Fantasy hockey can be an unpredictable and relatively scary environment to some. Filled with uncertainties and risk, many poolies fall victim to poor fantasy hockey seasons due to insufficient prospect knowledge, poor drafting, and questionable trades. Where most people hurt their season is before the draft, when a lack of preparation comes into play. People will rely on past statistics, name recognition, and their favourite players to fill their team, regardless of their role in the next season. Due to this, some poolies look at their team in March, baffled at what went wrong.
The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit on the bubble of the Eastern Conference, with just over 30 wins and 70 points. Leaf players are always an important commodity at any draft, with some potential fantasy studs and high-potential prospects that have the ability to greatly improve a fantasy hockey team (as well as maintain high trade value in pools with Leaf fans).
The Three Fantasy "Studs":
When you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is always one forward that stands out above the rest. That man is Phil Kessel. With two consecutive 30 goal seasons and closing in on a third, he is a huge commodity to own in any keeper or one-year league, especially if that league is goal-heavy. Phil is a consistent threat to score 30 goals every year, and record well over 300 shots on goal. In fact, Kessel is currently third in the league in shots, behind only Alexander Ovechkin and Dustin Byfuglien. Kessel should be considered a 60 point threat every year (at the minimum). But not all is great for "Phil The Thrill". He currently has a rating of minus-21, among the worst in the league. He also is a horrendous two-way player, which will affect stats such as hits, blocked shots, and short-handed points. He is also a streaky scorer, and will frustrate owners that are in head-to-head leagues. Even with his frustrating ways, Kessel should be considered a top 50 forward in fantasy, and should be drafted anywhere between the 40th-60th slot in a draft. However, a top-tier center would drastically improve Kessel's fantasy value, and could be drafted even higher if that happens.
While Kessel is a one-way goal machine, there is another player on the Leafs that is both a scorer and a two-way player. Nikolai Kulemin has quickly (and quietly) emerged as a great player. Noted for his defensive play and forechecking ability, Kulemin has turned into a player with fantasy value. Currently, Kulemin has over 25 goals and 50 points, both of which are career highs in the Russian's third season. He also has a solid plus/minus rating, will play minutes on both the power play and penalty kill, and will take penalties. Another attractive fantasy quality that Kulemin has is the lack of name-recognition. Despite having better statistics than Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner, Kulemin is often a waiver-wire player in shallow