Fantasy Hockey 2013: The Head Of The Class; Centers
No, don’t adjust your screen. You are in fact reading this correctly.
Look, I know that fantasy football is back, and everyone is fired up. Trust me, so am I. However, amid all of the excitement surrounding the return of football, I overlooked the fact that hockey is less than a month away. It’s even more exciting because this will be the first full season since last year’s annoying shortened season.
Anyway, for those who play fantasy hockey, but have invested all their attention towards football, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone who the head honchos in the game are. Below you will find my top guys from each position and what 2013 may have in store for them.
1) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: That’s right, folks. Stamkos is my number one center for the upcoming season, ahead of a certain polarizing figure in Pittsburgh. The most dominant goal-scorer in the game today, Stamkos has netted more goals over the past three seasons (134) and points (245) than anyone else in hockey. The guy can do it all, and in last year’s shortened season, only Martin St. Louis posted more multi-point contests than Stamkos. Oh yeah, St. Louis is still Stamkos’ teammate. The 23-year old superstar should continue to benefit from St. Louis’ elite playmaking ability and veteran presence, and while the Lightning did lose Vincent Lecavalier to the Flyers, they also brought in another potential star. The team drafted Jonathan Drouin, often regarded as the top player in this year’s draft class. Drouin is an exceptional passer who could help Stamkos net at least 60 goals yet again. I give Stamkos the very slight edge over Crosby because he will take upwards to 300 shots and will post more PIMS than the Pittsburgh captain. But can you really go wrong with either guy?
2) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Perhaps this is the Flyers fan coming out in me, but I have Crosby second, rather than first. Many people despise the superstar, which I get. But you can’t deny the fact that he is the best hockey player in the world. His 1.61 points per game over his last 99 contests is just silly. The kid has posted four 100-point seasons so far in his career and still has an awesome supporting cast around him to be the top player in fantasy once again. Of course, fantasy owners are just hoping that concussions don’t play a role again and he can stay healthy.
3) John Tavares, New York Islanders: The newly appointed captain of the Islanders, Tavares is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the game. Would you like to know how much he is improved since his rookie year? During his inaugural campaign, Tavares posted 54 points. Well, during last year’s 48-game season, Tavares posted just seven less points (47). Before the lockout, his numbers improved each year, and with an emerging supporting cast consisting of Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner, Tavares should take another step forward in 2013.
4) Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: Clearly I have a soft spot for the Flyers captain, but I’m sure even Penguins fans would admit that Giroux is a stud. Over the last three years, he ranks fourth in points (141) and faceoffs won (1,472). For those who play in leagues where you get points for faceoff wins, Giroux is even more of commodity. Last year, Giroux and defenseman Kimmo Timonen were statistically the second-best pairing on the man advantage, as the Flyers scored 13 powerplay goals where both Giroux and Timonen tallied a point. Good news for Giroux, as Timonen is suiting up for at least one more season. And while many considered Giroux’s 2012 campaign a down one, he still tied for 14th in points with 48. One of the best passers in the league, Giroux should see plenty of helpers this year, but he can also snipe one passed the goalie at any given time. I’m not worried about his offseason surgery too much.
5) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Two seasons ago, Malkin easily finished as fantasy’s number one player, scoring 50 goals and 59 assists, resulting in an impressive 109 points. Playing alongside guys like Crosby and Chris Kunitz, Malkin definitely has the potential to do it again in 2013. Malkin has scored the third-most points over the last three seasons (142) and playing on a killer powerplay unit again, he could eclipse 100 points in 2013. It’s interesting, though. When Crosby was sidelined with a concussion during Malkin’s MVP season, he was obviously dominant. However, when Crosby is on the ice, it seems that Malkin isn’t as productive. Still, as long as he is healthy, Malkin is almost a lock for a top-seven fantasy finish.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.