When it comes to wings in Fantasy hockey, the most important thing might be to check whatever site you use to make sure that the player is eligible at the position you want to take him. Different sites will have players eligible at different positions. It can be incredibly frustrating, to say the least. Most leagues separate left wings, right wings, and centers, but it’s actually easier and less confusing to just go with centers and wings or even just forwards. This will eliminate the confusion.
As I have stated in previous columns, I tend to load up on wings early and often in my drafts. The position isn’t deep and the talent pool will run dry quickly.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars: I love Benn this season. He took off last year, especially in the second half once the chemistry between him and newly-acquired center Tyler Seguin really took off. This will be the line that the Stars will count on to carry them back into the playoffs, and I’d like to have a piece of it in every draft I participate in.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers: Hall had his best season to date last year with 27 goals and 80 points. I’m sure we would all take those numbers again. Theoretically, those numbers could get better, as the Oilers seemed to have fixed their issues in net and the defense should be better. This can only be good news, as we would certainly like to see his plus/minus not be in the negative, or at least not in the negative double-digits.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild: My only worry about Parise is health. It’s not so much that he misses games (although he was out for 15 games last season), it’s just that there always seems to be some kind of injury that is nagging him. It’s for this reason — and this reason only — that he is not number one on this list. Well, maybe that and I’m not the biggest fan of his linemates (Mikko Koivu & Charlie Coyle) at this moment in time.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks: If you’re in a league that heavily rewards goal scoring, then Sharp is your man. In the last three full NHL seasons, he has averaged almost 34 goals. He is about as safe and reliable as they come and nothing should change this season. He will still play on a line with Jonathan Toews and either Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane, and if that isn’t the best line in hockey, please tell me what is.
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks: Much like Sharp, Marleau is a goal scoring machine, but there are some worries here due to what has happened this offseason with the Sharks. They stripped him of his assistant captain’s role and we don’t know how he will handle this. They have made noise that they want to do away with Marleau and Joe Thornton being the leaders on this team, transitioning to younger players like Logan Couture. The biggest question is how will the change impact the way Marleau is used? Will he still be on the top power play unit?
Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins: Kunitz was a nice player with the Ducks, but since coming over to the Penguins he’s become a must-get. Sure, it’s because he plays with Sidney Crosby on the top line and then Evgeni Malkin joins them on the power player, but so what? We don’t care how he gets the points, only that he does.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens: Pacioretty trailed off towards the end of last season but this doesn’t concern me all that much. I’m not saying a 40-goal season is coming, but I feel confident penciling him in for 30-plus goals including double-digits on the power play. If he had a true number one center, 40-plus would be in consideration.
Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild: Vanek turned down much more money from the Islanders to go home to Minnesota. Will it work out? That remains to be seen. He won’t have John Tavares to get him the puck; yet, it’s not like he ever had a top-notch center back in Buffalo, where he put up big numbers, so I’m not too worried.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: If you’re looking for a player that could be the biggest climber on my list, Landeskog is your guy. I love all the young offensive talent that the Avs possess. It’s just a matter of figuring out who plays best with who. The Avs are going to score goals (and probably score them in bunches) and Landeskog is healthy and will produce.
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: Remember when Sedin used to be drafted in the second half of the first round? That was just two short years ago. My, oh my, how his stock has fallen. He has fallen off the radar due to a subpar (putting it nicely) 2013 season. Was it just one bad year? Is he due for a bounce back season? Possibly, but because of his name value he is likely to go earlier than what I would be comfortable with.
Ryan O’Rellly, Colorado Avalanche: As I mentioned earlier with Landeskog, I’m quite high on most of the Avs Top 6 forwards. They have such a wealth of talent that it’s just going to be a matter of how coach Patrick Roy decides to utilize them. Don’t let all the nastiness in the contract negotiations fool you, that’s just business.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings: I like Zetterberg, I truly do, but this is another player that will be drafted higher than he probably should because of name recognition. Like his teammate Pavel Datsyuk, he is advancing in age (34) and is coming off an injury plagued season (missed 37 games). The best ability is availability, and I’m not sure either player possesses it at this point in their careers.
James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs: Do you think the Flyers regret dealing van Riemsdyk after watching him score 48 goals in the last 128 games he’s played for Toronto? Pretty sure that might be a yes. There is no reason not to think he won’t approach the 30-goal plateau once again playing on a line with Phil Kessel.
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues: Considering where Steen was drafted last season (late or not at all), he was most likely the Fantasy MVP, as he potted 33 goals in 68 games, which would’ve put him on a 40-goal pace he had stayed healthy. Can he do this again? If he can, then this ranking is too low, but it was a career year. At 30, he’s not a young player, so there is some risk here.
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins: In leagues that don’t reward penalty minutes I’d drop Lucic a few notches. He actually reminds me of a player that should be better than he actually is. He’s only scored 30 goals in a season once and has never scored 70 points. Why exactly do we like him so much? Because of those PIM, as he can hit every category, and without Jerome Iginla, perhaps he will get more goal scoring chances this year.
