‘Tis the Fantasy Season: Habs to Consider

Photo: Francois Laplante, Getty Images

Photo: Francois Laplante, Getty Images

For the purpose of this article, we are looking at live draft fantasy leagues, which typically are ‘snake’ style.

With every hockey season comes a fantasy hockey league, whether it is just for fun or some sort of prize in the end, which is usually money. Each person involved has an opportunity to show what they know about the players of the current game with every selection they make throughout the drafts they take part in. Based on the settings of the league, you obviously may avoid certain players completely, such as those who do not put up a great deal of offensive points. However, if you take part in one or multiple leagues that reward other aspects of the game, including blocks and hits then it opens up a whole new range of players to consider.

When it comes to participating in these leagues, I have seen folks who completely avoid players from teams that they despise and load up on their favourites. This can cause you to lose right from the get go, but you will not have a ‘guilty’ conscious. Personally, I will draft from anywhere, and sadly that does consist of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet, there will always be at least one Canadien within my roster and you should highly look at selecting a player or a few from the team whether it is this upcoming season or in the future.

Now, let’s look at a number of Habs that you should consider to queue up during your fantasy drafts depending on the settings and roster criteria of the league.

The Essentials:

Carey Price: In any league, once one goaltender is plucked off the list, they all start to go because people panic. It’s the same in NFL fantasy leagues with quarterbacks. You do not want to be stuck with a goaltender that is not going to get you more wins than losses or one that splits a good portion of the games with his back up, which could lead to him losing his starting role. Price is Montreal’s starting goaltender regardless of how some “fans” wanted Budaj to take over this past season. He did not have the best of years in goal and he would be the first to admit it. Price will be looking to shut up the critics in the only way he can, by making routine saves, being confident and collecting wins. Fantasy team owners, you can’t go wrong with taking Carey if your league has a minimum amount of starts setting per week. Not only is he likely to play a majority of the games, he is the type of netminder that should rack up the W’s as well. Lundqvist is usually the goaltender to go first, however, Price does not go that far behind. If you need a goalie and he is there, snag him.

Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

P.K. Subban: Picking Subban is a no brainer when it comes to fantasy hockey. He would have been your sleeper years ago but at this point, everyone knows what he can bring to the table and that there is potential for even more. You’re going to get offensive and defensive points out of him and there is no question that he should have a permanent slot for himself in your starting line up on game days. The only reason he dropped in what round he was taken in this past season’s drafts was due to his lack of contract and no one knew when it would resolve. He showed to those who did take a chance on him that they made a perfect selection and won the Norris. It won’t be his last Norris, heck the Montreal blue liner could very well repeat. If you wait too long, someone else will be taking Subban in the early rounds guaranteed. Plus, NHL.com has rated him as the number one defenseman. That’s right, P.K #1!

Max Pacioretty: I have been able to sneak Pacioretty into my fantasy rosters numerous times and I don’t know if it is because people are that blind to the fact that he is a solid player or that there is nothing turning upstairs for my fellow drafters. He is ready to break out in top scorer fashion, more so than he did in the 2011-12 season (65 points). There is no reason to believe that Pacioretty can’t hit 35 goals this upcoming year or above that. This is a player that you can probably take a little later in your draft depending on the amount of people taking part in it and the roster size that you have to fill. He appears to be insanely underrated among other fan bases as well, so you have the inner track to getting #67. Pacioretty does not just put up points either, so if you are looking for a forward that is not afraid to toss his weight around in addition to offensive points, Max is someone who will add to the hits column.

Secondary Scoring:

Tomas Plekanec: Plekanec is ridiculously underrated by a high number of Habs fans and other support groups around the league. As much as that angers me to no end, this is a huge plus when it comes to looking for someone who will bring you that much-needed secondary scoring for your fantasy team. Plekanec plays in all situations, which makes him very useful in a league that rewards special team points. He is a fantastic penalty killer, and if given the chance to use his spectacular speed while shorthanded, there is a good opportunity that he will tickle twine after burning the opposition’s blue liners.  Tomas has put up over 50 points in the last three full 82-game seasons while cementing himself in the top four in ice time on the Canadiens during those years. He is also a player that tends to remain quite healthy throughout a season; therefore, if you’re deciding between a more injury-prone player who has similar point production in comparison, it may be best to select Plekanec instead.

