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Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Couture, Skinner lead Cubeta's fantasy breakout list

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Last season, forwards Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks and Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers went from reliable fantasy producers to elite-level assets. On the defenseman and goalie fronts, fantasy owners witnessed Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche joining the likes of stardom at their respective positions.

These were players who made their mark on the fantasy landscape before, but never to the degree of statistical prowess that they put forth this past season. Sleepers are under-the-radar players who are drafted much later than they should be. Breakout players are players we respect from a fantasy standpoint that elevate their level of production to new heights.

Targeting breakout candidates in your fantasy draft can go a long way in building a championship-caliber roster. Here are five players I believe will take the jump from household name to superstar in 2014-15. Pete Jensen will release his five breakout players on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

1. Logan Couture, C/LW, San Jose Sharks

In NHL.com's aggregate top-275 overall fantasy rankings, Couture came in at No. 32. Not too bad, right? I disagree. I think he should've been ranked a lot higher, and in my personal ranks I showed that, slotting him at No. 18 overall.

As I wrote in my top-50 fantasy breakdown, among players 25 or younger, only Stamkos, Tavares and Toews have more goals than Couture's 112. And his 924 shots on goal rank second. Yet for some reason, Couture is never included in the discussion as one of the NHL's best young players. He should be. Despite missing 17 games last season, Couture still finished as the 66th-ranked player in Yahoo fantasy leagues, scoring 23 goals, 54 points, a plus-21 rating, 20 penalty minutes, 13 power-play points and 233 shots on goal. His 3.6 shots on goal per game were 11th best in the NHL. Had he stayed healthy for the full season, he likely would've been an easy top-20 player.

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Talented crop of rookies has fantasy upside

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

We've already broken down the 2014 draftees and who can have an immediate impact on the fantasy landscape. Realistically, any of these players could find their name on the fantasy rookie of the year trophy, as Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche did last season.

However, with two of last season's Calder Trophy finalists being an undrafted free agent (Tyler Johnson) and a seventh-round pick in 2011 (Ondrej Palat), we see that rookie production doesn't always come from freshly drafted players.

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Analysis of NHL.com's fantasy hockey mock draft

Fantasy insider Pete Jensen breaks down 12-team, 16-round simulation

Thursday, 09.18.2014 / 9:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Over the course of the offseason, we've broken down the fantasy hockey implications of the biggest moves and identified players worth keeping an eye on for a variety of reasons.

Now it's time to put it all together in dissecting NHL.com's annual fantasy mock draft.

Having a strategy entering your draft is important, but improvising is just as essential to strong decision-making. You should always consider the best player available, fill positional and category needs when possible and be mindful of which players will be attainable in later rounds. Hitting home runs on the waiver wire can bring home fantasy championships, but the bottom line is that how you execute each round of your draft will shape your fortunes this season -- for better or worse.

NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff of Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen, Matt Sitkoff, Brian Metzer and Justin Goldman joined forces with fellow NHL.com colleagues Dan Rosen, Corey Masisak, Mike Morreale, Adam Kimelman, Brian Compton, Tal Pinchevsky and Darryl Haberman to participate in this 12-team mock draft. This league has standard Yahoo scoring with 16 players on each roster (192 total draftees).

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Perry still king of multicategory fantasy coverage

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

Multicategory performance should be the biggest draft day decider when selecting players. If one player can hit multiple categories at a top level, that player should be ranked higher and targeted to be a fantasy all-star for your team.

Here are some of the best category coverage assets that you should aim for to help your fantasy championship dreams come alive.

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Offseason moves affect fantasy value of teammates

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

The trading, signing and drafting frenzy has brought top-tier fantasy players to new homes, but how it affects their new teammates can't be lost on fantasy owners. Here are some of the beneficiaries of the biggest moves made in the offseason:

Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill made a big splash this offseason acquiring center Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators and signing right wing Ales Hemsky. These moves are good news for forward, Valeri Nichushkin, who is now expected to either play the wing on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin or the second line with Spezza.

The 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft started his rookie campaign slowly with only two goals and eight points in his first two months playing in North America. From Dec. 1 onward, he had 12 goals and 26 points, which was tied for the sixth-most by a rookie during that span. We expect him to improve on those late season numbers and be a late-round steal in fantasy drafts.

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Fantasy specialists: Who helps in each category

Wednesday, 09.10.2014 / 10:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

When drafting a fantasy hockey team, it's always important to make sure you address every statistical need. The goal is to put together the best possible well-rounded roster.

