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Fantasy Hockey primer: Part II

by Jeff Angus / Vancouver Canucks

The 48 game season that the Canucks (and the 29 other NHL clubs) are set to begin in a few days presents many unique challenges for people in fantasy hockey leagues (also known as ‘poolies’).

The shorter season (compared to a typical 82 game schedule) increases the chances for luck and randomness to play a factor in both individual player and team performance. There is even more pressure on goaltenders this season, as every win means that much more.

How will the members of the Vancouver Canucks fare in 2012-13 in fantasy hockey leagues? Where should you draft them in your fantasy hockey pool? Answers to those questions (and many more) are on the way! First off, some general advice as you prepare for draft day.

Fantasy Hockey primer: Part I

The Sleeper Picks

Jannik Hansen had a very strong lockout performance over in Finland (17 points in 20 games for Tappara), and he looks primed to take a small step forward offensively in 2012-13. He has shown flashes of top-six skill over the past few years, but his offensive opportunities have been limited by his fantastic defensive and penalty killing abilities. It isn’t out of the question to think that Hansen could be a top six forward with the Canucks this season. And like Burrows, Hansen’s versatility makes him a very valuable commodity to own in Canucks Fantasy Hockey.

Rugged winger Zack Kassian won’t be counted on to produce much offensively this season, but he has value in fantasy leagues that record hits and PIM. Keep that in mind on draft day.

Chris Higgins is one of the better two-way forwards in hockey, and he is another versatile forward who can contribute in more ways than just goals and assists. Higgins is solid on the penalty kill (short-handed goals are very valuable in Canucks Fantasy Hockey), and he is capable of creating offense with the man advantage, too.

The Defence

Eddie's Ready

The Canucks have a very balanced defensive group, and once again they will rely on Alex Edler to lead their first power play unit. Edler is playing for a new contract this season – motivation shouldn’t be a problem for the soft-spoken Swede. Edler had 49 points in 82 games in 2011-12, but most who watch him play feel there is another level or two to his game. Perhaps the stability of a regular partner will help. The team expects newcomer Jason Garrison, who is an absolute rock defensively, to pair up with Edler even strength.

The Rest of the Pack

Most of Vancouver’s other defensemen carry fantasy hockey value, as the Canucks love to get their blue liners involved in the offensive attack. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis are both well-rounded and will chip in with points at even strength and on the power play. Don’t expect Garrison to score at a 16-goal pace like he did with Florida last year, but his booming point shot will be an asset on the power play (especially with Sami Salo now in Tampa Bay).

Keith Ballard’s fantasy value is limited unless your league records hip checks as a scoring category. And Chris Tanev won’t be setting any goal scoring records, but he makes a great first pass and he sees the ice really well – and that could lead to some time on the second power play unit.

The Goaltenders

As of Wednesday, January 16th, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are both Canucks. Predicting the performance of either/both of them is an impossible task right now, as their values will change considerably if Luongo ends up getting traded. So to provide the best possible fantasy advice, let’s take a look at what would happen if Luongo remains in Vancouver as well as what would happen if he is traded out of town.

Option A – Luongo Remains in Vancouver for 2012-13

This outcome would severely impact Schneider’s fantasy value. He goes from a top 10 (and arguably top five) fantasy goaltender to a big question mark. With Luongo around, the two goaltenders would likely split starts, with the best goaltender getting to play on any given night. Schneider would likely start the season as the starter and remain in that position until he falters.

I wouldn’t advise drafting either of them if this outcome is indeed what happens, but it is hard to give advice on an assumption. At the end of the day, draft Schneider if you are confident that the Canucks trade Luongo. And if you aren’t, look elsewhere NHL for your fantasy goaltending needs. Wins and shutouts are both very valuable in Canucks Fantasy Hockey, so make sure you pick the right goaltender for this season!

The Canucks don’t allow a lot of goals, they play a solid defensive system, and their goaltender isn’t forced to steal too many games for them. Most fantasy hockey leagues count the basic stats like wins, shutouts, save percentage, and goals against average, and for this reason, whoever ends up starting will be one of the top netminders to own league wide.

Option B – Luongo is Traded

If Luongo is traded, both he and Schneider immediately become very valuable to you in your pool. Luongo’s full value would depend on where he is traded to (the quality of team, the style they play, and so on), but he would be guaranteed at least 35-40 starts wherever he ends up. And the same holds true of Schneider, who has looked fantastic in backup duty over the past few years with the Canucks. He is ready to take the next step.

Final Thoughts…

Fantasy sports are great for many reasons. Here are a few of them:

-They provide a great excuse to watch games that otherwise carry little meaning.

-You don’t have to feel guilty watching an excessive amount of hockey.

-You get an opportunity to beat your friends at something.

Good luck this season!

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