Aside from the concussion question that naturally – and as we learned, justifiably – took Sidney Crosby out of the equation, the year-to-year No. 1 pick debate usually revolved around Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin. Ovi had the clear advantage for a spell because of the Washington Capitals’ once-potent system and the fact that his winger designation makes him more of a rare commodity. At some point along the way something happened with Crosby – maybe trading goals with Ovechkin in their great playoff series – that encouraged the Pittsburgh Penguins captain to shoot more and make the decision far from a slam-dunk once again (especially with Ovechkin’s declining productivity as time went along.)
Going into the 2012-13 season, a Penguins center is likely going to go up against a right-handed shooter for the right to be the No. 1 pick, but the cast of characters looks likely to change. (That being said, it will be awfully interesting to see where Crosby and Ovechkin end up going in next season’s drafts considering the tumultuous runs for both. Will owners trust Crosby to stay healthy? How much might Ovechkin's recent stronger play help his stock after a second relatively spare campaign.)
If you ask me, the No. 1 pick decision might just come down to the two top goal and point-getters from this season: Evgeni Malkin and the guy who brought this topic to mind, Steve Stamkos.
Geno’s credentials are pretty obvious; if healthy – or maybe even without optimum health – it looks like he’s on his way to his first career Art Ross Trophy and might win his first Hart to boot. Stamkos shouldn’t be ignored either, as his skill set might just differentiate him from other potential first-round picks because of two factors:
Goal scoring: Ever since his sophomore season, Stamkos has been a dynamite goal scorer whose faceoff dot one-timer remains arguably the most unstoppable shot in hockey right now. The beauty of the 2011-12 season is that he hasn’t been a one-trick goal-scoring pony, which can be seen in how his 53 goals break down. Granted, fantasy owners would probably prefer it if he’s a little more power-play-dependent considering the value of scoring on the man advantage in fantasy, but it’s heartening that he’s able to score robustly in 5-on-5 situations, too. Only 11 of this season’s many tallies came on the PP, so he can score in all sorts of situations. In other words, he’s more than just a highly-paid one-timer specialist.
Consistency: Like any other player, Stamkos has faced his occasional cold patch, but he’s been gloriously reliable – much like fellow Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis (and quite unlike up-and-down captain Vincent Lecavalier).
After being comically misused by Barry Melrose in his rookie year but still finishing with a respectable 23 goals mostly in the second half of that campaign, Stamkos has been almost certainly the best goal-scorer in the NHL. He looks primed to collect his second Maurice Richard Trophy in three seasons and came in second last season to Corey Perry. (His three seasons: 51 in 09-10, 45 in 10-11, 53 and counting in 11-12.) Stamkos broke the Lightning's single-season goal-scoring record with those 53 goals and has an outside shot at 60 goals if he can score a tally per game - difficult but plausible - in the Bolts' final seven games of the season.
While Malkin and Crosby carry the sexiness of more explosive games, Stamkos has been sturdier health-wise and one could argue that he might have more room to grow. Just think if the Lightning get a better team around him (to boost his plus/minus) and better power-play QB’s than their current sorry lot …
Maybe he won't be the top pick and could even slide to, say, four or five - but Stamkos could end up being the best bet in next season's draft from a safety and scarcity (goals > assists) standpoint.
* - This is assuming that there won’t be an extended lockout, a saddening but necessary caveat to include considering the damage that the league should have learned from last time around. Seriously, a few years of moderate-to-solid success is already eroding officials’ urges to actually call obstruction penalties, but if another lengthy work stoppage takes place than all involved are just flat-out pathetic.
(Sorry, didn’t mean to gripe but the idea is unsettling and a sign of substantial arrogance.)
While I can’t guarantee a player to watch in every column, it’s been close to one per (and sometimes more than one per) Daily Dose so far. Today’s entry is a stretch, but absolutely worth mentioning. Injuries and inconsistency have caused Michael Cammalleri to become available in a decent amount of leagues – relatively speaking – and even got him traded to the Calgary Flames in real life.
That’s actually a fantastic break from a fantasy perspective, however, as the Flames’ contests will obviously be more heated than the Montreal Canadiens’ games, which are essentially juts a grim march toward the draft lottery at this point. Even better news is that Cammalleri tends to step up his level of play in bigger situations, so it only makes sense that he played such a big role in Calgary’s win on Monday.
Cammalleri scored a goal and two assists to help the Flames win a tight 5-4 game against the Dallas Stars to keep their playoff hopes alive last night and also found the net in his return from some brief injury issues on Saturday. That latest round of issues might have made him available, although probably only in less observant leagues because he carried a three-game points scoring streak into his injury break and is generally a pretty prominent sniper.
You might have less than a coin-flip's chance of grabbing Cammalleri, but why not take a peek just in case?
Roberto Luongo stopped all 38 shots as the Vancouver Canucks handed the Los Angeles Kings their 10 th scoreless game of the season. That’s a big blow to the Kings’ playoff cause (but not a death blow) while it gives Vancouver a shot at the top seed. Not bad for a team missing Daniel Sedin … Ken Hitchcock admitted that he will wait until the playoffs to name a No. 1 goalie – and who knows, he might even ride the hot hand then. With back-to-back shutouts, Brian Elliott should get at least the next start, which definitely makes things a little complicated for Jaroslav Halak owners … Geno was named the first star of the week for the fifth time this season … Despite slight injury issues, Daniel Alfredsson hit the 26-goal mark last night. Not a bad turnaround for the Senators captain – though his season doesn’t hold a candle to what Erik Karlsson has done; his three assists tied him with James Neal for sixth in NHL scoring with 76 points … Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi collected four assists each as the Red Wings pulled off the amazing feat of clinching a playoff berth for the 21 st season in a row … The Sharks took a tenuous lead on the Pacific Division and they’ll finish the season with six games against their own division, including two apiece against the Stars and Kings … You can go back to ignoring Steve Mason from a fantasy standpoint again, as he’s back to his shouldn’t-even-be-in-the-NHL ways once more … From shouldn’t be in the league to probably won’t be around much longer, we have Dwayne Roloson. He’s likely in the final victory lap of his journeyman career, so even though the Bolts have little to work for aside from Stamkos seeking 60, he might be worth a look – if you’re really desperate.
Ilya Bryzgalov needed X-rays last night, yet the Flyers claimed that he isn’t injured. Might want to keep an eye on that and maybe even pick up Sergei Bobrovsky for a spot start or two … Vincent Lecavalier remains day-to-day … Nicklas Backstrom and Jonathan Toews seem to be making solid progress, but to be honest, that progress seems to be toward hopefully playing sometime during the playoffs rather than helping you in the fantasy version … Johan Franzen and other Red Wings seem to be nearing a return, but as usual, keep your eye on the site for updates … Martin Erat is day-to-day with an upper-body issue … Steve Sullivan hasn’t made his way on these lists as often as expected, huh? He’s banged up for Pittsburgh now though … Keith Ballard won’t be back and in case you missed, don’t expect Simon Gagne back any time soon, either ... Ben Bishop looks to indeed miss some time - about a week or two - so that's a big win for Craig Anderson and probably a green light to drop Bishop. (Click here for the full injury list.)