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Cullen: Ducks provide top tier talent

Scott Cullen

9/3/2011 9:35:41 AM

Few teams have the top-end talent that the Anaheim Ducks possess, which makes them one of the more appealing teams for fantasy purposes.

Having the reigning MVP, Corey Perry, is a great way to start and Perry has to be considered a high first-round pick in most leagues, not only because he's averaged better than a point-per-game over the last three seasons, but Perry's agitating style has resulted in more than 100 penalty minutes for four straight seasons. Getting that kind of production from a winger is rare and makes Perry extremely valuable.

Perry has been riding shotgun with Ryan Getzlaf ever since the duo arrived in the league in 2005, and Getzlaf is similarly valuable, often playing with an edge too, but Getzlaf's recent injury history (missing 31 games over the last two seasons) brings his value down some. He's still worth a late first-round pick, because his production could be outstanding if he plays close to a full season.

Though the Ducks have occasionally given Matt Beleskey a turn on the top line, Bobby Ryan is the third member of what might be the league's best line. Ryan's point total has increased each year he's been in the league and is one of nine players to score at least 30 goals in each of the last three seasons. If Ryan's career ascent continues, particularly if he was to receive more power play time, then Ryan figures to close the gap on his elite-level linemates.

Perhaps the biggest determination of Ryan's value this year will be the status of Teemu Selanne. The Finnish Flash had an epic season in 2010-2011, scoring 80 points in 73 games as a 40-year-old. Selanne hasn't confirmed that he's returning, but as a 41-year-old dealing with knee troubles, it would be asking a lot for him to duplicate his numbers from last season. At this stage of his career, it makes sense to be conservative when drafting Selanne.

The other senior citizen on the Ducks roster, defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky, merely led all defencemen with 68 points last season. Now 35, Visnovsky may not set another career high in points, but quarterbacking the Ducks' first power play unit is a terrific position in which to put up points.

Goaltender Jonas Hiller could provide excellent value, if he can stay healthy for the entire season; his 2010-2011 season ended early thanks to a bout with vertigo. Hiller has a .921 save percentage in his career, so performing to that level over, say, 60 games should bring wins and a solid goals against average as well.

After an impressive rookie season, during which he scored 40 points, defenceman Cam Fowler is fair to consider a rising star as a puck-moving defenceman, but he obviously needs to improve on last year's minus-25 rating in order to make a significant positive impact.

For deeper leagues, a couple of Ducks veterans might be able to help, at least in short spurts. Saku Koivu's value could be tied significantly to Selanne's presence, but he played 19:08 per game last season, his most since the lockout.

Defenceman Kurtis Foster has only surpassed 30 points in a season once in his career and he figures to be a second unit power play performer in Anaheim, but has a booming shot from the point that could make him a bit of a sleeper. Toni Lydman proved to have some surprise value last season, posting a career-best plus-32, but he's not likely to match that again.

It might also be worth keeping an eye on Andrew Cogliano. He had 35 points and a minus-12 rating in Edmonton last year, which isn't nearly good enough to warrant consideration in most fantasy leagues, but he's never missed a game and may benefit from his change of scenery.

Prospect Emerson Etem could still return to junior, but he might be able to earn a spot too, after scoring 55 goals in 80 WHL games (regular season and playoffs) last season. Again, if Selanne surprises and doesn't return, that might create an opening.

With good health and a full roster, though, the Ducks should be a team capable of earning a playoff berth in the Western Conference and a playoff team that has the Ducks' high-end talent is one to pay close attention to early on draft day.

(*Note: For the Ducks' depth chart, I've made the assumption that Selanne will play.)

Depth Chart - Anaheim Ducks

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