The second position we are going to preview for the 2013-14 season is Left Wing. Our positions are based off of the Yahoo! fantasy hockey positions. We’re going to take a look at the top left wingers along with young players on the rise, consistent vets, rookies and sleepers!
After years of dominating the left-wing position, Daniel Sedin slipped a bit in the shortened season. After six seasons of scoring at least 29 goals and 37 assists, Sedin saw his numbers drop to 12 goals and 28 assists in 47 games. His 0.85 points-per-game was his lowest since 2003-04, when he was just 24-years-old. Now 32, he and his twin brother Henrik are likely to bounce back to the top of Fantasy Hockey scoring. While Sedin has been atop the LW rankings for years, Taylor Hall is just rising to the top now. The 2010 first overall pick nearly topped his career high of 53 points. Hall scored 16 times and added 34 assists (50 points) in 45 games. Hall has a ton of talent and can easily play at a point-per-game pace, but the knock on him to this point in his career is his inability to stay healthy. Before last season he missed 38 games in the first two years. Hall is a high-risk, high-reward selection. After scoring 40 goals in 80 games in 2011-12 some expected some regression from James Neal. He scored at almost the same rate posting 21 goals in 40 games last year. Of his 21 goals, nine of them came with the man-advantage which was tied for third in the NHL. On a great Penguins team, he has a chance at getting back to 40 in 2013-14. Neal will likely find himself on Malkin’s wing once again making him one of the safest LW there is. Speaking of safe picks, Henrik Zetterberg has to be in that conversation. Zetty finished fourth in the NHL in assists (37) and was tied for 13th in the league in points (48). The Swedish captain is as consistent as the team that he plays for. He is a lock for near 25 goals and 45 assists. In his first year as a New York Ranger, Rick Nash had a solid season. He had 21 goals and 21 assists (42 points) in 44 games. Nash did the majority of his damage at even strength. The Rangers finished 23rd in the NHL in power-play percentage, something they will look to improve on in 2013-14. If their PP works more effectively under Alain Vigneault, Nash’s PP numbers will improve. The former first overall pick is still yet to have a huge season. His career high is 79 points, but he has too much skill to pass on him in the first two rounds. With as much talent as the Rangers have, Nash should be able to top 80 points this season. Zach Parise signed a 13-year, $98 million US deal with the Wild before the 2012-13 season. When Minnesota signed him to that monster contract they were expecting more than 38 points in 48 games. Before last year Parise had five straight seasons of 30-plus goals, so expect his second year in Minnesota to be more successful.
Next in Line
In terms of pure skill I could not include Chris Kunitz in the Top-Tier even with the season he had. What he was able to do with Sidney Crosby last year was awesome. He will find himself on Crosby’s flank once again so there is no reason not to expect another good year. As long as he is playing with Sid he has to be considered a number one LW in all formats. Jamie Benn had 12 goals and 21 assists (33 points) in 41 games last year. While those are not awe-inspiring numbers, the truth is he led the Stars in points. In 2013-14 Benn will have a new center. He will start the season with the Stars big offseason acquisition Tyler Seguin. The pairing looks great on paper, Seguin can score and setup his line mates and Benn is a pure-goal scorer. Stars fans are going to love this duo and fantasy owners should as well. When Seguin was sent to Dallas, 28-year-old winger Loui Eriksson was sent to Boston. Eriksson was underrated in Dallas but scored 12 goals and 17 assists last season and in each of the three seasons prior he posted at least 71 points. He has also only missed three games in the last four seasons, making him a safe pick in any format. The Swede will see top-6 minutes alongside either David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, who are both tremendously skilled play-makers. Drafting Eriksson pencils 25 goals and 45 assists into your lineup. Last season Patrick Sharp missed a total of 20 games due to injury. He missed 14 games with a shoulder injury and then six more with an upper-body ailment. Being limited to only 28 games, Sharp was only able to score six times while added 14 helpers (20 points). However it was his playoff leading 10 goals that proved he is still near the top amongst left wingers. Consistently playing on the top-line with Jonathan Toews helps cement Sharp in the Top-10 LW. If he stays healthy expect a return to 30-plus goals and 30-plus assists. Entering 2013-14 Thomas Vanek is in his final year of a seven-year deal with Buffalo. Although he missed 10 games last season the Austria native still scored 20 goals with 21 assists. Now in a contract year he will be looking to top his career high of 43 goals and 41 assists (84 points) in order to receive a huge payday. He is about as steady as they come in terms of left wingers. In his first three years with Jonathan Tavares as his center, Matt Moulson had some sneaky fantasy value but scored 30-plus goals each year. Last year he still managed 15 goals in 47 games. Well in 2013-14 the secret is out! This guy with Johnny T is legit. The search for the RW to play with these two continues, but as long as Moulson is on the left expect 30 goals.
