The Montreal Canadiens are a fascinating, if challenging, team from a fantasy perspective, with young stars on the rise as well as established veterans all competing for ice time and how the roles shake out will have a significant bearing on which players hold the most value.
Top Picks: After winning the Norris Trophy D P.K. Subban won't come at any cut-rate prices for fantasy owners, but he can provide value anyway because in three seasons in the league, he's the only defenceman to have 100 points and 300 penalty minutes. For leagues that don't count PIMs, he offers 266 hits and 268 blocked shots over the last three seasons as well, so he's a top tier defenceman. That doesn't hold the same appeal as a top tier forward, but his relative value is strong.
A miserable finish to the 2013 season left G Carey Price with a career-low .905 save percentage. At the same time, Price has played 176 games over the last three seasons, second only to Pekka Rinne, and his .917 save percentage in that time ranks 11th, so he holds fantasy value. Coming off his worst season, though, it's difficult to count on him as a No. 1 fantasy starter.
In the past two seasons, LW Max Pacioretty has 449 shots on goal in 123 games, ranking eighth and his 104 points over that time ranks 27th, which is enough evidence to rank Pacioretty as a No. 1 left wing.
Value Plays: Over the last four seasons, C Tomas Plekanec has scored 212 points, ranking 43rd, a good total, combined with relatively high shot totals that make him a high-end No. 3 or low-end No. 2 fantasy centre.
RW Brendan Gallagher forced his way into a prominent role as a rookie with the Canadiens last season, and was the only rookie with double digit goals and a double-digit plus rating. Can he build on that production in his second season?
After missing 181 games over the previous three seasons, D Andrei Markov played in all 48 games for the Canadiens last season, scoring 30 points (23 on the power play). He's still productive, but 34 and an injury risk so even with his power play mastery, Markov fits as a No. 3 or even No. 4 fantasy defenceman.
Sleepers/Breakthrough: 19-year-old LW Alex Galchenyuk impressed in his rookie season, scoring 27 points and recording a plus-14 rating in 48 games, but he has much room to improve his production in year two, starting with ice time. Galchenyuk played on 12:19 per game as a rookie and should be trusted with more responsibility this season. How much ice time and how much time on the power play he receives will play a big part in determining just how much more he can score as a sophomore.
Following a breakout 2011-2012 season, when he scored 60 points, C David Desharnais lost some lustre (and ice time) last season. He still has offensive upside, but he'll have to battle for ice time to have a big enough role to generate fantasy interest.
Veterans Brian Gionta and Danny Briere are both in their mid-30s with declining production, but in deeper leagues, they're worth a look, if only because they have a track record of being able to score.
Rookies: Montreal doesn't figure to have many, if any, rookies making a big impact this season. D Jarred Tinordi might earn himself a regular spot on the blueline, and could play very well, but he's limited offensively and his physical game may not be enough to compensate fantasy owners for a lack of points.
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.