As you evaluate your draft list for the upcoming season, pay special note to a number of players who carry a bit of a high-risk, high-reward aspect. While you don’t want to necessarily avoid drafting them, you definitely want to limit the number of these guys that wind up on your roster. It’s ok to roll the dice on Marian Gaborik in round 3, as long as your first 2 picks weren’t equally risky. Don’t sprinkle more than 1 or 2 of these players in through the early rounds.
Marian Gaborik – Gaborik is the definition of a gamble player. Could be worth a first round pick, could be worth passing on altogether. Chances are he’s due for a great season. Might even crack 50 goals for the first time.
Simon Gagne – Gagne seems to be fully recovered from his concussion problems, but those things have a way of coming back. Particularly for Flyers forwards. If he stays injury free, he’s a goal scoring machine on a very talented Flyers roster. Gagne could easily return to being a 40 goal man in 09.
Martin Havlat – Minnesota replaced one talented, injury prone forward with another. Havlat is likely to be passed over by many GM’s, but he’s worth consideration early on. He’ll give you a point a game. It’s just a matter of how many games that will be. He’s the only offensive threat in Minnesota this season, so he may not deliver as well.
Olli Jokinen – Jokinen is as unpredictable as they come, but if goalscoring is something you like on your roster, he’s still worthy of a mid-round pick. Even with a major dip in points the last 2 seasons, he still is averaging over 30 goals a season. A full season in Calgary may settle him back into a 70-80 point pace. Don’t blow him off just yet.
Anze Kopitar – Kopitar was one of the biggest disappoints in 2009. After much promise and fanfare in his first 2 seasons, he slipped back down to 66 points. LA still hasn’t shown that they’re worthy of fantasy respect, so it’s hard to get overly excited. Then again, don’t be shocked if he comes out storming and tops 80 points this year.
Vincent Lecavalier – For a guy with his reputation, his point totals over his career are extremely erratic. You may be drafting a top 5 scorer, or you may be wasting a precious early pick on a 60 point scorer. I say he’s worth the risk. Don’t be suprised to see him top 90 points in 2009.
Bryan McCabe – McCabe appeared to be nearing the end in 2007, but he bounced back in a big way with 15 goals last season. With Bouwmeester leaving town, the show belongs to McCabe. He could rocket back up the leaderboard in ’09. Then again, we could see him slide out of sight once again. Take your chance.
Scott Niedermayer – Much like Lidstrom, this superstar has peaked and is about to start to see a decline in his production. It should be a gradual fall, so don’t write him off yet. But don’t bank on him approaching 60 points again in his career.
Joni Pitkanen – Pitkanen displays flashes of brilliance one game, then disappears the next. He has the potential to rise to a top 10 defensemen in the league. He is just as likely not get drafted. Big time risk/reward. We say go for it this season. He seems comfortable in Carolina, and ought to net at least 40 points this season.
Mark Streit – It’s hard to fairly rank Streit as a defenseman, since he plays a good many games as a forward. As the Islanders young forwards start to come into their own, expect Streit to settle back into the defense position full time. Expect his numbers to slip a bit when that happens. Still, Streit is probably good for 50 or so points in the upcoming season.
Ray Emery – It’s impossible to know what to expect from Emery this year. He did well statistically in his last NHL season, but that’s not what concerns GMs. Philly is strong and getting better, so whoever earns the #1 job for the Flyers will be worth the pick. Problem is, there hasn’t been an undisputed #1 goalie in Philly for a decade. Why not Emery?
Marc-Andre Fleury – Amazing potential and skill. Amazingly inconsistent. The Penguins have never been built to favor good goalie stats, but Fleury has hung in there anyway. Don’t get too excited about his playoff performance. He still has to face a few breakaways every night in the regular season.
Jaroslav Halak – Halak was the better goalie in Montreal last season, but Price will be given the job to lose again come fall. Nonetheless, Halak could potentially claim the job if Price struggles. For now, don’t get too excited about him come draft time.
Chris Osgood – It’s tough to know what to do with this guy. Is he the all-star, Hall-of-Fame goalie of the playoffs, or the guy who has to split time with a different backup every season. He hasn’t played more than 46 games in the last 5 seasons, so don’t count on him as your #1.
Carey Price – Price is a good goalie, despite the disaster of 2009. However, Montreal is not a good team. Until this mess gets straightened out, don’t rush into drafting Price. Take a chance on him late in the draft if he’s available; otherwise, stick with something a little safer.