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: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Datsyuk missed 19 games last season because of injuries, but he finished as one of eight NHL players to average a point per game or better. Neither came as a surprise to fantasy owners, who drafted Datsyuk knowing what they were getting into based on recent seasons. He's the most valuable fantasy asset on the Detroit Red Wings and a top-20 fantasy player when healthy for 75-80 games, but he turned 37 on July 20 and already has another injury concern after offseason ankle surgery. The best strategy with Datsyuk is to see if he slips to the fourth, fifth or even sixth round depending on your league. If your league has injured reserve, buy low and hope Datsyuk can be efficient scoring-wise upon his return. Slotting him on IR for the first few weeks allows you to take a stab at a potential sleeper off the waiver wire and eventually incorporate an elite-level reinforcement.
WINGS' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS
Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the Detroit Red Wings 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.
Pavel Datsyuk (offseason surgery)
* Red indicates newcomer to team
Injuries have also marred Zetterberg's fantasy value in recent seasons, but he stayed healthy for nearly all of 2014-15. His rating (minus-6), low shooting percentage (7.5; fifth lowest among forwards with 2.9 or more shots on goal per game) and goal total (17 in 77 games after 16 in 45 in 2013-14) are reasons for concern, but he had 49 assists (T-7th), 28 power-play points (12th), 227 SOG, and averaged 0.86 points per game (T-28th in NHL; career average: 0.94). If Zetterberg stays healthy again and his shooting percentage is even a little better, he could end up with 20-25 goals and 70-plus points. He turns 35 in October but remains a dual-eligible asset worth drafting in the third or fourth round.
Undervalued: Justin Abdelkader
Abdelkader's fantasy stock is higher than most would realize; he finished 110th in Yahoo's year-end rankings. He held on to a top-six spot for Detroit, often playing alongside Zetterberg and/or Datsyuk, and was one of six NHL forwards with 20-plus goals, 20-plus assists, 14-plus PPP and 70-plus penalty minutes last season. Adding hits to the equation makes Abdelkader all the more valuable; he had 153 in 71 games and has averaged more than two per game over the past three seasons. He's a player who will be available outside the top 150 in standard leagues and should build on his career-best season if dynamic players around him stay healthy.
Overvalued: Niklas Kronwall
Over the past three seasons, only P.K. Subban (70), Keith Yandle (70), Andrei Markov (69) and Erik Karlsson (65) have more PPP among defensemen than Kronwall (64). That said, Kronwall's role could be altered after the Red Wings added Mike Green in free agency. It remains to be seen how Detroit will structure its top power-play unit; Mike Babcock is no longer behind the bench, so things could change under Jeff Blashill. If Detroit goes with four forwards (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Brad Richards), it is feasible Green could be the specialist while Kronwall plays major minutes to anchor the defense at even strength. With the chance to man a power-play unit that ranked second in the League (23.8 percent) last season, Green becomes a glaring bounce-back candidate. Kronwall, 34, averaged 1.26 SOG per game (101 in 80 games) last season and could be in line for a scoring dip with Green sharing or assuming power-play duties. Fantasy owners should consider Green once the first 15 defensemen are off the board, and Kronwall shouldn't be taken until the 13th round or so.
Deep sleeper: Teemu Pulkkinen
Injuries up front have paved the way for fantasy steals like Nyquist and Tatar out of Detroit in recent years, so don't be surprised if Pulkkinen seizes an opportunity as early as 2015-16. The 23-year-old Finland native has a lethal shot and past experience under Blashill with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. He had five goals, three assists and 67 SOG in 31 games with the Red Wings last season, and was steady possession-wise during his NHL stint. He's a sneaky forward to take with the final pick in a keeper-league draft, because he could bust out if the chips fall into place.
Goalie outlook: Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek
Howard has the track record, but Mrazek has age and momentum on his side. With a new era underway in Detroit, there's uncertainty surrounding the No. 1 job after Mrazek, 23, started all seven Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2015 and nearly knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning with two shutouts and 41 saves on 42 power-play SOG faced. After winning 35 or more games in three straight seasons (2009-12) and having a .920 or better save percentage in back-to-back seasons (2011-13), Howard, 31, has taken a sizable step back in terms of record (44-32-22) and SV% (.910) over the past two seasons. He hasn't played 60-plus games since 2010-11 and likely won't get there this season. If Howard slips far in drafts, he could be an enticing rebound candidate, but he's definitely not worth taking among the top 20 fantasy goalies. Whether or not someone takes Howard too high, Mrazek is the ideal third goalie on a fantasy roster -- especially after the 13th round.