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.
The San Jose Sharks took the fantasy world by storm last season, when Burns, Pavelski and Thornton each finished among the top eight players based on standard-league production. Their Yahoo average draft positions (Pavelski 21.5, Burns 45.3, Thornton 142.2) will be much higher this season, but each has an opportunity to replicate his success, given the Sharks' staying power and depth. Burns was the only player with at least 75 points (11th in NHL), 30 power-play points (T-2nd) and 300 shots on goal (353, 2nd), and led defensemen with 27 goals. Pavelski, second in goals since 2013-14 (116), and Thornton, first in assists in that time frame (177), made magic again on the top line, helping Tomas Hertl have a career season (46 points). Thornton, 37, had his best season since 2009-10, with 82 points (19 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games and continues to show little sign of aging.
Couture, who had a League-best 30 points (11 PPP) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after an injury-plagued regular season, rounds out NHL.com's top 20 forwards (27th overall). Considering Couture is cemented on San Jose's first power-play unit and has strong wing options for his even-strength line, there's a good chance he'll hit 70 points for the first time in his NHL career. It's doubtful you'll be able to land Burns or Pavelski outside the first round, but Thornton could be available in the second and Couture a round later.
Undervalued: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D
Vlasic had an NHL career high 39 points (eight goals, 31 assists) last season, despite missing 15 games because of injury. He returned in time for the playoffs and had 12 points (one goals, 11 assists) with a plus-14 rating despite being tasked with defending top goal-scorers in each series. With how strong the Sharks offense looks, you can't rule out a 50-point, plus-20 season for Vlasic, which would make him a top 10 fantasy defenseman. He carries so much potential in the prime of his career but he's still not viewed as anything close to a top 20 fantasy player at his position. Take advantage of any opportunity to draft Vlasic as the third or fourth defenseman on your roster. Even though he doesn't play on the Sharks' top power-play unit, he offers exposure to their top forwards at even strength and chips in on the second unit (10 PPP). He has the fourth-best plus/minus (plus-58) among defensemen in the past three seasons and is plus-10 or better in each of the past seven full seasons.
Overvalued: Patrick Marleau, C/LW
Marleau, drafted on average with the 86th pick last season (finished 145th), should be available after the 10th round this time around. The veteran occupied a spot on the Sharks' first power-play unit during the regular season and their Stanley Cup Final run, but things could change in his contract year. The average fantasy owner likely will look at Marleau's name value as San Jose's all-time leading scorer and sort by his elite PPP total (25; T-14th) and draft him prematurely. Marleau, who turns 37 on Sept. 15, has enough left to remain fantasy relevant even if he draws a third-line and second power-play role. That said, the number of young players in Marleau's rearview mirror competing for prime minutes has to concern potential fantasy suitors. Don't take him prior to the 15th round in any format.
Sleeper: Joonas Donskoi, RW
Donskoi, fourth among Sharks in shot attempts ratio (plus-22) during the playoffs, was a driver of possession. He played mostly on the second line with Couture and on the second power-play unit, and got a late trial on the top line with Pavelski and Thornton in the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 24-year-old was signed by the Sharks prior to last season and had six goals and six assists in 24 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 3 against the Penguins. Donskoi's fantasy value would benefit from a SOG uptick (107 in regular season, 35 in playoffs), but playing full-time alongside Couture would boost his already strong point production; he was sixth on the Sharks in points per 60 minutes (2.01). He's likely to be available in the 13th round or later in a 12-team draft and has a chance to eclipse 50 points if he and Couture stay healthy on the same line.
Bounce-back: Mikkel Boedker, LW/RW
Boedker tied NHL career highs in points (51) and SOG (166) in 80 games (62 with the Arizona Coyotes; 18 with the Colorado Avalanche) but had by far the worst plus/minus of his career (minus-33). He has never scored 20 goals in the NHL, but that could change with a chance to flank either Thornton on the top line or Couture on the second. Either way, he'll have the most talented linemates of his career and a chance to unseat Marleau on the first power-play unit. Boedker is coming off a career best 19 PPP but was held to one in 18 games after being traded to the Avalanche. He finished outside the top 300 in Yahoo but should be considered a borderline top 150 asset (No. 163 in NHL.com's rankings) with the chance for his best production in the NHL. His plus/minus should look drastically better suiting up for one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Impact prospect: Timo Meier, RW
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson recently said on NHL Network that Meier is "like a man-child" in terms of his physical strength and NHL-ready build (6-foot, 209 pounds). The No. 9 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Meier has a legitimate chance to not only crack San Jose's opening night roster but its top six. Meier, who turns 20 on Oct. 8, is expected to compete with Hertl, Marleau and Boedker for a wing slot after combining for 87 points (34 goals, 53 assists) in 52 games with Halifax and Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He's worth a late-round flier in a 12-team draft and a middle-round pick in keeper formats.
Martin Jones, 26, is coming off a breakout season, his first as a full-time NHL starter, and should be viewed as a top five fantasy goalie after finishing third in wins (37) and tied for second in shutouts (six) in 65 games. The Sharks allowed the second-fewest shots per game (27.4), so the lone category to be concerned about, if Jones regresses, is save percentage (.918). But the Sharks return almost their entire roster from last season and should continue to provide plenty of goal support. He's a viable third or fourth-round pick in a 12-team league.
After letting James Reimer go in free agency, the Sharks could turn to Aaron Dell, who has no NHL experience, to be their backup. The 27-year-old has had a .922 SV% or better in each of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League.