While the New York Rangers have a couple of elite fantasy options, the team's improved depth could be the difference between last year's finish out of the playoffs and a possible playoff berth this season.
There are few players in the league as dangerous as Marian Gaborik, who tied a career-high with 42 goals and set a career mark with 86 points last season.
Gaborik has played more than 65 games twice in the last six seasons, but he's established that, when healthy, he's an elite performer who has added value to his scoring totals by registering five double-digit plus ratings in the last seven seasons.
Newcomer Alexander Frolov ought to be appreciative of a fresh start after his ice time (particularly on the power play) declined in Los Angeles in recent seasons.
Frolov has topped 50 points in five straight season and is a five-time 20-goal scorer, but there's never been any question about his skill level, more about whether he's determined and focused enough to do it consistently.
If Frolov spends the season with Gaborik, though, that could be the kind of pairing that invigorates him and has him back in the 60-70 point range.
Brandon Dubinsky came up as a centre, but may be spending more time on left wing, which suits his style of play, but would also enhance his value if he holds left wing designation in fantasy.
Despite playing only 69 games, Dubinsky set career-highs with 20 goals and 44 points last season and he plays with enough edge (247 PIM in 239 career games), that he'd be a valuable commodity as a winger; more of a depth option at centre.
In a bit of role reversal, Vaclav Prospal ends up spending quite a bit of time at centre, but generally has left wing eligibility. The 35-year-old has made a career of going up-and-down in his point totals -- a trend that has continued since 2001-2002 -- but the bad news is that this is slated to be a down year after he scored 58 points in 2009-2010.
However, if Prospal is going to spend the majority of his time playing with Gaborik, then he's likely to remain a quality point producer.
Rambunctious winger Sean Avery seemed like a muted version of himself last year, registering 160 penalty minutes (and 31 points) in 69 games.
When he's on, Avery is a valuable fantasy performer because he scores enough to justify his spot, then acts as a category buster in the penalty minute department, but he hasn't appeared as fiery under coach John Tortorella and the Rangers' depth could limit his opportunities.
Hard-driving winger Ryan Callahan has 41 goals over the last two years, but only 77 points, so he sits on the edge of fantasy consideration. In deep leagues, or those that value shots on goal (he has 2.79 per game over the last two seasons), Callahan is more valuable.
The Rangers have a number of sleeper options -- from second-year centre Artem Anisimov, who scored 81 points in the AHL two years ago, to tiny Norwegian rookie Mats Zuccarello-Aasen who had 64 points in 55 games with Modo of the Swedish Elite League last year, to Todd White, who is one year removed from scoring 73 points with the Thrashers.
Rookie Derek Stepan could be intriguing as well, coming off a sophomore season at Wisconsin in which he scored 54 points in 41 games and captained USA's gold-medal-winning National Junior Team. All have upside, but likely have value in very deep leagues at this stage.
Michael Del Zotto emerged as a productive rookie, scoring 37 points and quarterbacking the power play, but his minus-20 rating posed a problem for fantasy owners. If he can stabilize his plus-minus, Del Zotto remains the best candidate to put up points on the Blueshirts' blueline.
Perhaps the most valuable Ranger, in real and fantasy terms, is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
He's played more than 70 games for four straight seasons and, while that total could drop some with Martin Biron in the fold, if Lundqvist matches his career averages of .918 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average, then he's likely to be among the top handful at the position.
|Alexander Frolov||Vaclav Prospal||Marian Gaborik|
|Brandon Dubinsky||Chris Drury||Ryan Callahan|
|Sean Avery||Artem Anisimov||Todd White|
|Derek Boogaard||Erik Christensen||Brandon Prust|
|Mats Zuccarello-Aasen||Derek Stepan||Tim Kennedy|
|Marc Staal||Dan Girardi|
|Michael Del Zotto||Michal Rozsival|
|Steve Eminger||Matt Gilroy|
|Wade Redden||Ryan McDonagh|