With the 2012-13 NHL season rapidly approaching, it's time to have a look at my boldest, most outrageous fantasy hockey predictions for this year.
Many of these predictions will shock you, and I'm sure each and every one of you will disagree and flat out dislike several of them. Are these things definitely going to happen this season? Of course not, but I believe there is a chance they just might.
Some of these predictions are based on past seasons performances, in-depth statistical research, expected lineups or changes of scenery, but most of them are based purely on my gut instincts and what I believe. The reason I do these daring predictions is for you to get a general idea of which players I really like and which guys I might not be too high on this season.
The goal isn't to get every prediction exactly right (although if I did, that would be quite amazing). For example, last year I predicted Marian Gaborik to score 40-plus goals after netting just 22 in 2010-11. That one I nailed -- Gaborik was one of just four NHLers to reach the 40-goal mark. Of course, I also said Pavel Datsyuk would reach the century mark in points (he had 67). I'm going to be wrong more than I'm right, but this is supposed to be fun isn't it?
Use these predictions how you want -- you can laugh at them and comment about how ridiculous they are, or you could agree with me and use them to your advantage come draft day.
Remember, it's a 48-game season. Therefore, predicting someone to score 18 goals is equivalent to a 30-goal season over the course of 82 games, and a 41-point season is comparable to someone registering 70-plus points, and so on.
Regardless, these are my 50 wild fantasy hockey predictions for the 2012-13 season:
If you're interested in seeing how I did with my predictions last year, have a look HERE.
Follow Matt Cubeta on Twitter: @NHLQubes; For all things fantasy hockey: @NHLfantasy
1. Last year I said Datsyuk would reach 100 points. This year I'm saying he won't top 40 points -- 40 points in 48 games is a rate of .83 points-per-game, which would've tied him for 44th in the NHL last season. Between his declining stats, potential for injury and his lack of shots and PIMs, he might not be worth an early draft pick this year. He's also typically a slow starter, and with the condensed season, it could benefit you to pass on him.
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2. While Jamie Benn is still waiting on a contract with the Stars, I believe he'll finish as a top-10 fantasy player. With veteran playmakers Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Ray Whitney joining an improved Dallas team, Benn will become elite this year (I truly believe there's a chance he could be a top-5 fantasy player). He has the tools to contribute in all categories.
4. Phil Kessel won't score more than 18 goals.
5. Many people believe Steven Stamkos could challenge 40 goals in 48 games -- which I'm not at all arguing -- but I believe Rick Nash will win the Rocket Richard Trophy. Let's say the new Blueshirt puts home 33 goals for tops in the League.
6. Two for the price of one: Ryan Suter finishes outside the top-20 of fantasy defensemen. Instead, Nashville's Ryan Ellis will finish inside the top-20 while replacing Suter's power play role for the Preds. Expect 7 goals and 26 points out of Ellis (equivalent to 12 goals and 44 points in an 82-game season).
7. Justin Schultz ends up as a top-10 blueliner.
8. Justin Faulk finishes as a top-15 d-man.
9. Corey Perry leads the NHL in power play goals -- not too bold. He'll also lead in shots on goal. Better?
10. Only 10 players averaged at least one point-per-game last season (with at least 20 games played) -- (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Niklas Backstrom, Joffrey Lupul, James Neal, Phil Kessel). However, 10 is a low number when looking at the last five years of point-per-game players -- there were 15 in 2010-11, 22 in 2009-10, 20 in 2008-09, 23 in 2007-08. If I had to pick, I'm saying 18 players do it this year and this would be my list (in order of most to least): Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Stamkos, John Tavares, Malkin, Giroux, Anze Kopitar, Brad Richards, Henrik Sedin, Benn, Eric Staal, Daniel Sedin, Nash, Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, Corey Perry, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Joe Thornton.
11. Same prediction as the last two seasons: Ryan Getzlaf stays healthy and leads the NHL in points -- it has to come through eventually. I'm kidding. I'm not making that mistake for a third year in a row. But I do believe Getzlaf bounces back in a big way from his disappointing 11-goal, 57-point season in 2011-12. He'll be just shy of the point-per-game class, but he will still provide owners with over 50 PIMs and prove to be an extremely valuable fantasy player.
12. So, this year, it's not Getzlaf, but Toews who will lead the NHL in points with 61 -- and he'll finish as a top-5 fantasy player (along with Crosby, Stamkos, Malkin and Benn). And, yes, I'm aware I have Crosby ahead of Toews in points-per-game, but Crosby's injury history leaves me worried he won't play the full 48 games.
