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Fantasy Mailbag: Sharks forwards aim for big season

by Pete Jensen
All season long,’s weekly Fantasy Mailbag will feature the best fantasy hockey-related questions from you, the fans.

Locked into a toss-up in deciding which player to add or drop? Looking for insight on a trade proposal? Look no further than this interactive forum every Saturday during the season for comprehensive analysis on moves that can make or break your fantasy squad. fantasy insider Pete Jensen has your inquiries covered all season long. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

Submit your best questions for the Fantasy Mailbag by contacting

Tim (Warrenton, Virginia):

If I were to go the trade route in my league, which of these forwards would likely get me the best return: Brooks Laich, Nathan Horton, or R.J. Umberger? Thanks in advance for your advice.

You're looking at three consistent point-producing forwards, so you can't go wrong. Because you are dealing with potential return in a trade with a fellow member of your league, you have to consider the perception of these players from an outsider's point-of-view. Right now, based on his past production and

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the fact that he's playing on the top line of the defending Stanley Cup champions, Horton is likely a key piece of your roster and will certainly get you the best return of this trio.

Laich, who was re-signed to a long-term deal in late June after an underachieving season, is projected to be an important part of Washington's second line entering the new season. He will likely produce a 20-plus goal, 30-plus assist season for the Caps this year, but the general view of this 28-year-old is far from sky-high -- largely due in part to his drop in goals from 25 in '09-10 to 16 in '10-11. Laich had quality totals of 207 shots on goal and 113 hits last season, and actually registered a career-high 46 PIM, but it's safe to say that his trade value is currently lower than both Horton and Umberger.

Umberger, a staple of Columbus' top line since his arrival in 2008-09, will now likely shift to the Blue Jackets' second line after the additions of Jeff Carter and Vinny Prospal. The Ohio State product has played in all 82 games in each of the last three seasons and has produced 23-plus goals and 46-plus points in each campaign during that span. His hits output has exceeded the century mark in each of the past two seasons, and his gritty style indicates that he could produce 50 PIMs this upcoming season. However, because of the Jackets' revamped top line, Umberger's numbers could regress a bit in 2011-12.

If you're in a hits league, there's a chance that Laich and/or Umberger could be more appealing than Horton (74 in '10-11) if a fantasy owner in your league needs both scoring and hit production. But, all in all, Horton is the most consistent of these three players. He's only 26, and he has already compiled six-straight 20-plus goal, 45-plus point seasons. Horton also put forth a career-high plus-29 rating last year and topped 80 PIMs for the third time of his career. Expect him to again reap the benefits of playing with Boston's top guns this year.

Andrew (Mt. Vernon, Illinois):

I was curious as to your opinion on drafting multiple forwards from one team. I have Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks all on my team. While I'm not sure which line(s) they'll be on or if they'll be on the team’s power-play unit, I feel confident in keeping all of them for the time being. Should I keep all 3 of them regardless of which line(s) they're on, or look to trade one of them?

In general, unless a team possesses elite depth at the forward position (i.e. Boston, San Jose, Vancouver, Detroit), it is usually more effective to diversify your team with potent weapons from clubs around the League. Mismanaging your squad by drafting too many players from one team usually hurts your fantasy potential, because you are relying on a team's ability to distribute the scoring load and perform at a high level all season long.

In this case, however, it would be wise for you to wait out the situation before shipping one of these three assets at the forward position – mainly because the Sharks have meshed so well offensively over the past few regular seasons. San Jose has been to the Western Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons, has ranked 7th in the League or better in goal-scoring in each of the past three seasons and boasts arguably the best top-six arsenal in the NHL. San Jose did trade away two weapons in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but that should only create even more point-generating opportunities -- especially on the man advantage -- for an already lethal trio of power-play producers.

Marleau will again play alongside veteran Joe Thornton on San Jose's top unit. Pavelski (28 PPP in '10-11) and Clowe will likely team with Calder Trophy finalist Logan Couture on the Sharks' secondary line to start the season. But I would recommend monitoring where newly-acquired Martin Havlat fits into the mix, and see how well the agile forward adjusts to playing with such immense talent around him. Because of the lineup shuffling that Sharks' coach Todd McLellan may be forced to do throughout the season, it's possible that either Clowe or Pavelski could see time on San Jose's top line in 2011-12.

Patrick Marleau
Left Wing - SJS
Goals: - | Assists: - | Pts: -
Shots: - | +/-: -
Clowe is coming off a career-high 62-point output in 2010-11, and has registered back-to-back 57-plus point, 100-plus PIM seasons. Pavelski, a 27-year-old sniper, is entering his prime and attacks the net regularly, as evidenced by his four consecutive 200-plus shot seasons. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his game is his much-improved instincts as a puck distributor -- as evidenced by the jump in his assist total from 26 in '09-10 to 46 in '10-11. And lastly, with Marleau on your roster, you know what to expect. Now 32, Marleau has been an elite catalyst for the Sharks' offense with an average of 39.7 goals per season over the last three years. Marleau also put up a strong outing of 26 power-play points a season ago.

