It wasn't that long ago when you could build your entire fantasy hockey team around players on the Avs. Forsberg, Sakic, Blake, Bourque, Drury, Tanguay, Hejduk, etc. Now, however, it's unlikely any Av will go very high in any fantasy hockey draft.
That being said, here are five Avs who shouldn't be underrated in your fantasy drafts:
Paul Stastny - Center
Key Stat: 1.0 PPG in his career.
In what could be considered a sad season for the Avalanche last year, Stastny was one of the few bright spots. Despite missing around 16 games, the sophomore still put up 71 points including 24 goals. This season, assuming he stays healthy, expect Stastny to hit 30 goals for the first time in his career and to be an 80+ point player.
Milan Hejduk - Right Winger
Key Stat: Has never gone two straight seasons with fewer than 70 points
Milan Hejduk may go down as one the streakiest players in NHL history. Look at his career point totals starting in the 98-99 season:
48, 72, 79, 44, 98, 75, 58, 70, 54
He's getting up there in age, but there's no denying the trend. Once Hejduk has one bad season, he's going to have a good one immediately after. He's played fewer than 74 games just once in his career (01-02) and has played 80+ games in six of his nine seasons. He's a former fifty-goal scorer and even though he had an off-year last year, he still managed to put up 29. Expect Hejduk to register at least 65+ points and to be in the 25-35 goal range.
Ryan Smyth - Left Wing
Key Stat: Averaged fewer than 59 GP in his last two seasons.
Ryan Smyth's first year in Denver wasn't what anybody had expected. "Captain Canada" was injured for much of the year (along with everyone else) and had just 37 points (14 goals) in 55 games. There is reason to believe that Smyth will improve on those numbers this year. With Coach Q out and newly-hired, formerly demoted Coach Granato in, the Avalanche offense should be opened up a bit more and Smyth should have more chances to shine. Hopefully, Granato understands that Smyth's place isn't behind the net, but in front of it. With Ruslan Salei and John-Michael Liles as the best offensive threats on D, it could be a struggle to get shots on net for Smyth to work with. With a season of 60-70 games, Smyth should be able to put up around 20-25 goals and anywhere from 55-65 points.
John-Michael Liles -Defenseman
Key Stat: Five points in ten playoff games last season
Liles has seen his point total drop in each of the past three seasons and last year he scored just six goals. However, after the trade deadline, Liles improved dramatically on the Avalanche blueline and he really picked up his game on both ends of the ice. Liles shouldn't be a #1 or #2 defenseman on your fantasy team, but he might be a nice sleeper pick as a #3 or #4. This season, if he's playing with Scott Hannan or Adam Foote and is allowed to carry the puck up ice and control the power play, Liles could go over the 15-goal mark and top 40 points.
Joe Sakic - Center
Key Stat: A lock for the HOF and this is possibly his last season
We all knew Sakic wasn't coming back unless he felt he could 100% compete. And ultimately, he made the decision to return to the Avs for a 20th season. Even though he missed almost half the season, Sakic put up 40 points in 44 games and put up 10 points in 10 games during the playoffs. We saw Sakic slide a bit down the totem pole of NHL centers, but if he's health, you can't underestimate what he brings to the table. He's still the undisputed leader of the Avalanche and with teams having to worry about Paul Stastny, Sakic might not be seeing every team's #1 center this year. In what could be his final campaign, I expect a season of 70-85 points and a lot more if he can stay completely healthy.
I'm no fantasy expert. What are your opinions on the Avs in regards to making a fantasy impact this season?