Every year Dobber Hockey puts together a Fantasy Hockey Guide chock full of information on players across the NHL. Included within the guide is a projection for each organization, columns about potential sleepers, players to avoid, goaltenders to watch, and prospects who may emerge. It is an excellent opportunity for the casual fantasy player to get their feet wet, the hardcore fantasy player to locate some bargains, and the non-fantasy playing fan to learn more about clubs throughout the League.
With their 2011-2012 guide now available we figured it would be a good idea to get one of their analysts on Fear The Fin to talk about Sharks players from a fantasy point of view. Jeff Angus, senior writer and manager at Dobber Hockey, joins us today to talk about Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, and much much more.
How did you get into fantasy hockey and how long have you been putting out your Fantasy Pool Guide?
I have been writing for DobberHockey, owned by Darryl Dobbs, since 2007. The 2011 edition of our Pool Guide is our sixth. I got in to fantasy the same way most other people did – watching and enjoying the game. Playing fantasy hockey allows us as fans to get a lot closer to the players and teams around the league.
Last season was the first time Joe Thornton didn't score at a point per game pace since joining the Sharks in 2005, in no small part due to the fact that he began to focus more and more on becoming a better defensive centerman. Does this make Thornton a less valuable fantasy hockey pick, or can owners expect him to hit the 85-95 point mark again next season?
I’ll say yes to both questions, but for different reasons. I think Thornton can definitely hit 85-95 points next season, especially with the Heatley-Havlat trade (more on that in the next answer). I don’t think he carries the value he used to, as the Sharks have two young centers in Pavelski and Couture who may eat up some of the power play time he used to have a stranglehold on.
Martin Havlat hasn't been a big fantasy name for awhile but in your guide you say that on a team with Joe Thornton, "that will be reflected in the uptick in [Havlat's] production." Can fantasy owners expect a career year from Havlat this season?
Yes, they can. Havlat never really meshed in the Minnesota system. He didn’t play much with Mikko Koivu, and the Wild didn’t really have all that much at center after that. His center last season was Kyle Brodziak, for the most part. Havlat has the injury tag, but he’s an electrifying talent who should fit in to San Jose’s system like a glove. He’s got speed to burn and he’s a lethal scorer around the net.
Expectations for the young and talented Logan Couture are getting larger by the second-- last year he really took the NHL by storm and made a lot of keen fantasy owners happy. What do you see him doing this year and why?
Couture is an interesting player for a lot of reasons. I thought he was San Jose’s best forward in the series against the Canucks last year (due in large part to an extensive list of injuries throughout the roster). He does everything well but nothing at an elite level (save for his hockey IQ, which is hard to see on the highlight reel). Players like this often get lost in the shadows because they bring the same game to the ice each night. Jonathan Toews is another example, but he has vaulted into superstardom with the return to glory in Chicago. Couture has the upside to be a 40-goal, 85+ point two-way center.
Your readers will probably know better than me, but I assume he will once again line up with Ryane Clowe on the second line. Clowe has a lot of untapped potential (which he started to show last season before the injury he sustained in the Detroit series), and I think the duo could form the most potent second line in the league next season.
Outside of Burns (who we both think is going to have a monster offensive year) and Boyle (who is always a hot defensive commodity) are there any other players on the blueline you're interested in?
Demers is a solid young defenseman who improved his all-around game tremendously last season. He’s going to establish himself as a legitimate top four guy this season. His offensive output depends on power play time, as it does for most non-elite defensemen.
Justin Braun is another interesting young name, and I see him with more offensive potential then Demers, but he’s going to be in tough to earn a roster spot.
6) Fill in the blank: From a fantasy perspective I think _____________ is the most overvalued player on the Sharks and _____________ is the most undervalued player on the Sharks.
My answer is the same for both questions – Antti Niemi. There was a stretch last season in which he seemed unbeatable. There were also times in which it seemed like he had no idea where his crease was. Niemi is young and blessed with mental toughness that most veterans would be jealous of, but he is still pretty rough around the edges. I think he’s undervalued in terms of people saying he is a product of his team, but he’s also overvalued in terms of being among the elite fantasy goalies to own because of the team he plays on.
I’d put him in the middle of the second tier of fantasy goalies, with the likes of Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jaroslav Halak.
Anything else you would like to add?
Aside from the Kings, I don’t think any NHL team improved more than the Sharks this summer. They lost to Vancouver (aside from the injuries) because of an immobile defensive group. Burns is one of the most dynamic skaters in the league. Heatley hasn’t been the same player since leaving Ottawa – his lack of fitness is starting to catch up with him.
More information on Dobber Hockey's 2011-2012 Fantasy Guide can be found here. You can follow the crew on Twitter as well.