Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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NHL Playoff Top Performers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One of my personal drafting strategies is to look at the playoff performers and invest heavily. It worked very well this season with Claude Giroux and Ville Leino. Here is who I see as having a big impact next year for fantasy squads:

The Unplucked Gems

James van Riemsdyk – The guy was simply unstoppable this postseason and will have tremendous value heading into drafts. Mostly unowned over 2010-11, JVR lit the lamp in the postseason; he scored seven times for the Flyers. He consistently got the puck to the net, created havoc in the crease, and skated with passion. JVR positioned himself to be a breakout candidate for 2011-12. Invest wisely.

Jack Johnson – Coming into the league with a high pedigree, Johnson has underwhelmed thus far in his career. Perhaps this postseason can serve as his coming out party. Johnson played stellar hockey, picking up a goal and four assists against the Sharks. JJ has always been an excellent skater and is now developing a nice power play presence alongside Drew Doughty. He will be cheap on draft day and could provide huge dividends immediately.

Brad Marchand – This gritty forward showed the world he not only has incredible foot speed but he owns a crafty pair of hands. Marchand, quietly, had a great rookie campaign with 21 goals and 20 assists. His strong playoffs will only help develop him into a better player. This kid will be around the league for a long time. Grab him now while he is still cheap. He can score, fight, and skate, a perfect fantasy hockey player so to speak.

Teddy Purcell – While most did not think much of Purcell heading into last season (I grabbed him for $1 in one pool), he sure turned heads this postseason. His 17 goals and 34 assists in the regular season were nothing to laugh at, and neither was his incredible post-season streak resulting in six goals and 11 assists. Purcell will likely be considered an above-average winger option heading into the year. His chemistry with the top players on Tampa Bay makes him a very intriguing option.

The Obvious Choices

Pavel Datsyuk – Left for dead by some, Datsyuk showed he still has it at the age of 32. With his dazzling play and amazing hands, he is still the elite player we all knew and loved. There is no doubt everyone will remember his playoff performance on draft day, making him go higher than he should. Perhaps he is worthy of his lofty ADP, after all, he was the best player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until Detroit was eliminated. This guy will keep producing at a nice clip for quite some time.

Ryan Kelser – The sniper put up Conn Smythe type numbers before slowing down to injury. Need I say more? Kesler will surely skyrocket up draft boards, likely falling in the second and third rounds next year. His strong play on the second line really shows Vancouver's depth. A repeat of last season's numbers would not be a shock to anyone.

Thomas Vanek – Vanek took his game to a new level when the postseason began. While Buffalo exited the postseason early, it was surely not because of Vanek. He re-ignited his scoring touch to snipe five times in seven games. He should be an elite winger option for years to come. Forty goals is not out of his reach.

Claude Giroux – The playmaking machine turned his skill set into lethal mode this playoffs. His goal and 11 assists played a key role in the Flyers' postseason. Giroux is an obvious choice for a top pick next year.

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