As part of NHL.com's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.
Leading the way: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
Kane had easily been one of the best fantasy performers in the game last season prior to missing 21 games because of a broken clavicle sustained Feb. 24. He finished the season with 27 goals, 37 assists, a plus-10 rating, 10 penalty minutes, 22 power-play points and 186 shots on goal in 61 games. Even with the missed time, Kane still finished as the 53rd best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. Over the past six seasons, Kane has 415 points in 414 games. His 1.002 points per game ranks seventh during that time. He hasn't finished with a rating worse than plus-7 over that span and while the penalty minutes category will never be his strength, he continues to be a dominant force on the power play (averaging 26 PPP per 82-game season over past six seasons). Looking ahead to this season, Kane is a surefire first-round draft pick and one of the few players capable of posting point-per-game statistics.
As for Toews, I have him ranked 21st among all players in my offseason rankings, making him an outstanding late second-round pick in standard leagues. The career of the 27-year-old continues to be a prime example of a consistent superstar. He probably won't get you 35-40 goals, but you can lock up around 30 goals and 65-plus points with outstanding peripherals. Since joining the NHL in 2007, Toews' average fantasy stat line over an 82-game season looks like this: 32 goals, 41 assists, plus-25, 43 PIMs, 20 power-play points and 216 shots on goal. Sign me up.
HAWKS' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS
Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. These players have been arranged by NHL.com's fantasy staff based on projected value and by position. These players range from top-tier assets to deep sleepers and should be on your radar in standard Yahoo leagues.
* Red indicates newcomer to team
Undervalued: Marian Hossa
Hossa at 36 continues to be a fantasy stud while playing alongside Toews. Hossa finished last season as the 34th-best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues with 61 points while appearing in all 82 games. He had 17 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games. With 1,172 regular-season games and 194 playoff games under his belt, one has to think all that playing time will take a toll on Hossa. But it hasn't to this point, and until it does I will aim to draft Hossa somewhere around the fourth round. A season with 25 goals, 60-plus points, an excellent plus/minus and close to 250 shots on goal seems well within reach again.
Overvalued: Duncan Keith
I've said this before regarding other defensemen (see Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild) and it applies to Keith: He is one of the best defenseman in the NHL (if not THE best) in reality, but that doesn't always translate in the same way in fantasy hockey. Keith, a two-time Norris Trophy winner and the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had 10 goals and 45 points in 80 games last season. However, he was one of the top five defensemen selected back on draft day last season and despite those point totals, he finished the season as the 19th most valuable fantasy defenseman in Yahoo leagues (124th among all players). Fifteen defensemen had more points than Keith and his low PIMs totals (20) and modest power-play points (16) and shots on goal (171) also hampered his value. Keith, 32, is still a very strong fantasy defenseman, but he's no longer a top-10 guy in my eyes. I have him ranked 11th at his position. Let someone else overpay for him.
Deep sleeper: Marko Dano
With Dano expected to get the opportunity to play on the top line alongside Toews and Hossa, he makes for the ideal sleeper candidate. Artem Anisimov, expected to play on a line with Kane, is a strong option as well, but his injury history makes me a little more hesitant to select him. Dano, 20, was acquired by Chicago along with Anisimov for the popular Brandon Saad and will have big shoes to fill. But I think he's capable of doing so as early as this season. Dano had an extremely strong season in 35 games for the Blue Jackets last season despite averaging 13:15 of ice time per game (8 G, 13 A, plus-12, 14 PIMs, 0 PPP, 84 SOG). If he can stick on the Blackhawks' top line, he could end up with the breakout season of 2015-16. Make sure he's on your radar late in the draft.
Goalie outlook: Corey Crawford and Scott Darling
This Blackhawks' goalie situation can be a bit hazy and unpredictable at times. By all expectations, Crawford should again be a strong fantasy option for owners between the pipes. Last season he was the 12th-best goalie and 77th-best player overall in Yahoo leagues. However, during the playoffs he surrendered four starts to Darling because of lackluster play. So where does that leave us heading into this season? Based on Crawford's strong play late in the Stanley Cup Final (two goals against on 82 shots in his final three games) and his usual solid regular season (32 wins, 2.27 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts), he should have the job locked up to start of the season. And by all accounts, I expect him to be a top-15 goalie with higher potential by the end of the season. He plays on one of the League's best teams and since the 2012-13 season, he has outstanding numbers. During that time, Crawford's 2.20 GAA is third best, his .922 SV% is sixth best and his 83 wins are tied for eighth. He'll have the occasional bad game (10 games with at least four goals against last season) and may lose some starts to Darling at times, but overall, Crawford remains a solid bet to finish as one of the League's 10 best fantasy goalies.
As for Darling, he proved to be one of the best backup goalies in the League last season, finishing with nine wins, a 1.94 GAA, .936 SV% and one shutout in 14 games. He also showcased his skills during the postseason and should continue to put pressure on Crawford for playing time. If Crawford were to go through an extended slump or suffer an injury, Darling would make for an excellent stash on your bench.