Five For Fantasizing: Previewing the Phoenix Coyotes' Fantasy Stars

Christian Petersen

The NHL regular season has begun, so let's take a look at some of the more prominent Coyotes for fantasy purposes and their potential impact for your team in 2014.

The puck has dropped on the regular season and the majority of teams have played their first game of the season. Most of you have probably drafted your teams already, but there are also some leagues that will handle that in the next couple of days. With that in mind, it's time to examine the five Phoenix Coyotes players that stand to have the most fantasy impact this season and what you should expect from them.

Mike Ribeiro - C

More than likely, Ribeiro will be the first Coyote taken in a standard drafts this season and for good reason. Last season, Ribeiro was fifth in the league in assists with 36 and led the NHL in powerplay points (PPP) with 27. Currently, he's the 70th ranked player in ESPN's top 250 and the 47th forward.

He's not going to tip the scales for you in shots, goals or average time on ice (ATOI), but if you need assists and special teams points, Ribs is your man. He also chips in a pretty high number of penalty minutes (PIM) for a skill forward. Keep in mind, Ribeiro's point totals in his three years in Dallas with Dave Tippett as his coach. He averaged 22 goals, 51 assists, 40 PIM, 18:11 ATOI, 127 shots on goal (SOG), and 27 special teams points (STP). He probably won't get to the 20 goals and 50 assists this season, but 15 goals and 45 assists should be in play.

Update: Ribeiro played 19:19 during the Coyotes season opening win Thursday night with one shot and no points.

Radim Vrbata - RW

Vrbata struggled with injuries last season, appearing in only 34 of 48 games. He scored 12 goals and 16 assists and added 12 STP. He finished third on the team with 106 SOG, and his shots per game average of 3.11 easily led the team. He is the 99th ranked player overall and the 68th forward.

The big thing for Vrbata is staying healthy this season, because he has been a useful fantasy producer when he is on the ice. In the previous three seasons, Vrbata averaged 26 G, 25 A, 17:05 ATOI, 246 SOG and 16 STP. He will again be skating with Martin Hanzal as his center, but the left wing opposite him will probably be a revolving door for the first part of the season with Lauri Korpikoski getting first crack. Until that stabilizes, Vrbata's value will be lower than normal. If someone establishes themselves in that position or the Coyotes make a trade for a forward, Vrbata's stock would increase. Keep an eye on it.

Update: Vrbata started his season off by netting a natural hat trick Thursday night. If you can buy low, go for it.

Keith Yandle - D

Yandle was fantasy gold last season, leading the Coyotes in points with 10 goals and 20 assists. He was also the team leader in penalty minutes with 54 and shots on goal with 130. He is currently ranked 103rd overall and 20th among defensemen.

Yandle has been a reliable point-scoring defensemen since becoming a full time NHL'er, averaging 11 goals and 36 assists in the three full seasons since the start of the 2009 season. That trend should continue this season as the Coyotes will continue to lean on their blueliners to add offense all year long. He's also a contributor on the powerplay, averaging 16 special teams points the last four years. The biggest factor that keeps Yandle from joining the elite fantasy defensemen is his ATOI is usually around 21-22 minutes, as opposed to the 24-27 minutes the top ones get.

Update: Yandle had a powerplay assist, 2 PIMs and was a +1 on Thursday. However, he was only on the ice for 19:59. If you can survive the ATOI hit, expect similar production all year long.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - D

Last season, Ekman-Larsson was a trendy breakout pick for fantasy defensemen and he didn't disappoint, scoring three goals and 21 assists while adding 9 STP and 101 SOG. He also led the Coyotes with 25:06 of ice time per game, all at the tender age of 21. Right now, OEL is the 119th ranked player and the 23rd d-man.

If the preseason is any indication, OEL is about to blow-up all over the fantasy scene. In four preseason games, he scored three goals (two on the powerplay) and added an assist, all while skating 23:51 ATOI. Ekman-Larsson should also benefit from an improved Coyote powerplay and will continue to eat minutes as the Coyotes top defenseman. He may be ranked behind Yandle now, but don't be surprised if he's one of the 10 best fantasy d-man in 2014. Take advantage of his low ranking and pounce.

Update: OEL was a +2 with an assist and led the team with 22:34 in ice time in Thursday's opener.

Mike Smith - G

The 2013 season wasn't kind to goalies because of the work stoppage, and Mike Smith was no exception. Inconsistency and injury sunk what was supposed to be a top-five season. Smith only played 34 games and his numbers dropped across the board from his breakout 2012 campaign. He went 15-12-5 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average. He did add five shutouts though. Smith begins the 2014 season as the 105th ranked player and the 15th goalie.

There is no doubt that Smith is the Coyotes No. 1 goalie, but the question remains, is he the 2013 goalie who struggled with injury or is he the 2012 juggernaut that won 38 games with a 2.21 GAA and a .930 SV%? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but if the Coyotes succeed this season, it will be on the back of Smith. If he stays healthy, will probably provide top 10 goalie value.

Update: Smith got the win Thursday night against the Rangers, stopping 23 of 24 shots.

Good luck with your teams and we'll check back in with the Coyotes fantasy report every week.

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