Even if last year's playoff run ended on a disappointing note, the Vancouver Canucks have emerged as contenders in the Western Conference, with a top-tier goaltender, deep defence and some quality forwards. The production by those forwards will determine if the Canucks are a good or great fantasy squad this season.
The Sedin Twins, Daniel and Henrik lead the way, as they have for the last four seasons. Henrik Sedin, the playmaker, has 314 points and is plus-58 in those four years and set career-highs last year with 22 goals and 82 points.
Daniel Sedin, the finisher, has 311 points and is plus-56 over the last four seasons, and his 31 goals and 82 points last year represented the second-highest marks of his career.
Additionally, the twins are durable, having combined to miss 24 games in eight seasons.
After the Sedins, it gets a little dicey, so the Canucks need some of these players to produce.
Ryan Kesler has improved steadily and the 25-year-old is coming off a season in which he scored 26 goals and 59 points, both career highs. While his offensive ceiling may not to be too far up, another season like last year would be a fine accomplishment.
34-year-old Pavol Demitra misses time every year, not playing more than 71 games in any of the last five seasons, and he's starting this season on the shelf, but he's still a decent producer when in the lineup. With point totals in the mid-50s the last two seasons, Demitra will have some fantasy appeal, but possibly only for those in deeper leagues right now.
Often, a player's value will be directly tied to his linemates and there may not be any better example than that of Alex Burrows, who was good playing with Ryan Kesler, but was outstanding once he joined the Sedins. Burrows was still an agitator, recording 150 penalty minutes, played well defensively, with a plus-23, and then added a career-high 28 goals and 51 points. If he's with the twins, then Burrows is a must-own player.
While signing Mikael Samuelsson from Detroit prompted dreams of Samuelsson skating alongside the Sedins and putting up huge numbers, it's worth noting that Samuelsson has never topped 45 points in an NHL season, so it seems unlikely that, at 32, he will have a huge breakout campaign. Something between 40 and 50 points seems likely.
The Canucks also boast a couple of intriguing rookies for your late-round consideration. Cody Hodgson dominated junior hockey last season and will have a legitimate chance to be in the Calder Trophy mix and be the top rookie scorer if he's the Canucks' second-line centre.
Perhaps more of a sleeper rookie, is Russian winger Sergei Shirokov, a 23-year-old who led CSKA Moscow of the KHL with 41 points in 56 games last season. Shirokov has impressed in camp and could at least start the season with Vancouver while the Canucks wait for Demitra to get healthy.
Vancouver made several moves in the offseason to bolster their blueline and it is somewhat challenging to try and determine who will be the most valuable fantasy options.
Rough-and-tumble Kevin Bieksa may be the safest bet because he can put up points (over 40 in two of the last three seasons) and penalty minutes (over 90 in each of the last three years).
40-year-old Mathieu Schneider could be slowed early in the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery but, aside from an uninspiring stint with the Thrashers last year, Schneider has been tremendously productive late in his career. Once he's healthy, he'll get power play time and the points will come.
Alexander Edler will also warrant consideration after scoring a career-best 37 points last season. The 23-year-old has improved steadily early in his career and is adding more to his offensive repertoire as his confidence grows.
Though injury limited him to 54 games last year, his lowest season total since 2000-2001, Roberto Luongo may be the premier fantasy goaltender right now, posting at least 33 wins in four straight seasons -- including nine shutouts in 54 games last season -- and his goals against and save percentage numbers have been consistently strong in Vancouver.
|Daniel Sedin||Henrik Sedin||Alex Burrows|
|Pavol Demitra||Cody Hodgson||Ryan Kesler|
|Mason Raymond||Kyle Wellwood||Mikael Samuelsson|
|Darcy Hordichuk||Ryan Johnson||Steve Bernier|
|Jannik Hansen||Sergei Shirokov||Rick Rypien|