P.A. Parenteau W, Canadiens: After a decent but injury-shortened year with Colorado where he registered 33 points in 55 games, all signs point to a bounce-back year for this Canadien. The first few games of the season have him playing alongside Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais on the Montreal top line, which bodes well for early investors. While projections have him scoring low-40s this season, we expect those numbers to be overly conservative. Given a healthy season, he should easily clear 50 points with 15-20 power play points. Montreal is a well-coached and balanced team, which should easily support his improvement from previous years. If you are looking for a hidden gem in a reasonably deep league, Parenteau will not disappoint.
Brock Nelson W, Islanders: By all reported accounts, Nelson was the biggest surprise at Islander training camp this year, showing up in fantastic shape, and impressing with his chemistry on the top line. In the Islanders first game, he recorded a break-out four points (two goals, two assists), likely cementing his spot on the wing of John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. While one game does not a season make, it is unlikely that this burst of production is an anomaly. Rather, it is indicative of a player who will not only make the most of his physical gains from offseason discipline, but benefit from one of the best playmakers in the game. If he's available and you have the room, he's worth a gamble; if we're right and he stays on the top line, he may be good for 60 points or better this year.
Jake Allen G, Blues: While the party line is that Brian Elliott will be the St. Louis starter this year, we figure it is only a matter of time until Allen takes the job. Much like the situation with Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price in Montreal a few months ago, we will witness the battle of veteran versus pedigree. Even after a glorious run in the playoffs, Halak was eventually dealt, and everybody knows now that the Canadiens made the right decision. Allen shows all the indications of a similar talent to Price - he just needs a break, which we feel will come soon. You may not want to grab him just yet, but flag him in your league, and snap him up with an injury or terrible performance by Elliott.
Alex Goligoski D, Stars: Consider him a beneficiary of circumstance; while Dallas had the 23rd best power play unit in 2013-2014 with a 15.9 PP%, that number will almost certainly rise this year with the additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. As the quarterback of that unit, Goligoski had 15 power play points, representing more than half his point production for the year. We're expecting Dallas' power play to rank in the top five, and with it, significantly boost the young defenseman's point outputs to career-high levels. He's also criminally under-drafted, and is typically available in the mid-teen rounds of most drafts. Since everybody needs defensemen in the later rounds, get him if you can. He's certain to finish in the top 100 ranked fantasy players this year.
Olli Maatta D, Penguins: This rookie standout is looking to show the critics that last year's success wasn't an aberration. While we're loathe to invest heavily in any 20-year old defenseman, we think he has the skill and ability to have a solid second year. We're bearish on his scoring, as the return of Kris Letang and Paul Martin from injury and the arrival of Christian Ehrhoff will likely eat some of his lunch, but he'll have his opportunities. Given any lack of success by either Ehrhoff or Martin on the second-unit power play, Maata could see his shot to reclaim his position he inherited last year. That possibility would turn him from a good acquisition into a great one. If he's available, flag him and watch how the first few weeks pan out before sinking too much into him.
Patrick Maroon W, Ducks: After a breakout season with Anaheim last year where he recorded 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points in 62 games, Maroon looks to capitalize on a number of offseason moves. The retirement of Finns Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, plus the trade of Nick Bonino for Ryan Kessler have opened up a lot of avenues for advancement for the 26-year old. To start the season, he looks to be sitting on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, which is sure to boost his production. He also will get top-unit power play time with Getzlaf, Perry and Kessler. If he can show that he can be effective at those spots, a 50+ point season is not out of line. Combine that with his truculent play style (he recorded 101 PIM last year), and he could be a fantastic fantasy player that would go undrafted in many mid-depth pools.
Frederick Andersen G, Ducks: While we were pessimistic about his chances after losing the opening night position to the upstart, John Gibson's performance was horrendous enough that Andersen will get an opportunity to reclaim his rightful spot. While we imagine that Gibson will win the job in the long run, a platoon situation is most likely given that both goalies are very green. Given that situation, Anaheim will still be a top team this year, and Andersen will likely win half of their games. If you're looking to boost goalie stats, Andersen has a lot of upside with not a lot of downside.
Andre Burakovsky C, Capitals: At only 19, Burakovsky looks exceptionally well positioned for a breakout year. He's sitting second on the depth chart behind Nicklas Backstrom, and playing alongside Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson, and he's getting second-unit power play time. While he still needs to physically mature, he has looked really good early on. If you're in a deep league, consider taking a flyer on him in the event he is able to take advantage of his good fortune.
Stuart Percy D, Maple Leafs: Yes, there's a very good chance that the reason we put him on here is because we're die-hard Leaf fans, and we love rooting for the next big Leaf rookie, but objectively, his performance on opening night showed brilliance reminiscent of Jake Gardiner when he broke onto the scene. He's poised with the puck, made crisp first-passes out of the zone, and scored his first NHL point. Aside from that business where the winning goal went off his skate, he was impressive. But as many were quick to point out, that was one game. Nonetheless, if he is able to reproduce that effort on a continual basis, the Leafs will have to make room for him on their team, as he was the best Leaf defenseman on opening night. Don't rush out to add him just yet, but he impressed us, and he may be more than just a flash in the pan.
Phil Kessel W, Maple Leafs: A notoriously streaky and gifted player, Kessel looks to be off to a cold start to this year. He looked lethargic and uninterested in the pre-season which we chalked up to games that didn't matter, but his slow games against Montreal and Pittsburgh have shown us that he'll probably get much worse before he gets better. We also expect this to last a fair bit longer - the Leafs are playing against top notch teams over the next few weeks, and are likely to finish October with a terrible record. Expect Kessel to be equally bad.
Jonas Hiller G, Flames: While Hiller has had a storied career in Anaheim showing poise and talent in the crease for the Ducks, all the drafts we've taken part of have had Hiller going far too early than warranted. Calgary is a very hard working team, and coach Bob Hartley has them well-trained to compete, but let's not make any mistake about it: Calgary isn't even close to a playoff team. Hiller should be avoided in all but the most desperate situations. Yes, he'll get starts, and he'll have a respectable save percentage, but his GAA and shutout numbers will be in the bottom 5 of the league.