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January 12, 2013
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Ten Players to Watch From the West

Aaron Brouwer
Senior Writer, FantasyHockeyCoach.com

Heading into a shortened season, players who have been playing in the AHL or overseas should have a head start on those who have been playing shinny.  A quick start is extremely important in Fantasy hockey this season, with a short season every point and win will be huge.  With that in mind here are the top 10 players to keep an eye on to start the NHL and Fantasy hockey seasons.

10. Semyon Varlamov put up great stats for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL.  In 16 games Varlamov had a 1.74 GAA and a 946 SV%.  Not too many NHL starters played overseas so any goalie that did will have a head start on getting their timing and positioning back.

9. Jaromir Jagr absolutely destroyed the Czech league, scoring 24 goals and 55 points in 33 games.  He is showing no signs of slowing down.  Many older players who didn’t play during the lockout will take longer to get up to speed and several will suffer injuries and quite possibly retire, think Brett Hull.  So the fact that Jagr played should help him still be a fantasy factor this season.

8. Patrik Berglund put up over a point a game for Vasteras in Sweden’s second-tier league.  Berglund was expected to put up big numbers when he was drafted but has yet to deliver.  Maybe putting up 20 goals and 32 points in 30 games for Vasteras will give him the confidence he needs to create NHL success.

7. Mikkel Boedker scored 21 goals in 29 games while playing for Lukko in the SM-liiga league.  The Phoenix Coyotes will be expecting Boedker to turn the corner this season and start putting up big numbers.   He makes a great sleeper pick.

6. Mikael Granlund didn’t step in and dominate the AHL but he did score a point a game, putting up 21 points in 21 games.  There is no denying Granlund’s offensive creativity and he will be given every opportunity to display his skills this season in Minnesota.  Should be one of the top three contenders for the Calder this season.

5. Damien Brunner is generating a ton of hype as he and Henrik Zetterberg were a dynamic duo playing for Zug of the Swiss league.  Brunner scored 25 goals and 57 points in 33 games and Zetterberg scored 16 goals and 32 points in 23 games.  The Detroit Red Wings are hoping this duo will show the same chemistry in the NHL.  If you are in a keeper league grab Brunner now as his value will be climbing sky high.

4. Matt Duchene only scored four goals and 14 points in 19 SEL games for Frolunda and then added two goals and five points in four games over in the Swiss league for Ambri-Piotta, however it was his play at the Spengler Cup that has fans jumping out of their seats.  Duchene was so exciting to watch as he spun circles around the competition.  He scored two goals and five points in four games to lead Canada to a Spengler Cup Championship.

3. Justin Schultz has been everything promised about him and more.  He came into the AHL and scored points like crazy.  In 34 games he scored 18 goals and 48 points, putting him only three points behind the overall points leader.  The next closest player is 10 points behind him and the next closest defensemen is 14 points behind him.  Schultz will produce in the NHL but not at that pace.  The only caution with Schultz is can he maintain production through an entire season.  Playing in the NCAA for the last three season he has only played in 40+ games so with just his AHL games he is almost at there so can he keep scoring playing in another 48 games.  Runaway favorite to win the Calder if he can produce in the NHL.

2. Pavel Datsyuk has only scored 10 goals in the KHL but many of them are highlight reel material!  Get on youtube and search for Datsyuk in the KHL and you will be amazed at what he can do with a puck and stick!  Datsyuk put up 36 points in 31 KHL games playing for CSKA Moscow.  Many experts think the younger NHL teams will be successful in a shorten season but with the Wings top players playing overseas you can’t count them out. 

1. Jordan Eberle is ready to be a top 10 player in the NHL.  He plays on the most exciting team in the NHL as the Edmonton Oilers are loaded with young and offensively gifted players.  Eberle is Mr. Clutch and will score at a slightly lower production rate in the NHL as he did for Oklahoma City in the AHL.  He scored 25 goals and 51 points in 34 games; it will be weeks before anyone catches him in the AHL.  Watch for Eberle and the Oilers to explode out of the gates this NHL season.

Aaron Brouwer is the co-creator of www.fantasyhockeycoach.com. FHC is a free fantasy hockey service that developed a ranking system combining post-lockout statistics, current factors and hockey knowledge. Email: brouwer@fantasyhockeycoach.com.

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