aversive when other options are available.
Risks on goalies like Corey Crawford make sense to me. The team did well in its division and there's reason to expect Crawford to rebound. It's likely he'll slip pretty far in Yahoo! drafts. Teams might do well to focus on other needs and then grab a bargain like Crawford. As previously mentioned, Jonathan Toews is ranked low at #38 and his stats are for a partial season – 57 points in 59 games.
The Canucks figure to be in line for another strong showing, even counting Roberto Luongo. From a team perspective, Vancouver might be better holding onto him for another year. Eddie Lack as a backup? No thanks. If Luongo gets moved, a vet like Brent Johnson might provide insurance for Corey Schneider.
Edmonton is the up-and-coming team inside the division, which makes Calgary's record surprising. I'm not sure how much importance divisional records within the Northwest Division matter, given the aforementioned Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche.
Los Angeles: 13-4-7
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will try to cover for Anze Kopitar's week or two absence. Jonathan Quick was outstanding last year and is reportedly healthy. I could see him re-injuring his back and ruining fantasy seasons as a first-round draft pick in many pools.
Teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference went 17-5-1 against Columbus. Surprisingly, St. Louis went just 10-9-5 against their division rivals.
Star players are going to put up numbers against any opponent. John Tavares is still going to get his share of points. Where I like to use divisional numbers are on the blue line and secondary players. For leagues that still use plus-minus, loading up on defensemen and second-line forwards on teams with strong winning percentages is never a bad thing.
– Familiarity Breeds Contempt
Penalty minutes were harder than ever to find last season. This year that may change. When teams play rivals repeatedly in short periods of times, expect more fireworks. Some of my leagues have switched to Hits and Blocked Shots over PIMs, but not all of them.
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