2015 Projections

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1. S. Crosby, Pit C
The captain of the Penguins is the best hockey player in the world, and the top fantasy asset available. What's more, he's feeling great following offseason wrist issues. If you hold the first overall draft selection, you're picking Crosby. - VM
2. A. Ovechkin, Wsh RW
Even a tepid, "over-the-hill" Ovechkin knocks the fantasy value stuffing out of everyone expect a small handful of players. During an exhausting 2013-14, including a massive Olympic letdown, the Russian star finished in the NHL's top 10 in scoring, and was second overall to Washington teammate Nicklas Backstrom in power-play points, and led the league outright with 386 shots and 51 goals. Aside from a brutal minus-35, Ovechkin enjoyed an excellent personal campaign altogether. So, who are you drafting before the Capitals captain? Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, sure. Maybe John Tavares and Corey Perry. Perhaps Evgeni Malkin. The list ends there. Unless a goalie (see: Tuukka Rask) is plucked exceptionally early (bold!), Ovechkin shouldn't last beyond the fifth overall selection. And, no, we're not concerned about Barry Trotz's influence on the prolific forward. Trotz is defensive-minded, not foolish; he knows where his goal-scoring bread is buttered. - VM
3. S. Stamkos, TB C
Second only to Sidney Crosby in our estimation of fantasy value, the elite sniper might be without equal in his ability to rifle the puck in the net. After wetting his rookie feet in 2008-2009, Stamkos has surfed well above the point-per-game mark, while averaging 0.63 goals per regular season contest. Moreover, his full recovery from a broken tibia suffered this past November is progressing well. In early September, Stamkos told his club's website the right leg "... feels much stronger. ... It's amazing week after week how much better it feels and how much closer it's getting to where it was before. I'm excited about that." Us too. - VM
4. E. Malkin, Pit C
The 28-year-old's trophy case is already teeming with evidence of his on-ice accomplishments -- we don't need to sell you on his talent or skill set; the superstar's durability is our only concern. But even though Malkin has played just one close-to-full regular season slate since 2008-09, he remains a top-five fantasy selection overall. - VM
5. J. Tavares, NYI C
A season-ending knee injury at the Olympics aside, Tavares really stepped into his own in 2013-14. He was averaging better than a point per game when his season ended, with 66 points in 59 games. He was on pace for numbers that truly did have him among the top five fantasy players. So that's where he now belongs. Tavares has built chemistry with Kyle Okposo, and the duo will be joined by a yet-to-be-determined winger on the other side. Regardless of how his line is built, Tavares has developed into a true star whose skill is reflected in his fantasy production. Owners should not hesitate to anchor their squad on Tavares' star power. - SA
6. C. Giroux, Phi C
Though he started slow -- very slow -- last season, Giroux had doubters eating crow by the end of the campaign. After notching a mere six points and a minus-7 rating through 11 October games, Giroux exploded to finish with 86 points in 82 games by the end of the season. He is the elite of the elite playmakers in the NHL, and is a fantasy first rounder. While Giroux lost his wingman with the trade of Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, life will go on. The Flyers have plenty of candidates to replace Hartnell, including players that have similar skill sets to the power forward. Look for the same fantasy anchor stats from Giroux this season, with maybe just the slightest of concerns for the Flyers' power play without Hartnell. But it's only the slightest of concerns. - SA
7. N. Backstrom, Wsh C
Alex Ovechkin's play-making buddy isn't a top-five fantasy centerman -- that company is too elite -- but he's top 10 in leagues that put a premium on power-play production. No player logged more points with the man advantage this past season; and you can rely on Backstrom for a hearty bounty of assists, year in and year out. As for this past season's limp minus-20, hopefully new coach Barry Trotz helps guide Backstrom in re-fluffing that figure. - VM
8. C. Perry, Ana RW
Perry is about as solid a puck possession forward as you can find when there is a crowd in the offensive zone. Combine that with his scoring ability, and you can quickly understand why he is a consistent top 10 fantasy hockey forward. Thanks to his continued connection with Ryan Getzlaf, fantasy owners can join the Ducks in hanging their fortunes on Perry's numbers. A return to 100-plus penalty minutes would immediately make Perry a top-four contender in fantasy hockey. Perhaps Ryan Kesler's presence on the Ducks power play can boost Perry's scoring in that department, to make up for showing a more reserved side when it comes to the sin bin. - SA
9. T. Rask, Bos G
Rask's numbers as the No. 1 fantasy goaltender speak for themselves. No other goaltender has brought the same kind of exceptional stats and consistency to the net in the regular season during Rask's reign at the top. Since very little is changing with the Bruins' personnel and style, there is no reason not to expect more of the same from the 27-year-old. There are very talented goaltenders in the Bruins' system that will begin to nip at Rask's heels, but he is locked in with a long-term deal and his future is quite secure. Perhaps the only minor qualm is that Rask and the Bruins have done so well in recent seasons that he has been given extra rest toward the end of the fantasy season, just when you need him the most. Of course, that's a pretty good problem to have for both the Bruins and Rask's fantasy owners. - SA
10. H. Zetterberg, Det C
On a per-game basis this past season, Zetterberg was a fantasy stud. As scary as back problems can be, Zetterberg has said he feels great this offseason and is ready to come back strong. He missed almost half of 2013-14 with back issues that ultimately resulted in corrective surgery. When healthy, Hank is absolutely dominant for fantasy owners. His past two seasons, though shortened, have both finished with Zetterberg scoring at better than a point-per-game clip. What is even better for Zetterberg's prospects this season is the emergence of Gustav Nyquist. With a healthy Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, Nyquist adds the necessary fourth body to give the Red Wings two legitimate scoring lines. However the lines are split up, it's a fair bet that Zetterberg will remain one of the best options in fantasy drafts. The high praise of his health this offseason helps give confidence to drafting him as a No. 1 fantasy forward. - SA
* - Projected
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