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins: After scoring 28 goals in 76 games in 2011-12 and 18 goals the following season, more was expected from Marchand than just his 25 goals last year. It was thought that last year might have been his coming-out party, and perhaps he’d be ready to announce himself as the league’s next star. Guess not. Still, there is some upside here as (like Lucic) the Bruins will need him to pick up the slack left by the departure of Iginla.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning: This ranking is due to two reasons: his immense talent and the probability of his playing with Steven Stamkos. There is risk here, as there is with any rookie, so buyers beware. If he doesn’t perform in camp or in the early portion of the season, he could easily be sent back to the minors.
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes: I really don’t like any of the offseason moves that the ‘Canes have made and don’t think they will be a playoff contender this season, but Skinner is still a solid player. For the ‘Canes to be the team they want to be, they need him to become a star, and that is just something I don’t see.
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets: Kane was a huge disappointment last season to Fantasy players, the Jets’ coaching staff and even his own teammates. Kane was actually called out by teammate Blake Wheeler earlier this month for not being a leader. He may need a fresh start in a different city, but the talent is there and the risk is worth it.
Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs: When Lupul is healthy he scores goals, but staying healthy and keeping him on the ice have proven difficult during his career. If Lupul were slated to play with Kessel he’d be ranked higher on this list, but as of now he is on the second line with Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: Schwartz announced his presence last year, his first full season in the NHL, with 25 goals in 80 games. The problem is, as of this writing, he is still unsigned and it doesn’t look like the issue will be resolved soon. He needs to be in camp and playing with his teammates to reach that next level. Each day he is out, he drops another rung on this ladder.
Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres: As an Islanders fan I loved what Moulson did for the team. He did all the dirty things that allowed players like John Tavares to succeed. He isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty by standing in front of the goalie and take a pounding. The problem is the Sabres may need him to be their Tavares this season, and that is something he is not.
David Perron, Edmonton Oilers: Perron had a really nice first season in Edmonton with 28 goals in 78 games and should be ranked higher, but as of now we don’t know who will be centering the second line for the Oilers. They traded Sam Gagner and now hope that rookie Leon Draisaitl can take over that role. That’s a big leap. I’m also not a fan of Benoit Pouliot being his opposite wing.
Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes: Boedker is the definition of a player you can grab late that will return solid value, although I am worried about the Coyotes lack of a true number one center.
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning: As of now, Palat will not play on a line with Stamkos, as that job belongs to Drouin. If the rookie can’t get the job done or if he doesn’t mesh with Stamkos, then Palat would be next in line.
Jonathan Huberdeaux, Florida Panthers: Well, someone has to score for the Panthers, don’t they? The Panthers did sign Jussi Jokinen and he may also be the number one left wing, but Huberdeaux has much more talent and should be their go-to guy.
Alex Tanguay, Colorado Avalanche: At one time in his career, Tanguay would’ve been 10 spots higher on this list, but his skills have partially eroded. He’s on this list only because of the talent he will play with. Currently, Tanguay is on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Landeskog. My only worry might be that the Avs could replace him on the power play with Iginla, but as of now that doesn’t look like it will happen.
Dany Heatley, Anaheim Ducks: How the might have fallen. Another name player who will probably be drafted earlier than this due to name recognition, but really, what has he done over the past few seasons? Nada.
Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers: Would like to have him higher on this list, but right now he’s scheduled to play on the third line due to the Rangers depth. Maybe the Rangers will get creative, but as of now this has to worry me a bit.
Michael Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils: The Devils signed Cammalleri to help alleviate their goal scoring problems from last season. Is he the answer? Depends on the exact nature of the question. Might he score 20 goals? Sure, but that’s about it, because 30 would seem to be a pipe dream.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: Hertl had 15 goals in 37 games last season. He was off to a hot start before December knee surgery sent him to the shelf. He is completely healthy now and could be a sneaky pick late in your drafts.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers: Kreider is like so many of the Rangers’ young players. Kreider is a solid-to-good player who could score 25 goals, which makes him a depth winger but someone we all need. Kreider is slotted to begin the season on a line with Rick Nash, which can only help the youngster, as Nash will still garner most of the defensive attention.
Bradon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks: Saad is another young player I like. He will play on a line with either Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa and Brad Richards. This could still be a top line for quite a few teams.
Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets: I really like the future of the Blue Jackets, assuming they can figure out their contract negotiations with Ryan Johansen. How will Hartnell handle the transition from Philadelphia to Columbus? What role will he play? When he is on his game, Hartnell can be a valuable Fantasy player. He’s worth a late round add.
Jiri Tlusty, Carolina Hurricanes: Tlusty was magical during the lockout shortened season with 23 goals in 48 games. But other than that, he is what he is, a guy who will score in the neighborhood of 20 goals. He may be drafted late in leagues or could be one of the first players taken off the waiver wire.
Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators: Over his last 105 games he only has 21 goals, and let’s face it, there isn’t much talent around him. Those numbers might not change.
Patrick Elias, New Jersey Devils: Father Time and the lack of offensive talent around him should catch up to Elias this year.
Matt Nieto, San Jose Sharks: If he stays on a line with Couture and Marleau, his value could keep going up.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: Will this be the year he reaches his potential?
Clarke MacArthur, Ottawa Senators: Had a career year last season. He will be 30 in April, so do we really think better times are coming?
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz.