Ah the exhibition season, full of promise and exciting prospects. Will those players who wowed us in September peter out and wilt under the harsh glare of the regular season lights or will they blossom into full-blown fantasy hockey studs? Now that the silly season is behind us and the regular season is all set to begin, we are about to find out.
Oh the memories of pre-seasons past. I fondly remember tracking Paul Stastny's progress in September of 2006 and then scooping him up with a late round pick in our draft. The best part was getting the inevitable shouts of "who?" or in this case "I thought he was retired". "No, that was his father you doofus", I smugly replied.
Paul Stastny finished his rookie season with 78 points in 82 games and thanks to some flash in the pan named Evgeni Malkin, Stastny missed out on the Calder trophy. It would have made a great story as his father Peter won the Calder way back in 1980-81, which would have been the first time a father and son had both won that award.
Another pre-season hottie that I fondly remember was Mike Green. We all know how he turned out. If you were lucky (smart?) enough to take a flyer on him late in your keeper drafts two seasons ago, then you are likely still reaping the rewards. Remember though, he had only scored 12 points in 70 games the preceding season. Green finished the 2007-08 season with 56 points and had 73 points last season, including 31 goals.
These players should come with small print: "Caution, results not typical, your experience may vary." Many of these pre-season prima donnas will be taken far too early in your drafts by those infatuated with what I call puppy love.
Everyone loves that new puppy, at least until they pee on the carpet (blow defensive assignments) and chew your shoes (take untimely penalties). Then you (the Coach) have to send your puppy (pre-season scoring stud) to the dog house (minors or back to junior).
While it's always a rush to be the first guy in your league to unearth those unknown gems, I prefer the bulk of my roster be stocked with a hefty quantity of mature, proven NHL performers whose statistics I can take to the bank, literally and figuratively.
Here is my cut at this year's Puppies of the Eastern Conference 2009 (swimsuit calendar not available):
Artem Anisimov NYR
He recorded 81 points in 80 AHL games last year, while finishing fifth in league scoring. Anisimov has made the highlight reel with his play in the exhibition season and will start the year with the Rangers.