There are only a handful of players capable of providing value in all or most categories (Corey Perry, David Backes, Brandon Dubinsky and Milan Lucic, to name a few), which is why you must draft players for specific needs. Here are some skaters to consider for each fantasy category, some as mid-level picks and others as options late in the draft:

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Eriksson leads fantasy injury bounce-back candidates

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Year after year, injuries alter the fantasy hockey landscape. It's tough for fantasy owners to anticipate them and even more difficult for your team to remain in contention when your players are affected by them.

But it's important to not lose sight of the past once the following season rolls around. Proven superstars, sleeper candidates and top prospects carry the pizzazz that attracts fantasy owners, but there are always players coming off injury-plagued seasons who are primed to bounce back.

There are plenty of recent examples of this trend. Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens, who dealt with knee injuries over multiple seasons, regained form in 2012-13 to finish second in power-play points and tied for fourth in points among defensemen. Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, who was limited to 58 games in 2011-12, has been nearly a point-per-game player since (113 points in past 118 regular-season games).

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Staal, Nash top fantasy bounce-back candidates

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

In 2012-13 Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog had nine goals and eight assists in 36 games after winning the Calder Trophy in 2011-12 (22 goals, 30 assists). He was a disappointment for his fantasy owners in his second NHL season. However, going into the 2013-14 season, many pegged the now 21-year-old Swedish forward as a prime bounce-back candidate. And he did exactly that last season.

Landeskog had 26 goals, 65 points, a plus-21 rating, 71 penalty minutes, 10 power-play points and 222 shots on goal. He ranked as the 29th-best player in Yahoo leagues. Any fantasy owner that picked him in the middle rounds or later during their draft got an absolute steal on their team. Landeskog's 2013-14 season is the definition of a bounce-back season.

Every season we see dozens of players fall short of expectations. And each following season some of them end up bouncing back to where we expect. Determining who will bounce back is the tough part. And that's where I come into play.

Below is a list of 10 players I believe will bounce back from disappointing 2013-14 seasons and why. All of these players appeared in at least 65 games last season (NHL.com's Pete Jensen will have his injury bounce-back feature story Sept. 9). Be sure to grab these guys on draft day; they should come at a discount considering the seasons they had in 2013-14.

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Bruins' Rask leads top 30 fantasy goalie rankings

NHL.com's Justin Goldman ranks top 30 netminders, best of AHL

Justin Goldman - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, founder of The Goalie Guild, will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.

No matter where you look, most preseason goalie rankings have a similar "bell curve" construct.

There's a small collection of Tier-1 goalies that clearly belong at the top of your draft list, a much larger group of goalies that fall into the Tier-2 category, and then a group of Tier-3 goalies, which is mainly reserved for the lesser-used backups.

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Subban, Karlsson lead fantasy defensemen rankings

Saturday, 09.06.2014 / 10:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

With the 2014-15 NHL season inching closer by the day, NHL.com has you covered with positional fantasy rankings. Based on Yahoo eligibility, projected lineups, past performance, injury history and each insider's opinion, Matt Cubeta (centers), Matt Sitkoff (left wings), Pete Jensen (right wings), Brian Metzer (defensemen) and Justin Goldman (goalies) bring you up to speed by identifying all the players worth targeting at each position in your upcoming drafts.


By nature, defensemen are designed to prevent teams from scoring goals, but a subsect of the gene pool has seen their DNA evolve. This group is just as adept at rolling up offense as it is in preventing it.

One of the evolved, Alec Martinez, scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Los Angeles Kings less than three months ago. The good news is that it's time to regroup and reload for another trip up the mountain towards fantasy glory. That trip gets a lot easier when properly utilizing a defenseman and this should help you gain a better understanding of who you should target.

In putting together these pre-season rankings, we looked back at goals, assists, points, power-play points, plus-minus and shots on goal over a three-season span to better assess who is on the rise and who is on the decline.

The results were interesting in that no defenseman finished in the top 10 in all six standard scoring categories; however four of them, Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), and Keith Yandle (Arizona Coyotes) finished in the top 10 of five of them.

Of those four, Subban and Karlsson slot one and two in our rankings and should be among the first defensemen selected in your league. Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators ranked in only four of the categories, but his team improved offensively, which helped him edge Byfuglien for the No. 3 spot. But do not forget that the latter will qualify as both a defenseman and a right wing in Yahoo Standard leagues.

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NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
Cubeta's breakout players | Rookie crop
Analysis of NHL.com's fantasy mock draft
Video: NHL stars make picks | Draft prep
Top 275 rankings | Top 50 breakdown
Positional rankings: C | LW | RW | D | G
Multicategory assets | Top specialists
Bounce-back candidates | Injury rebounds

NHL.COM FANTASY PLAYER RANKINGS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Evgeni Malkin
5. Ryan Getzlaf

COMPLETE RANKINGS | MOCK DRAFT ANALYSIS