The San Jose Sharks enter this season as the defending Western Conference champions and, with that success fresh in the minds of fantasy players, expect their top talents to be taken earlier than usual.
If you’re high on the Sharks again, you’ll want to bump them up your draft lists because they will likely be off the board sooner than later this year. Yes, they will be popular picks.
In saying that, it’s typically best for fantasy players to have a short memory and to not fixate on last season’s playoff results. Try to wipe the slate clean and enter your draft with a best-player-available approach.
The Sharks should be a fairly high-scoring and deep offensive team, so there will be plenty of quality options to consider from San Jose’s roster.
Top Performers: Brent Burns, D and Joe Pavelski, RW/C
For leagues that have separate scoring categories for defencemen, Burns is the Shark to target. He’s one of the best goal-scoring defencemen in the league — leading the NHL with 27 goals last season, six more than Calgary’s Mark Giordano and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson — so Burns has the potential to be a fantasy beast. Some fantasy sites might still consider Burns a dual-position player — both a defenceman and a forward, which makes him all the more valuable.
So Brent Burns deserves to win the Norris. Led my fantasy team to the promised land
— Josh Beneteau (@jbenny15) April 29, 2016
However, in standard scoring leagues where every point counts the same regardless of position, Pavelski is probably the top option. He finished four points behind Joe Thornton in team scoring last season, but Pavelski boasted a much more balanced stat-line with a team-high 38 goals and 40 assists for 78 points as San Jose’s first-year captain. Pavelski, at 32, is also five years younger than Thornton and has a better chance of replicating that production.
Underrated Performer: Joe Thornton, C
He gets passed over because of his age and tends to fall in fantasy drafts, but Thornton proved last season that he’s still got plenty of game left. Now 37, Thornton put on some hard miles in the playoffs and still hasn’t shaven his beard, but that shouldn’t slow him down too much as a prolific playmaker.
Joe Thornton back in San Jose this week. SPOILER ALERT: So's his beard. No sign of a summertime shave. #sjsharks
— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) August 19, 2016
Don’t take Thornton in the first round, but don’t hesitate further down because he should be good for 50-plus assists and 70 or more points again. Thornton is no longer a sexy pick, but he’s still putting up numbers, which is all that really matters.
Overrated Performer: Patrick Marleau, LW/C
From one extreme to the other, Marleau is actually tailing off towards the end of his career and is now only getting picked in fantasy leagues because of his name value from years past. Marleau is far removed from his prime and will probably be closer to 40 points than 50 this season.
I want the Sharks to win the #StanleyCup to validate all those times I picked Patrick Marleau over more logical choices in fantasy hockey.
— Guy! (@Kapoutman) May 29, 2016
Unless you’re in a really deep league — say 20-plus teams with 20-plus players on each roster — there are likely better options available than Marleau. If you’re in a 10-team league with 15 or fewer skaters on each roster, Marleau probably belongs on the waiver wire.
Fantasy Sleepers: Mikkel Boedker, LW and Tomas Hertl, LW/C
Boedker was a bargain signing for San Jose this summer and he could be a bargain pick-up for your fantasy team too. Boedker has always possessed a high offensive ceiling and he could finally start living up to that potential while playing for his old junior coach, Pete DeBoer, who helped him become a top-10 NHL draft pick. Boedker has disappointed many a fantasy teams in years past, but this could be the season he makes amends and is worth owning. He should be flying under the radar, so you won’t have to reach for him, but if you’re searching for a late flyer to round out your roster, Boedker could be a rewarding pick.
Hertl quietly upped his point total by 15 last season — going from 31 to 46 — and he certainly has the ability to repeat that feat. Hertl has been a bit of a tease thus far, but he’s capable of breaking out and topping 60 points this season. Hertl likely goes higher than Boedker in most drafts, but if you notice Hertl lingering around after all the perennial 60-point players are gone, he seems like a solid bet to trend into that territory.
Bounce-back Candidate: Logan Couture, C
He missed two months with a broken leg last season, so if you’re basing your draft list off regular-season scoring leaders, Couture could slip through the cracks. However, he won’t be a forgotten commodity, not after leading the league in playoff scoring with 30 points in 24 games.