On the Rise
In 2011-12 Evander Kane scored 30 goals and followed that up with 17 in 48games last year. With a full 82-game schedule on the horizon this 22-year-old sniper is ready to take the next step. The Jets added some solid offensive weapons in the offseason and appear poised to make a push for a playoff spot this year. Kane will have his eyes on another 30-goal year with room for more. The Colorado Avalanche made Gabriel Landeskog the youngest captain in NHL history last year, but he dissapointed with an injury plauged season, only generating 17 points in 36 games. Although he is more known for his outstanding ability to play in both ends of the ice, Landeskog’s 52 points in his rookie year shows he can contribute fantasy wise. At 20-years-old, Landeskog has a lot of room to develop. I think it would be safe to expect him to repeat his rookie campaign and possibly better it. While Sharp was out last season, rookie Brandon Saad saw a lot of playing time on the top line with Toews and Marian Hossa. Saad looked like he belonged as a top-6 forward en route to 10 goals and 17 assists in (27 points) 47 games. Although he will likely find himself back in a third-line role this year he showed that he has the makings of a top-6 forward in the near future. He will also see enough power-play time to keep him fantasy rise. Saad is a better keeper league choice, but still holds value in all formats. James van Riemsdyk has already played 244 career NHL regular season games but I think we are just starting to see what this kid can do. Last season van Riemsdyk nearly topped his previous career high in points (40) when he 18 goals and 14 assists (32 points) in 48 games. At 24-years-old he’s entering his fifth full season in the NHL and will play on a great second line in Toronto. He’s likely going to start with fellow 6-footer David Clarkson and the talented Nazem Kadri. On this line he should be able to blow his previous career high out of the water.
Joffrey Lupul missed 32 games last season with a broken forearm and concussion injuries. Missing time is nothing new to Lupul. He has never appeared in all 82 games in nine seasons. Over the last three seasons he has missed a total of 76 games due to injury. It is a shame because when he is in the lineup he produces. Lupul will probably play with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak this year which sets him up to have a good season barring injury. Lupul will produce as long as he is in the lineup, but when drafting him keep his injury woes in mind. Milan Michalek is in the same boat as Lupul. He has never played a full 82-game schedule but when he is in the lineup he gets it done with his great speed. This year he heads into camp healthy and on a brand-new line. He is currently working with Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan on the Senators top line. This line has all the tools to be really succesful. Spezza has gifted hands, Ryan is a sniper and Michalek has a ton of speed. If Michalek can stay healthy he has the chance to drastically outplay his pre-season ranking, however that is a huge if.
