SUN Hockey Pool

Jump into the pool

MIKE BELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:17 PM ET

Pick with your head, not your heart, the experts say, when offering advice to poolie pickers.

With all due respect, screw the experts and combine the two -- research and sentimentality.

This year's a good year to do it, as well, with the parity in the new NHL and the game catering ever more to those with skill.

That means the top two or three players on every team are fine choices and, with the help of a few steals or hunches, you might just squeak out a win.

If your heart and head need a little extra inspiration, here are some options split into the obvious, the mid-range players and a few surprises who might just put you and your pretend team over the top.

Good luck.

THE OBVIOUS:

(Probable 70-plus point-getters)

You can always start with the rookie class from last year and pin your first-round selections on Sid the Kid or Alexander the Great, should you be lucky enough to draw early.

Or, just look to last year's top-30 scorers -- which both Crosby and Ovechkin were a part of -- to select in early rounds.

Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Eric Staal, Ilya Kovalchuk, Teemu Selanne, Brian Gionta, etc. -- none of them look as though they're set for a dip in point output and, in fact, could, now that the rules are a little more cemented, be that much more comfortable and that much better.

In fact, here you can pretty much pick any player -- including a fave -- and you should be solid, even without factoring into things such as new linemates (see Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay) or new teams (Pavol Demitra and Brendan Shanahan) or expectations from the team (Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks), although those things will certainly help.

Perhaps the biggest crapshoot of the big boys is Jaromir Jagr, who hurt his shoulder in last year's playoffs and could be a little tender to start off with, if not liable to suffer a recurrence.

Also look at the players who would have been obvious early picks had they remained healthy all last year -- those who were bumped from the top tier by a month or two on the sidelines.

Top of the list has to be New Jersey Devil Patrik Elias, who was stunning after fully recovering from hepatitis.

Same with those who are starting the year on the sidelines such as Sergei Federov and soon-to-be rookie phenom Evgeni Malkin -- his brief pre-season action was enough to prove him the real deal.

Other rookies you can feel pretty confident taking early on include: Bruin Phil Kessel, Blue Jacket Gilbert Brule and Blackhawk Jonathan Toews.

If you're in a league with goaltenders, you'd be an idiot to pass up Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo, Tomas Vokoun, Marty Turco or any certain 60-plus game starter.

MID-RANGERS:

(Possible 40-60 point-getters)

You live or die by the middle-round players, most often, which means the other factors weigh that much heavier -- team, division, linemates, line in the order, powerplay time, etc.

Your best bet is to look at the top 20 players in the league and find out who they're shacked up with on a line. You're bound to get residual points that way (assists, garbage goals and especially if you get points for plus-minus).

Here's a list of mid-range players, in no particular order, you should snap up if you get the chance.

Forwards and defence: Peter Bondra, Mark Parrish, Todd Marchant, Glen Murray, Brad Stewart, Jochen Hecht, Chris Pronger, Jozef Stumpel, Jay Boumeester, Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Erik Cole, Kyle Calder, Marek Svatos, Robert Lang, Jason Blake, Mike Ribeiro, Yannic Perreault, Scott Hartnell, Jamie Langenbrunner, Steve Reinprecht, Petr Sykora, Martin Rucinski, Bryan Smolinski.

Goalies: Cristobal Huet, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robert Esche.

SURPRISES:

New situations, better teams, Karma, rebound year -- there are a whole host of reasons to look for a few dark horses.

Do it too early and you look like an idiot, too late and they're bound to be taken already.

Wait for the right moment, snap em up and you'll look like a genius. Here are some names that may get your poolie senses tingling.

Forwards and defence: J.P. Dumont, Owen Nolan, Milan Michalek, Ryan Getzlaf, Sergei Samsonov, Bobby Holik, Daymond Langkow, Sean Avery, Guillaume Latendresse, Dick Tarnstrom, Ric Jackman, Michael Peca, Jonathan Sim, Shawn Bates, Nikolai Zherdev, Dion Phaneuf, Manny Malhotra, Rene Bourque, Zach Parise, Petr Prucha, Jeff Friesen, Jeff O'Neill, Tyler Arnason, Mike Richards, Oleg Kvasha, Keith Tkachuk, Dean McAmmond, Jeff Halpern, Petr Cajanek and Ryan Kessler.

Goalies: Curtis Joseph, Dan Cloutier and Jose Theodore.


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