Every year some young forward comes out of nowhere to net 30 goals (see Jussi Jokinen last season and Loui Eriksson two years ago), or a goaltender shocks the League and finishes as a Vezina Trophy finalist (see Ilya Bryzgalov last season and Steve Mason two years ago) -- and every year you pray the night before your fantasy hockey draft that you end up with one of these influential sleepers.
It's that time of year. Call up your friends, schedule your fantasy hockey draft date and build your empire, er, team. Once you've locked in a draft day, you'll need to start preparing for what could be "the year" in your fantasy hockey world.
That year of years starts with the best strategies to build and develop your fantasy league's champion. From draft preparation all the way through in-season trades and the playoffs, NHL.com's panel of fantasy hockey brainiacs will be here for you.
With the 2010-11 NHL season just around the corner, it's time to prepare for your fantasy drafts. NHL.com's Fantasy Hockey Top 150 will help guide you through which players are prepared to take their game to the next level. We pulled together our list from a panel of NHL.com experts to help you lead your league this season.
While these players didn't crack our top 50, there is certainly a plethora of skill to be found from 51-150. Marc Savard tops this list and he's a player capable of putting up a point-per-game. Chris Pronger and Andrei Markov are both elite defensemen, but with lingering injuries, they may not be as reliable as they have been in the past. Netminders Marty Turco, Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask all have changed teams and are ranked higher than No. 90 in our initial rankings.
By far the deepest position in fantasy hockey, centers, will certainly fly off the board in the early rounds of drafts this year. If you end up selecting a center with your first-round choice, it would probably be wise to wait a while to grab your second starting center, being there is easily the most talent throughout the position. If you go with a different strategy and miss out on the elite centers, don't fret, you can simply take a center much later in the draft and end up being completely satisfied.
Unlike the centers, left wing is the thinnest position in fantasy hockey this season. While the elite left wingers are undoubtedly dominate players, the position clearly weakens after its top ten. It would probably be a good idea to snag one of the top tier players early on in the draft and then hope to grab a sleeper later on, as there are plenty of question marks at the bottom of the list.
Times have changed at right wing. Veterans like Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson and Teemu Selanne no longer lead the way; the youth movement is in full effect. While it's likely that no right wings will be drafted in the first round of fantasy drafts this year, the position actually possesses a lot of depth. Whether you're looking to attain scorers, playmakers or tough guys, you can find it all at right wing.
A tough questions in a fantasy draft is when to get defensive. Some argue that because the position is so thin, it's a good idea to grab an elite blue liner early on the draft. Others will say not to waste a pick on one of the top guns and just fill out your defensive roster in the later rounds. No matter which way you go, selecting your defensemen will always be a difficult task.
Similar to fantasy defensemen, it's always hard to decide when to select your first goalie in drafts. Do you take the risk and grab one in the first round, giving away the chance to nab an elite scorer? Do you wait around for the middle rounds to take your first goalkeeper and hope to get lucky the way people did with Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov or Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick last season? These are just a couple questions that surround fantasy goaltenders, and while it's never an easy decision, goalies usually end up being the centerpiece to a championship squad.