We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: NHL playoff pools are more about picking teams than players, so the traditional fantasy hockey strategems can be tossed out.
Yes, Alex Ovechkin likely is going to get his points. But if the Capitals last only one series, you’re be better off taking a second-line winger on the Blues.
But what we can do here is offer up a player from each of the 16 playoff squads who could produce better than their draft positions. They are listed roughly in the order in which they might go in a standard points draft.
BRUINS: Quick, who won last season’s Stanley Cup scoring derby? That be would the Bruins’ David Krejci, with 23 points. And he has been heating up at just the right time with 10 goals and 21 points in his past 21 games.
FLYERS: Breakout winger Wayne Simmonds had a six-game scoring streak snapped Saturday and has netted 15 of his 28 goals in the past eight weeks. He’ll be picked after the Flyers first-liners but, if you can see Philly upsetting Pittsburgh, don’t wait long after that to take him.
SHARKS: There’s little to choose between their top six forwards. But assuming Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are the first two to go, we’d lean toward Martin Havlat next. He has always produced well in the post-season and, having played only 39 games this season because of injury, will be overlooked.
PENGUINS: Beyond Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and James Neal, it’s tough to choose from the crew of hard-working, reasonably skilled forwards behind them. But as Crosby’s right winger, Pascal Dupuis finished the schedule with points in 17 consecutive games.
KINGS: Mike Richards may not have produced offensively as expected in L.A., this season, but that is only going to lower his draft ranking. However, this is a guy who turns it up a couple of notches in the playoffs (49 points in 54 games the past four springs) and we wouldn’t bet against him doing it again.
RANGERS: It’s a head-scratcher that Carl Hagelin finished the regular season owned in only 10% of Yahoo! leagues. But as the unsung third wheel on the top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, he could be a useful selection from a team expected to go deep into the playoffs.
BLUES: Goaltending and balanced scoring have ignited the Blues’ revival, so it’s tough to recommend any one forward here. But if you are drafting defencemen, Alex Pietrangelo has emerged as one of the NHL’s best, with 2-12-14 totals in 15 March games.
PREDATORS: With seven points in nine games — plus eight in 10 career Stanley Cup tilts — newly returned winger Alexander Radulov will likely be around in the late rounds off a Preds team that can be a sneaky-tough playoff foe.
RED WINGS: Big winger Johan Franzen didn’t have a productive post-season last spring, but it’s probably wise to keep in mind that, in the previous three Stanley Cup tournaments, he piled up 59 points in 51 games.
SENATORS: If you think the Sens can get past the Rangers in the first round, they could go a long way. And if that happens, Jason Spezza, with 33 points in 27 games since mid-season, is going to take them there.
BLACKHAWKS: Viktor Stalberg’s fantasy stock resides well behind the team’s Big Four forwards, though his 43 points aren’t that much less. He could be a solid middle-round pick with centre Jonathan Toews expected back from his concussion.
COYOTES: Once the obvious names on the Desert Dogs are off the board, Martin Hanzal, all 6-foot-6 of him, could be an intriguing pick. Known more for his defence, he finished the season centring Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata on the top line and should get a ton of ice time.
PANTHERS: On a team not expected to make its first playoff appearance in 11 years a lengthy one, Mikhail Samuelsson could slide to the end picks. But he has more playoff experience than any of the Cats’ top-six forwards, having produced 53 points in 92 games with Vancouver and Detroit.
CANUCKS: Maxim Lapierre managed just 19 points this season, so he won’t be considered until late in drafts. But, if Daniel Sedin can’t make it back, he’ll be the likely replacement after finishing with six points in his final seven games alongside Henrik.
DEVILS: The deadline trade from Minnesota to Jersey didn’t turn defenceman Marek Zidlicky into the hot fantasy commodity many of us figured it would. But he remains the No.1 QB on a potentially devastating power play.
CAPITALS: Can lightning strike twice? A year ago, Joel Ward was a 29-point checking-line winger in Nashville, then became the unlikely talk of the early rounds with 17 points in two inspiring six-game series against Anaheim and Vancouver. He collected just 19 points with the Caps this season, but hey, you never know.