2014 Outlook: Spezza's lost-to-injury 2013 campaign wouldn't be so annoying if he hadn't missed at least 20 games in three of the past four seasons. The injury-riddled past is more than enough to take a player that is a threat to score 100 points and leave him outside the first four rounds of your fantasy draft. From a what-if-he-is-healthy perspective, losing Daniel Alfredsson as a potential linemate isn't so bad when Spezza now has Bobby Ryan, Cory Conacher and Mika Zibanejad to choose from alongside he and Milan Michalek. But it remains difficult for a fantasy owner to do any less than bank on Spezza being absent for a quarter of the season. There is a huge payoff to be had if he stays on the ice, but fantasy owners will have to consider how much risk they will take on to get him.
2014 Outlook: Stepan missed much of the preseason in a contract holdout, but things were settled just in time for him to be ready for the regular season. He'll head into the season as a linemate with Rick Nash, and that generally comes with the potential to set career highs across the board. Stepan has shown great chemistry with top players, and the Rangers will need him to be a consistent performer. Stepan won't light the world on fire with his goal totals, but his on-ice awareness means he will get points, and plenty of them at that. Just beware the expectations of a lofty plus/minus, as the stat can be quite fickle for fantasy prognostication.
2014 Outlook: Thornton's numbers don't show a sharp decline in recent seasons, but there is a steady decline happening from the time when he was a threat for 100 points. If you bank on fewer than 20 goals and in the range of 50 to 55 assists, Thornton will not let you down as a fantasy centerman. As players like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski continue to take on more responsibility for the Sharks, Thornton is relied on less in key situations. There is no immediate threat to his ongoing role as a top-line player though, so expect another quality season of production from Thornton.
2014 Outlook: Kane brings some solid fantasy statistics to the table, thanks to some penalty minutes and shots on goal that will trend higher than many other wingers who are also a threat for 30 goals. The surprising part about Kane is that he is not a first-line player for the Jets; that role has belonged to Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. Kane has settled for linemates including Olli Jokinen and Kyle Wellwood in recent seasons. What might he do with a higher quality of linemate? That is a question that the Jets are hoping is answered by Mark Scheifele, Devin Setoguchi or Michael Frolik in 2013-14. Given that there is decent upside and very little downside to taking Kane for your team, he is a solid choice.
2014 Outlook: With 30 goals and a dozen power-play goals a near-lock for Franzen, he makes for a safe and steady selection on your fantasy team. The Mule will miss a handful of games, but that comes with the territory of playing around the net. Franzen will take to the ice with either Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk (or possibly both) and now could have an improved supporting cast with Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss in town. The continued development of Gustav Nyquist is yet another threat that the Red Wings boast. But don't worry, Franzen can only be helped by more skilled players firing pucks at the net for him to rebound.
2014 Outlook: Voracek's 2013 numbers were bolstered by a blistering hot February in which he managed 21 points in 15 games. But even when that month is removed from his numbers, we are left with a physical, scoring winger that plays regularly with one of the league's better playmakers in Claude Giroux. Sure, Voracek's numbers are boosted thanks to Giroux, but it is not as if the Flyers have other options. He'll play with Giroux again -- on the top line and top power play -- and Voracek will be prone to more hot streaks to boost his totals while doing so. It's not as if Voracek doesn't come with pedigree. He was a former Top 10 draft pick that put up gaudy numbers in junior. While he is for real as a fantasy asset, Voracek is likely due for a slight regression on a per-game basis. But, he's still a solid Top 30 forward.
2014 Outlook: The points are not as impressive as some other fantasy forwards that will still be available in your draft when you are looking at Bergeron, but the Bruins have helped turn this two-way forward into the closest thing the NHL has to a plus/minus machine. Bergeron is a plus-80 during the past three seasons, with no rating lower than a plus-20. On a line with Brad Marchand, both are defensively aware and offensively skilled. It makes no matter whether Jarome Iginla or Loui Eriksson end up being the third member of the line as Bergeron and Marchand have made their system work with an array of linemates.
2014 Outlook: Brown is another NHLer who doesn't get the love he deserves in fantasy because none of his categories are particularly impressive. Instead, Brown earns his value through across-the-board results in all the ESPN standard game categories. Playing on the Kings' top line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams is exactly where Brown has become comfortable, and exactly where he will play again this season. If you have taken some risks with your first few picks in your fantasy draft, Brown becomes even more attractive an option. He never misses time and picks up his points like clockwork.
