2014 Outlook: What Kunitz turned in from a value standpoint last season was beyond exceptional. He was selected in most fantasy leagues, but not as a top forward. He was probably your fourth winger or sixth forward, but turned in fantasy value comparable to that of the very best NHL players. Let's not mince words here: Kunitz rode Sidney Crosby's coattails every step of the way to that value. Now, that isn't a knock on Kunitz in any way. As we've seen over the seasons, not just anybody can ride coattails and turn in ridiculous fantasy value. Being a star by association is a skill in and of itself. However, at the end of the day, Kunitz is still a star by association. Without Crosby at his side, he might not have any fantasy value at all. Now that we've been clear about that, here is the good news. Kunitz is going to line up beside Crosby again, play with Evgeni Malkin on the power play and have Malkin to fall back on if anything should befall Crosby. As stars by association go, Kunitz is in a pretty darn good situation.
2014 Outlook: Where did all of Daniel Sedin's goals disappear to? Scoring just one more goal than his brother Henrik last season, Daniel's fantasy value bread and butter was missing. Now, the Canucks were without a secondary attack on offense for most of the season, and that forced reliable linemate Alex Burrows away from the twins more often than they would have liked, but it is still a concerning drop in goals. Expect a bounce-back from Daniel this season, but perhaps not back into the 35- or 40-goal range as he once was. The Canucks still have plenty of questions on offense, and Daniel has given us reason to question his durability in two of the past four seasons. Daniel will be hanging around in the second round of your fantasy draft this season, and while he has earned the low ranking, he may be one of the only lottery tickets with Top 5 upside, too.
2014 Outlook: Though Neal's second season with the Penguins wasn't as spectacular as the first, it is a better example of what we should expect going forward. While Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will create a dangerous top line for the Pens, Evgeni Malkin and Neal are more than an adequate secondary attack. Then there is the power play, where Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin and Neal all come together to create a force that few teams can stop. Neal will generate plenty of his fantasy value from the power play, top it off at even strength and give you great return on your investment. As with Kunitz, there is less risk to Neal's star by association status with the Penguins because the team boasts two superstar centerman. If one goes down, you can be sure that a top supporting talent like Neal will join with the other.
2014 Outlook: Being dished off to the Stars does two major things for Seguin in the upcoming campaign. It establishes him as the clear-cut top forward on a franchise, which will result in increased minutes on the ice. It should also motivate him to make the Boston Bruins sorry. Seguin has a respectable selection of linemates to choose from, including the exceptionally-skilled Jamie Benn. If Seguin can score 29 goals as the second-line winger on the Bruins as a sophomore, here's betting he can pot a few more than that two seasons later as the keystone of the Stars' offense. Will the plus/minus be what it once was with the Bruins? No, but Seguin's increased power-play responsibility should help offset the value. There is a limit to Seguin's overall potential, however, as the Stars will be hard-pressed to have significant secondary scoring to help take the focus off the Seguin-Benn combo.
2014 Outlook: As was somewhat expected, Getzlaf bounced back to form last season during the lockout-shortened NHL campaign. Getzlaf's 49 points in just 44 games was just eight points shy of the 57 points he scored in 82 games during the 2011-12 season. Playing with Corey Perry, we expect more of the same fantasy goodness out of Getzlaf as coach Bruce Boudreau continues to deploy the team in an offense-first fashion. New potential weapons such as Jakob Silfverberg or Emerson Etem could be huge for maintaining the Ducks' strong offense, but with Teemu Selanne to help on the power play, the younger options don't absolutely have to perform. What of the 91-point Getzlaf we saw in 2008-09? Well, he could return in the right situation. If Silfverberg, Etem or another option happen to fit in perfectly with Getzlaf and Perry, the Ducks could be in for a very potent first line. So even though Getzlaf is safer as a third-round pick in your draft, he has upside.
2014 Outlook: The fact that we had a lockout-shortened NHL season definitely muted the fact that Nash had the best season of his career. Nash's 82-game pace of 39 goals and 39 assists to go with an improved plus/minus were a significant improvement on his recent seasons with the Blue Jackets. While Nash did not hit things off with Brad Richards the way that was hoped, he didn't need to. Derek Stepan proved to be a more than formidable linemate for Nash as he bounced around different configurations under coach John Tortorella. With the steady hand of Alain Vigneault taking over, expect Nash to be the focal point of the Rangers' attack. Could he bust the ceiling on his previous career highs? It's possible. But without significant improvements in the Rangers' offense -- and with the threat of a Stepan contract holdout -- it is best to draft Nash for his high floor (as opposed to that high ceilng) heading into the season.
2014 Outlook: We still don't have a full season of Taylor Hall statistics to look at following his three campaigns in the NHL. He has two injury-shortened campaigns and one lockout-shortened campaign, however, that all tell us he is the best of the Oilers' dynamic young offensive players. It is absolutely within the realm of possibility that Hall can make the jump into the elite group among the fantasy forward hierarchy this season. He'll probably play with Jordan Eberle again and from there, the team can choose sniper Nail Yakupov, puck wizard David Perron or elite passer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to join them. No matter what, Hall is due for a big season. Holding him back is the track record of playing the game hard and getting hurt; that's been the case in Hall's career thus far. There is also a risk that with so many young weapons on offense that all have so much upside, Hall turns out to be a secondary piece of the puzzle. After all, Yakupov and RNH both have untapped potential as superstars. We think Hall will be the best fantasy asset on the Oilers, but it's not crazy to think there is another answer.
