You’ve endured an offseason of planning and speculating and a training camp of analyzing and formulating, all for the singular purpose of gathering as much information as possible for when it comes time to draft your championship fantasy hockey team.
Then, finally, you’ve got your first glimpse of NHL action, the final piece of the puzzle of obtaining as much knowledge as possible before drafting your fantasy team.
But just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, championship fantasy hockey teams aren’t built during preseason. That said, it doesn’t mean there weren’t clues about which players might be game-breakers come the season-opener that slipped through the cracks.
NHL.com fantasy insider Sergei Feldman looks at which potential dyanmic duos shined brightest after a complete preseason.
Jaromir Jagr, RW and Wayne Simmonds, RW – Philadelphia Flyers
After three seasons in Russia's KHL, Jagr has returned to the NHL and landed with the Philadelphia Flyers
. The biggest question surrounding the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer is simple: Can Jagr be Jagr again? The preseason appears to have answered that question in the affirmative. Jagr exhibited enough speed, strength, skill and vision to prove he can withstand the rigors of the NHL. His hard wrist shot is still there, as are his power-play smarts. On a Flyers team with a lot to prove, after an offseason saw them trade away captain Mike Richards
and sniper Jeff Carter
, Jagr is in the perfect position to show he can still play in the world's best hockey league. Meanwhile, Simmonds, one of the pieces acquired from Los Angeles in the deal that sent Richards to the Kings, had solid outing after another in the preseason. He wants to show Flyers nation that, in addition to his grit, toughness and tenacity, there is a healthy dose of scoring touch.
Evgeni Malkin, C and Jordan Staal, C – Pittsburgh Penguins
Center - PIT
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 37
SOG: 182 | +/-: -4
Perhaps you’ve forgotten about that other superstar in Pittsburgh. The one who posted consecutive 100-point seasons from 2007-09, including an Art Ross
Trophy caliber season in 2008-08. Understandably so, considering he’s missed a total of 54 games the past two seasons. Rightfully so, on the other hand? Hardly. After an offseason dedicated to rehabilitating a surgically repaired knee, Malkin came into training camp in the best shape of his life. But how close to elite form was he? If two preseason games were any indication, the answer is pretty close. "Geno” dazzled in the first game at Consol Energy Center against Detroit and collected two points in the process, including an eye-opening goal in which he used his now bigger frame to shield off a defenseman before making a slick power move to the net. His next chance ended with a three-point night. Malkin made an impact in every game he played in. What’s more, he’s been effective while experimenting with different wingers, including Chris Kunitz
, James Neal
, Steve Sullivan
and Tyler Kennedy
, all of whom can be fantasy beneficiaries of Malkin’s play. Meanwhile, Staal, the other other center, has looked strong throughout preseason. Unlike last year, when injuries kept Staal out of the lineup through training camp until the Winter Classic, Staal is fresh and healthy this go-around -- this was demonstrated against the Chicago Blackhawks
in his first outing with a two-goal, four-shot performance. Staal looks poised to show he can be a legitimate top-six performer and it showed during the preseason.
Brad Richards, C and Marian Gaborik, RW – New York Rangers
Center - NYR
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 77
SOG: 272 | +/-: 1
Before a late-season concussion disrupted his season, Brad Richards
was putting up numbers left and right with Dallas. When all was said and done, the former Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winner finished with 77 points in 72 games. Once the offseason rolled around, the most prominent unrestricted free agent decided to take his talents to Broadway. Fittingly, he put on a show in his first preseason appearance as a New York Ranger, cashing in with a goal, an assist and three shots on goal. Not a bad debut and one that certainly should be an eye-opener -- especially since his new right wing, Marian Gaborik
, collected a goal and an assist and threw four shots on goal against New Jersey in the same game. The duo performed as though they'd been together for years, so if preseason means anything, rest assured they’ll be big producers for your fantasy squad.
Mark Streit, D and Matt Moulson, LW – New York Islanders
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 31 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 53
SOG: 237 | +/-: -10
's 2010-11 season ended before it began due to a shoulder injury sustained during a training camp scrimmage. The 2011-12 season is off to a much better start. Streit, a talented offensive-minded defenseman, was named captain during training camp and had a three-point night, to boot in his first game back. When healthy, Streit is a threat from the blue line at all times. In his past four full seasons, he’s finished with double-digit goal totals. Any fantasy team owner should be encouraged by Streit’s play thus far. Meanwhile, up-and-coming forward Matt Moulson
played with a purpose, as well. Moulson connected twice in his first preseason game and added a helper for a three-point night of his own. He also threw five shots on goal. The 27-year-old left wing is coming off consecutive 82-game, 30-goal seasons while playing with emerging star John Tavares
. With Streit healthy and directing the power play, Moulson could produce game-breaking numbers for the Isles this season, which could mean game-breaking numbers for your fantasy teams, too.