Here's how it works:
For each "Face-off," fantasy experts Sergei Feldman and Pete Jensen will make their case as to why a particular player deserves consideration in the particular debate. Resident fantasy hockey guru Matt Cubeta will then juggle the two arguments and reach a final verdict for who deserves the edge.
We begin with NHL.com's preseason fantasy rankings at the center position, where rising star Steven Stamkos occupies the top-overall spot. Henrik Sedin, who turned in a memorable season last year for the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks, is ranked second among centers.
And with that, here's NHL.com's take on the matter...
Steven Stamkos delivered in a big way for the Lightning last season, leading Tampa Bay to its first playoff berth since 2006-07 and a stunning postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Building off his breakout 51-goal campaign in '09-10, Stamkos played in all 82 regular season games for the Bolts, scoring the second-most goals in the League (45) and compiling the most power-play points among centers (36).
Center - TBL
GOALS: 45 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 91
SOG: 272 | +/-: 3
SOG: 272 | +/-: 3
The 21-year-old also continued to build on his game from a physicality standpoint last season, as his '09-10 output of 38 PIMs nearly doubled in '10-11 (74 PIMs). While he has yet to produce a 100-point season in his career, Stamkos has been on the cusp in each of the past two seasons (95 in '09-10 and 91 in '10-11). This sparkling phenom has already established himself as an elite forward, and his consistent production as a distributor -- dishing out 90 assists over the past two seasons -- speaks volumes about the diversity of his game moving forward.
This emerging superstar is in great position to top the 50-goal mark once again in 2011-12, and as his comfort level on the ice continues to improve, his ordinary plus-minus (plus-3) and healthy shot total (272) are bound to strengthen as well. It's tough to argue that there is a more potent young center in the League (with the exception of a healthy Sidney Crosby) with a higher fantasy ceiling than Stamkos.
-- Pete Jensen
You can't go wrong with selecting Henrik Sedin for your fantasy hockey squad, which is to say that doing so would be perfectly right. The gifted center has done nothing but contribute year in, year out in most every major stat category, in the process becoming one of the most dependable fantasy players.
Center - VAN
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 75 | PTS: 94
SOG: 157 | +/-: 26
SOG: 157 | +/-: 26
Playing alongside twin brother Daniel Sedin for much of the season and on a team with offensive firepower up and down the lineup, the possibility of another stellar showing in 2011-12 is less fantasy and more reality.
-- Sergei Feldman
FINAL VERDICT: STEVEN STAMKOS
It's a tough call around, but the biggest factor is goals. Goals is the hardest category to succeed in for fantasy hockey and the bottom line is Steven Stamkos will score far more goals than Henrik Sedin. While Sedin will surely outperform Stamkos in the assists and plus/minus categories, Stamkos has the superior edge in goals and shots on goal. You can find assists from defenseman, but goals are simply harder to come by (for the obvious reason that two players can record an assist on one goal).
Stamkos finished last season as the fifth-ranked overall player in standard Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues, while Sedin came in at eighth overall. Clearly, there isn't much of a difference in their Yahoo! rank, but the fact that Stamkos had such a significant advantage in the most difficult category to dominate (26 more goals than Henrik) gives him the overall edge.
Expect both players to be early first-round selections in your fantasy draft, but be certain to select Stamkos ahead of Sedin if given the opportunity.
-- Matt Cubeta
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