Many fantasy hockey expert’s have differing theories of how a player develops. Those that were highly touted could end up being just as they were projected and become superstars in the league. While others seem to be completely the opposite and become big-time NHL busts. Generally speaking, we’ll usually know by their “magical” fourth year whether they have true fantasy potential or not. This week we’ll evaluate five players who are in or going into their fourth season with their clubs to see whether or not they truly have developed to their true potential or are they going to become a bust.
First, let's evaluate the top pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, Marc-Andre Fleury. In 167 appearances in the NHL in his young career, Fleury has compiled a 72-66-2-16 record, while maintaining a 3.02 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. If you looked at Patrick Roy’s first 142 appearances in the NHL, Roy had a 69-46-18 record, while displaying a 3.06 goals against average which is very comparable to Fleury’s numbers in the first 167 games of his young career. In Roy’s fourth full NHL season, he had a dazzling 33-5-6 record with the Canadiens, and with Fleury entering his fourth full season with the Penguins next year, can we expect a similar “jump” in stats as Roy did in his fourth season especially when getting backed by the league’s seventh rated offense certainly won’t hurt either.
Next, let's look at the third overall pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, Nathan Horton. In 284 games played so far in his young career, Horton has 98 goals and 91 assists for a total of 189 points in four season’s seasons with the Panthers. Horton has taken the typical development curve where he has slightly improved on his offensive production for each season as he developed.
He started off his rookie season with 22 points, then 47 in his sophomore season, 62 in his junior year, and projects to finish his graduation year with 63 point this season. His 6’2” and 229 pound frame, seems to be very comparable to Flames Captain, Jarome Iginla, who stands at 6’1” and 205 pounds. They both also play a very similar physical style of hockey, which would certainly assume a similar development curve for Horton as the one experienced by Iggy. Iginla had been a bit healthier than Horton when he starting his NHL career and managed to play in 311 contests, where he garnered 196 points, in the first four years of his NHL career. The fifth year for Iginla was his breakout year where he broke the 70 point plateau and he then managed to tally 96 the next year, the fifth year could very well be Horton’s breakout year as he now added another year of experience under his belt playing with Stephen Weiss and David Booth.
The third player we’ll analyze is the Ukrainian Nikolai Zherdev, who was selected fourth overall in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Zherdev has had a bit of a roller-coaster ride to start his young NHL career. Zherdev has played 276