Fantasy Friday: Breakout Candidates and Fantasy Duds

As of tomorrow, the NHL will officially be back in action. Which means, subsequently, that fantasy hockey is back too! So in honor of fantasy hockey set to begin again, here are five players poised for big seasons and five players who could see significant drops in fantasy value.

Breakout Candidates:

Mikko Koivu: As one of the Minnesota Wild’s only consistent offensive weapons for the past few seasons, Koivu (pictured) has flown under the radar so to speak while quietly racking up points. Last season, Koivu tallied 44 points in 55 games. He had 62 in 71 games the season before, and 71 in an 80-game season the year before that. Despite these steady numbers, Koivu is only owned in 61 percent of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues. Evidently the other 39 percent don’t know that he will be centering Zach Parise, who scored 31 goals last season, and Dany Heatley, a former 50-goal scorer, on the top line this season.fantasy_g_mkoivu_300

Jack Johnson: It’s gotta sting a little when you get traded at the trade deadline and your former team goes on to win the Stanley Cup without you. But that’s exactly what happened last season when Johnson was traded by the Los Angeles Kings to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter. And you know what? The trade seemed to benefit Johnson, who was posting just about 0.4 points per game with LA, and then tallied 14 points in 21 games for 0.67 points per game average. He was also a minus-12 with LA and turned this around with Columbus to finish plus-5. Johnson will likely see time on the power play and be counted on as a top contributor from the blue line. Expect big things.

Tuukka Rask: With Tim Thomas making it official that he will continue his sabbatical, Rask now owns the pipes in Boston. Rask had a good season last year, posting 11 wins in 22 starts with a 2.05 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. Even better for Rask, and fantasy owners, the Bruins finished sixth in the league last year in goals allowed per game and finished third in goals scored per game. With Boston icing mostly the same lineup as last season, expect big things from the Bruins and from Rask.

Eric Tangradi/Tyler Kennedy/Dustin Jeffrey: These three players are all candidates to play on the Pittsburgh’s second line alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, who scored a combined 90 goals last season. Nothing is set in stone yet, but any one of these players could see significant time with Malkin and Neal this season. Now it’s just a matter of coach Dan Bylsma figuring out who the best fit is for that line. Keep a close eye on this situation throughout the season, although it will likely rotate like a ferris wheel.

Niklas Kronwall: Known for several seasons as “the other Nik,” now the Red Wings defenseman is the only Nik after former captain Nicklas Lidstrom decided to hang up the skates last summer. Known more as a punishing hitter, Kronwall posted 15 goals and 21 points last season from the blue line. While nobody can replace a Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings are sure hoping that Kronwall is ready to at least take over his responsibilities and be a leader on the blue line. He will see plenty of ice time in every situation this season, including on the power play.

Fantasy Duds:

Jaromir Jagr: No offense to center Derek Roy, but he’s no Claude Giroux, and Jagr lucked out last season by spending most of his time playing alongside Giroux for the Flyers. Now with the Dallas Stars and minus Giroux, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jagr nose dive this season.

Shea Weber: We’ve seen it time and time again, big contracts are awarded and then players don’t live up to them. Let’s not forget that Nashville lost Ryan Suter in the offseason, who was Weber’s defensive partner and largely considered the better defenseman of the two. Can Weber shoulder the load by himself or will the weight of his heft new contract bring him down?

Marion Gaborik: It’s not so much that Gaborik will fail to reach the offensive heights he exhibited last season when he scored 41 goals and added 35 assists while playing in a full 82-game season for the first time in his career, it’s just that he won’t play the full season. As injury-prone as they come, Gaborik is due for a significant injury that keeps him out for a large portion of the season.

Martin Havlat: Much like Gaborik, Havlat is incredibly injury-prone and only played in 39 games last season. Even if Havlat manages to stay healthy, he could wind up playing elsewhere by the end of the season as the Sharks continue their perennial parade of players in an attempt to build a winner.

Evgeni Nabokov: Nabokov had a fairly successful season last year (by Islanders standards) with 19 wins, a 2.55 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. But at 37-years-old, Nabokov may not have what it takes to compete at a high level in a condensed, lockout-shortened season. Granted, he does play for the Islanders after all, so expectations shouldn’t be high to begin with. But we could see his play falter later in the season.

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