|ESPN.com: 2010||[Print without images]|
With the NHL regular and fantasy seasons firmly in the rearview mirror and the San Jose Sharks struggling in the playoffs (oh, relax, they'll be fine), its time to hand out the fantasy hockey hardware. Below is a look at the best of the best from the fantasy season. We are not talking about best value, just straight up best. The first and second team Fantasy All-Pros are the players who racked up the most fantasy value over the course of the season at their respective positions. The ESPN Player Rater tracks the value all season long, and over the course of a long 2009-10 campaign, these are the building blocks that you used as a foundation for your fantasy championship.
While many of the names here come as no surprise, there is quite a bit of turnover from the 2008-09 Fantasy All-Pro teams. Only Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green would have made the same list last season. Consider it another reminder that the only constant in fantasy is the fact that it's forever changing.
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (Average Draft Position: 3.9): Crosby didn't finish in the top spot on the Player Rater, but why shouldn't the co-Rocket Richard Trophy winner get top billing? While he still trails Ovechkin for overall value on the season, Crosby showed a whole new dimension to his game by sharing the NHL lead in goals. That certainly isn't what you drafted him to do, but I don't hear anyone complaining. Whether you get the 50-goal scorer or the 80-assist man next season is neither here nor there; Crosby will provide top value one way or another. He finished the season with 20 points in eight games and has remained just as hot into the postseason. Wayne Gretzky remained at his peak between the ages of 21 and 25, and Crosby is still 22. Could the best be yet to come?
Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals (ADP: 1.1): Despite missing 10 games to injury near the start of the season, Ovechkin finished miles ahead of any competition on the Player Rater thanks to his unbelievable number of shots on goal. The ESPN standard game is right up Ovechkin's alley with both shots on goal and power-play goals as categories. Ovechkin had career lows in both categories, but still paced the league in shots and was top 10 for scoring with the man advantage. Making up the difference for the dip in that production was Ovechkin's career-best plus-45. Given the development of the team around him, that kind of plus/minus rating will be sustainable for Ovechkin in seasons to come.
Dany Heatley, RW, San Jose Sharks (ADP: 27.8): Some had questions about Heatley coming to the Sharks as part of a disgruntled trade request out of Ottawa. He answered all those questions with a signature Heatley season. At the end of the day, a deadly goal scorer like Heatley combined with an elite playmaker like Joe Thornton will always result in the kind of league dominance the Sharks top line displayed this season; with or without Patrick Marleau.
Mike Green, D, Washington Capitals (ADP: 19.1): Green didn't disappoint anyone this season. He was many people's choice as the top defenseman going in and he ended up as the top defenseman coming out. That's a lot more than can be said for Dennis Wideman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester or Cam Barker, just to name a few. Expect more of the same in the future as this offensively-gifted blue-liner continues to be a key cog in the Capitals attack.
Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks (ADP: 70.0): After three straight years of fairly consistent statistics that were good enough to put Keith on the verge of being a top-10 fantasy defensemen, Keith exceeded expectations on the way to a career season. He bested his previous high for assists by 19nd his previous best for shots on goal by 40. If not for a minus-9 rating in March as the Blackhawks struggled with their goaltending, Keith would have surely matched his career marks in almost every standard category.
Ryan Miller, G, Buffalo Sabres (ADP: 111.3): Everyone knew Miller was good, but no one thought he was this good! Not only did he win in front of a team that, on paper, didn't look like a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference, but he won with superb statistics. Miller finished second in goals-against average, second in save percentage and fourth in wins to easily have the most fantasy value among the goaltending ranks. Perhaps as impressive is the fact that he led from start almost to the finish, when Tuukka Rask overtook him in the ratio categories, giving his owners consistency all season.
Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (ADP: 104.3): Matching Crosby's 51 goals and sitting way out in front of the league with 24 power-play goals, Stamkos had quite the sophomore campaign. He wasn't a high draft pick according to his ADP, but Stamkos was on a lot of people's sleeper lists. It is a bit concerning to note that almost half his points came on the power play, as such production depends on his team's effectiveness on the man advantage. Still, Stamkos has staked his territory as an elite player going forward. I do like to point out that John Tavares finished this season with better numbers than Stamkos did in his rookie campaign and the two have similar pedigrees. Keep that tidbit in mind for next season.
Alexander Semin, LW, Washington Capitals (ADP: 32.5): The Russian players for the Capitals sweep the All-Pro awards at left wing. While Semin did play a lot of right wing this season, he spent the majority of his time at even strength on the port side on the team's second line. That makes Semin the only addition to the All-Pro team who wasn't primarily a first-line player. A spotty health record seems to be behind Semin and even though he isn't always on the ice with the Capitals' best players, he can hold his own (and it's not like he doesn't visit with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Green on the power play).
Marian Gaborik, RW, New York Rangers (ADP: 47.8)" A personal favourite sleeper before the season, Gaborik fit right in on Broadway. In his first season away from Minnesota, Gabby managed to avoid the one factor that can hold him back from being elite: injuries. He can never be a top pick in fantasy drafts because of the risk he will once again suffer through a groin pull, but this is what you get from Gaborik if you take the chance and it pays off.
Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings (ADP: 147.0): Defensemen are supposed to take a little bit longer to develop at the NHL level. Doughty looked solid as an 18-year-old in his rookie year, but who knew his sophomore season was all he needed to make the jump to being a top five defenseman? Concerns over his plus/minus proved completely unfounded as the young Kings came together and turned into a winning team. With some good young talent still in the pipeline and the continued development of the team, Doughty has some very good years ahead of him in the short and long term.
Chris Pronger, D, Philadelphia Flyers (ADP: 47.8): Pronger is a consistent rock on the blue line wherever he goes, but his truly elite seasons always come when his plus/minus is strong. He seems to have found a good home with the Flyers and even with their season-long goaltending troubles, Pronger managed a plus-22. Matthew Carle and his ability to move the puck appears to be the perfect complement to Pronger's skill set, while his big shot on the power play is easily set up by Kimmo Timonen's crisp passing. Pronger remains money in the bank as a top pick.
Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins (ADP: 203.5): Well & We suspected a Boston Bruins goaltender would lead the league in goals-against average and save percentage, we just thought it would be the other guy. I believe you have to go back to Olaf Kolzig taking away the starting job from Jim Carey for the 1996-97 Washington Capitals to find a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender who was usurped the very next season the way Tim Thomas was by Rask. Easily the best value pick in the draft, Rask proved why handcuffing even the best goaltender is never a bad idea. With Thomas on contract for big money for another three seasons, we'll have to keep a close eye on how this situation develops for next season. While a platoon can be effective for the NHL team, it can be a nightmare for fantasy owners.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.