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Candidates for a breakout season

Sam Gagner has scored 41 points in each of the past two seasons. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Sam Gagner has scored 41 points in each of the past two seasons. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Training camp is here and so are the fantasy drafts. Let’s get to some letters!

Hi Darryl, I am just wondering, when it comes to making your first pick in a keeper fantasy draft, what position would you suggest picking first? Goalie, forward, etc. Thanks!
Jeff, Edmonton


That’s a question that requires a floating answer, as it depends on the size of your league, where you pick in the first round and whether or not your draft is a snake-style draft. I recently wrote a column that addresses my thought process in many of those situations (and then I can use my space here for other questions!).

Hey Dobber...always love your insights and tips. Do you have any suggestions on any fourth-year breakout players this coming season? Thanks.
Bruce, Kelowna, B.C.


My favorite is Sam Gagner, as he goes from having Dustin Penner and a bunch of struggling and slumping forwards to Penner, Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and possibly Magnus Paajarvi. All the signs are there for a special season from Gagner. Martin Hanzal is another good one, as this is the year he will show us whether he can be a top-sixer, or if he’s merely a talented checker. Finally, Peter Mueller will either be healthy and have a huge breakout or he won’t be healthy at all. Those concussion problems are scary, but so was his goal scoring once he arrived in Colorado from Pheonix.

Hi Darryl, I’m in a keeper league that is points only. Who would you draft first overall, Matt Duchene or Taylor Hall?
Brett, Lorette, Man.


Hall, no question.

I am starting my first fantasy hockey league with some guys I play hockey with. What recommendations do you have for a scoring system - i.e. what stats are best to count? Are most leagues head-to-head or rotisserie-style points? How do you make sure defensemen have value? Draft vs. auction?
Josh, Minneapolis


All of those formats are enjoyable, but it really depends on how serious you want to be. And more importantly are all the other guys/gals just as serious? The last thing you want to do is start a head-to-head league with daily transactions and 15 categories with an auction draft…only to have three people not care enough about the league to bother. (Off the top of my head, those are the most serious settings to have in a fantasy league - H2H, roto, daily, lots of categories and an auction draft). If you’re just starting and it’s a one-year league, I would recommend going easy. Go with weekly transactions, nine categories and roto-style with six offensive categories and three goaltending categories. The best would be goals, assists, shots, power play points, penalty minutes, plus/minus, wins, goals-against average and save percentage.

Hi from Preds country. Starting to get my keepers ready for my upcoming leagues and I have one question that has been on my mind for a few days now. I only have one spot left for a keeper and I can't decide between R.J. Umberger and Matthew Lombardi. Thoughts?
Kevin, Chattanooga, Tenn.


I would prefer Lombardi in a keeper league because I get the feeling Umberger will peak at 60 points, whereas I think Lombardi can go a little further than that - even in Nashville, where it’s scoring by committee.

Hey Dobbs, with the recent announcement of Antti Niemi signing in San Jose, I'm second-guessing my keeper selections for the upcoming season. We can only take four and one has to be a defenseman. My original keepers were Toews, Parise, M. Richards and Chara. Should I reconsider swapping out one of my forwards for Niemi?
J, Nepean, Ont.


No. Neither San Jose goalie will get 30 wins this year as they will cannibalize each other’s total.

Hello, Mr. Dobbs I was wondering what to expect of Zach Parise this year. With the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk and both of them playing on the left wing, meaning that Parise’s ice-time will probably decrease, will it hurt his scoring totals? Or since there is another threat on the PP, Parise can get more open and score even more? Or will it all even out and his total will continue at his PPG pace?
Alex, Toronto


I didn’t notice any big difference in Parise’s production after Kovalchuk arrived via trade last season, other than the usual tiny decline he always has in the second half. So yes, it will all even out. Bold prediction: Parise beats Kovalchuk’s point production this year.

Are there any lists around that show a player's point-per-dollar earned?
Justin, Maple Ridge, B.C.


Try Frozen Pool, found on my website. Lots of stats options there at your fingertips.

Hey Dobber, I am in a 10 team head-to-head keeper league that counts G, A, +/-, PIM, FW, PPP, SHP, GAA, SP and W. We are currently allowed to keep seven players from the previous season and while the first six are more or less no-brainers, the final keeper is a toss up between three guys. Mikko Koivu, Chris Stewart and Erik Johnson all have their positive contributions to different categories, but my question is who would you keep and why? Do you think Stewart will replicate or exceed last year’s numbers? Will Johnson produce more power play points on an improved Blues squad? Has Koivu reached his offensive potential as a 70-point player? This is really giving me a headache. Thanks for your time.
Ross, Winnipeg


I would go with Stewart here. Yes, he may step back a little, but his multi-category value is too much to ignore. Also, you are already protecting two defensemen (edited out), so no need to protect E.J. Koivu could be an 80-point player, but I wouldn’t put money on that - not this year, anyway.

Note regarding the Fantasy Mailbag – it is important to indicate whether or not your league is a keeper league or a one-year league. Also note whether the league is “points only”, “standard roto league”, or if there are any uncommon rules that are important to know. This will help in advising you on the right course of action.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Mailbag will appear every other Wednesday during the season. To send the Dobber your question, click HERE.

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