2014 Outlook: Yet another increase in responsibility and ice time is due to Couture this season. Each time in his career that he has been pressed to take on more for the Sharks, Couture has responded. Playing apart from the top names like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau more often than not, Couture is a star in his own right. But with the final linemates still to be determined for the Sharks top six, Couture's star is still on the rise. Whether he plays with Thornton, Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Martin Havlat or super prospect Tomas Hertl, Couture will find a way to score. In fact, Couture may end up being the one the others are vying for ice time with. It's still safer to consider Thornton -- and maybe even Marleau -- ahead of Couture in fantasy drafts, but it would not be a surprise at all to see Couture have more value than the other Sharks this season.
2014 Outlook: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a star by association if a player is 100 percent locked into his role alongside a star. Moulson is about as locked to the side of John Tavares as any two players are in the NHL. The result has been Moulson as a 30-goal scorer every season since he joined Tavares and the Islanders. Once again in 2013-14, Moulson will be right there beside Tavares, scoring when needed and assisting when called upon. As with Tavares, expect a modest improvement coming this season for Moulson as a result of the overall improvement of the Isles' offense. There are a lot of good young players looking to take the next step and one of them may even line up alongside Tavares and Moulson.
2014 Outlook: His checkered injury history with the Minnesota Wild feels like ancient history, but it is easy to remember Gaborik's struggles last season with the New York Rangers. Prior to being traded to the Blue Jackets, Gaborik managed a pedestrian nine goals and 19 points in 35 games for the Rangers. His eight points in 12 games for the Blue Jackets was an improvement, but still not anything up to his previous standard. Gaborik is still only one season removed from a 40-goal season, and has achieved that target in two of the past four campaigns and three of the past six. But with plenty of question marks surrounding the budding Blue Jackets offense, Gaborik has to be viewed as a bit of a risk. There is plenty of talent for Gaborik to work with on the roster, but almost all of it is unproven. He is one of the few draft selections you can probably make outside the first five rounds that has a legitimate shot at returning first-round value. However, he could just as easily underperform that draft value. Feeling lucky?
2014 Outlook: First off, we can't trust Lupul to play in all 82 games based on recent history. Secondly, can we be sure he will be playing on the first line? We cannot. Despite having an absolutely beastly 2011-12 season alongside Phil Kessel, Lupul did not play much on a line with Kessel last season; instead, when his arm wasn't broken, Lupul was placed alongside breakout rookie Nazem Kadri. The result was still rock solid for Lupul in the 16 games he played last season, as he notched 11 goals and 18 points. But over the long haul, is he going to be that successful if he is not paired with Kessel? But risks aside, Lupul is firmly entrenched in a top-six role for the Maple Leafs that will be very dangerous with the addition of David Clarkson and Dave Bolland to the offense (though they might not be on a scoring line themselves). As long as you bank on some missed time for Lupul, you will be rewarded for taking him in your draft.
2014 Outlook: It still feels like we are on the verge of a true breakout by Duchene, but the stats -- and therefore logic -- dictate that we treat him otherwise. Yes, he showed improvements for two seasons and, yes, last season was a good step in the right direction as well. But, boy, was that third season horrendous. If you will recall, the 2011-12 season was almost a complete write-off for the young Avs centerman. On the other hand, Duchene has made incremental improvements to his stats in all but one season during his young career. And during that one bad season, he suffered an ankle injury that he never let fully heal before returning, which dragged down his numbers. So really, Duchene's star may be more on the rise than it seems at first glance. There is definitely potential for a positive return on Duchene if he lasts until the middle rounds of your draft.
2014 Outlook: Marleau started off last season so hot that he broke our brains for a while. Unfortunately, the nine goals in his first five games were followed up by eight goals during the remaining 43 contests. While his finish to the season was certainly disappointing, Marleau remains a 30-goal, 60-point fantasy threat with a good supporting cast on the Sharks. His days of approaching 40 goals are behind him, but Marleau has a track record of strong power-play performance that makes him a better choice for your team than some other 30-goal targets in the middle rounds.
2014 Outlook: Vanek had a blistering start to the lockout-shortened season, with a ridiculous 15 points in his first six games and 27 points in his first 20 games. But things slowed down considerably from there, and Vanek would end up missing 10 games as well. That said, it was a reminder that the former 40-goal threat may not be done turning heads yet. Now, that doesn't mean you necessarily want to draft Vanek as if he were a 40-goal scorer again. He did turn in three straight seasons of closer to a 30-goal pace, so that has to factor into your decision. Especially because longtime partner in crime, Jason Pominville, is no longer a member of the Sabres. The team is full of talent, but a lot of it is only a little proven in the NHL (and some is not proven at all). Vanek could have a big season as he helps lead a rejuvenated Sabres attack. Or, he could suffer as the team struggles to find an identity. Or, he could wind up on another team via trade, which would force us to re-examine his stock. The good news is that even a struggling Vanek will find a way to light the lamp about 30 times. As long as you don't jump the gun too early on Vanek, he is a great addition to your forward group, with decent upside.