Are Eric Staal and Marc Savard first-round fantasy picks next year?

The San Jose Sharks are long gone from the playoffs, but Joltin' Joe is money in the fantasy bank (i.e., the regular season).

The San Jose Sharks are long gone from the playoffs, but Joltin' Joe is still money in the fantasy bank (i.e., the regular season).

As well as they’re playing — and as well as they played in the regular season — I would draft neither Marc Savard nor Eric Staal in Round 1 if my fantasy draft were today.

That’s no knock — both players should be mid second-rounders. But neither center is elite enough to warrant first-round consideration.

Savard (25 goals, 63 assists, +25, 70 PIM, 30 PPP, 213 shots) simply doesn’t get the goals. Outstanding as he is in other categories, even the most diehard Bruins fan could not bet on his outproducing someone like San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton in the future. It happened this season, yes, but will it happen again?

Of course, Thornton will be watching tonight’s game on TSN. But this whole fantasy thing is not about who you’d rather have in real life — it’s about stats, plain and simple. And when it comes to stats, Thornton’s track record trumps Savard’s.

Staal (40 goals, 35 assists, +15, 50 PIM, 24 PPP, 372 shots) is a tougher call. His shots on goal and +/- have increased in each of his five seasons.  He is 24 years old. He has played in 409 of 410 games as a pro. And based on how he has performed in the series with the Bruins — at least in Game 1 through Game 5 — I couldn’t blame you if you wanted him on your team, just for the sake of a man-crush.

No doubt, Staal is a stat monger with upside. But if you conduct a mock draft on a piece of paper, every time you do it, you’ll find 12 guys to pick before you pick Staal:

1. Alex Ovechkin (LW)

2. Evgeni Malkin (C)

3. Sidney Crosby (C)

We can debate the order of these first three; but few would debate they’re the first three.

4. Tim Thomas (G)

5. Niklas Backstrom (G)

6. Roberto Luongo (G)

7. Mike Green (D)

8. Zach Parise (LW)

9. Martin Brodeur (G)

10. Steve Mason (G)

11. Ilya Kovalchuk (LW)

12. Jarome Iginla (RW)

Again, it’s hard to see myself taking Staal ahead of any of the above. The five goalies are elite — barring injuries or unforeseen slumps, any of them could carry you to third place in your league. Green, in sheer fantasy terms, is heads and shoulders above everyone else at his position.

Likewise, the dropoff at LW after Parise and Kovalchuk (and Ovechkin) is significant. You want to roll the dice on Sasha Semin or Henrik Sedin in Round 1, go ahead. With my first round pick, I want guys who’ll score goals or guys who’ll stop goals.

That brings us to Iginla. If you’d rather select Marian Hossa, Semin, Jeff Carter or Pavel Datsyuk — I understand. Iginla, Hossa and Semin are a cut above all the other right wings. Carter and Datsyuk, for their parts, exceeded a point-per-game and — unlike Savard — they were not imbalanced toward assists. Carter scored 46 goals while Datsyuk potted 32.

All told, I’ve listed 16 players. That brings us to the fifth pick of Round 2, 17th overall. It’s here where I’d nab Staal, then Thornton, and then Savard, in that order, adding them to a squad that already had an unassailable No. 1 goalie or an elite goal scorer.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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