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Dallas Stars fantasy hockey outlook

by Matt Cubeta / NHL.com

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: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin

Not only did Benn lead the NHL in scoring last season with 87 points, he ended up as the sixth-best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. Seguin finished 13th among all players but easily would have been higher had he not missed 11 games with injury. Going into this season, I have Benn ranked fourth among all players and Seguin at No. 7. Each is an elite player. The only reason I give Benn the edge is because of his ability to chip in with penalty minutes (he's averaged 62 PIMs per 82-game season during his career). Benn is arguably the most complete player in fantasy hockey, capable of posting 30-40 goals and 80 points with strong peripheral stats. If his plus-1 rating from last season improved a little bit, he could be the No. 1 fantasy player.

Seguin was well on his way to being one of the top-ranked fantasy players last season before his injury, but even with the missed time he still finished tied for fifth in the NHL with 37 goals and was seventh in points with 77. As we all know, goals are hard to come by, and Seguin is as good as a bet as anyone to score 40-50 times in 2015-16. With the addition of Patrick Sharp and the return of Valeri Nichushkin, the Stars' offense should be primed for a monster season, with Benn and Seguin at the center of things. Make sure both players are selected in the first round of your draft.

STARS' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS

Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the Dallas Stars 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.

FORWARDS

Jamie Benn
Tyler Seguin
Jason Spezza
Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin
Ales Hemsky

DEFENSEMEN

John Klingberg
Alex Goligoski

GOALIES

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

* Red indicates newcomer to team

Undervalued: Jason Spezza

Spezza was named the top forward at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championship in May (he led all players with 14 points, helping Canada win the gold medal) and will be aiming to build off a quietly solid first season with the Stars (17 goals, 45 assists, 62 points, minus-7, 28 PIMs, 26 power-play points and 204 shots on goal). Spezza, 32 and entering his second season with the Dallas organization, finished as the 56th-best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. But what appeals most to me about Spezza is the addition of Sharp. While Benn and Seguin should team up on the Stars' top line, Spezza and Sharp should combine to make an exciting duo on the second line. Let's also not forget the power-play unit should feature all four forwards; that could mean 30-plus power-play points for the playmaking Spezza. I have him modestly ranked 67th among all players in my offseason rankings, but he could easily provide top-50 or better value this season.

Overvalued: Alex Goligoski

After being acquired by Dallas from the Pittsburgh Penguins for James Neal in February 2011, many expected tons of offensive production from Goligoski. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he isn't exactly the most valuable fantasy defenseman. Goligoski is certainly capable of posting his usual 30-40 points, but with the emergence of John Klingberg, offensive expectations for him should be tempered. He should still see ample power-play time; however, it could end up being on the second unit, with Klingberg manning the point on the top one. If that ends up being the case, you can drop Goligoski a few more rounds in fantasy drafts. He also won't help you when it comes to shots on goal or PIMs. Since the 2011-12 season, Goligoski's 483 shots on goal rank 32nd among defensemen and his 86 penalty minutes are 102nd at his position. His strength is assists, but even still, Goligoski is probably best served as a No. 4 fantasy defenseman on any team.

Deep sleeper: Valeri Nichushkin

The 6-foot-4 forward missed 74 games last season due to a hip injury but should be healthy for the start of the 2015-16 season. Nichushkin, 20, has loads of potential, and although he contributed only one point (an assist) in his eight games last season, he did have a strong rookie season in 2013-14 (14 goals, 20 assists, plus-20 in 79 games). Nichushkin's fantasy value hinges on where he ends up in the Stars' lineup. If he's a top-six forward alongside either Benn-Seguin or Spezza-Sharp, the sky's the limit. If he's in the bottom six, you don't have to consider drafting him. As of now, I expect him to be in the top six, and that means you should be eyeing Nichushkin with one of the final picks in your draft. A 20-goal, 50-point season seems realistic if he's given the right opportunity.

Goalie outlook: Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi

This should be an interesting goalie battle between two veteran Finnish goaltenders. It could even end up as a 50-50 split, but I believe Lehtonen has the leg up going into this season. Lehtonen has been Dallas' No. 1 goalie for the past five seasons, and despite mixed results has shown the potential to be very good (2.33 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 2011-12). Last season was his worst since joining the Stars back in 2009. Sure he had 34 wins, but they came with a 2.94 GAA and .903 save percentage. Only Ben Scrivens and Mike Smith had more games with four or more goals against than Lehtonen, who did it 18 times. However, Niemi also allowed at least four goals in a game 18 times last season and, like Lehtonen, is coming off arguably his worst season of his career; he had a 2.59 GAA and .914 save percentage in 61 games for the San Jose Sharks. The question is, can these 31-year-old goalies turn things around? I expect the addition of Niemi to push Lehtonen more, and with each goalie looking to prove himself, they could end up being solid fantasy picks. The problem is we don't know who will get more playing time. I would draft Lehtonen before Niemi, but likely wouldn't take either of them until after all the proven No. 1 goalies have been drafted. There's value to be had here, but be careful. Your best move is to try and get each of them on your team.

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