It’s getting close to that time again. Our football fan friends have already gone through it. They’ve ordered the pizza. They’ve drank the beer. They’ve all drug the laptops to the sports bars or sat on their couch with the NFL Network on in the background. There’ve been celebrations. They’ve yelled "in your face!" at least once. They’ve also probably been physically compelled to strangle someone at least ten times in the past two weeks.
You know what I’m talking about: fantasy football.
I’m not about to go through and tell you exactly who to draft first overall in your Yahoo! or ESPN or whatever fantasy hockey drafts. There are rankings out there and websites such as DobberHockey.com that serve that purpose. No, for this fantasy preview, I’m going to look specifically at players who are on the St. Louis Blues.
It’s a compulsion with sports fans that probably needs to be set aside during fantasy drafts: do NOT make sentimental draft picks. They kill your team every single year. Sure, you might abhor the Chicago Blackhawks, but does that mean that Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa aren’t good guys to have on your fantasy team? No. Or Pavel Datsyuk? You need to put your Red Wings hatred aside, suck it up, and draft Dats if he’s available. Trust me, seeing a player on one of your favorite teams available and snapping him up always isn’t good. I got burned last year when I expected Zach Bogosian to recover from injuries that the Thrashers’ coaching staff had him play through in 2009-2010. I was wrong about minus twenty-seven times. Why that number? Take a gander at the kid’s +/- rating.
Hell, I was in a league so deep last year that I wound up with Brad Winchester, who I drafted because I figured "hell, I don’t have enough STL players here." Super useful.
But, that doesn’t mean that if a player who plays for your favorite team is available - and he’s good - you shouldn’t take him. By all means, do. But just be reasonable. Don’t pretend your league is Pokemon and you have to have every Blues player. You will get very little milage by choosing Ryan Reeves because he’ll probably get called up for 10 games at some point. But, if you’re in the third round and no one’s noticed David Backes, well...
Anyway, here’s my top ten run down of Blues players to pick. Take my advice with a grain of salt. I have terrible, terrible luck.
1. David Backes: 31 goals, 31 assists, 62 points, +32.
Backes will get you everything - goals, assists, points, +/-, penalty minutes. He is one of the most well rounded power forwards in the game, and is without a doubt the best player on the Blues.
2. Chris Stewart: 28 goals, 25 assists, 53 points, −6
Keep in mind his stats are "so low" because of the fact that he broke his hand in a fight and missed a bit, playing in 62 games. He’s got more a fair chance this year to add to those numbers significantly.
3. Alex Pietrangelo: 11 goals, 32 assists, 43 points, +19
You need some solid defensemen. Sure, he’s not going to put up Mike Green levels of goals and points, but who cares? He’s a +19, is the Blues’ top defenseman, and if he doesn’t have a hiccup year he’ll be fine. Some are picking him and fellow teammate Kevin Shattenkirk as players who will be having a sophomore slump, but they’re only saying that because they’re sophomores. The Blues have groomed Petro for this role, and he - unlike Erik Johnson - has actually grown into it quite nicely.
4. Patrik Berglund: 22 goals, 30 assists, 52 points, −3
All Iceberg wants to do is become one of the best in the NHL. Last year proved that he’s on his way - and his performance at the World Championships showed that last season wasn’t a fluke. Snag him with confidence.
5. Jaroslav Halak: 57 GP, 136 GA, 2.48 GAA, .910 SV%
If you have a late round pick or unable to grab someone like Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, or Pekka Rinne - or if you’ve gotten some offensive guys first and realized "crap. I need a goalie," Halak should be pretty safe. He’s worked through his first year as a starter growing pains, gotten used to the Western Conference, and a season sans off-ice issues and injuries should help him revert to his 2010 playoff form.
6. Andy McDonald: 30 goals, 30 assists, 50 points, +13
This is with McDonald only playing 58 games thanks to injury. Imagine what he can do if he doesn’t take a header and a knee on Edmonton’s "best ice in the NHL."
7. Matt D’Agostini: 21 goals, 25 assists, 46 points, +8
D’Agostini will start the year on the top line, but it’s his job to keep it. If he keeps up the scoring, he’ll be your secret weapon. If he returns to being an unknown quantity, his solid defensive play will still be a good thing to have.
8. Alexander Steen: 20 goals, 31 assists, 51 points, −3
Steen benefited from the lack of of David Perron. This year, he might very well start off on the third line with Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott. It’ll probably not help his goal totals much.
9. T.J. Oshie: 12 goals, 22 assists ,34 points, +10
Oshie only played 49 games last year thanks to an ankle injury sustained in a fight he probably didn’t need to be a part of. He also missed a few games later on due to lack of an alarm clock. If he grows up and plays the whole year, he’s a ping pong ball on skates and is a key part of the Blues. But, of course, you can only be a key part of any team if you’re playing.
10. Kevin Shattenkirk: 9 goals, 34 assists, 43 points, −4
The Blues’ other young stud defenseman should continue his output this year if he doesn’t hit that sophomore slump. If it’s the later rounds and you need a d-man and he’s on the board (and if you’re in a league with non-Blues fans he will be), go for it. No risk, high reward? Yes please.