With 2011 on the way out, it’s the season for all those “Year in Review” shows that summarize the year that was in news, sports, entertainment, and other various topics of interest.
In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d deviate from the Pick Six slightly in my final article for 2011. I’ll return to my usual format for the Pick Six in the New Year, but I thought I’d use this opportunity to celebrate the top player on each of my six fantasy hockey teams. It goes without saying that all six of these players should be in your starting lineup whenever they play, although I find it interesting that all six happen to be forwards. The rankings are according to Yahoo.
Johan Franzen (25)
This particular fantasy team may not appear to be very good if my top player is ranked at 25, but I happen to be in third place out of ten teams in this league. It’s business as usual for the Mule this season, as 14 goals and 31 points in 36 games are on par for what could be his first-ever 60-point season. You may wonder why Franzen gets drafted so high when he has never reached 60 points, but it is worth mentioning that he has missed at least six games in each of his last five seasons. His nine power-play goals (second in the NHL) and +17 help to boost his overall ranking.
Scott Hartnell (15)
Hartnell’s rank is usually inflated by his penalty minute totals, which have hit triple digits in each of his previous four seasons in the City of Brotherly Shove. However, it is Hartnell’s other stat categories that have pushed his overall ranking up high. These include a Franzen-like 17 goals and 33 points in 36 games, seven power-play goals, and a +21. After a slow start that included a demotion to the third line, Hartnell is picking up much of the offensive slack left by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, scoring points in 10 of 13 games this month.
Henrik Sedin (6)
The 2010 Hart Trophy winner is everything that you thought he would be this season. His 45 points is only behind Claude Giroux for the Art Ross scoring race, while his 18 power-play points ties him with four other players for the NHL lead, including brother Daniel (they typically earn points at the same time, you know). Not surprisingly, Henrik is also the league leader with 35 assists and has led the NHL in that category for the previous two seasons. The fact that Hank is less of a goal scorer than Daniel (10 to 17) will push Hank’s ranking below Daniel’s, which currently stands first overall in Yahoo.
Claude Giroux (7)
If not for a concussion that sidelined him for four games, Giroux could very well be the number one ranked player. Despite those four games missed, Giroux still leads the NHL in scoring, as mentioned earlier. His goal total also matches Daniel’s, while his power-play point total also matches that of Daniel and Henrik. Tied for second in assists with Erik Karlsson, G probably won’t be the top fantasy player at season’s end, mainly because of his resemblance to Henrik as a playmaker. But note that I didn’t say he won’t lead the league in scoring.
Evgeni Malkin (2)
Imagine what kind of trouble the Penguins would be in if they didn’t have Malkin, who has taken the team on his shoulders with Sidney Crosby out for most of the season. Crosby’s 1.50 points per game is the highest in the NHL this season, but Malkin’s 1.43 points per game trails is a close third behind Giroux. His 28 assists ranks him fourth in the league, while his 143 shots on goal trails only teammate James Neal. Congratulations if you were able to draft Malkin in the second round of your league, as his stock fell more than it needed to because of his season-ending knee injury last season.
Thomas Vanek (14)
For a player with inconsistent hot and cold streaks within the season, Vanek is remarkably consistent between seasons. He has missed out on 30 goals only once in the last five seasons, and his 18 goals should provide enough proof that he will hit 30 once again. Never a point-per-game scorer, Vanek is currently sitting in the league’s top ten in both goals and points (39 in 37 games). More was likely expected of the Sabres this season, but at least Vanek has done his part.