The must-haves in your 2013 fantasy team hockey pool

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2013

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

The first week of the NHL season is underway, and that means our fantasy teams are gearing to go. After listening to the experts and analyzing the rosters, we step back and await the results.

For those who chose the Penguin’s captain, Sidney Crosby, this year in the first round— I’ll say congratulations. But I’m going with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning as my top centre. After all, the 22-year-old was the first player to score 60 goals in a season since Alexander Ovechkin did in 2007–2008. His individual success had been overshadowed by his team’s failure, but playing alongside Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will always guarantee production from the young sniper.

Now, I might not have selected Crosby, but I did pick up his Russian counter-part and last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin. With the absence of the captain last season, Malkin had the best year of his career, stepping up in every aspect of the game. Finishing with 109 points, the most in the league, the man teammates and fans refer to as “Geno” will make a big impact, regardless of Crosby’s condition.

Although his stock has decreased immensely this year, Ovechkin is still a great pick, and cheaper than ever. With 40 points in 31 games in the KHL this season, Ovechkin would be on route to a 100-point year should the games and stats be combined. That would make it his first triple digit season since 2009–2010. He is still a phenomenal player and I wouldn’t be surprised if he elevates his performance this year to prove he is still in the same class as Malkin and Crosby.

On defense there was no hesitation, I took Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. With 78 points in 2011–2012, nobody expects the 22 year-old Swede to replicate the dream season. But with a seven-year contract and a Norris trophy, expectations are higher.

I could have chosen Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara as my second top line defenseman, but instead I went back to the Penguins and selected Kris Letang. Often flying under the radar on the team, Letang is one of the leagues most consistent D-men. With a plus/minus rating of +26 in six NHL seasons, Letang is reliable in all big game situations, including shootouts.

Finally, my number one goalie will be none other than Vancouver Canucks’ Cory Schneider. Regardless of Roberto Luongo’s situation, pressure is high for Schneider. Fortunately his first year as a starter is in a shortened season. With a total of 68 games in the NHL, the season will still have a familiar backup feel for Schneider.

As for some dark horses, on offense I chose Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson, and Edmonton’s Magnus Paajarvi. On defense I picked up, Detroit’s Kyle Quincey and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. As for my backup goalie I went with Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals.

That is my team for this year. I’m sure by February I’ll be regretting most of my picks. But until then, best of luck and hockey pool responsibly.

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