Daniel Dobish – @danieledobish – Special to Triangle Sports Network
RALEIGH, N.C. – Hello Fantasy Hockey fans, and welcome back for another exciting season.
Despite the fact the Carolina Hurricanes do not have a Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin-type player, or bona fide first-round Fantasy selection, they do have a handful of players who can be vital cogs to your roster.
The first member of the Carolina Hurricanes to go off the board in Fantasy drafts should be W Jeff Skinner.
It’s hard to believe he is just 22 years old, as it seems he has been a part of the fabric of this club forever.
The left-handed shooting Skinner begins his fifth full season in the NHL, and he looks to improve upon a career-high 33 goals last season.
He broke through for 11 of those markers on the man advantage last year, and buried six game-winning goals.
One of his biggest drawbacks, a common theme with Carolina players, is his negative plus/minus rating.
He checked in with a minus-14, and that works to dull some of his Fantasy appeal.
Still, he is a player worthy of selection beginning as early as Round 4 in 12-team drafts due to his scoring potential.
At just 22, he likely hasn’t topped out in offense, and a 40-goal season remains possible.
The biggest veteran presence on the Canes continues to be Eric Staal, and he can still be very productive for Fantasy owners.
Over his past two season, he has potted just 39 goals in 127 NHL games, but he has contributed with 75 assists.
It appears his days as a 30-goal scorer and 75-point producer are in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean he cannot continue to be a productive No. 2 or 3 Fantasy forward.
Like Skinner above, it would be especially helpful if he were able to flip his minus-13 rating upside-down.
Targeting Staal higher than the sixth-round in 12-team drafts, or eighth-round in eight- or 10-team drafts, is a mistake.
However, anywhere after that point and he can still be helpful to your squad.
Veteran W Alexander Semin is just one season removed from producing at a point-per-game clip, posting 13 goals and 31 assists in 44 games in his team debut in 2012-13.
Like most on the team, he took a step back last year with 22 goals, but just 20 helpers in 65 contests.
The good news is that he was still in the positive in plus/minus, posting a plus-1.
It was his sixth consecutive NHL season at plus-1 or better, and he contributed six power-play markers, giving him six or more PPG in six of the past eight seasons.
He is a valuable Fantasy sniper with tremendous value in the middle rounds on Draft Day, especially if he can return to 60-point form.
If you’re looking for rearguard help and want a member of the Hurricanes, your best bet is D Andrej Sekera.
He was a fabulous acquisition by former general manager Jim Rutherford, posting career highs across the board with 11 goals, 33 assists and four power-play markers while turning in a plus-4 rating in 74 games.
His previous high in goals was four, and his best NHL point total was 29 back in 2010-11 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Sekera really excelled in his first season in Raleigh, and is a legitimate No. 3 Fantasy defenseman in all formats.
The goaltender picture is a bit muddled, so Fantasy owners will want to be extremely cautious not to peg either of Carolina’s backstops too high.
Both G’s Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward should see plenty of starts.
Khudobin really came into his own last season with 19-14-1 record to go along with a 2.30 Goals-Against Average (GAA), .926 save percentage and one shutout in 34 starts.
Some of the shine came off of Ward, in part due to injuries, as he was just 10-12-6 in 28 starts with a 3.06 GAA and marginal .898 save percentage.
Was last season an anomaly for the 30-year-old Ward, or is this what to expect?
It’s hard to tell, as again, he was decimated by injury.
However, his GAA has risen in each of the past three seasons while his save percentage has tumbled in each season during the same span.
Right now Khudobin is the best Fantasy bet, but neither should be considered anything more than a low-end No. 2 until someone can snare the starting role and stick in that role long term.
In the final rounds on Draft Day, W Jiri Tlusty (16 goals, 14 assists, plus-2 rating) is worth adding for roster depth, especially if new bench boss Bill Peters keeps him together with either Semin or Staal.
Defenseman Justin Faulk also had a respectable 32 points (five goals, 27 assists, minus-9 rating) in 76 games last season, including eight points on the man advantage.
You can certainly do worse in the final rounds on Draft Day, as a 40-point season is possible.
Winger Nathan Gerbe (16 goals, 15 assists, minus-6 rating) really surprised last season, and is worth a look when stockpiling forward depth.
Last, but certainly not least, C Jordan Staal (leg) suffered a broken leg in a preseason game against Buffalo and he is sidelined three to four months after successful surgery on Friday.
Staal will be back at some point this season, but it might take him a while to knock off the rust.
For Fantasy purposes, if your league has Injured Reserve spots, he is worth squirreling away.
However, if you have rather limited bench space, he is undraftable at the moment.
Daniel Dobish writes for Fantasy.USATODAY.com, RotoExperts.com and VegasInsider.com, doing various fantasy-related work, and some non-fantasy.