As we head into the final weeks before the season starts, Fantasy Drafts have to be on a few fan's minds. Our M&G Fantasy League may have a few spots left. E-mail Justin if you are interested <firstname.lastname@example.org> in joining us for the season. (I have the worst team name in the entire league) This article will hold nothing new or surprising for Flames fans but if you are a fan of another team, it has tips on Flames picks that you may want to consider
The top Flames players are not going to be under anyone's radar in their Fantasy drafts.
Jarome Iginla will go early in the draft. Mark Giordano is no longer a well-kept secret in Calgary and will slot into most draft orders accurately. Alex Tanguay is also going to go in your top ten rounds somewhere depending on the size of your League.
But the Flames have a number of sleeper picks, ones that may be under the radar for a lot of people and once you are deep in your draft, they are worth considering.
The Flames Sleepers
#1 Mikael Backlund
He will likely be missed completely in a lot of Leagues by fans who do not know the Flames. In a Keeper League target him for sure.
The straight stat line on Backlund's rookie year does not tell the full story. Backlund played most of last season on the 3rd and 4th lines. This kid has a solid NHL future. For a rookie he made very few mistakes. He is a smart player beyond his years, positionally sound and with good hands. Something a lot of people are not aware of is that Backlund finished the year on Calgary's 1st line between Tanguay and Iginla and he looked just fine.
With Calgary's trade of Daymond Langkow to Phoenix and the fact Olli Jokinen has not found chemistry on the 1st line with Iginla, despite countless attempts, there is a high probability that Backlund will return to the 1st line at some point, perhaps not right away but eventually. Don't take him too early but keep him in mind for those later rounds.
#2 Jay Bouwmeester
Jay Bouwmeester is overpaid, lets get that fact out of the way but it is a myth that he has been a bust in Calgary. Defensively he has been very sound. He is the current ironman of the NHL but wound up his second year in Calgary with sub-par offensive production, again.
Jay is still a good late round pick to fill out your D. He is unlikely to get injured, he plays in all situations, PK, PP and he logs major minutes. He will have a new Defensive partner this year with the exit of Robyn Regehr - a famously defensive defenseman. His offensive production just may return to a 35+ point level this year with that new partner. You probably can get him on your last D pick or close to it.
#3 Olli Jokinen
The much maligned Olli Jokinen is a sleeper, not because of play but because of the unmet expectations and the bizarre Darryl Sutter trade and re-sign of him. This isn't Jokinen's fault, it is Darryl Sutter's. It is hard to think of a player brought into Calgary in the last decade who had such high expectations. Finally, the skilled Center to play with Iginla it was thought, but it didn't work. Jokinen and Iginla have been like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, no matter how often you put them together they just don't mix. Yet despite all the drama, Jokinen quietly turned in yet another 50 point season, something he has done for 8 straight seasons now.
The Joker absolutely leads the team in goal posts hit in the last two seasons, probably around 40 in the 2 seasons which is the reason I like him as a sleeper pick. His shot is still there. Chemistry did emerge suddenly and dramatically last year when paired with Glencross and Moss. The new OMG 2nd line was dramatically outscoring the Iginla line for a stretch. Jokinen tied a Flames record with 4 points in a single period in one game and he is in a contract year. He will be highly motivated to excel. A good pick in your later rounds if he is there.
#4 Anton Babchuk - Anton is a borderline sleeper and likely will go right where he should go in most drafts. He is an offensive D man and his straight stat line should bring him up on most people radar naturally in the draft. If you want him, you may want to push him up a little. Should you? Depends on the type of league. He will play the PP and will be highly sheltered, so extra Powerplay goals and points and a higher + / - may serve your specific needs.
The Flames Coma Pick
There are sleepers and there are beyond sleepers. There are coma picks, long-shots and players highly unlikely to even go in the draft but ones you should watch to pick up on waivers early. The Flames coma pick this year is Niklas Hagman. He has just come off a terrible season and is in a contract year. If he doesn't perform his NHL career may be done.
He was dropped to waivers last year and the whole league passed on him. He probably will go undrafted in most Fantasy Leagues. But Jay Feaster has spoke highly of him recently and he worked out extremely hard this off-season. Watch his stats early in the season. If he is starting to score you may want to drop a player and pick him up.
Flames you should not Overrate this year.
#1 Rene Bourque
Be careful with Rene Bourque, he will likely go higher than he should in most pools. This season the Flames will have a lot of competition for the 2nd line spots. With the addition of Lee Stempniak, Bourque is no lock on the 2nd line.
Bourque is highly skilled, very fast and has a lethal shot. He plays both Wings, the PP and the PK and he is a scoring threat on the PK. So what's not to like?
He has an injury history from the past. He has suffered multiple concussions, although Flames fans breathed a sigh of relief on his full season last year. He also went an unreal 21 games in a row last season and scored only 2G and 2A. My advice, avoid him in the draft and let someone else take him, wait till he hits a scoring drought and offer up one of your players who is on a hot streak to whoever is holding him. They may get impatient and trade him and now you have him at good value.
#2 Miikka Kiprusoff
Kipper has traditionally been a Fantasy staple for G because he has been a lock for 70+ games in the past. I predict that this year will be the first year Kipper plays less than 70 games. Henrik Karlsson had a shaky start to his NHL career but sharpened up considerably as time went on. He finished his last three games with the Flames with a SV% of 0.935, 0.929 and 0.923 in each game against Phx, Ana, Van respectively - not shabby competition.
Calgary had the 4th lowest shots allowed in the NHL but Kipper's SV% was a paltry .906. When you factor in that Robyn Regehr is gone for this season and most consider the Flames blue line weaker because of it, well, the bottom line is simply that this may be the year to push Kipper down in your draft order for G's
#3 Curtis Glencross
Glencross just came off a career season and he took a discount to sign long-term with the Flames.
So what's the problem? Well, that deal includes a NMC. NMC's can be questioned on even the best players but on a player who is at best a 2nd line player? Will he perform this year? The other little tidbit is that he just started his family and has a new baby. As wonderful as that may be for him personally, parents who have their first baby in my experience need at least one year to adjust. They go through adjustments in their sleep schedules and mentally adjust their world view radically, to the new most important thing on earth.
Not saying I would pick Niklas Hagman over Curtis Glencross but I am saying that I would not overrate him for this years fantasy draft. Curtis with his NMC may not be too concerned this year if he pots 20 goals or 5 goals or maybe he is. Time will tell.