An attractive team for fantasy owners, because they are on the rise with elite young talent, the Edmonton Oilers require a lot of faith in their potential.
Top Picks: A rising star, potential superstar, LW Taylor Hall stayed healthy last season and finished ninth in the scoring race with 50 points in 45 games. This despite scoring on a career-low 10.4% of his shots on goal. Hall is only 21, will get a look at centre early in the season, and can reasonably be expected to be a point-per-game player for the forseeable future, but maybe there is more.
Maybe he has enough to push 100 points, a real benchmark that would put him near the very top of the league but, right now, as a left winger who comes with some injury risk (based on his first two seasons) and a likelihood of scoring a point per game, Hall is a potential first-round, but likely second-round, pick in most fantasy leagues.
RW Jordan Eberle scored 76 points in 79 games in 2011-2012, raising expectations, but that wasn't fair since he scored on 18.9% of his shots that season, a number that is simply not sustainable for more than 99% of players in the league. As Eberle's shooting percentage fell last season, the shooting percentage of his linemates also dipped, practically over-correcting for the previous season's inflated totals and, as a result, Eberle went from 0.97 points per game the year before to 0.77 points per game last season.
Finding a point somewhere in between, however, is a reasonable projection for a skilled offensive winger who can be a No. 2 right wing for fantasy owners.
Value Plays: Newly-acquired LW David Perron is a skilled forward, a two-time 20-goal scorer, with good size and he's shaken free of concussion problems that cost him more than a season of game action, playing all 48 games in 2013. While Perron effectively played on the Blues' top line last season, it was in a two-way role, so he'll likely find more favourable offensive matchups in Edmonton.
Leave it to a shortened season for C Sam Gagner to have a breakthrough season, his 0.79 points per game a 25% jump over his previous career high. Gagner won't come as cheaply this year as a result, but he's also in a position to put up points so long as he remains healthy because that gives him the edge right out of training camp.
The Oilers' other scoring centre is supposed to be 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is going into his third season after a sophomore year that was a mess. Saddled with terrible percentages and playing tougher minutes when Shawn Horcoff was injured, Nugent-Hopkins finished with four goals and 24 points in 40 games. He's a playmaker with great vision and should be a fine fit with Hall and Eberle when all are healthy, but Nugent-Hopkins is also recovering from shoulder surgery and while recovery appears to be going well, he could miss time in the first month of the season, which makes him a risk-reward selection on draft day. With his scoring potential, Nugent-Hopkins has value as a possible No. 3 centre for fantasy owners.
Sleepers/Breakthrough: A fantastic finish to the 2013 season, which included 11 goals and 15 points in the final 14 games, lifted Nail Yakupov's rookie season from unimpressive to Calder Trophy challenger in short order and raised the bar for what might be expected for an encore in his second season. He's not going to score on 21.0% of his shots again, but he could also play more than 14:34 per game, so he's going to be a productive part of the Oilers' second line. His potential makes a No. 3 right wing spot reasonable for fantasy owners.
Another of last year's highly-touted rookies, D Justin Schultz didn't disappoint in his ability to move the puck, scoring 27 points in 48 games, but he was minus-17, so that is a category that needs improvement if he's going to make the most of his value.
Injuries and a declining role limit the appeal of Ales Hemsky, but he bears monitoring. If he finds his way to a significant role with the current Oilers' cast, he could be productive enough and ought to be a bargain on draft day.
Should the Oilers finally start to achieve their potential as a team, that would result in a payoff for G Devan Dubnyk, whose .917 save percentage over the last three seasons ranks 14th. As he's the clear starter in Edmonton, Dubnyk is a fair No. 2 fantasy goaltender.
In real longshot territory, keep an eye on LW Linus Omark and D Denis Grebeshkov, one-time Oilers returning from Switzerland and Russia, respectively. Omark has offensive ability (scoring 69 points in 48 Swiss League games last season), but needs an opportunity if he's going to put up numbers in the NHL.
Rookies: 27-year-old D Anton Belov had 26 points in 46 KHL games last season, so he may offer some offensive upside, if he secures a regular spot on the Oilers' blueline. So many young players have been thrust into the Oilers lineup in recent seasons that there just isn't room for many more to be put in position to score, but Belov might have an opportunity to play on the power play, so he bears watching.
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.