13. Avoid Jason Pominville on draft day. He won't score more than 15 goals this season.
16. Sven Baertschi will compete for the Calder Trophy after posting 15 goals and 14 assists.
18. I loved Evander Kane last season, but I think he disappoints this year. He won't top 15 goals or 30 points and will have a rough plus/minus -- let someone else settle for that.
19. Brandon Dubinsky will lead the Blue Jackets with 34 points -- he'll also give you 54 PIMs.
20. Cam Atkinson will lead Columbus with 17 goals.
21. Zach Parise totals 20 goals, 27 assists, a plus-7, 20 PIMs, 16 PPP and 181 SOG, making him a top-15 fantasy player.
22. Mikko Koivu also records 47 points and is among the League's leader in assists while playing on the same line as Parise.
24. Drew Doughty finishes as the most valuable fantasy defenseman this season -- he has the potential to help in all categories.
25. Erik Karlsson finishes somewhere between eighth and 12th. I think teams will make it a point to focus their defensive efforts towards preventing Karlsson from running the offense -- much like the Rangers did in the first round of last season's playoffs (just one point in the seven-game series).
26. Joe Pavelski finishes as the most valuable Sharks fantasy player.
28. It's probably not too bold to say Cory Schneider will be more valuable than Roberto Luongo this season, so let's say he'll finish 10 spots higher in the goalie rankings by season's end -- whether they're on the same team or not.
29. Peter Mueller records 15-plus goals and over 30 points in his first season with the Panthers.
30. Assuming P.K. Subban is ready to go for the start of the season, I expect big things -- thinking a top-5 fantasy defenseman this year.
31. Jordan Eberle backs up last season's 34-goal, 76-point numbers with 20 goals and 26 assists. However, he finishes outside the top-50 fantasy players due to low PIMs and SOG totals.
32. Mike Smith also backs up last season, ending the 2012-13 season as a top-10 fantasy netminder.
33. Alex Galchenyuk will make the Canadiens' opening night roster -- playing on the wing -- and will be worth owning in all fantasy leagues.
34. Sticking with the 2012 draft class, Nail Yakupov notches 13 goals and 18 assists.
35. If anyone is going to do what Brian Elliott did last season (come out of nowhere to steal playing time from a No. 1 goalie and finish the season as an elite goalie), it will be Josh Harding. I like Niklas Backstrom, but Harding is extremely talented, now healthy and will certainly earn some time between the pipes on a much-improved Minnesota squad.
36. Scott Hartnell will still be valuable because of his PIMs (at least 80) and plus/minus (at least plus-7), but he doesn't eclipse the 18-goal, 32-point marks.
38. Cody Hodgson will lead the Sabres in points with 38.
39. Semyon Varlamov makes 35-plus starts, notches 20 wins, a 2.39 GAA, .922 SV% and four shutouts.
40. Brad Boyes makes himself fantasy-relevant again by scoring 15-plus goals and finding a home on the Isles' top line alongside superstar Tavares.
41. David Perron will lead the Blues in goals and points -- 16 and 37, respectively.
42. Erik Cole will regress after last year's 35-goal, 61-point season -- this is my prediction for his stat line: 13 goals, 16 assists, minus-2, 28 PIMs, 7 PPP and 129 SOG.
43. Matt Duchene bounces back in a big way with the equivalent of a 30-goal, 65-point season, meaning he'll post 18 goals and 38 points for the Avs.
44. Patrik Elias has been a tremendous player throughout his career -- he had 26 goals and 78 points last season at the age of 35. This season, he finally starts to decline, failing to top 32 points.
45. Mike Ribeiro finishes with just 10 goals in his debut season with the Caps, but he also adds 35 assists, with 17 of those 45 points coming on the man advantage.
46. Victor Hedman finally breaks out with three goals and 23 assists -- 11 of them on the power play -- and will be worth owning over new Tampa Bay teammate Matt Carle.
47. Nathan Horton stays healthy and finishes as a top-50 fantasy player with 17 goals, 34 points, a plus-11 and 30 PIMs.
48. James Wisniewski is fantasy relevant again. He too stays healthy and posts identical numbers to last season (48 games: 6 G, 21 A, minus-13, 37 PIMs, 12 PPP, 99 SOG), except his plus/minus improves to minus-6 this year.
49. Ryan McDonagh will be the most valuable fantasy defenseman on the Rangers' blue line, ahead of Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman, who all prove to be decent options in deep leagues.
50. Final prediction: Devan Dubnyk finishes the season as a top-10 fantasy goalie while backstopping the Oilers to their first playoff berth since 2005-06 -- Edmonton is loaded with fantasy assets this year. Draft accordingly.