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Cullen: Sharks have deep top-end talent

Scott Cullen
9/20/2011 1:00:01 PM
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Even though the San Jose Sharks' top players didn't score at previous levels last season, there are few teams that boast the quality of scoring options that the Sharks possess, making them very appealing on draft day.

Scoring 70 points in 80 games last year, Joe Thornton registered his lowest points-per-game since 1999-2000. It's possible that Thornton has lost a step as he nears 1000 career games, but he finished strong (24 points, plus-18 in 25 games after mid-February), so it's also conceivable that the 32-year-old could rise back above a point-per-game, as has been his custom.

Though he doesn't have the kind of marquee name recognition of some of his teammates, winger Ryane Clowe is extremely valuable in fantasy because he brings a rare combination of points and penalty minutes. Clowe and Corey Perry are the only two players in the league to have at least 50 points and 100 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons.

Antti Niemi took some time to get into his groove with the Sharks, struggling (3-5-1, 3.93 GAA, .877 SV%) through October and November before getting on track and putting up stellar numbers (32-13-5, 2.14 GAA, .927 SV%) the rest of the way. Figuring that the Sharks will be contenders this year, Niemi should have a decent chance at 40 wins, which is pretty heady company when it comes to goaltenders and fantasy value.

Though he scored a career-high 66 points Joe Pavelski had a career-low 7.1% shooting percentage, so that, combined with the possibility of playing with more skilled linemates (his most common linemates last season were Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell) makes it possible that Pavelski could have a 30-goal season.

Patrick Marleau seems to take a lot of heat for an elite goal-scorer. The 32-year-old has tallied 119 goals over the last three seasons and only Alexander Ovechkin has more goals over that time. Low penalty minute totals and a minus rating can hinder his fantasy value, but Marleau is an elite talent.

Consistency has not been the hallmark of Martin Havlat's career, but he's very skilled and has been able to stay healthy in recent seasons, missing 14 games over the last three seasons, after missing 141 in the three seasons before that. A fresh start in San Jose, with presumably quality linemates ought to give Havlat a chance to put up better numbers than he did in Minnesota.

Just barely a rookie last season (after playing 25 games the year before), Logan Couture impressed with 32 goals, 59 points and a plus-18 rating. Can he do it again?

35-year-old blueliner Dan Boyle has scored at least 50 points in five of the last six seasons -- he and Nicklas Lidstrom are the only defencemen in the league to have 50 points in five of the last six seasons. Boyle ignites the Sharks' attack and his consistency makes him a top ten fantasy defenceman.

Possibly easing some of the workload on Boyle is newcomer Brent Burns, who was healthy last year and that resulted in a career-high 17 goals and 46 points for the Minnesota Wild. Burns had missed time in each of the previous two seasons with concussions, so he presents a risk in that regard, and he's a combined minus-32 over the last three seasons, but that may be less of an issue in San Jose. When healthy, he presents a rare mix of size and skill.

San Jose figures, again, to be in Cup contention and that means their top players should be relatively safe bets to have productive seasons; really, the same as it has been for a while now, but this group might have even better depth of high-end talent.

Depth Chart - San Jose Sharks

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.

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