SUN Hockey Pool

Poolies face many questions

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

As if it wasn't hard enough choosing between Martin Havlat and Martin St. Louis in your hockey pool, suddenly the name Ryan Malone starts dancing in your head.

Funny, considering you'd never heard of Malone until a week ago when he started skating alongside Mario Lemieux and Ziggy Palffy in Pittsburgh.

But how long will he stay there? Is it worth taking a shot at a youngster with huge upside when the Ryan you could take is a more established, consistent model named Smyth.

Whether your pool is held over lunch in the company boardroom or it's a 10-hour affair in a pal's basement, one of the keys to success is finding out the stories behind a player's numbers.

Who did he play with last year? Who might he play with this year? How did he do in pre-season? Is he healthy? Will he stay that way? The answers will help dictate your strategy draft day.

Take a chance on a highly-touted youngster too early and be prepared for a season of humbling emails from your competitors. On the flip side, discover an unknown gem and the draft day laughter could soon pay off in the form of prize money.

Few argue the point that Mario Lemieux could chalk up more than 120 points this year given the snipers he's surrounded by. However, many experienced poolsters will make a wide berth around The Magnificent One knowing he turns 40 opening night and he's long been plagued by injuries. Same goes for Peter Forsberg, who would likely have won the scoring title the last four or five years had he stayed healthy. Those two Pennsylvania residents could indeed finish 1-2 in scoring this year but will more likely finish with fewer than 82 games between them.

Speaking of line combos, Sidney Crosby currently resides on a line with Mark Recchi and John LeClair, which should resurrect interest and value in both veterans' stocks. Flyers rookie Jeff Carter has been parked alongside Forsberg and Simon Gagne all fall while rookie Brandon Bochenski is lighting it up next to Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley in Ottawa. How long these youngsters will stay there depends on their development.

Hitmen hotshot Ryan Getzlaf is playing alongside the country's top junior player of 2004-05, Corey Perry, in Anaheim and the team plays a much more open style now that Randy Carlyle is the Ducks' coach.

Ilya Kovalchuk should put up huge numbers this year, which won't help you because he's playing for Mytishi Khimik in Russia.

Devils stud Patrik Elias will miss at least the first 10 games due to Hepatitis A, which calls into question whether he'll return to form at all this year.

As for the top point-getter, no one has more points over past three seasons than Markus Naslund and he'll be reunited with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. However, Jarome Iginla is with the best linemates he has ever had with Tony Amonte and Daymond Langkow. Heatley's lined up alongside studs, as is Palffy, Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier.


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