2009-10 Draft Prep: Forward tiers

The votes have been tallied and the results are in. The highest drafted player in all CBSSports.com Fantasy Hockey formats is ... Alex Ovechkin . Ta-da!

Yeah, no shocker there. You win the MVP award two years running and you would be harder to miss than a supermodel among a bunch of Fantasy writers.

It's pretty hard to mess up the top pick in Fantasy, and in fact, the two players after Ovechkin on the forward draft board -- Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby -- are just as valuable. All are 100-point threats and feature players in any starting Fantasy lineup.

It's after the "Big Three" are gone where drafting forwards can get a little interesting.

Who could have guessed that Jeff Carter would have finished second in the NHL in goals (46) in 2008-09 and be a top five Fantasy producer at forward?

Mike Cammalleri was another oddity last season after he was coming off a down year in 2007-08 with the Kings. He found a new home in Calgary and was expected to regain his scoring form. But to top Jarome Iginla as the Flames' top goal scorer was shocking.

Simon Gagne was a forgotten man on Draft Day last year as he played just 25 games in '07-08. He was trying to come back from a serious bout of post-concussion syndrome and was a huge injury-risk. While Gagne just missed out on his third 40-goal campaign in four seasons, those who rolled the dice on Draft Day ended up with a top 20 Fantasy forward.

I feel forward is one position you can afford to wait for on Draft Day unless you have an opportunity to grab an elite option. I might draft a forward or two in the first couple of rounds, but if I get the chance, I'm loading up on goalies and defensemen.

Why? Because I feel forward is one position that you can find the steals later in the draft or on waivers. It is such a deep position that Fantasy owners should focus more of their attention to building reliable depth at goalie and defensemen early in drafts.

Foundations to Build Around

Ovechkin and Malkin were the only forwards to break 300 Fantasy points last season but 41 had 200 or more points. That was three more than the year before.

If you miss out on the top three, don't worry. There are still a lot of well-rounded forwards that should fill the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Some forwards we think are worthy of being high on draft boards are Iginla, Pavel Datsyuk , Ryan Getzlaf , Ilya Kovalchuk , Joe Thornton , Henrik Zetterberg , Daniel Sedin , Dany Heatley , Zach Parise , Daniel Alfredsson , Niklas Backstrom , Marc Savard , Rick Nash , Eric Staal and Jason Spezza .

Light the Lamp

The NHL had no shortage of goal scorers in 2008-09. There were 38 players that managed 30 or more goals. While many of these guys are also considered high-end Fantasy options, we put them in a different tier because their value could be increased since some leagues reward heavily for putting the puck in the back of the net.

Top goal scorers include Cammalleri, Gagne, Carter, Patrick Marleau , Johan Franzen , Brad Boyes , Corey Perry , Alexander Frolov , Shane Doan , Devin Setoguchi , David Booth , Jonathan Toews , Jason Blake , Loui Eriksson , Milan Hejduk , Steven Stamkos , Michael Ryder , Mike Knuble , Bobby Ryan and Bryan Little .

A Helping Hand

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the forwards that excel at getting the puck to the scorers and racking up the assists.

Forwards that are prolific passers are Martin St. Louis , Ales Hemsky , Scott Gomez , Henrik Sedin , Mike Ribeiro , Ray Whitney , Patrick Kane , Mike Richards , Paul Stastny , Slava Kozlov , Mikko Koivu , Derek Roy , J.P. Dumont , Anze Kopitar , Brad Richards , Jason Pominville , Stephen Weiss , Pierre-Marc Bouchard , Todd White , Brian Gionta , David Perron and Saku Koivu .

Is it Worth the Gamble?

It's sad that we are midway through a column on top Fantasy forwards and this is the first mention of Marian Gaborik , who was the Rangers' key free-agent addition this offseason. But we saved a special category for him.

Gaborik falls under the header of high-risk, high-reward. These are the players that are outstanding offensive skaters and can post some serious Fantasy points. However, they sometimes slip down draft boards because it seems every other week they are on the injured list.

Gaborik, who missed most of the '08-09 season with a hip injury, has played more than 80 games just once in his first eight seasons. He has dressed for just 66.3 percent (272 of 410) of regular-season games over the last five years. The Rangers took quite a gamble in the offseason by signing Gaborik, who had spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, and Fantasy owners take the same odds when drafting the Czech forward.

Other players that have elite ability but are injury-risk selections -- whether they have a checkered past or are coming off a major ailment -- are Alexander Semin , Martin Havlat , Paul Kariya , Patrik Elias , Alex Tanguay , Andrew Brunette , Derick Brassard , Steve Sullivan , Pavol Demitra , Brenden Morrow , Marian Hossa , Phil Kessel , Todd Bertuzzi , David Krejci and Tim Connolly .

