With fantasy drafts upcoming, aspiring GMs everywhere are pouring over stats, reading blogs (thanks), and trying to figure out who they'll take in the first five rounds. The truth of the matter is, leagues are rarely won in the early rounds. The players that will go in the first two rounds in most leagues could very nearly go on consensus.
The key to succeeding in fantasy hockey is grabbing guys like Stastny, Stamkos, Kopitar or M. Koivu late. With this in mind, here's my list of guys that should go late in your draft that could have a serious impact on your success this season.
Claude Giroux - Giroux's Y! ranking is 136. This means that in a ten team league, he'd be going in the fourteenth round. The young Flyer was predicted by many to have a breakout year last season but it never really materialized - until the playoffs that is. Giroux had his coming out party in the Stanley Cup playoffs and proved that he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He's a natural centre who has been forced to play the wing on a Flyers team that is stacked down the middle which may be the reason for his late development. Either way, he's on an offensively dynamic team and he's a very talented winger. He's a good pickup in either a keeper league or a one year league.
Lubomir Visnovsky - Visnovsky's Y! ranking is 139. On my draft sheet, Visnovsky is a top 20 defenseman. Last year he put up 45 points in 73 games while splitting time between the Ducks and Oilers. With Niedermayer out of he mix and one of the most talented powerplay units in the league, Visnovsky should put up some monster point totals. He's played on bad teams with the Kings (pre-breakout) and Oilers and has still been a respectable option for fantasy owners. Just wait to see what he can do with talented forwards.
Mikael Samuelsson - Samuelsson's Y! ranking is 148. Samuelsson had an inconsistent year last year but if you look at the totals, they're pretty nice. He shoots a lot, puts up respectable point totals and gets nearly a penalty minute per game. Add all this to the fact that he plays on one of the best goal differential teams in the league and his +/- should be very good. Perhaps most importantly, Samuelsson seems like the ideal candidate to replace Burrows on the top line while Burrows recovers from offseason labrum surgery. There's a very strong possibility that Samuelsson finds himself among the top twenty ranked players in fantasy output into the month of November.
Ryan Malone - Malone's Y! ranking is 230. That's right, 230. Tampa Bay seems poised to be one of the breakout teams in the East this year. I don't usually like taking players based on possible line combinations but Malone should be a lock to skate on a line with either Stamkos and St Louis or on a line with Lecavalier and Simon Gagne. Either way, his numbers will be good. He's a thirty goal scorer that will put up good PIM numbers and may be the horse that Tampa parks in front of the net on the powerplay. As Tampa improves, so will his +/- so don't let him go undrafted.
Kris Versteeg - Versteeg's Y! ranking is 271. Versteeg put up 44 points in the Blackhawks playing mostly third line minutes. He'll find himself on the first or second line all season on the Leafs and will have a significant increase in his offensive responsibilities. While his +/- will take a hit, everything else should be trending upwards for Versteeg. He'll get point, PIMs, PP and be a generally serviceable player in a lot of categories. Don't lose track of him in the late rounds.