Fantasy Puck Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Scott Cullen
9/13/2008 10:44:44 AM
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As if a Stanley Cup victory wasn't enough, the Red Wings landed the top free agent scorer available, making it likely that the Wings will be a veritable fantasy dream team in the coming season.

Conn Smythe winner Henrik Zetterberg has put up better than a point-per-game in three straight seasons and there's little reason to think that trend will reverse itself. Given the talent surrounding him, it's possible that Zetterberg could push 100 for the first time in his career, provided he stays healthy.

Like Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk is on a similar career arc, culminating in a 2007-2008 season in which he tallied 97 points and a league-best plus-41. Expect more of the same this season and be comfortable using a first-round pick on either Datsyuk or Zetterberg.

The newcomer, Marian Hossa, is another potential first-round pick. Hossa's 66-point season was his lowest total in six years, but a productive playoff had his value high entering the off-season. By joining the Wings, Hossa figures to climb back into the 90-point range -- a mark he topped in the first two seasons after the lockout -- with a strong plus-minus as well.

Because there are so many elite talents, the Wings' complementary forwards have fine value as well.

Tomas Holmstrom was hampered by injuries, but he's topped 20 goals for three consecutive seasons. As a late-round pick, his power play production will pay off, but don't go after him too early.

Better results may be found from up-and-comer Johan Franzen, who was the best goal-scorer in hockey from March through the end of the season. It's ridiculous to expect Franzen to keep that pace, but it's entirely possible that he could surpass 30 goals and 50 points.

Another rising star for the Wings is Valtteri Filppula, who saw his point totals jump from 17 two years ago to 36 last season. A similar jump this season is entirely reasonable given Detroit's depth of talent.

Rejuvenated Daniel Cleary scored a career-high 42 points in only 63 games last season. In deeper leagues, he'll have some value on the wing. Same goes for Mikael Samuelsson, who doesn't score a lot, but 40 points with a strong plus-minus may be enough, depending on the league.

For all the firepower Detroit offers up front, they have some of the top defencemen available too.

Nicklas Lidstrom has scored 59 points or more in seven of the past eight seasons and three times in the last five seasons he's recorded a plus-minus of plus-40. He may not be the first defenceman off the board if someone is enamoured with Dion Phaneuf or Zdeno Chara's penalty minutes, but he's the safest pick at the position.

Brian Rafalski had an immediate impact in Detroit, matching his career-best of 55 points, but it may be reasonable to expect the 34-year-old to drop somewhat; if only because it's tough for a player to keep setting new career highs in his mid-30s.

Should Rafalski or Lidstrom slip any, expect the production to be taken over by Niklas Kronwall, who put up 35 points in 65 games last season despite not seeing much power play time. He should only get better, but it would be comforting to see him play 75-plus games for once.

A final blueliner worth consideration is Brad Stuart. Stuart has been an unmitigated bust in the past two seasons, putting up terrible plus-minus numbers in Boston and Los Angeles, but Stuart responded well to his second-pair role in Detroit. He may only be good for 20-30 points, but if he brings a strong plus rating, that should be helpful in deep leagues.

Detroit's goaltending isn't as strong as one might expect from a Stanley Cup favourite, but Chris Osgood should have good fantasy value. If he can handle a heavier workload and still put up similar numbers, Osgood will be right there with the second tier of fantasy goaltenders because of the powerhouse team in front of him.

Ty Conklin figures to have the edge over Jimmy Howard for the backup job as Conklin resurrected his career in Pittsburgh last season. Should anything happen to Osgood, then whoever is next in line will be worth owning.

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