While you could always use one of these forwards as trade bait during the season to address a greater need for your fantasy team, you should cross that bridge when you get to it. Keep all three in your lineup for now, and expect this team’s past scoring prowess to carry over to the new season.

Karl (Vancouver, B.C.):

I drafted James van Riemsdyk thinking he would to have his best season yet on the Philadelphia Flyers' top line with Claude Giroux, but I'm starting to have doubts. Am I right?

To be honest, Philadelphia's top line, barring injuries, could become the single most dangerous unit in the League by season's end. JVR and Giroux, both in their early 20's, are two of the most captivating young players in the game today, and the idea of them operating alongside Jaromir Jagr -- an offensive mastermind -- does not bode well for their opponents in 2011-12.

Judging by how nicely van Riemsdyk (21 G, 19 A) matured and established an offensive rhythm with Giroux (25 G, 51 A) last season, it's no wonder the Flyers were confident enough to part ways with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter via trade this offseason. While those moves were alarming at the time, general manager Paul Holmgren's strategy is becoming clearer by the day. These two budding stars have been given a vote of confidence from the front office, and thus, should be more comfortable than ever in 2011-12. And, as far as Jagr, his natural point-generating abilities and veteran savvy could likely make this trio a nightmare to contain.

While it's common to contemplate whether or not a young player with potential will take the next take the next step from a fantasy standpoint, there is just too much chemistry on that front line for Philadelphia to doubt JVR at this time. Coming off a strong postseason where he scored 7 goals in 11 games, look for van Riemsdyk to make strides on the power-play and produce 30 goals for your team in 2011-12.

Ryan (San Jose, Calif.):

Goalies went a lot faster in my league's draft than expected. While I was able to nab one top-tier goalie in Ryan Miller, I was unable to grab another before they were all gone. I ended up picking up Semyon Varlamov, who I feel can full together a decent season for the Colorado Avalanche. One of the teams in my league has offered me Niklas Backstrom for Matt Duchene.  I think Duchene will have a good season so I'm a little hesitant to make this trade. Another thing I have taken into consideration is that Minnesota just shipped off it's best d-man to San Jose, which could potentially have an adverse effect on Backstrom's stats this season. Do you think it would be worth entertaining this trade?

First off, you are very fortunate to have snagged Ryan Miller, who I believe is bound for a career year for the Sabres. The defense in front of him is as domineering as ever with Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr now on board, and Buffalo's offense suddenly has goal-scoring depth -- mustering 8 goals in the first two games of the new season.

Matt Duchene
Center - COL
Goals: - | Assists: - | Pts: -
Shots: - | +/-: -
Varlamov certainly comes with concerns after he missed a large portion of his final season with the Washington Capitals due to injury and lost playing time to Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. But this Russian-born goaltender, who posted a career-best 2.23 goals-against-average in 2010-11, could benefit from a change in scenery in the Mile High City, as he looks to establish himself as the Avs' goaltender of the future.

As far as Backstrom, after he won 70 games spanning over the '07-08 and '08-09 seasons, his numbers have dipped significantly over the past two seasons for the Wild. While Backstrom will get the vast majority of the starts in Minnesota this season, Duchene -- a 20-year-old, top-line center who has missed only three games in his first two seasons and tallied 51 goals in that span -- is just too valuable a fantasy chip to offer up.

You also raise a solid point when referring to how the Burns trade will likely have a negative impact on Minnesota's defensive front and Backstrom's comfort level in the crease for the Wild. It would be smart to trust your instincts, give Varlamov a chance to be your 2nd slot goalie for the time being and hang onto Duchene, who has all the tools to burst onto the scene as a 35-plus goal scorer this season.

Nick (Montreal, Quebec):

I was wondering if picking up Teemu Selanne and dropping Derek Roy is a risk or will it pay off?

Both players are back in the lineup for their respective teams and played 2 games apiece overseas this week. Selanne (31G, 49A in ’10-11) played in 73 regular season games last year and capped off another brilliant campaign with six goals in six postseason games for Anaheim. In late June, the veteran right wing had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but has since recovered and announced he is back for what he said would likely be his final season in the League.

Derek Roy, who played in only 35 games last season due to injury, is back healthy and is expected to be a force offensively for a well-rounded Buffalo squad. In his first two games of the new season, Roy has already been active on the power-play -- assisting on Drew Stafford's PPG in the third period of Saturday's 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The fact that he has not missed a beat is enticing from a fantasy standpoint, because when he suffered a torn left quadriceps last December, he was Buffalo’s leading scorer, with 35 points in as many games.

Both players are intriguing options to say the least, but there's something special about Selanne, who seems to be returning with a purpose. At 41-years-old, he remains a humble leader and a daily inspiration to Anaheim's star-studded top line. This group won a Stanley Cup together in '06-07, and Selanne has six 40-goal seasons under his belt. While Roy is expected to bounce back from injury and return to form as a 25-30 goal scorer for the Sabres, the "Finnish Flash" could be bound for another phenomenal season in 2011-12. There's no disputing that it's a risk to take a chance on a veteran like Selanne, whose age is likely the reason why he is available in your league. But the bottom line is that he has the ability to reel off another 80-point season in his final NHL go-around.

To submit a question for's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact fantasy insider Pete Jensen at

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