The Past is the Past

It's safe to say that Olli Jokinen failed to meet expectations last season, and we just aren't talking Fantasy.

Phoenix traded for the Finnish forward before the '08-09 season and expected him to be the offensive leader on the ice. Jokinen had some injury issues during his tenure with Phoenix, but when he was healthy, he wasn't the 90-point threat he projected during his days with Florida.

Jokinen showed a little life after the late-season trade to Calgary, but then he faded in the playoffs. Jokinen managed 57 points in 76 games, his lowest total since he had 58 points in 2003-04 with the Panthers.

His down year is a reason why Jokinen might no longer be among the class of the forwards, but he falls into the ever important bounce-back category -- guys that underachieved the year before but are primed for a rebound season.

Joining Jokinen on this list are Vincent Lecavalier , Alex Kovalev , Andy McDonald , Vinny Prospal , Patrice Bergeron , Rod Brind'Amour , Brian Rolston , Erik Cole , Sam Gagner , Tomas Plekanec , Patrick O'Sullivan , Peter Mueller , Jason Williams , Petr Sykora and Patrick Sharp .

Short-handed Specialists

While much of Fantasy is focused on the offensive aspect of the game, a new trend evolving is recognition geared toward defensive-oriented players. A lot of leagues are starting to employ penalty killers as a new wrinkle to Fantasy, so players that were once never on the radar are now part of the Draft Day strategy.

Forwards that excel in short-handed situations are Kris Versteeg , Marty Reasoner , Radek Dvorak , David Legwand , Joe Pavelski , Richard Park , Dave Bolland , Chad LaRose , Jordan Staal , Mike Grier , Travis Moen , Jay McClement , Michal Handzus , David Steckel , Todd Marchant , Ryan Kesler , Samuel Pahlsson , Chris Kelly and Alex Burrows .

Ding, ding, Round 1 ...

There have been some concerns that hockey is getting too violent and that fighting should be banned before more unfortunate instances arise. However, fighting is still part of the game and the NHL still has its resident enforcers.

Much like penalty killers, enforcers have found a role in Fantasy Hockey and guys that total a ton of penalty minutes are in play.

Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo has been the NHL's most notable enforcer in recent years, as he has led the NHL in penalty minutes the last two seasons. He has 652 penalty minutes in 149 career games. Carcillo has some developing offensive talents, but when he hits the ice his primary objective is to bring the pain.

Other players with reputations include George Parros , Derek Dorsett , Jared Boll , Riley Cote , Chris Neil , Zack Stortini , Cody McLeod , Colton Orr , Sean Avery , Eric Godard , Ben Eager , David Clarkson , Tim Jackman , Mike Brown , Raitis Ivanans , Jody Shelley , Jarkko Ruutu , Derek Boogaard , Adam Burish , Donald Brashear , Joel Rechlicz , Eric Boulton and Ian Laperriere .

Win, Lose or Draw

Specialists are not limited to just penalty killers and enforcers. Faceoff warriors are now starting to earn their due in Fantasy as well.

Forwards that earn their keep in the faceoff circle are Shawn Horcoff , Craig Conroy , Manny Malhotra , Eric Belanger , Chris Drury , Matt Stajan , Mike Modano , Antoine Vermette , Martin Hanzal , Jarret Stoll , Mike Fisher , Gregory Campbell , Kris Draper , Maxim Lapierre , Kyle Brodziak and Dainius Zubrus .

With the First Pick in the 2009 NHL Draft ...

It has been months since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman helped introduce John Tavares as the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

Much like 2008 No. 1 pick, Stamkos, Tavares is the head of the rookie class. How can he not be? He is the same kid that broke Wayne Gretzky's OHL scoring record in his second junior season -- 72 goals in 62 games -- back in 2006-07. Tavares also had 215 goals and 218 assists in 247 games as a junior hockey player.

Fantasy owners just hope he has a better first season than Stamkos, who didn't hit his peak until late in his rookie season.

Tavares is a talent worth drafting in all Fantasy formats because he is going to get his scoring chances from Day 1. Other rookies on the Fantasy radar include Cody Hodgson , James van Riemsdyk , Jordan Eberle , Ville Leino , Nikita Filatov , Colin Wilson , Matt Duchene , Nathan Gerbe and Artem Anisimov .

Do you have a question for our Fantasy staff? You can e-mail us at DMFantasyPucks@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Fantasy Pucks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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