There is a new look to the Dallas Stars and their roster presents some opportunities for value, either from young players on the rise or veterans who might be overlooked because of their age.
Top Picks: There are a lot of expectations that will be placed on C Tyler Seguin, who was acquired from Boston and will not only move from right wing to centre, but will also go from being a supporting player to a first-line fixture in Dallas. Seguin had 45 goals and 99 points over the last two seasons, while playing 17 minutes per game, but after three seasons he should be ready for a bigger role, big enough that he should be a strong No. 2 fantasy centre, with potential for more if he finds the right chemistry with his new linemates.
Which brings us to Jamie Benn, a talented power forward who logged a career-high 19:55 per game for the Stars last season and has 193 points over the last four seasons, ranking 54th in the league. It's important to note, however, that those are Benn's first four years in the league, during which he's shown potential for more, so it's reasonable to place higher expectations on Benn, particularly if he's paired with Seguin. Like Seguin, Benn's a very good No. 2 or low-end No.1 left winger in most fantasy formats.
The one other Star that warrants early consideration is G Kari Lehtonen, who has a .917 save percentage over the last three seasons, which ranks 12th among goalies with at least 100 games played. Combined with his status as the Stars' clear-cut starter, Lehtonen appears to be an average No. 2 fantasy goaltender.
Value Plays: Fantays owners are notorious for age discrimation, preferring the young up-and-comer over the tried-and-true veteran, which presents the opportunity to find value in a 41-year-old like Ray Whitney. Even in the twilight of his career, Whitney remains productve, putting up 106 points in 114 games over the last two seasons, ranking 16th in points-per-game over that span and the beauty is that you shouldn't have to pay those prices on draft day to get a quality No. 2 or even No. 3 left winger.
Along those same lines, expect 39-year-old D Sergei Gonchar to come at a bit of discount because of his age, even though 64 points in the last two seasons places him 20th among defencemen and still fits as a No. 4 defenceman in fantasy.
With the Stars making some moves to upgrade their skill level, that should also bode well for D Alex Goligoski, who has scored fewer points than Gonchar in the last two seasons, but more in the last three, and would benefit from upgraded talent on the Dallas power play. All things considered, Goligoski gets the edge on Gonchar for value, but neither should cost premium prices.
Sleepers/Breakthrough: One year removed from a 35-goal season, RW Erik Cole managed just nine goals and 13 points in 47 games with Montreal and Dallas last season. Cole is 34, so expecting a bounceback might be optimistic, but there is also the possibility that he could find his way to playing with Benn and Seguin on the top line and that would be too good an opportunity to ignore.
36-year-old D Stephane Robidas is a sleeper in the sense that his value comes from peripheral stats. He's a hit and blocked shot beast, enough that he warrants fantasy consideration despite very modest scoring numbers.
There may not be room for LW/C Cody Eakin among the Stars' top six forwards (or maybe there will be), but with 32 points in his first 78 games, the 22-year-old should at least be on your radar. Whether he should be drafted or monitored on the waiver wire will depend a lot on his role.
Rookies: Alex Chiasson, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie
The 10th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, RW Valeri Nichushkin is a big, skilled power forward who will have a real chance to make the Stars as an 18-year-old. Whether he's ready to produce at a consistent level is anyone's guess -- he had 15 points in 43 KHL (regular season and playoff) games last season -- but he has the makings of a first-line winger. It just might not be this season.
RW Alex Chiasson made his presence known quickly last season, scoring six goals and seven points in Dallas after 35 points in 57 AHL games as a first-year pro. He's not going to keep up that small-sample point-per-game pace, but he had 80 points in 73 games over his last two seasons at Boston University, so he has an offensive pedigree and there are some opportunities to earn a role with a scoring line in Dallas this season.
One more wing prospect with a chance to make an impact this season is RW Brett Ritchie, a power forward drafted in the second round in 2011. He had 76 points in 53 OHL games last season and six points in 14 AHL (regular season and playoff) games late in the year. Maybe Ritchie will need some seasoning in the AHL, but it wouldn't be a shock if he earns a spot in Dallas.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.