2014 Outlook: Some medical experts and hockey analysts suggest that the awful Achilles tendon injury suffered by Karlsson won't affect his skating much. Others aren't so sure. Karlsson himself admits he's still getting used to moving around, post-recovery. Whatever. We surmise that the 23-year-old will near a point-per-game pace, regardless. The End.
2014 Outlook: Skill plus opportunity; that's the essential formula for hammering out any single player's fantasy value from a wide spectrum of relevant sports. And Kris Letang is a top beneficiary of both. One of the most gifted offensive defensemen in the league, Letang also reaps the ultra-rich rewards of playing regularly with the likes of forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz. If anyone is going to knock a healthy Erik Karlsson off his projected top-producer's pedestal, our money is on Letang. Plus, the 26-year-old plays a ton of minutes and his plus/minus is beyond reproach. Feel free to draft him super early.
2014 Outlook: After sitting out of training camp and the start of an ultra-compact 2013 season, Subban put in a superlative performance for the Montreal Canadiens and subsequently won the Norris Trophy. As far as fantasy assets go, it's hard to find fault with 38 points, 126 shots, plus-12 and 57 PIM through only 42 games. A tough act to follow, surely, but don't anticipate too much of a letdown in 2013-14. In the second of his two-year bridge deal, Subban will be looking to earn max dough and term on his next one.
2014 Outlook: Unlike in years gone by, Byfuglien looks positively svelte going in to camp this September. Still physically intimidating, and very "Big Buff"-like, just not sporting as much unnecessary padding as before. This bodes well for the Winnipeg Jets and his fantasy owners, alike. Fitness is a big factor in Byfuglien's case; the more he plays, the more he produces. A full 82-game campaign would conceivably see the imposing 28-year-old flirt with the 60-point mark, all the while racking up nearly 300 shots and around 80 PIM.
2014 Outlook: As anticipated, after a slightly bumpy start, Suter managed just fine without long-time partner Shea Weber. And by "fine", we mean played well enough to become a finalist for the Norris Trophy. In his first season with the Wild, the elite defenseman amassed 32 points in 48 games, while averaging over 27 minutes per contest. Poised to partner with Jonas Brodin full-time in 2013-14, Suter is in position to (bold prediction alert) hit the 50-point mark for the first time in his career.
2014 Outlook: Suffering a suspected form of separation anxiety following his divorce from long-time partner Ryan Suter, Weber sported no more than a single assist through the first 13 games to start last season. Oh, it was ugly, and his fantasy owners were freaking out something serious. Then the perennially elite defenseman settled in with new partner Roman Josi and all was well with the world (27 points in his final 35 games). Weber can also always be counted on for oodles of on-ice minutes and lots of shots.
2014 Outlook: One of last season's biggest fantasy headaches -- for all the right reasons -- Green stormed back from a worrisome mid-season groin injury to notch 19 points in his 19 final regular season games (he didn't slow down much in the playoffs, either). The performance was nothing short of ferocious, especially since Green missed most of 2011-12, undergoing hernia surgery. Any fantasy owner willing to take a small leap of faith in the 28-year-old's good health may reap rewards reminiscent of 2008-09 or 2009-10. Remember? That's when Green led the league's defensemen with 73 and 76 points, respectively.
2014 Outlook: The Canadiens insisted his surgically reconstructed knee was just fine. So did the medical experts intimately familiar with the joint. So did the 34-year-old player himself. And as it turns out, as far as a 2013 sample size is concerned, they were all correct. Andrei Markov potted 10 goals and 20 assists -- including 23 power-play points -- all the while averaging 24 minutes per game through a full 48-match season. Consider yourself reassured that the elite D-man hasn't lost a beat.
2014 Outlook: A formidable fantasy beast since coming into his own with the Senators (never mind those four developmental Islander years), Chara remains more than capable of satisfying all of your basic, standard-league needs. It was only two seasons ago that -- at age 35 -- the veteran collected the most points of his career with 52. Chara can continuously be counted on to rack up an exceptional number of shots and PIM, all the while boasting an ultra-healthy plus/minus rating. Speaking of health, "Big Z" has the market cornered on stamina and endurance. He has missed an average of 2.2 games per season since 2006-07.
2014 Outlook: The captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs led his squad in even-strength and power-play minutes in 2013, collecting 12 points during five-on-five situations and 16 with the man advantage in 48 games. Plus, Phaneuf averaged over 25 minutes per contest and topped all Leafs defensemen (at least, those not named Mark Fraser) in time spent in the penalty box. Altogether, a consistent, well-rounded fantasy performance deserving of placement among the Top 10 fantasy blueliners.
2014 Outlook: No one logged more minutes for the Detroit Red Wings last season than Kronwall, at even strength or with the man advantage. And his numbers (29 points in 48 games) well represented all that time spent on-ice. Projected to anchor the Red Wings' top power-play unit alongside import forward Daniel Alfredsson, Kronwall is facing another prodigious campaign. A 50-point season is well within reach for the 32-year-old Swede.
2014 Outlook: One of the league's premier jack-of-all-trades defensemen, Keith satisfies all of ESPN's standard categories with aplomb. A few more shots and power-play points would be nice, and the 30-year-old isn't playing nearly half a regulation game like before (which is probably a good thing altogether), but he remains one of the most well-rounded assets. Just be wary of a potentially sluggish start to 2013-14. Keith was slow out of the gates the season following his first Stanley Cup win (2010).
2014 Outlook: The only member of the Philadelphia Flyers' blue line to put up unfailingly good numbers the past handful of seasons, Timonen shows no indication of slowing down. In fact, the 38-year-old is contemplating signing on for another season beyond 2013-14, his last under contract. Only three forwards in Philly -- Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds -- earned more points than Timonen (29 points in 45 games) in 2013.
2014 Outlook: Occasionally overshadowed by Slava Voynov's solid sophomore drive and the emergence of rookie Jake Muzzin, the former second overall draft pick (2008) for the Los Angeles Kings put together an all-around admirable fantasy performance this past winter. And unlike Voynov and Muzzin, Doughty finished near top of the league table in shots and ice-time.
2014 Outlook: We anticipate RFA Alex Pietrangelo will continue to demonstrate through 2013-14 why he's one of the league's elite young D-men. Adept at scoring at even-strength and with the man advantage, the 23-year-old is well-equipped to amass 50 points by season's end. And he's reliable. Pietrangelo has only missed five games the past three seasons. An absolute steal as your No. 2 fantasy blueliner.