2014 Outlook: As Alex Ovechkin's value goes, so goes the value of Nicklas Backstrom. Luckily for Backstrom, Ovechkin's value is on the upswing thanks to his offense returning late last season under coach Adam Oates. Backstrom showed that his injury issues from the prior season were behind him, and that he can be the playmaker to Ovechkin's sniper again going forward. Is there another 100-point campaign in Backstrom? There very well could be if Ovechkin is all the way back. That said, Backstrom isn't going to get to triple digits by scoring 30 goals again. Look for typical elite playmaker numbers in the range of 20 goals and upward of 75 assists from Backstrom, and you will walk away happy. The only question mark that remains is whether a third member of the line could take Ovechkin and Backstrom's numbers up another notch. But no matter who the third member of the line is, their numbers are not going to go back down.
2014 Outlook: Semin's first season as a member of the Hurricanes was a roaring success. Paired with Eric Staal on offense, Semin helped propel Staal to new heights while picking up his own fair share of fantasy value along the way. The duo will, no doubt, be back again for the Hurricanes this season and with potential for an improved secondary attack, the top line should have no trouble repeating its success from last season. Now, Semin has changed as a fantasy player from his days with the Capitals. His wicked wrist shot still exists, but he doesn't use it as much anymore. Look for reduced goal numbers, and a continued increase in Semin's assists for the coming season. Another factor in whether Semin outperforms his draft day value will be the success of the Hurricanes' power play. It struggled mightily last season and an improvement would be a boon to Semin's numbers. Here's hoping Ryan Murphy can help change things on the man advantage.
2014 Outlook: St. Louis is still as dangerous a playmaker on the ice with Steven Stamkos as any of the young bucks in the league. His damaging reduction in power-play assists from the 2011-12 season proved to be an aberration, and St. Louis was back to his old tricks in the lockout-shortened campaign. Why isn't he higher in the forward rankings? For one thing, St. Louis is 38 years old now and not getting any younger. We don't think he will slow down just yet, but the downside of the hill is getting closer. To that end, the Lightning added Jonathan Drouin at the top of the entry draft this offseason and he may start getting work with Stamkos as early as this season. Don't knock the veteran St. Louis too far down your draft lists, but remember his best days are behind him.
2014 Outlook: There has been nothing keeping Marian Hossa from being an elite fantasy asset with the Blackhawks other than the health of Marian Hossa. Some of his health issues have been far from his own fault, but with just one nearly-complete season in four attempts with the Hawks, there is clearly some cause for concern. The stats are there when Hossa is on the ice, and he consistently plays with an elite talent in Jonathan Toews. Really, the only aspect that should give you pause when looking at Hossa is the games played. Hossa does have a history of consistent health and that should encourage fantasy owners to invest in him; just don't do it before some other reliable options are off the table.
2014 Outlook: There was nothing particularly wrong with Parise's first season away from the New Jersey Devils, but it was still below some of the high hopes that the Wild had for him. Certainly, 38 points in 48 games isn't anything at which to sneeze, but Parise was above a point-per-game pace for two seasons before he blew out his knee in 2010-11. His speed does not appear to be an issue as much as having linemates with the same kind of chemistry he had with the Devils. Dany Heatley did not prove to be an asset to Parise, and Mikko Koivu, while more than serviceable, did not fit like a glove with Parise. There were some encouraging signs at the end of the season with Jason Pominville and Parise on the ice together. In addition to the continued development of Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, Pominville's presence is reason enough to be bullish on Parise going into the season. But he has a lot to prove before he can be considered a first-round target again.
2014 Outlook: Sharp looked no worse for wear after his elbow injury last season, and returns to a considerably comfortable spot in the Blackhawks' lineup next to Patrick Kane. With Kane returning to form last season, and looking to be among the best in fantasy this season, Sharp has to be considered a candidate to ride to the top with Kane. Will he have incredible fantasy value again thanks to a strong plus/minus like he had in 2011-12 (plus-28)? That might be a bit much to ask, but Sharp can be counted on for 30 goals and 70 points, which is a lot more than most forwards have as a basement to their value. Whether Sharp can add more value from there will depend on how the team handles finding a third member of the line. If Brandon Pirri isn't ready for showtime, the other options don't look as tantalizing for Sharp's offensive potential.
2014 Outlook: With an expectation for 30 goals and near as many assists, Pacioretty has taken over as the centerpiece of the Canadiens' offense. He has flashed his ability to find the back of the net with an array of linemates during his breakout over the last two seasons, and there is no reason to think he can't at least continue to pile up fantasy value. In fact, Pacioretty comes with some upside, as the Habs are far from locked in when it comes to the depth chart. Young players with potential are sprinkled through the lineup in the form of Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher. Pacioretty only worked extensively with Gallagher last season, leaving the upside of a breakout from Galchenyuk or Eller at Pacioretty's side untested.
2014 Outlook: While not the dominant fantasy asset that was hoped for, Benn has proven to be a solid role player at the top of the Stars' depth chart. He remains near the top headed into this season, but with the bonus of having Tyler Seguin at his side. Benn broke out late in the 2010-11 campaign, turned in a solid, if unspectacular season in 2011-12, but struggled on a weak overall offense in 2013. The Stars have turned things over again, with the acquisition of Seguin and hope that the two standouts can form a dynamic top line with veteran Ray Whitney (or maybe Erik Cole or rookie Valeri Nichushkin). Benn wasn't a great fantasy forward last season, but is a great candidate for a post-hype breakout with Seguin at his side.