Under Appreciated Value
When you think of players who are under appreciated in fantasy hockey, one of the first names that pops into my head is Patrik Elias. Every year I think he is going to slow down because he is now 37, but he never does. On a subpar Devils team last year he scored 14 times and added 22 assists in 48 games. In the last three seasons he has played in 210 of a possible 212 games and put up 176 points. You can not argue with that production from a guy in his mid-30′s. The Devils are not going to be great once again but Elias still holds that sneaky mid-to-late round value and is a great reserve LW. Now with the Dallas Stars (his eighth team) Ray Whitney continues to play well wherever he goes. He is 41, but was still close to a point per game last year (29 points in 32 games). Known as the ‘Wizard’ he should help contribute in Dallas this season and could very well reach 40 assists for the eighth time in his career. Patrick Marleau is a six-time 30-goal scorer (career high – 44) and has appeared in every game in the last four seasons. At 33, he could start slowing down after having his worst points-per-game season since 2007-08. However on a veteran Sharks team I do not think that is the case. I think Marleau still has another 30-goal season in him this year. Andrew Ladd had by far his best statical season in 2012-13. The Jets captain led the team in points (46), assists (28) and plus/minus (+10) and finished tied with Martin St. Louis for second in the NHL with 40 even strength points. The career year earned him an invite to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp and some solid early season play could earn him a roster spot. With the national team to play for, Ladd could be in for another career year. Max Pacioretty could have been with the likes of JVR in the ‘On the Rise’ section but I like him more as an under appreciated pick. He is not a sexy name that is going to jump off of draft boards early (except maybe in Quebec) but the 24-year-old has quietly put together two really good seasons in a row. With another good year (30 goals maybe?) he will move his way into the upper tiers next year. Health has also been a concern with Max, but lets say he plays 82 games… I like 60-plus points out of the Habs left winger. Tomas Fleischmann and Justin Williams both fit amongst these players as well. In the last two seasons these two have basically done the same thing. The only difference is Fleischmann does it on a bad Panthers team while Williams plays for a Cup contender in Los Angeles. Both players have suited up for all 130 games over two seasons. Fleischmann has posted 96 points (39 G / 57 A) in that time, while Williams has 92 (33 G / 59 A). Each of them should be considered low-end number two/ high-end number three options at LW.
The third overall selection in this year’s entry draft Jonathan Drouin was drafted as a talented playmaking winger who can also put the puck in the net. However during last week’s prospect tournament the Lightning were trying him out at center. This does not mean he will start the year at center, just Tampa Bay exercising their options. Should he stay on the wing he could very likely find himself on the Lightning’s top-line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Monitor his status throughout camp because where he lands on the depth chart drastically effects his pre-sesaon ranking. If he is on the top line he could become a low-end number one / high-end number two option. The Draft’s 10th overall pick belonged to Dallas and they used it to take Russian prospect Valeri Nichushkin. He is a monster of an 18-year-old standing at 6-foot-4-inches and 202 lbs. Nichushkin was the rookie of the year in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) last year. He was the second ranked European skater by Central Scouting but dropped because of the fear of him staying in Russia. Nichushkin has stated that he wants to play in the NHL and he will be given a good chance to make the Stars roster according to GM Jim Nill.
“Physically, he’s ready,” Nill said. “He’s a man already. We’re just going to monitor him real close and let him come in and see where he fits in. He can just come in and play, and that’s going to be key to his development.”
If he makes the roster he would be worth taking a late-round flier on. With his size he will have the ability to jump into the NHL and compete for playing time in Dallas.
The eighth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft Mikkel Boedker has been a bust to this point in his career. However when the Coyotes brought in Mike Ribeiro in the offseason things are looking up for Boedker. It seems like he has been around forever but the truth is he is just 23-years-old. The speedy winger will likely see a lot of time alongside the crafty center on the ‘Yotes top-line. Boedker scored seven times and added 19 assists (26 points) in 48 games last season. The 0.542 points-per-game is the highest of his career. He will look to build off of that with Ribeiro in the middle. A jump up to 50-plus points could be in the cards for the young Dane. Colin Wilson got off to a great start last year scoring seven goals and adding 12 assists (19 points) in 25 games before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. He underwent successful stabilization surgery on both shoulders in the offseason and was ready for the start of training camp. He will be a part of the top-6 in Nashville this season. Hopefully for the Predators, Wilson can stay healthy this season. If he does like Boedker a career year and 50-point season could be in the making. In the offseason the St. Louis Blues sent David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 second round pick. Perron has yet to develop into the offensive fore the Blues thought they were getting with the 28th overall pick in 2007. He is a great individual talent but only managed 10 goals and 15 assists (25 points) in 48 games last season.The Blues and the Oilers are hoping that a change of scenery will help both Perron and Paajarvi (10th overall in 2009) take that next step. Perron joins a youthful Oilers team and brings even more talent to the table. He is expected to start the season with Sam Gagner who is a talented playmaking center. On paper the Oilers look like a team that can light up the scoreboard. If all the pieces fall correctly Perron could be a 25 goal, 35 assist player and the Oilers could find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
Editors Note: If you have any questions or concerns about LW’s that were not featured in this article, feel free to leave comments or tweet us @DailyFaceoff!