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.
2014 Outlook: Who knows who Kesler will play with now that John Tortorella is coaching the Canucks? Only Torts knows that, but the good news is that it should matter little to Kesler's fantasy outlook. Kesler is still the natural choice to join the Sedin twins on the power play, which is where a lot of his value will be. And, if you really think about it, it's not as if the Canucks depth is worse now than it was when Kesler scored 70 points in consecutive seasons. For example, Kesler played with Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson during the 2010-11 season. Is that any worse than Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian? The answer is a firm no, and the resulting conclusion is that Kesler will find a way to get his points, especially with so much time off to recover from his many ailments at the beginning of last season. Heck, maybe Tortorella even makes Kesler play with the Sedin twins at even strength and he works on a career season? Crazier things have happened under Tortorella, after all.
2014 Outlook: Ribeiro is an assist machine no matter where he goes, and he will probably do more to make his teammates better than your fantasy team. There will come a point in your draft where his 55-assist potential becomes too tantalizing not to draft him, though. Just be sure you are not looking at Ribeiro's elevated goal pace from last season as a baseline. It has happened in his career a couple of times, but there is no reason to bank on his shooting percentage spiking by about five percent. Instead, expect a more typical 20-goal pace, and exceptionally helpful 55 assists that Ribeiro will bring to the table for the Coyotes. There is no shortage of talent for him to work with on the Coyotes, and the real key to his presence in the desert will be how much better he makes his eventual linemates.
2014 Outlook: Though he's no longer in his prime, Iginla is not beyond another spike in his output to push him toward another 40-goal campaign. But the question is whether or not that is likely now that he is wearing a Bruins uniform. While there is the question of whether he joins the line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic or the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the good news for fantasy owners is that it likely doesn't matter much. Though the Krejci and Lucic line would likely lead to more offense, playing with Bergeron and Marchand would ensure Iginla churns out plus/minus that would likely equal the difference in scoring for fantasy value. Certainly it is safer to take Iginla as the 30-goal, 65-point pace player we have seen three out of the past four seasons. There is upside, to be sure, but don't draft him based on the potential. While he is by no means ancient at 36 seasons old, Iginla is not on the upswing anymore.
2014 Outlook: No one questions that the Oilers are chock-full of exciting young talent, and that Eberle is at the center of the revolution. Both Eberle and Taylor Hall are due for big steps forward here in their fourth NHL season. Of the 30-goal, 70-point players coming off the board in the middle rounds, Eberle is certainly near the top of the list for potential beyond that baseline. But is it safe to draft him for much more than what we've seen in the NHL so far? Well, Eberle didn't have a great campaign in the lockout-shortened season, despite staying hot ahead of the season by tearing up the AHL. That doesn't mean he took a step back, but it doesn't give strong reason to pick him up ahead of other proven fantasy players in your draft, either.
2014 Outlook: Burrows has gained his fantasy notoriety on the coattails of the Sedin twins, but he can stand on his own for production just fine. As we saw last season when Burrows was shuffled away from the twins on occasion, the Sedins seem to rely on Burrows as much as he relies on them in this symbiotic relationship. However, there is no doubt the extra points gained from assisting on and finishing plays conjured up mainly by the twins goes a long way to making Burrows an attractive asset. Hopefully, new coach John Tortorella doesn't make too many waves with the Canucks' depth chart, but you can expect to see Burrows finding value in most scenarios that even Tortorella could imagine. In the end, Burrows' above-average penalty minutes and 50-plus points will be enough to find a home on any fantasy roster.
2014 Outlook: While the numbers weren't what we expected from Backes last season, it can hardly be considered a major low-point for the Blues' leader. He put in an 82-game pace of 48 points, which is only down a tad from what we have come to expect from Backes. What did shift was the focus on goals to assists as the Blues continue to stockpile other players to put the puck in the net. Backes would have set a new career high for assists in an 82-game season last season, but he would have also fallen well short of the 30 goals most fantasy owners bet on. As the offense continues to develop through players like Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, expect to see that trend continue for the versatile Backes. All the while, he will contribute more penalty minutes than most other scoring forwards, and make you happy to select him in the middle rounds.
2014 Outlook: A major question surrounding the top of the Jets' lineup this season, which will have major fantasy implications, is whether Ladd is a 60-point player or an 80-point player. His numbers last season were certainly the type produced by a near point-per-game player. Ladd quietly assembled 46 points in 48 games last season on the top line with Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. That's a huge jump from the previous seasons, where he was falling short of the 30-30 mark. We don't think Ladd will make a huge jump to being an elite point-per-game asset on the ice, but another 30-goal campaign with a career-high in assists is certainly achievable on an improving Jets offense.
