If you read my Who To Draft 1st? article you will know, and if you didn’t you still probably know, that the top 3 picks in your draft are sure to be Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin. Its after those top 3 where it gets tricky. Who should you take at the 4th spot? Let’s have a look at the candiates:
Ryan Getzlaf (C, Anaheim Ducks) Getzlaf finished last season with 91 points, putting him 6th in the league behind just the aforementioned three, Pavel Datsyuk, and Zach Parise. What Parise and Datsyuk do not offer and what Getzlaf does is penalty minutes. He had 120 last season. The top 25 point producers in the NHL last season excluding Getzlaf averaged just 50 a piece. Getzlaf has been fortunate and stayed away from major injuries thus far in his career as he has played in over 77 games in every season other than his rookie campaign. However, he is currently recovering from offseason sports-hernia surgery. Getzlaf has been skating with the Ducks, but has not participated in contact drills. It is likely that Getzlaf won’t see game action until at least late during Anaheim’s eight-game exhibition schedule, but he is expected to be ready ready for the Oct. 3 regular-season opener against visiting San Jose. Getzlaf is playing on one of the best lines in hockey with wingers Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry and a 100 point season is just around the corner. Although his plus/minus rating wasn’t anything to write home about last season at plus-6, the Ducks will be a much better team during the regular season and Getzlaf’s plus/minus should reflect that. Getzlaf will only put up around 25-30 goals but his value is in the fact that he contributes to all categories in default scoring leagues and if he is recovered fully from his surgery, would make an excellent pick at 4th overall.
Dany Heatley (LW, San Jose Sharks) You may be surprised to see Heatley on this list but its not smart to judge how Heatley will perform this season based on last. The Senators were just plain awful last season and Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza’s stats reflected that. Heatley had his worst season as a Senator, recording only 72 points in 82 games, which is actually quite impressive if you think about it. He is bound to recover this season on a much better San Jose team where he will be playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi. Thornton is arguably the NHL’s best passer which makes me believe a 50 goal, 100 point season for Heatley is much more a reality now in San Jose than it was in Ottawa. Heatley had 88 penalty minutes last season which would have put him second behind Getzlaf in the top 25 scorers. This wasn’t a fluke either as Heatley has averaged 81 penalty minutes over the past four seasons. Most leagues have Heatley ranked lower than he should be (25th on Yahoo) and you may be able to wait on him but he is definitely worthy of the 4th overall pick. Having winger status sets Heatley, Parise, Perry and Kovalchuk apart from Getzlaf and Datsyuk as scoring wingers are harder to come by in deeper leagues. Last season in the NHL there were 17 players that hit 80 points, 10 were centers, five were left wingers and 2 were right wingers. If you want goals Heatley is the guy.
Zach Parise (LW, New Jersey Devils) Parise had an outstanding breakout season with the Devils in 08/09 scoring 45 goals and adding 49 assists for 94 points (5th in the league). That is obviously the reason why he has made this list, but I am still hesitant to take a player at number 4 based solely off of one good season. Remember Johnathan Cheechoo? How high did he go in your draft the year after he had 56 goals and 93 ponts? He finished the next season with a devastating 69 points. The scary thing is Parise had just 65 and 62 points in the two years prior to last. Thats quite a hefty jump to 94 points. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying Parise is the second coming of Cheechoo, its obvious Cheechoo benefited from having Joe Thornton as his center, while on the otherhand Parise seems to be the guy doing all the work in New Jersey. Scoring 94 points while playing on a line with Zajac and Langenbrunner is quite an achievement. I’m just more confident in players that have proven themselves over a longer period of time.
Pavel Datsyuk (C, Detroit Red Wings) If you are a fan of consistency Datsyuk is your guy. Back to back seasons of 97 points with 31 goals one year and 32 the second. The only thing separating Datsyuk from being in the separate class of players with Ovechkin, Crosby and Malkin is his obsession with the Lady Byng Trophy. Datsyuk has averaged just 21 penalty minutes over the last four seasons and his career high for PIMS is just 35. He has missed only 1 game in the last two season’s and that was because of his one game suspension for missing the All-Star game. He had the best plus/minus among the top 25 scorers in the league last year and finished the season with the third best plus/minus overall (was 1st in 07/08, plus-41). The foot injury he sustained in last years playoffs hasn’t carried over to this season and in case you are wondering Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has indicated that he will keep Datsyuk and teammate Henrik Zetterberg centering separate lines to start the season.
Mike Green (D, Washington Capitals) Its not very often you see a defencemen with the potential to go this high in a fantasy draft, but Mike Green can singlehandedly solidify the defense on any fantasy roster and can score like a forward. At least he could last year. Much like Parise my problem with drafting Green this high is that its based off just one extraordinary season (31 goals, 73 points in 68 games). True, he did have 56 points the season before, but 73 points in 68 games will be near impossible to repeat this season now that everyone around the league knows what he is capable off. The other thing that concerns me is that he has missed 26 games in just three seasons.
Corey Perry (RW, Anaheim Ducks) To be honest I don’t believe Corey Perry is worthy of the 4th overall pick. The only reason he is on this list is that for some unknown reason Yahoo Fantasy Sports has him ranked 5th overall. I would like to know the reasoning behind this one as Perry’s teammate Getzlaf had 19 more points, 26 more assists, 13 more powerplay points, 12 more penalty minutes, and just 7 less goals than him but is ranked a spot lower at 6th. Sorry Corey but I’m not drafting a 73 point player 4th overall. Maybe next year.
Ilya Kovalchuk (LW, Atlanta Thrashers) Much like Datsyuk there is only one thing keeping Kovalchuk from being in the elite group of fantasy hockey players and its his team. Kovalchuk has never finished a season with a postive plus/minus. The fact that Kovalchuk is a winger and can put up 40-50 plus goals still makes him a definite top 10 pick and would be a respectable pick at the 4th spot, but if he was on a better team he would be a lock to go 4th or higher. Keep that in mind for next year’s draft as Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
In conclusion: If its my team and I’m picking fourth overall I’m taking Getzlaf if he is healthy to start the season. I’ll follow this with a goal scoring winger in round 2, which if all goes according to plan will be Heatley. 100 points and 100 pims is a dream in fantasy hockey and Getzlaf seems like the only one in the league, other than Crosby, that can do it. If you’re league doesn’t award you for penalty minutes you should take Datsyuk if you want to play it safe.
Be sure to check back with DailyFaceoff.com throughout the NHL season as we will have up to date and accurate lineups for all 30 NHL teams including powerplay units. We will also let you know who’s starting in net for both teams in every game this regular season in our Between the Posts section.