— NHL (@NHL) June 13, 2016
That stat-line would prorate to 34 goals and 103 points over 82 games, which is obviously unrealistic for Couture. The injury layoff probably left him with more fuel in the tank than most for the postseason, and even a point-per-game campaign is likely too lofty of an expectation for Couture.
But considering Couture only managed 36 points, including 15 goals, in 52 regular-season games last season, he could come close to doubling that production — 30 goals and 72 points over 82 games isn’t unrealistic and would make Couture a prime bounce-back candidate. Last season’s point total had Couture tied between 191st and 206th among all NHL players, but he should definitely be picked in the top 100 this season and arguably in the top 50.
Breakout Candidates: Joonas Donskoi, RW and Chris Tierney, C
Donskoi flashed glimpses of his offensive upside during San Jose’s playoff run, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can hit the ground running this season. He came into the league as an older rookie last season and made a relatively smooth transition from playing overseas, tallying 11 goals and 36 points in 76 regular-season games, plus six goals and 12 points in 24 playoff games. The latter stat-line prorates to 21 goals and 42 points over 82 games. That goal total seems obtainable and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Donskoi flirt with 50 points in his 24-year-old season.
Tierney was a big-time producer in junior but flatlined a bit as a sophomore last season. In his first full NHL season, Tierney only scored seven goals and 20 points in 79 games, which was a letdown from six goals and 21 points in just 43 games as a rookie. Much of that had to do with role and opportunity, and it’ll be difficult for Tierney to climb the depth chart again, but he’s got the skill-set to top 10 goals and 30 points this season.
Impact Rookies: Timo Meier, LW, Nikolay Goldobin, LW and Markus Sorensen, RW
This forward trio will be battling in training camp and throughout the preseason for one, possibly two roster spots. There could be an opportunity for one of these prospects to ride shotgun with the Joes — Pavelski and Thornton — on San Jose’s top line, which would certainly make that lucky rookie a fantasy option. They may all get to audition in that role but can be ranked in the above order in terms of fantasy potential.
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) August 20, 2016
Meier probably has even more upside than Hertl did coming into the league, and if Meier lands on the top line, he could wind up in the Calder conversation. Meier might be the favourite, but Goldobin is no slouch and has the benefit of pro experience on his resume, while Sorensen is a dark-horse signing — similar to Donskoi at this time last year — who was a standout at San Jose’s development camp this summer.
Martin Jones is the go-to guy here and if you believe the Sharks are going to top the Pacific Division standings — and assuming goalies accumulate points for wins in your league — you may want to rank Jones in the top-10 overall. He might not possess a top-10 skill-set among all netminders, but he’s likely to finish among the top 10 in wins providing he stays healthy.
Jones gained a ton of experience in the playoffs and should be riding a wave of confidence heading into this season despite coming up just short against Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final. That runner-up finish was through no fault of Jones, who was unflappable and consistent throughout the postseason.
He’s not yet a household name in fantasy circles, but Jones could be a better pick than the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury, among others, for the upcoming season.
Jones’ backup is yet-to-be determined, with Aaron Dell next on San Jose’s current depth chart and tentatively listed on the NHL roster. The fact Jones is just entering his second season as a starter, the Sharks would be wise to add a veteran backup.
I'm curious about how the goalie situation plays out. WHO WILL BE SHARKS BACKUP? Next up on Unsolved Mysteries.
— Oh Shit, it's Jesss! (@Oreosider) July 1, 2016
It is pretty slim pickings on the free-agent front — now that Jhonas Enroth signed in Toronto — but Anders Lindback seems like the next-best option unless Karri Ramo has recovered from his knee surgery. Reto Berra could be available from Florida as a trade option or the Sharks could try bringing in somebody like Ilya Bryzgalov, Ray Emery or Dan Ellis on a training-camp tryout. If San Jose isn’t concerned about age or experience, then Joni Ortio is probably a better option than Dell too.