The lockout might have actually helped C Sidney Crosby (concussion), who missed giant chunks of the season making his way back from concussion. He had an extra 100-plus days to rest his noggin, and he is good to go right out of the chute this season. He and C Evgeni Malkin are bona fide first-round fantasy players, but there are so many more options on this very deep roster. Keep an eye on LW Eric Tangradi, who could skate with C Evgeni Malkin and RW James Neal. He could be a huge sleeper if that pairing sticks.
Must start: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks swim into the season with a ton of top-notch talent up front, but G Antti Niemi will need to show a lot more in between the pipes. At best, he is a marginal No. 2 fantasy goaltender. The Sharks have plenty of pieces to make some noise in the Western Conference, but they likely will need to make some more moves along the way.
Must start: Dan Boyle, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton
Tampa Bay Lightning
Some might argue that Lightning C Steven Stamkos should be the top overall pick in fantasy leagues, and they could be right. It is hard to argue the differences between he and Pittsburgh's Malkin. The Lightning have a big-time drop-off after Stamkos, though RW Martin St. Louis remains a solid fantasy producer, and C Vincent Lecavalier might still make some noise on occasion. Watch out for RW Teddy Purcell, too, and don't sleep on D Matt Carle.
Must start: Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is already in mid-season form, some might say, as they shocked everyone with their firing of GM Brian Burke shortly after the lockout was lifted. The Buds replaced Burke with formed Canucks brass man Dave Nonis, and some speculate he might be clearing salary cap room to add G Roberto Luongo to the mix. If so, the Leafs would be a much better team. There are some fantasy pieces here, but not enough to make a run at a 'real' championship. It will also be interesting to see if a change of scenery helps RW James van Riemsdyk finally realize his potential.
Must start: Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf (PIM leagues)
Luongo is in camp for the Canucks, but this is clearly G Cory Schneider's team now. Louie waits for the phone to ring, hoping the Maple Leafs, Panthers or anyone will give him a chance to start again. The Canucks will be a dynamic bunch again, and thankfully fantasy owners only care about regular season success, as this team is a disaster come playoff time. The Sedin Twins will be fantasy studs again, and watch out for C Ryan Kesler (knee) when he gets 100 percent healthy.
Must start: Alexandre Burrows, Alexander Edler, Cory Schneider, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin
Like the Canucks above, the Capitals aren't exactly gold when the postseason comes around. Again, fantasy owners don't care much about that. The biggest question in D.C. is can RW Alexander Ovechkin re-gain his form. For many, 38 goals and 65 points in a season is pretty solid, but for Ovie and his fantasy owners, it was a giant disappointment. In fact, for the first time in his seven NHL seasons, he failed to average at least a point-per-game. That has to change if Washington is to make noise in the Eastern Conference.
Must start: Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin
It still irks me that the Jets are included in the Southeast Division, but it will change eventually. The travel combined with the condensed schedule will wreak havoc on the Jets, as those frequent cross-continent trips to Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, etc. will be tiring. Luckily, they have bunch of youthful roster which will likely respond much more favorably than a veteran-laden bunch.
Must start: Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane
About Daniel Dobish
Daniel is a Hot Off the Wire Analyst who joined the KFFL staff in 2010. He is a veteran of the fantasy industry dating back to 1999, with stops at CBSSports.com, The Sports Forecaster, OPENSports.com and RotoExperts.com. His work has also appeared on NFL.com and Yahoo.com. Daniel was named the 2011 Fantasy Golf Writer of the Year, 2011 Fantasy Racing Writer of the Year, and he was nominated for the 2011 Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year. Daniel lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.