With the back end looked after the previous two weeks of our pre-season ups and downs — the extended Lockout Edition — we head-man the puck up to the left wingers.
Here are 10 skaters on the port side who, based on last year’s stats, stand to show a marked improvement this time around, that is, if we ever do get the season under way.
We also offer up five who may fall short of their fantasy expectations over the coming season.
Zach Parise MIN: Becomes the offensive focal point of a Wild team that might now boast a better power play than the one he starred on with the Devils last season. Parise’s owners can also expect a faster start with his knee injury a full year behind him.
Daniel Sedin VAN: Produced at less than a point-a-game clip for the first time in five years last season. Most fantasy owners won’t forget, however, that he is only one year removed from winning the NHL scoring title with 104 points, and see him as a buy-low opportunity in the draft.
Alex Ovechkin WASH: Quite simply, Dale Hunter turned a thoroughbred into a Clydesdale by making Ovie adhere to a defensive style that took away what he does best — score goals. New coach Adam Oates should have him well over a point-a-game pace again.
Rick Nash NYR: The chains are off. His fantasy stock, especially the anchor-like plus-minus totals, should make a huge leap now that he is out of Columbus and likely working alongside playmaker extraordinaire Brad Richards.
Dustin Brown LA: A consistent 50-point producer the past few years, his 43 points in his final 41 games, including the playoffs, could be a harbinger that the Kings captain has begun to take that next step.
Jordan Staal CAR: He produced big-time for the Pens as long as one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin was not in the lineup. Well, barring another mega-trade by the ’Canes, that won’t be a problem this year.
James van Riemsdyk TOR: The concussion is history, he’ll play a lot more than he did in Philly, and his fantasy value gets a further boost if the highly anticipated experiment of moving him to centre on the Leafs’ top line actually works out.
David Perron STL: His expected ascension to a top-six role was delayed by a year-long concussion, but he came through in promising style last season with 42 points and a plus-19 in just 57 games.
David Booth VAN: Big, skilled power forward fell flat after arriving in a trade from Florida, and the supposed match made in heaven with Ryan Kesler never did materialize. Should mesh better with a healthy Kesler.
Ryan Malone TB: Scored 10 of his 20 goals in the final 20 games of the schedule after battling nagging injuries all season. Sticking on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis would help.
Also: Jeff Skinner CAR, Jonathan Toews CHI, Valteri Filppula DET, Joffrey Lupul TOR, Taylor Hall EDM, Gabriel Landeskog COL, Mikkel Boedker PHX, Dwight King LA.
Ilya Kovalchuk NJ: He can’t help but feel some aftershocks after losing Parise. To what extent is difficult to predict because he has shown in the past he can be productive without an elite skater alongside him.
Bobby Ryan ANA: It took a pair of goals in his final game to reach the 30 plateau for the fourth season in a row, but we don’t like his chances of making it five if he remains on the Ducks’ third line, which is where he finished last season.
Ray Whitney DAL: Really hate discounting this guy, considering he keeps defying the odds. But at age 40, on a new team and away from his comfort zone in Phoenix, the red flags are visible for a possible dip.
TEN KIDS WHO COULD...
Young left wingers that may be worth stashing on your reserve list:
Sven Baertschi CAL
Jaden Schwartz STL
Magnus Paajarvi EDM
Brandon Saad CHI
Nail Yakupov EDM
Chris Kreider NYR
Marcus Foligno BUF
Jonathan Huberdeau FLA
Alex Galchenyuk MON
Brett Connolly TB
Scott Hartnell PHIL: Abrasive forward is coming off career highs in goals (37), points (67) and plus-minus (+19). Question is: How much is the continued growth of Claude Giroux as his centre offset by the loss of RW Jaromir Jagr?
Curtis Glencross CAL: Don’t expect a repeat of his 26-goal season after scoring on an unsustainable 23.6% of his shots, second highest among all regular NHL skaters (Caps’ Mathieu Perreault was tops at 26.7).
Also: Chad LaRose CAR, Tyler Bozak TOR, Ryan Smyth EDM, Jannik Hansen VAN