NHL Fantasy Hockey 2013: Dallas Stars Preview

Ronald Martinez

Jeff Angus gives you the low down on which Stars to take a good hard look at in your fantasy hockey drafts, and which players could be a sleeper pick in the later rounds.

I originally wrote a Dallas Stars fantasy hockey preview for the 2012-13 season last summer, but I figured it was time for an update as the season is now only days away. What can fantasy hockey poolies expect from players on Dallas this year? Who benefits most from what has been a very busy (and very long) offseason in the Big D?

The Forwards

The Studs

Jamie Benn should be considered a point-per-game player this season. The only question with that though – how many games does he play? A Benn-less Stars are a much, much different team, as each center gets bumped up one spot on a pretty thin depth chart to begin with.

Loui Eriksson is also a fantasy hockey stud, and he is incredibly consistent. Consistency is an attribute that many people underrate when evaluating professional athletes, so try not to make that mistake as you get ready for draft day. Give me the player who gets 60-70 points every year over the guy who “may” get 80+, but most likely gets hurt and/or struggles to a 40-50 point season.

If Derek Roy is fully healthy (and all signs point to yes in that regard), I’d expect him to finish the shortened season with approximately 35 points. Roy has always been a player who has had a chip on his shoulder, and that chip increased in size after Buffalo traded him away last year. He is also playing for a new contract – a powerful motivator for any player.

Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr should both finish in the 25-35 point range. I’d put Whitney near the high end, and Jagr closer to the low end. Whitney is going to be a fantastic fit on the Dallas power play, which has struggled mightily in recent years.

The Sleepers

My sleeper pick from last summer:

Tom Wandell – I was debating who to put here – Cody Eakin would have been a great choice too, but he seems to be a widely-regarded choice as a sleeper. I wanted to dig a bit deeper, and Wandell is the perfect example of what a sleeper pick is. He has been written off in the past for failing to make the most of the multiple opportunities given to him, and with the massive turnover we have seen this summer in Dallas, 2012-13 could be his last chance to prove himself. If I have learned one thing over the years, it is never to discount players with a) an opportunity, and b) something to prove.

I don’t think I would change that pick, but I only wanted to re-emphasize how important this season is for Wandell. He has been largely a forgotten man when people have been designing their ideal line combinations, but with Jamie Benn still not signed to a contract, Wandell may find his way into the top six to start the season.

Another sleeper pick to keep in mind on draft day is Matt Fraser. He got off to a slow start in the AHL, but he has been coming on really strong over the past few months. Fraser is a natural goal scorer, and he has the size and strength to succeed against NHL quality defensemen. He may need another year in the AHL before making the full time jump, but he has firmly cemented himself as the most ready scoring prospect in the Dallas system.

Don't Overrate

From the 2012-13 DobberHockey Guide:

Dobber’s lowdown on: Michael Ryder – Eleven of his 62 points came on the power play last season and 23 of his even-strength points were earned while on the ice with former Montreal buddy Mike Ribeiro. The Stars didn’t sign Whitney and Jagr for the penalty kill. Those two wingers get first dibs on PP time and you know Eriksson will as well. Ryder’s PP time will be cut and as the No.7 winger he gets the No.3 center when it comes to even strength. Bottom line – definitely a dip in his numbers.

The Defense

The Studs

From last summer:

Alex Goligoski – Goligoski is an elite puck moving defenseman. Since coming to Dallas, he has contributed positively at both ends of the ice, and he is only just scratching the surface of his full offensive capabilities. With an improved group of forwards this season, Goligoski should see his numbers improve significantly. All that is left is for the team to find a steady defensive defenseman to play alongside him on the top pairing. He will forever be linked to James Neal (and Neal had an impressive 2011-12, but he did play with the best player in the world in a very offensively-oriented role).

From this year’s Guide:

"Goligoski’s production increased from 0.40 points per game to 0.50 when Sheldon Souray was not in the lineup. Souray isin Anaheim now so the PP is all Goligoski’s now. Good thing, too – he had just six points in his last 27 games."

He doesn’t have a bomb of a shot, but he excelled in Pittsburgh by making smart reads (especially on the power play). He will drive the Dallas attack.

The Sleepers

Dallas has a few sleepers on the back end. One of them is Philip Larsen, another player who I wrote about already.

Philip Larsen – It is difficult to project Larsen’s offensive numbers right now, as he has so little experience in an offensive role at the NHL level. He has attributes that many top offensive defensemen possess – he is calm with the puck, he makes great reads, and he skates very well. Dallas will likely use Larsen in a secondary offensive role, as they don’t really have any other alternatives on the roster right now.

Larsen was reasonably productive in the SEL, and he posted 22 points in 54 games in his only AHL season. He had only eight points in 55 games for the Stars last season, but his improvement over the course of the season has to be encouraging. He has garnered a few comparisons to Tobias Enstrom for his hockey sense and ability to excel as an undersized defenseman. Larsen also showed a bit of a physical streak last season – it will be interesting to see how that side of his game develops (and the potential fantasy hockey benefits in terms of hits and PIM).

After Larsen, keep an eye on Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon if you are in deep leagues (larger roster sizes). Dillon may not be an offensively productive defenseman for a few years, but he brings immediate value in leagues that count hits, PIM, and blocked shots as positive statistics. Benn has more short-term offensive upside, but Dillon will probably end up being the better defenseman.

The Goaltenders

I am expecting huge things from Kari Lehtonen this season. In fact, he is the most important player for Dallas this season.

A shortened season introduces a lot more luck and chance into the playoff equation. It also makes goaltending even more important. The Pacific Division is stacked with great goaltending, and Lehtonen has quietly developed into a top 10 goaltender in the league over the past few years. His play didn’t decline noticeably last season, but he did struggle a bit once the team in front of him started to slide. Even really good goaltenders can’t cover up every blemish on a roster. That being said, Lehtonen was able to mask some of the issues on the Stars last season, and he should do the same for them in 2013.

It will be a battle for the backup position behind Lehtonen. Cristopher Nihlstorp has been very solid in the AHL this season, while Richard Bachman was a very good backup goaltender behind Lehtonen last season. Backups don’t have much fantasy value as they don’t tend to play a lot. Look for Lehtonen to get at least 35-40 starts this season.

Best of luck in your fantasy hockey pools this year.

***

The DobberHockey 2013 Fantasy Guide is fully updated post-lockout- we have been working night and day on it since news of the lockout ending came down over a week ago. Unlike the other guides that were released last summer, the DobberHockey Guide is completely updated with everything that has occurred during the lockout. This is also the first year we included advanced statistics in some of our analysis, too.

All projections are based on a 48 game schedule. Injuries need to be considered, prospect performance in the AHL, older players playing better in a shortened year (or worse), etc. Dobber has spent the days leading up to ratification going through each player with a fine-tooth comb. All projections, sleeper notes, rookie charts, injuries will be based on the shortened season and the latest information. Almost every single page of the Guide that was released on August 1st has been changed.

***

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