While annual playoff disappointments leave the San Jose Sharks as a team facing a lot of pressure, consistent regular season success makes Sharks players a top fantasy option once again and the addition of Dany Heatley brings additional excitement to the top line and the power play.
Following a down season in Ottawa, Heatley could use a fresh start in San Jose and he'll be in a prime position, skating with elite setup man Joe Thornton. Even in a down year, Heatley finished with 39 goals, so if he's rejuvenated by this move, he could very well challenge 50 goals -- a mark he's hit twice in his NHL career.
Along with the goals and points, Heatley puts up about a penalty minute per game and, prior to last season's minus-11 (a number that will be hard to achieve with the Sharks this season), had been at least a plus-29 for three straight seasons. All that makes him worthy of a first-round fantasy pick.
The arrival of Heatley certainly doesn't hurt Thornton, whose 61 assists and 86 points last year represented his lowest total since the lockout. To his credit, in four seasons with the Sharks, Thornton has also been a double-digit plus every year while putting up at least 35 power play points, so if he hangs around until late first or early second round, he's still too good to pass up at that point.
Starting the season with the dynamic duo is Devin Setoguchi, a 22-year-old who broke through with a 65-point season in 2008-2009. If he sticks with Heatley and Thornton all year, Setoguchi can even improve on those numbers.
While Patrick Marleau might figure to be the big loser due to Heatley's arrival, it needs to be noted that San Jose's second line was one of the better lines in all of hockey last year so, while Joe Pavelski won't be giving Marleau the same quality and quantity feeds that he was used to getting from Thornton, there will be plenty of scoring chances and Marleau should still see power play time.
Maybe he doesn't match last year's career high of 38 goals, but Marleau will still be a solid offensive producer in the final year of his contract.
Joe Pavelski continues to improve and his 59 points last year was certainly a respectable total, bolstered by an impressive 23 points on the power play. The 25-year-old should be entering his prime now and will play a strong complementary role for the Sharks.
Big Ryane Clowe adds some bite to the Sharks' top six forwards, playing a rugged game while displaying good hands around the net. Clowe broke through with 22 goals and 52 points last year and could be that productive again, while possibly adding more than the 51 penalty minutes he finished with in 2008-2009.
Veteran blueliner Dan Boyle enjoyed a bounceback season, scoring 57 points and 32 on the power play -- the second-best marks of his career -- in his first year with San Jose. He'll anchor the Sharks's power play once again and, based on offensive production, will be one of the better defensive options available.
Though he will turn 40 this season, Rob Blake can't be ignored after he put up 45 points, a double-digit plus rating and more than 100 penalty minutes; the first time since 1999-2000 that he has accomplished that statistical feat. Maybe it's not fair to expect that kind of year from Blake again, but even with some anticipated decline, he'll have value in any league.
As Blake slows down, the Sharks can look to 22-year-old Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who plays such a steady game for one so young. Vlasic had 36 points and a plus-15 rating last season, showing his ability to contribute offensively, and those numbers should get even better as he matures.
With 87 wins over the last two seasons, Evgeni Nabokov ranks among the very best goaltenders. Sure, his .910 save percentage in that time isn't quite at the level of other elite puckstoppers, but the overall package that Nabokov provides, which includes a solid hold on the starting job for a top contender as he plays out the final year of his current contract, makes him valuable in fantasy circles.