The three most puzzling men in fantasy hockey

Bruins C David Krejci, whom you can probably draft in Round 11, will give you comparable production to Sharks C Joe Thornton, likely a second-round fantasy pick.

Bruins C David Krejci, whom you can probably draft in Round 11, will give you comparable production to Sharks C Joe Thornton, likely a second-round fantasy pick.

The season is two weeks away; with it, like clockwork, arrives reams of fantasy hockey content. There’s the Big Board from Matt Romig of Yahoo! Sports. There’s a 10-team mock draft among experts at ESPN.com. Over at Fantasy Hockey Scouts, not only is there a great top-ten list of projected point scorers for the 2009-10 season, there’s also a hilarious post ripping the fantasy hockey ratings of the 30-year-old Worldwide Leader.

Here are three players the experts have radically divergent opinions about:

1. Mike Knuble, RW, Washington Capitals. He is 37 years old; he has never surpassed 65 points in a season; but he is No. 36 in ESPN.com’s overall rankings; and he went 28th overall in their experts’ mock draft. By contrast, Knuble does not crack the top 50 on Romig’s big board. In the overall Yahoo! rankings, Knuble checks in at No. 94, ranking 24th among right wings.

Why the divergence? It’s a classic “supporting cast” scenario, the type rearing its head in every fantasy sport. Projected to skate alongside LW Alex Ovechkin and C Nicklas Backstrom, Knuble has the chance to amass career highs in all categories, especially power-play points.

The verdict: Yahoo! has it correct. You never want to risk a high draft pick on a player whose stats depend on others. ESPN.com mock drafter Victoria Matiash selected Knuble ahead of fantasy staples such as Sharks G Evgeni Nabokov and Flames D Jay Bouwmeester. That baffles me. To elevate Knuble to the point of drafting him ahead of a No. 1 goalie like Nabokov or a high No. 2 defenseman like Bouwmeester is ludicrous.

2. Chris Osgood, G, Detroit Red Wings. The only circumstance under which I’d draft Osgood is if I’d completely screwed up my draft, positionally, and found myself in Round 15 or later with just one starting goalie. In other words, if I’m desperate for a netminder and my only choice is Osgood or Thrashers G Kari Lehtonen, I’m going with Oz.

How the normally reliable Yahoo! rankings could posit Osgood as their No. 39 overall player — and eighth overall goalie — is puzzling. Osgood’s stats were wretched last season. Even his win total — 26 — only ranked 17th, while his 3.09 GAA and .887 save percentage were costly to anyone who owned him. Yeah, I know he kicked ass the two previous seasons. Still, last year was the fourth time in his career he posted a sub-.900 save percentage. Sorry, I want no part of him — not with all the safer goalies out there.

The verdict: ESPN ranks Osgood as their No. 51 goalie and No. 318 overall player. While that strikes me as extreme, considering Osgood was superb in the postseason (2.01 GAA, .926 %) and he has the chance to start for a team that won 51 games, I prefer ESPN.com’s low ranking to the hyperbole at Yahoo!, which ranks Osgood ahead of stalwarts like Bruins G Tim Thomas and Blue Jackets G Steve Mason.

3. David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins. For some reason, Krejci, who led the entire NHL with a +37 mark, who cracked the top 20 in assists with a whopping 51, is not in anyone’s top 50. ESPN.com has him ranked No. 89 overall, beneath teammate RW Blake Wheeler (No. 80), which makes you wonder if they watched a single Bruins game.

That’s no knock on the gifted Wheeler, but Krejci has the reach of greatness in him. More to the fantasy point, Krejci’s numbers (22, 51, +37 26 PIM, 19 PPP, 146 shots) were comparable to those of Sharks C Joe Thornton (25, 61, +16, 56 PIM, 35 PPP, 139 shots). Yet you can draft Krejci a dozen rounds later. I’m not suggesting Krejci will have a better season than Thornton; but fantasy strategy is all about snagging early-round value with late-round picks.

The verdict: Like ESPN.com, Yahoo! has dropped the puck on Krejci, ranking him No. 80 overall, a mere 20th among centers. That is too low for my money. What it means, however, is that you can probably allocate your early draft picks on a No. 1 center, two goalies, two defensemen, and gaudy wing scorers. Snag Krejci in Round 11 and plug him in as your No. 2 center.

One caveat: Krejci is coming off hip surgery and looks unlikely for the season opener, reports Matt Kalman of ESPNBoston.com and TheBruinsBlog.net.  Before you invest even an 11th-round pick in Krejci, check Matt’s blogs for updates on Krejci’s condition.

photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons

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