Photo from legrandclub.rds.ca

Photo from legrandclub.rds.ca

Brian Gionta: The captain of the Habs led the team in goals in his first two seasons with the club. The small winger is not afraid to get into the corners with anyone, especially Zdeno Chara and isn’t easily outmuscled. Gionta utilizes his speed effectively which puts him in position to either set up a teammate or unload a shot on goal. Like Plekanec, Gionta can be used in any situation and coach Therrien seems to like to use the American forward with the man advantage, as he was third on the team in PP TOI this past season. This gives Gionta more of an opportunity to put up points as well as help your fantasy team. Also, if you were going to snag Plekanec, it would not hurt to draft Brian as well because they are likely to play on the same line. The only knock right now for Gionta is that he may not be able to start the season. However, Bergevin indicates that if he cannot, that it will not be long afterwards for his return. This may cause him to drop in the draft if people are keeping tabs on his current injury status as well as just missing time in the last two seasons due to bicep surgeries. If this is the case, taking Gionta in a later round could pay off quite well for you down the stretch.

Andrei Markov: The “General” as some like to call him, proved that even though he is older and has gone through some knee injuries that he can still be just as effective in the point department as before. Markov did not miss a single game during the shortened season and posted 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in that time span. It should be noted that 8 of those 10 goals came on the powerplay, however, if you find yourself in a league that rewards PP points and perhaps PP goals specifically, there is no doubt that you should make Markov as one of your defensemen choices. With that being said, Therrien will surely employ Markov alongside Subban on the man advantage, which gives you an opportunity to double up on points if you somehow were to draft both rearguards. There is potential for these two to play on the same pairing at even strength as well and the Canadiens executed this later in the 2012-13 season. When Markov is healthy, he is still dynamite offensively and you should not steer away from selecting him even if you are worried that he may fall to injury. He is most certainly worth the risk to add to your defensive core on your roster.

Sleepers:

Lars Eller: Eller is knocking on the door to break out. He hit a career high in points during this past season with 30 in 46 games. Keep in mind that Lars was able to do so with very minimal powerplay time. He is only going to get better from here on out and if Michel Therrien throws the Dane more responsibility, the points will follow. Eller is effective in all areas of the ice and can be relied upon to get things done defensively. When he is not using his 6’2” frame to keep puck possession, he is dishing out hits to try to separate his opposition from the puck. Therefore, if you are looking for a player that is ready to take his game to the next level while scoring and collecting hits every night, take a shot on Lars Eller. The kid is already a stud and insanely underrated, no doubt he is coming out of the gate to prove himself more so than he currently has.

Photo: Scott Levy, Getty Images

Photo: Scott Levy, Getty Images

Alex Galchenyuk: Have you seen this guy lately? He has been working out tremendously throughout the offseason and it shows. Galchenyuk had a very strong rookie campaign (9G, 18A) for the Canadiens after they took him 3rd overall last summer. No doubt the lockout helped him, as he was able to prove that his knee injury was in the past by dominating for the Sarnia Sting and then playing for Team USA. Going into his sophomore year, Alex will try to stay away from the slump label and make progress on what he established in 48-games in 2012-13. Therrien appears ready to give Galchenyuk more responsibility and perhaps he will become a regular with the man advantage. It is known that he has an amazing shot and slick hands to create chances on a nightly basis. He has had a taste of the big league, now he will be going for a full meal where he surely can raise his name to one of the top point producers. That being said, it would be safe to take Galchenyuk in the mid-rounds of your draft because he is more likely to help your team out than disappoint.

Brendan Gallagher: The “little ball of hate” Brendan Gallagher was not in the running for rookie of the year for no reason. After having a strong start for the Hamilton Bulldogs during the lockout, he made the Canadiens right out of the short training camp. From there, Brendan continued to play the way that has made him successful at every level before the NHL by getting into goaltender’s faces and being that annoying (but lovable) little pest. It paid off, as he was able to post 28 points in 48 games and play over 100 minutes on the powerplay. There is not a chance that Gallagher will change anything about his game going into his second year, which will be beneficial to you if you select him. He is going to get into those dirty areas and produce results. Gallagher found chemistry while playing with Eller and Galchenyuk but also did well when he was on Desharnais and Pacioretty’s line. Wherever Therrien decides to use Brendan, he is going to make positive things happen. So if you snag him for your fantasy team, get ready to have a smile on your face just like Gallagher’s because he will be a positive addition.