2014 Outlook: Does a lot of Marchand's fantasy value stem from his connection to the hip of Patrice Bergeron? Sure it does, but that shouldn't shy you away from it. Marchand and Bergeron have become a plus/minus machine on the ice for the Bruins. Whether they play with Jarome Iginla (likely) or Loui Eriksson (possible), expect continued production from the pair that has cycled linemates the past three seasons. All the while, Marchand has become adept at putting points on the board and is potent in the defensive zone. His feisty play tends to net Marchand a few more penalty minutes than a lot of other forwards that will approach 60 points. Combine the plus/minus, the PIMs and the points and you have a fantasy hockey darling.
2014 Outlook: In 2013, Parenteau proved he was more than a one-trick pony as a linemate to John Tavares by leaving Long Island and having even more success as a linemate to Matt Duchene. To be fair, Duchene is a budding superstar in his own right, and can certainly hold a candle to Tavares. But the improvement from Parenteau is perhaps more impressive than Duchene's emerging talent. Parenteau scored 18 goals for the second season in a row in his debut with the Avalanche. That's an impressive feat because the lockout held the season to just 48 games instead of the 80 games Parenteau needed for 18 goals in 2011-12. With coach Patrick Roy already stating that Parenteau and Duchene will be joined by playmaker Ryan O'Reilly on the team's top line, there is no reason not to expect a strong repeat performance by Parenteau in 2013-14.
2014 Outlook: Kadri was one of the biggest draft day values in the league last season. He turned in 44 points in 48 games with a plus-15 on the side. Perhaps the most interesting part is that he didn't play much with Toronto's top sniper, Phil Kessel. Kadri did his damage on the ice with the likes of Leo Komarov, Clarke MacArthur and, late in the season, Joffrey Lupul. That kind of production with lesser linemates and fewer minutes on the ice is why fantasy owners should trust in investing in Kadri. Given the situations in which he produced nearly a point per game in 2013, there is tremendous upside with what Kadri can do with more responsibility and stronger linemates.
2014 Outlook: There is some definite hope and some good signs at the end of last season, but at the end of the day, we can't draft Pominville like he will get to a point-per-game pace again in 2013-14. Though he does have history as an 80-point player, and looks very good alongside Zach Parise, the safe route is to look at Pominville as another 65-point guy with some upside. After all, the Wild have some players who will be nipping at his heels from the start of camp. Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund have more experience under their belt now, and both will be vying for top-line service. Pominville does have first right of refusal for the top line with Parise, though, and has the skill to stay there. If the Wild power play is as good as it should be, Pominville's numbers will be even better.
2014 Outlook: There is nothing sexy about taking Williams in your fantasy draft. But he is going to play 17 minutes, score just fewer than 60 points, and contribute to your plus/minus and shots on goal totals. It's not pretty, but it's solid production from a reliable winger on the top line of a strong team. Williams is a great linemate to Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and will remain at the top of the depth chart for the foreseeable future. The team consistently wins games, and there is no reason to change what works. While others struggle in the draft to try and find a player with a chance for 70 points, take Williams and walk away knowing you made the right choice.
2014 Outlook: Koivu remains underrated for what he brings to the table for fantasy players. Just as solid a bet for good playmaking numbers as Mike Ribeiro and not far behind Joe Thornton, Koivu still has untapped potential we haven't seen. Perhaps the deepening Wild depth chart will help Koivu realize his chances for a true breakout campaign in fantasy circles. Of course, Koivu has to be wary that Mikael Granlund will be looking to supplant him as the team's top centerman in the coming seasons, but Koivu has enough to hold off the charge for at least one more season as top pivot with Zach Parise. The team also has upgraded flanking options such as Jason Pominville, who looked rock solid beside Koivu after last season's trade deadline.
2014 Outlook: Ryan Callahan will fight tooth and nail on the ice for the points his team needs to win. He finds a way to get those points whether he is on the ice with superstars like Rick Nash or away from the superstars in a supporting role. A steady producer of close to 30-30 seasons, Callahan has never actually hit the 60-point benchmark in his career. Expect that to change as coach Alain Vigneault rewards Callahan's diligence on the ice with plum assignments. Callahan has the tenacity to play a role like Alex Burrows did for Vigneault with the Canucks, where he plays setup man to the stars.