Justin Abdelkader could be fantasy hockey star for Red Wings

      September 26, 2013 @ 00:11:51 PDT

Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings
Justin Abdelkader will cause chaos on many goalies this season

For too many years, you've heard me say opportunity often leads to success in fantasy football. The same holds true in fantasy hockey.

Few players have the solid opportunity Detroit Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader, who stood out during training camp, has this year, and fantasy hockey players need to pay attention because he's getting very little love in fantasy hockey drafts this season.

  • He's owned in just 21 percent of Yahoo! Sports leagues, with a system ranking of 251st overall.

  • ESPN didn't even bother to rank him in their top 150 forwards for this season, and he's owned in just 2 percent of leagues there.

Abdelkader Stats - Last 3 Seasons
Season GP G A P +/- PIM PP
2010-2011 74 7 12 19 15 61 0
2011-2012 81 8 14 22 4 62 0
2012-2013 48 10 3 13 6 34 0
Totals 203 25 29 54 25 157 0

It's easy to overlook him based purely on his statistics the last few seasons: He has just 25 goals in the past three seasons and hasn't contributed on the power play. He is, however, set to play on Detroit's first line, paired with a pair of names you may have heard before: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who have a way of making magic with the puck, which instantly should put Abdelkader in line to have a fairly strong plus-minus ratio. For example, Datsyuk was a healthy plus-21 last season. Having this star pair around him will immediately elevate his game and, more importantly, his statistical production in fantasy hockey circles.

He'll provide toughness on the Wings' first line, often squatting in front of opposing netminders and taking the physical abuse of defensemen along the way. He's not shy when it comes to picking up penalty minutes - another positive for most fantasy hockey leagues. Plus, he has improved his stick handling and offensive awareness the last few seasons, which should allow him to add a healthy dose of assists this year.

Playing alongside Datsyuk a lot last year, Abdelkader scored a career-high 10 goals in a lockout-limited season. They have some chemistry from a year ago, and playing together this summer has helped the three get on the same page. One worry I have is his consistency, which hasn't been a strength during Abdelkader's career ... however, he's never been paired with such a talented pair of forwards, either.

"He's playing with a lot of heart every day. That's what he does, so when you play hard, you work hard, good things happen for you," head coach Mike Babcock said of Abdelkader. "He's an every-dayer. He works hard and he's gotten better."

In many league formats, he also qualifies as both a left and right wing, further adding to his fantasy hockey value due to the multi-position eligibility.

Abdelkader has been fairly durable, so as long as he can continue to gel with his line mates, look for him to set career highs in goals and assists, possibly in penalty minutes and plus-minus, too. Snag him later in your draft or off the waiver wire and you will not be disappointed.

Which fantasy hockey players do you have your eyes on this season? Let me hear about it on Twitter @RyanBonini.

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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