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30 in 30

30 in 30

Pittsburgh Penguins fantasy outlook

Kris Letang warrants look in top 15; Marc-Andre Fleury can hinder Matt Murray

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

As part of NHL.com's 30 in 30 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.

Penguins 30 in 30: Season outlook | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Top prospects | Fantasy: Top 200

Starting at the top: Sidney Crosby, C, and Evgeni Malkin, C

Crosby and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks are the only players with 100 points in a season since 2011-12. Kane is the reigning NHL scoring champion, but Crosby was exceptional after Mike Sullivan was hired as coach, getting 66 points in 52 games from Dec. 12 to the end of the regular season (T-1st in that span). He was separated from Malkin and Phil Kessel at even strength for most of that stretch and underachieved on the power play by his standards (24 power-play points; 31 in 2014-15; 38 in 2013-14) yet was as productive as ever after the coaching change. Crosby had six goals and 13 assists in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup and win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Crosby is No. 2 in NHL.com's rankings behind Kane, who has an elite linemate, Artemi Panarin, but either forward is a safe investment if you're lucky enough to draw the top pick.

Malkin's fantasy picture is not as clear as Crosby's. He's a fixture on the first power-play unit with Crosby, Kessel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist but after an elbow injury played much of the postseason on the third line with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust. If the lines remain intact this season, Malkin's usage could decrease, which could impact his point production. Then again, fewer minutes per game could potentially help him maximize shifts and avoid injury. Considering most teams have inferior depth to Pittsburgh, a third line with Malkin could do a lot of damage over a full season. Malkin, who had 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) in 57 games last season, including 27 PPP and is better than a point per game in his career (1.18), remains among NHL.com's fantasy top 20. But with the Penguins' potential lineup structure and Malkin's injury history (he has played 186 of a possible 246 games since 2013-14), it's better to take him in the second round instead of the first.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Crosby feeds Letang for a 2-1 lead

Undervalued: Kris Letang, D

Letang ranked fifth in the League in points (including forwards) after Sullivan took over. Letang shattered his previous NHL career high in points (54 in 2014-15) with 67 (16 goals, 51 assists) in 71 games, covering each of the six standard-league fantasy categories with a plus-9, 66 penalty minutes, 27 PPP and 218 shots on goal. He also has back-to-back seasons of more than 130 hits. Letang is viewed by many fantasy owners as an injury risk when he should be viewed as the fourth-ranked defenseman and a top 15 overall asset. He's ranked behind Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and P.K. Subban by NHL.com but likely will be a bigger bargain than those three because of perception surrounding his value. If Letang is available in the second or third round, make him your priority.

Overvalued: Matt Murray, G

The 22-year-old won nine of his 13 starts with a .930 save percentage, seized the starting job with Marc-Andre Fleury injured, and helped the Penguins win the championship with 15 playoff wins and a .923 SV%. That Fleury remains on the roster is great for Pittsburgh insurance-wise and helps its chances of defending its title, but it hurts Murray's short-term fantasy stock. Murray, who would be ranked higher if he had the crease to himself, is ranked 64th by NHL.com (11th among goalies). He carries enormous fantasy potential in a full season and is among the most valuable keeper-league assets at his position, but Fleury is capable of winning the job back if Murray struggles. Thus, it's risky to take Murray among the top 50 as the first goalie on your roster.

Sleeper: Nick Bonino, C, and Carl Hagelin, LW

Bonino and Hagelin formed two-thirds of the productive "HBK Line" with Kessel late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. But Bonino and Hagelin each has lacked consistency in terms of career fantasy production. Bonino had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) with two PPP in 63 games last season, and an NHL career high of 49 points (20 PPP) in 77 games in 2013-14 with the Anaheim Ducks, but likely won't see anywhere near enough power-play time to replicate that. Hagelin had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 37 regular-season games after being traded to the Penguins but has never scored 40 points in a single season and is a non-factor on the power play (two PPP in 346 games). The wild card is if Sullivan keeps Bonino and Hagelin with Kessel for a full season; they combined to score 20 goals in 24 playoff games and were the Penguins' most dangerous line. Kessel, who could miss the start of the season recovering from hand surgery he had on July 8, will be drafted among the top 30 overall players, but there's a good chance Bonino, who is recovering from an elbow infection, and Hagelin will be available in the final rounds of a standard 10- or 12-team draft.

Video: WSH@PIT: Daley flips a backhand under the crossbar

Bounce-back: Trevor Daley, D

It was a rocky season for Daley; he regressed statistically, was traded twice, and sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the Eastern Conference Final. Daley, who finished fifth in goals (16) among defensemen two seasons ago with the Dallas Stars, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and then to the Penguins, where he salvaged his season with 22 points (seven on power play) and was plus-8 in 53 games and six points (two PPP) in 15 playoff games. He scored a combined six goals on 130 SOG last season (4.6 shooting percentage) after 16 goals on 113 SOG in 2014-15 (14.2), so there's room for improvement. Don't be surprised to see Daley, who will be available in the late rounds of any draft, finish among the top 25 fantasy defensemen with 35-40 points, 10-15 on the second power-play unit, and a plus-15 or better if healthy for a full season in Pittsburgh.

Impact prospect: Thomas DiPauli, C

DiPauli, who played four seasons at Notre Dame, had his strongest season as a senior with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) and a plus-13 in 37 games before becoming an unrestricted free agent and signing a two-year contract with the Penguins on Aug. 19. He has past chemistry with Rust from their time at Notre Dame and is a strong two-way forward who could earn his way onto the roster in a bottom-six role as early as this season. Fantasy potential may be a reach, but a third-line role could mean being associated with either Kessel or Malkin. Forward Daniel Sprong, 19, is another touted prospect with fantasy upside, but he had shoulder surgery in June and is expected to be sidelined 7-8 months.

Goalie outlook

Murray's postseason heroics give him a slight edge, but Fleury is ranked 17th among fantasy goalies and a fringe top 100 asset (103rd) by NHL.com. There's an NHL expansion draft looming, but Fleury is one of the best regular-season goalies of the past decade and shouldn't go down without a fight. He tied the best SV% of his career (.921) and had 35 wins, a 2.29 goals-against average and five shutouts to finish sixth among goalies in Yahoo before missing the final five games of the regular season and part of the playoffs with a concussion. If you miss out on the workhorse goalies of the early rounds, it's worthwhile to draft Murray in the fifth or sixth round and Fleury a round or two later to get your hands on the League's premier time-share tandem.

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