Fantasy Hockey: Centers 2001-2002

By Drew Bennett

1. Peter Forsberg– (Avalanche) While missing around 10 games last year
due to injuries, Forsberg still managed to put up very good numbers (62
assists, 89 points). An injury-free year could mean a career year for
Forsberg, who could possibly win the scoring title.

2. Mario Lemieux– (Penguins) After coming out of retirement last season
to help the struggling Penguins, Lemieux jump started the Penguins and
led them to the playoffs. The talented Lemieux will put up points, but
he will take games off to rest and might miss the absence of one of the
world’s most talented players, Jaromir Jagr, more than he might think.

3. Joe Sakic– (Avalanche) The league’s Most Valuable Player last season
showed no signs of slowing down. If Sakic can stay healthy he
could once again challenge for the scoring title. With the help of the
high-powered Avalanche offence Sakic should have a 50 goal 50 assist
season.

4. Doug Weight– (Blues) Weight, who was traded to the Blues during the
summer, will find joy in playing with Keith Tckchuk and Pavol Demitra.
A change of scenery was something that Weight needed, and he could have
a 90-point season, but only 25 of those points being goals.

5. Jason Allison– (Bruins) Allison, who had a career year last year,
will probably not be in Boston by season’s start. After a 95-point
season last year, there are not many reasons why he should not repeat
that total, besides the fact that he might be playing on a weak team or
holding-out. Allison could finish the season in the league’s top 5, but
he could also not be playing at all.

6. Mats Sundin– (Maple Leafs) Sundin, who was resigned to a 6-year, 52.5
million dollar deal this summer, only notched 74 points last season.
With the addition of winger Alexander Mogilny, Sundin’s offensive
numbers should get better. The Leafs’ Captain plans to lead the team to
make a real push in the playoffs.

7. Mike Modano– (Stars) Modano had a good year last year (33 goals and
84 points), but might miss the presence of Brett Hull on the wing.
Consistency is not a problem for Modano, and he will probably put up
similar, if not better, numbers this year.

8. Joe Thornton– (Bruins) If Jason Allison is traded as expected;
Thornton will become the team’s top center. Thornton will become a
superstar, but the question is when he will be. Already an established
threat, Thornton should improve on last year’s numbers (37 goals and 71
points), and reach the 80-point plateau, with over 40 goals.

9. Martin Straka– (Penguins) Straka had career highs last season in
almost every single statistical category. Straka, though, will probably
be the player who will miss Jaromir Jagr the most. Although Straka will
never have a season like he did last year again, an 85-point season is
within reach.

10. Alexi Yashin– (Islanders) Yashin, who will benefit from playing with
a new team, will be the team’s best center since the days of Pierre
Turgeon. Putting the puck in the net is easy for Yashin, and he will
give Islander a reason to come back to the Coliseum. Expect 40 goals
and 85 points this season from the superstar.

11. Jeremy Roenick– (Flyers) One player who should have a better season
is Jeremy Roenick. Although he will not be with Keith Tckchuk for the
first time in many years, he will be with other stars such as John
LeClair and Mark Recchi. Roenick should have 80 points this year.

12. Vincent Damphousse– (Sharks) One of Damphousse’s best assets is his
ability to pass. With Teemu Selanne and Owen Nolan on board, Damphousse
could be top five in the league in assists.

13. Petr Nedved– (Rangers) Nedved is a talented center who is in the
prime of his career. With the Rangers not making any major off-season
moves, Nedved’s performance should be exactly the same.

14. Vincent Lecavalier– Leclavlier had a tough season last year and his
point total dropped 16 points. The young Captain of the ‘Bolts is
expected to rebound in his 4th season, and has a good chance at a
30-goal and 35-assist season.

15. Robert Lang– (Penguins) Lang had a breakout season last year (32
goals and 80 points), but is he the real thing or a one-season wonder?
Lang won’t have as good of a season as he did last year, but at least 30
goals and 40 assists is what he can be counted on.

16. Pierre Turgeon– (Stars) Turgeon was a key off-season addition for
the Stars. He is the perfect second-line Center, and will be reunited
with winger Donald Audette. A season with over 25 goals and around 70
points is likely.

17. Eric Lindros– (N/A) Lindros is a wild card right now. He is
capable, if healthy, of being one of the premier players in the league.
But since he refuses to play unless he is traded to a team of his
desire, he could sit out another season. Selecting Lindros is a risk.

18. Keith Primeau– (Flyers) Primeau, the proto-typical power forward,
filled in for Eric Lindros this year as the big man on the Flyers
roster. Although Primeau isn’t even close to as talented as Lindros, he
provides a physical presence along with a decent skill level. That
aggressive style can cause frequent injuries and hurt his point total.
His stats last year (34 goals 73 points) should be similar this season.

19. Jason Arnott– (Devils) After missing the early parts of the season
due to a contract dispute, Arnott wasn’t at full form until after the
first 25 games. This season, with contracts out of his mind, Arnott
should produce near 70 points, with 30 of them being goals.

20. Steve Yzerman– (Red Wings) Yzerman, although showing some signs of
aging, still possesses enough talent to be considered a threat. He’s
much more valuable to the Wings than his stats show. A good year would
be getting over 20 goals and 65 points.

21. Steve Sullivan– (Blackhawks) Sullivan, who’s career was in doubt
after being waived by Toronto, has had two nice consecutive seasons.
Sullivan should land within the 65 to 75 point range, with a few tallies
on the penalty kill.

22. Simon Gagne– (Flyers) Gagne, young and talented, had a nice season
last year with 27 goals and 59 points. Now, a year older and more
experienced, Gagne should play a part in the Flyers success this season.

23. Ron Francis– (Hurricanes) With the 38 year-old winding down his
amazing career, Francis’ best attributes are winning face-off’s,
leadership, and passing. Francis should finish the year with around 65
points, and will get the 13 goals needed to reach the 500 mark.

24. Espen Knutsen– (Blue Jackets) Knutsen retuned to the NHL last year
and became one of the Blue Jackets most productive players. Knutsen
figures to be the number one center for the team again this season and a
10-point improvement from last seasons 53 points, is possible.

25. Saku Koivu– (Canadiens) Koivu, who finds a way to get injured every
season, is a great player, but will never be considered one of the elite
until he can stay healthy. If only he could play over 70 games a
season, he would be in the top 15 centers in the league.