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Fantasy Puck Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

Scott Cullen
9/30/2010 11:50:32 AM
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While the Chicago Blackhawks did some serious cutting from their championship roster this summer, it's important to note that the core of the team remains intact and that means there are plenty of strong fantasy options available.

2009-2010 was a rather fantastic season for Patrick Kane, the 21-year-old who scored a career-high 88 points in the regular season and capped it off with the Cup-winner in overtime of Game Six. Since the Blackhawks spent much of the summer shedding depth players from their championship team, Chicago will have to lean on Kane (and other top players) even more this season.

A bit of a slow starter for the last two years, Jonathan Toews finished with 68 points last season, down a point from the year before, and has been a double-digit plus in all three of his NHL seasons. He's an even better all-around player than fantasy performer, but 70-plus points and a double-digit plus is not to be taken for granted.

Recovery from shoulder surgery cost Marian Hossa 25 games at the start of the season, but he still produced 51 points in 57 games. Combined with his plus-51 rating over the last two seasons, and the possibility of playing closer to a full season this year and Hossa should once again rank among the top wingers for fantasy.

Versatile forward Patrick Sharp is naturally more valuable with wing eligibility, but there's a lot to like from a guy with three straight seasons with at least 25 goals, coming off a career-high 66 points last season. Mix in plus-53 over the last three seasons and Sharp is another high-end fantasy option.

Power forward Troy Brouwer lacks speed, but willingly goes to the hard areas to score and could find himself in a good position, on the wing with very talented players on one of Chicago's scoring lines. Brouwer scored 22 goals and 40 points last season and with time on the power play, he could at least match that.

In deep leagues, it will be worth giving David Bolland a look. Coming off back surgery last year, he managed just 16 points in 39 games, but the year before he tallied 47 points and was plus-19 and scored 16 points in 22 playoff games last year, so if he's healthy, Bolland could be a nice sleeper.

Offseason roster turnover has created openings in Chicago, which means wildcard options. Any of Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell, Jeremy Morin, Kyle Beach, Jack Skille or Tomas Kopecky could find themselves in a plum position, on the wing of a scoring line, but it's really a roll of the dice with any of them given their lack of track record.

Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith may have a hard time duplicating his career-high 69 points, even though his points have increased every year he's been in the league, but Keith has also been better than plus-20 for three straight seasons, so he ranks among the top few on the blueline.

Brian Campbell's offensive impact has decreased in Chicago -- not necessarily surprising when he got a minus-and-a-half less per game on the power play last year -- and last year was the first year since the lockout that he'd put up fewer than 40 points and that only happened because he missed the last 14 games of the season after getting run by Alexander Ovechkin.

40-plus points and a solid plus-minus makes Campbell valuable, even if his penalty minute totals are really low as defensemen go.

Over the last two playoff seasons, Brent Seabrook has tallied 23 points in 39 games, so he has the offensive chops to contribute, but he's never scored more than 32 points in a regular season, which makes him a late-round selection even in deep leagues. Perhaps the fact that he's a double-digit plus in three straight seasons swings the balance in favour of taking him.

After being bumped as the starter in Dallas, Marty Turco found a soft landing spot with the Blackhawks. While Turco's performance in recent years has been up and down, he did have an above average .913 save percentage with the Stars last year and that was behind a subpar Stars defense, so he could have a big year with a better Blackhawks team in front of him.

It's worth watching, though, that if Turco can't establish himself as a consistent starter, Corey Crawford (who does have a .915 save percentage in eight career NHL games) may have a shot to get into more games than initially expected.

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




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