What I love about a hockey pool isn’t drawing the first or second pick and inking either Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, or Evgeni Malkin to my roster (although I’ll happily take any of those three).
Personally, I love when the grind begins.
For example, getting a player like Marc Savard in 2005 (when he was a nobody) at the point in the draft when some feel the picks don’t matter, and then watching Savard have a career year, performing better fantasy-wise than even your first pick. Yes, that actually happened to me.
But this season, "the grind" may get going a little bit faster then usual—quite frankly, faster then you can count to the No. 4.
You don’t have to be a big hockey fan to know that picks one, two, and three are going to go Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin (in no particular order), but after that it's anybody’s guess...even those of us who consider ourselves big hockey fans.
So, since the busiest people in the NHL during the summer are the general managers, we’re going to give them a break and you’re going to take your best shot at taking their place.
Your one job: Deciding who to pick fourth in a fantasy hockey pool.
To make this a little more fun, after reading this article, please take a quick second to answer the poll question on the right-hand side with the player you would take fourth in a draft from the list provided.
So without further ado, your options.
Option 1: Ryan Getzlaf
In just four NHL seasons, Getzlaf has gone from a work in progress to a star in full stride.
Last season, he tallied a career high of 91 points, and led the eighth-seeded Ducks to the Western Conference Finals.
But what makes him stand out from the others? At just 24-years-old, Getzlaf has already hoisted the Stanley Cup and a pattern in his career numbers show that his point totals increase significantly season-by-season. Maybe 2009 is Getzlaf’s 100-point campaign.
However, Getzlaf does have a negative side in the fantasy world for those of you who play with goals worth more than assists. Getzlaf has yet to break the 30-goal plateau in his career, 25 being his career high.
Option 2: Zach Parise
The young, speedy forward iced almost every one of his career totals with 94 points last season, leading a fresh new trend in New Jersey—goal scoring. Like Getzlaf, Parise’s numbers have increased significantly season-by-season and his plus/minus rating in '08/'09 was seventh among all NHL skaters at plus 30.
What separates Parise from the rest is his natural ability to score goals. His 45 goals last season was third among all NHLers. Also, injury has yet to plague Parise. In his four seasons, he has missed only two regular season games.
Unfortunately, the Devils fresh style of play could be shut down, as defensive specialist Jacques Lemaire has taken over behind the bench. Lemaire’s trap approach to the game could cut down on the Devils time in the offensive zone and thus chip away at Parise’s offensive numbers.
Option 3: Ilya Kovalchuk
The Russian sniper has been an elite NHL goal scorer since his rookie career when he tallied 29 goals in just 65 games.
Since then we’ve seen Kovalchuk score 40-plus goals five times over the last six seasons.
What separates Kovalchuk from the stars is the fact that he’s in a contract year, and we all know how players put an extra jump in their game when they know it will pay big dividends in dollars at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, Kovalchuk falters from being on a bottom-feeder team. Never in his career has Kovalchuk been a plus in the plus/minus category, and I doubt this year will be any different. If you were curious, his career total in that category is a minus 85.
Option 4: Jarome Iginla
Arguably the most all-around player in fantasy hockey, Iginla seems to grind his way to glory year in and year out. He has scored 35-plus goals in each of the last seven seasons.
His ability to consistently perform on the power play is what gives him an extra stride. His 291 career power play points gives him the edge in fantasy leagues that value power play points more than even strength points.
However, experts are saying that no Mike Cammalleri could be a detriment to Iginla’s offensive numbers. Also, last season was the first time since 2003 that Iginla has fallen into the minus category in plus/minus rating.
Option 5: Pavel Datsyuk
When you’re playing in a winning environment, odds are you’re going to play like a winner.
There is no doubt that that has been the case for Detroit Red Wings star forward, Pavel Datsyuk. For three straight years, Datsyuk has had 60-plus assists and his plus/minus last season was third in the NHL at plus 34.
His defensive abilities are unlike some other snipers within the NHL. He plays in the defensive zone with the same intensity that he does in the offensive zone. That ability leads to more ice time and can translate into more offensive production.
While other players named above may still have more to prove, Datsyuk may have reached his maximum potential. As well, Datsyuk goes through streaks where he may play a number of games without scoring a single goal.
Option 6: Other
The other selection is more for the manager who may like taking a top-notch goaltender in the first round. Otherwise, there are few other names aside from maybe Jeff Carter and Joe Thornton who could be considered as a top-eight or nine selection.
In truth, any of these guys will make a good fourth pick, making your job as GM hard to mess up.
Just please don't follow Yahoo! Sports and take Corey Perry if you pounce on that mystery fourth pick.
Please remember to complete the poll above and visit my blog at www.dustinsdleague.com