September 18 2013 05:36AM
Labor day is well behind us, football is up and running, and regular season hockey is just around the corner. This, of course, means it'll soon be time to get all your pals together, drink a few beers, and get drafting.
As much as fans say they won't look to draft players from their favorite teams, most of us can't help it. And is that so bad? You've got the inside track on a lot of these players, and it's time it paid off. Or maybe it's just blatant bias on your part, but either way it's all fun.
As we already know, these Leafs look quite a bit different than last year's (for better or worse), so it's time to ask the big important questions and get you set up for your hockey pool(s).
First up, the forwards.
Phil Kessel, a lock for point-per-game production?
Over the past three seasons, Kessel has played every game for the Leafs, and in his most recent two he's scored 134 points in 130 games. He's become more than just a goal-scoring threat and now looks to be one of the best play-making wingers in the entire league.
I think Kessel can be an 80+ point guy again, and though he's transformed in to a great passer, a good chunk of that production will still be goals, likely in the 35 range. He's especially valuable if you're in a pool with goals weighted higher than assists.
Kessel will go top ten in your fantasy draft.
Is David Clarkson a good fantasy pickup?
Yes, he is.
Goals are nice, Clarkson will score them. If your league tracks shots, you're in luck, Clarkson takes a ton of them. If there's a category for penalty minutes, he'll help you out there too. Tracking hits? Again...
I wouldn't expect huge point totals from Clarkson, as his career high is only 46. But if I had to project his output this season, I'd have him around 23 goals, 17 assists, and likely over 110 penalty minutes. I think Carlyle will play him a lot, and he could have well over 200 shots (the guy had 180 in only 48 games last season.)
How much Clarkson will help the Leafs this season has been debated through and through, but he should definitely help your fantasy team.
Which Leafs forwards should I stay away from?
Outside of the obvious fourth line lead-footed options, there aren't too many Leafs forwards that you should steer clear of. The Leafs are strong up front and will likely pot a good number of goals. However, you may be inclined to take Dave Bolland a bit earlier than usual because of a "new beginning" and perhaps an increased offensive role in Toronto. It's too bad he only scored 14 points in 35 games last season while playing primarily with The Patricks Kane and Sharp. I doubt in Toronto he's getting anything better than that, in terms of linemates, so don't let the Cup winning goal play games with your mind. Proceed with caution.
Are there any rookies to take, for keeper league purposes?
At forward? No, probably not.
I guess you could draft Joe Colborne and it might pay off when he gets traded to the Flames.
How high should I draft Nazem Kadri?
Kadri isn't going to score at a 0.92 point-per-game clip like he did last season. But he isn't going to fall off the face of the planet either, so he's still a dangerous offensive threat and good fantasy option. I think most people would agree with a 55-60 point projection, so take him close to players that fall in that area, somewhere between Derek Stepan and Brad Marchand.
Kadri shot a fair bit last season, registering 107 pucks on net, the most of any Leafs center and only behind Kessel and van Riemsdyk overall. He didn't see a ton of time in the penalty box, only 23 minutes, but like many players, PIM is a number that has been all over the place during his career, it's a dice roll. Something to keep in mind if you're in a pool that tracks these stats.
Should I draft Lupul before van Riemsdyk?
Lupul can outscore van Riemsdyk, but he'll likely need to play the entire season to do so. Since Lupul is already out with back spasms, I'd go with JvR instead, especially if you believe he's about to take another jump in production, which he has done in every season over his four year career.
Any player can get injured, obviously, but you want to be careful with someone with such a long list of ailments over their career. It's probably not wise to use an early pick on Lupul, only to get 17 games from him.
Have some thoughts to share on how you'll go about picking your fantasy team? Drop them in the comments.