Fantasy Puck Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Scott Cullen

9/28/2009 11:22:41 AM

Perennial powers, the Detroit Red Wings have gone through some roster turnover this summer, yet there seems little doubt that they will once again be among the teams challenging for the Stanley Cup. The additional bonus, for fantasy owners, is that the Red Wings' best players provide not only points, but a consistently strong plus-minus rating.

Leading the way for the Wings is Pavel Datsyuk, the supremely skilled centre who has developed an all-around game that is second-to-none. Over the last four seasons, Datsyuk has tallied 368 points (fourth highest in the league), while posting a league-best plus-137 rating.

Datsyuk's running mate, even if they are not spending as much time on the same line, has been Henrik Zetterberg, another well-rounded performer. Zetterberg's wonky back makes him a riskier selection, but 318 points and a plus-98 rating over the last four years is quality production.

The rest of the supporting cast up front is a step down from those two, though Johan Franzen may be the one who is closest. Franzen put up a career-high 34 goals and 59 points in 71 games last season and "Mule" has shown soft hands for a guy his size. Playing on Datsyuk's wing only enhances his value.

Rookie winger Ville Leino may hold some upside, after scoring five goals and nine points in 13 games with the Wings last season. Leino was a scoring star in Finland and contributed 46 points in 57 games in his first AHL season. With a regular role in Detroit, he should be good for at least 20 goals.

A former fantasy stud and now annual fantasy wildcard, Todd Bertuzzi has struggled over the last three seasons, never playing more than 68 games, or scoring more than last year's 44 points. If Bertuzzi can stay healthy and stick on Zetterberg's wing, the 34-year-old may still possess some fantasy value particularly because he still picks up some penalty minutes.

At the lower end of the scoring spectrum, the Wings have Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Jason Williams, none of whom figure to be attractive draft-day options, but any of them could very well generate interest at times throughout the season if they get consistent playing time with Datsyuk or Zetterberg or find more power play action.

The Wings boast a deep and talented defence corps, with the top three as good as any when it comes to productivity.

Nicklas Lidstrom is a model of consistency, scoring at least 55 points in 12 of the last 13 seasons, while posting a plus-19 rating or better in each of the last six seasons. Add in at least 30 power play points in 11 of the last 13 seasons and that reliability makes Lidstrom the best fantasy defenceman available.

Brian Rafalski has only gotten better in his mid-30s, hitting a career-high with 59 points last season. So long as he's playing a prominent role on the Detroit power play, Rafalski will be one of the better defencemen for fantasy purposes, particularly among those who don't contribute penalty minutes.

While Lidstrom and Rafalski both figure to be closer to the end of their careers, Niklas Kronwall is on the way up, with his productivity improving every year and the 28-year-old hit a career-high with 51 points (22 on the power play) last season, as he played more than 70 games for the first time in his career.

Goaltending was a question mark for the Red Wings last year, as Chris Osgood's 3.09 goals against average and .887 save percentage represented the worst marks of his career. Osgood recovered in the postseason, so he may be able to put up another strong season -- especially given the team in front of him -- but, if not, it could be time for rookie Jimmy Howard to get an opportunity.