Wildcards:

Daniel Briere: Over the years, Danny Briere has won me a significant amount of money, but more so in playoff pools. He finds a way to produce in the show and if he can help the Canadiens get there during the regular season, then that is a huge plus for not only the organization and fans, but those who draft him as well.  So why is Briere a wildcard? Well, the former Flyer has been on the decline and has had some injuries recently that can scare someone off from selecting him in a fantasy league. He has the determination to get himself back on the right track and produce to the point where he should be in the back of your mind to potentially pick up for your team. Briere posted 49 points in 70 games during the 2011-12 season, which is not bad by any means, however, it is not the DB we once knew. It is unknown where Michel Therrien will use Briere within his line up but if you consider that he may have him on the third line in an exploitation role and receiving more offensive zone starts, then it would not be a horrible decision to draft him. He is a risk that could work out quite well, therefore, you should not close the door fully on Danny.

Photo: Ryan Remiorz, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Photo: Ryan Remiorz, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Rene Bourque: Some people feel that you do not know what you are going to get when it comes to Bourque. The thing is, he had a very good start to the shortened season before he was sidelined with a concussion. He then came back where he scored a pretty badass backhand against the Senators in the playoffs. The Bourque that people saw when he came over in the Cammalleri trade looks like he is completely gone and he could be. If this is the case, Rene Bourque is a player that could help your fantasy roster, especially if he finds the scoring touch. He won’t be someone that you will have to fight over early in the draft, yet, if he is still around when it gets to the final picks, there is a possibility that he pans out. If he sticks on the line of Plekanec and Gionta where he looked to have created chemistry, then yes, he would be a forward that I’d keep an eye on. Plus, Rene does like to throw out hits, which could give you a little more incentive to put him in your queue.

David Desharnais: Desharnais had a great year in 2011-12, but then pretty much stunk it up in his next campaign. Regardless of that, he received a contract extension and has been busting his balls this offseason to bounce back. That is enough balls talk. Now, Desharnais could be a decent pick up in the back half of a draft, depending on who is left on the board and your needs. He has usually played alongside Pacioretty, which may be a reason to add him to your team and the fact that he does get powerplay time could tickle your fancy. When he is on his game, he is creating repeatedly, but when he is off, boy is he off. In addition, Desharnais is not a saviour defensively, so if that concerns you, step away from the little French fry. There is a risk in taking David, though this risk may bring you high reward. It all depends what Desharnais comes to play.

Honorable Mentions:

Josh Gorges: You may be wondering why I have added Josh Gorges at all in this. The answer is simple: he blocks a lot of shots (250 in 2011-12 season). He is absolutely fearless and there is a reason why fans give him the nickname of “The Warrior”. There is no strong argument to take Gorges unless the league that you are participating in gives points for a blocked shot. In addition to that, you should be able to draft Gorges in the last few rounds due to the lack of offensive upside that Josh brings to the table.

Brandon Prust: Prust can fit into your fantasy roster in a variety of ways. First and foremost, if penalty minutes are on the positive side of the spectrum in the league’s settings, then that is one specific element to push you to take the gritty forward. As everyone knows, Prust does not shy away from dropping the gloves and did so 10 times during his first year with the Canadiens. This took up 50 minutes of his 110 total PIM from the 48-game season where he only suited up for 38 tilts. Accompanying his time in the box, Prust will get down and block shots as well as rack up hits. Plus, Brandon is able to pencil his name in for a goal or an assist here and there. So when you are getting into the late rounds, remember that he does not just throw punches but he can give you a few points that could win you a match up.

Alexei Emelin: Yes, he is injured and going to miss the first couple of months. Therefore, mentioning him could mean nothing to you at all, however, if one of your blue liners goes down and you need a replacement when Emelin is back, you should pick him up. He hits like a train, just ask… well, I could list a lot of players but the point is, if you need someone that is going to provide you with hits then do not hesitate when he returns. You may fear that he will not dish them out as often due to the injury, and he might not, of course there is that possibility. Yet, it is a (low) risk that is worth taking. You always have the ability to drop him if he does not meet up to your standards. Aside from his physical game, Emelin has shown signs that he can step up offensively. With a little more confidence, the Togliatti native will take more opportunities to get his name on the board and with that, he could be quite successful.

Raphael Diaz: In the 2012-13 season, before he fell to injury and Subban’s contract was worked out, Diaz was relied on to help boost Montreal’s powerplay. Of the 14 points (1G, 13A) that he notched in 23 games, 8 came with the man advantage and they were all assists. Diaz is likely to be used on the second pairing when the Canadiens are up a man this upcoming year, which will still give him a chance at collecting more apples. If you are looking for depth at the defense position for your team, Diaz could be a good fit, especially in leagues that have large rosters.

Or you could just take new Florida Panther, Scott Gomez. Actually, he may not do too badly down south.

Happy drafting!

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