New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins

The fantasy hockey season for some may have ended a few weeks back, and for others, last night’s Sens, Bruins game may have been the deciding factor in whether or not you took home the title in your league. The good news with fantasy hockey though, it’s not over just yet.

With the playoffs set to begin on Tuesday, league commissioners, managers, friends and co-workers are all talking about the second season in fantasy hockey, the playoff pool!

Many different styles of playoff polls are out there. We have the classic pick any ten or fifteen players, the dreaded old-school box pool, the pick-one player from each team type of pool and the most common, and really the most effective way to run a playoff hockey pool, a ten or twelve team  draft, with each player being picked just once.

Any style of pool works for me, but from a strategy standpoint, it comes down to one key factor. Have in mind the two teams that you expect to see in the final, and get as many of those top players from each squad. Last season, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown of the Stanley cup champion Kings finished tied for the most points in the playoffs with 20 apiece.

Here is a guide to the players you should target for this year’s playoff run.

No-brainers!

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby: 15 goals, 41 assists

The Pittsburgh captain got the news everyone was hoping for this past week, receiving medical clearance to resume practicing with his teammates. Now he just needs to get clearance for Game 1 and you’re all set. A broken jaw won’t keep Crosby off the scoresheet, and the Pens should go deep in the playoffs.

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin: 9 goals, 24 assists

Looks to be ready to return from an upper-body injury that limited him to just 31 games on the season.

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz: 22 goals, 30 assists

Kunitz and the Pens should go far in the playoffs, and his power-play time should increase his point total over a player like Iginla.

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane: 23 goals, 32 assists

Kane finished the year fifth in NHL scoring and with Chicago expected to go far in this year’s playoffs, having one of the top scorers on the Hawks is a must.

Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews: 23 goals, 25 assists

Like Kane, going after Toews should be a top priority with the expected success of the Blackhawks. In the 2009-10 playoffs, Toews recorded 29 points to Kane’s 28, so they’ve been here before, and produce.

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin: 32 goals, 24 assists

Ovechkin finished the month of April with 14 goals and eight assists in 13 games, and will look to continue that hot streak against the Rangers, a team they should be able to advance to the next round against.

Keep your eye on!

Penguins forward James Neal: 21 goals, 15 assists

Made his return from a concussion in the Pens finale and recorded four points including three goals.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins

Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr: 16 goals, 19 assists

Boston acquired Jagr for this playoff run and he has gelled well in Boston since the deal.

Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf: 15 goals, 34 assists

Getzlaf and the Ducks draw the Red Wings in the first round, but this isn’t the same dominate Red Wings team we are accustomed to seeing this time of year. Getzlaf should rack up some points for you with hopes they also advance.

Ducks forward Corey Perry: 15 goals, 21 assists

Perry ended the season with just two goals in his last nine games, but has the potential to break out at any point.

Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa: 17 goals, 14 assists

Hossa is no stranger to the playoffs, recording 97 points in 130 career games.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith: 3 goals, 24 assists

Keith recorded 17 points in 22 playoff games in the 2009-10 season, so he should be one of your “D” men this year.

Detroit Red Wings v Phoenix Coyotes

Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk: 15 goals, 34 assists

Tough to get a read on this Detroit team, but you have to consider Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Canucks forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin: 23 goals, 52 assists combined

The Canucks will look to avoid another first round series loss, and they should if their goaltending holds up. Cory Schneider appears to be worse off than many expected, so it’s possibly up to Roberto Luongo. If the Canucks score, the Sedins will be involved.

Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban: 11 goals, 27 assists

His holdout to start the year became a thing of the past pretty quickly after posting points in five of first six games. Should be considered the top defenseman in any pool this playoffs.

Take a chance on!

Islanders forward John Tavares: 28 goals, 19 assists

The Penguins held Tavares to just two points against them this season, but with the goaltending in Pittsburgh a little shaky, expect the Islanders to score a few more goals than expected.

Ducks forward Teemu Selanne: 12 goals, 12 assists

Worth taking near the end of your draft for sure. This is his last tour of duty in the NHL and he would like to end that on a good note.

Bruins forward Tyler Seguin: 16 goals, 16 assists

Seguin may be available for you, as other may take Brad Marchand, David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron before him. He ended the season with four goals in the final nine games and is playing a Leafs team he usually dominates against.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp: 6 goals, 14 assists

Missed 14 games due to injury this year, so poolies may not choose him as he sits ninth on the Hawks list for total points.

Kings forward Jeff Carter: 26 goals, 7 assists

He recorded 13 points in last year’s Stanley Cup run, so experience comes into play, and he showed he can score again this year.

Phoenix Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty: 6 goals, 16 assists

The real Drew Doughty will likely re-appear against the Blues and hopefully throughout the playoffs. His 16 points last post-season was no fluke.

Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson: 6 goals, 6 assists

The perfect player to choose for many reasons. He’s good for one, second, the Sens could surprise many with a deep run, and three, many will forget about him as he ranked 12th on the Sens scoring list.

Sharks forward Joe Thornton: 7 goals, 33 assists

Unlike his teammate Patrick Marleau, Thornton did record a point a game in last year’s playoff. The only trouble is the fact that the Sharks always seem to struggle in the post-season, drawing a tough Canucks team this year.

Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel: 20 goals, 32 assists

If you have to pick one Leaf, it has to be Kessel. Kadri and Lupul will likely be shut down by the Bruins, but Kessel gives you the best chance at some early points to pad your total, even against a Bruins team he has struggled against historically.

Blues forward Chris Stewart: 18 goals, 18 assists

Quietly, Stewart led the the Blues in points and would be a great sneaky pick in your later rounds.

Canucks forward Ryan Kesler: 4 goals, 9 assists

36 career playoff points in 53 games. After missing time due to injury, should be fresh for playoffs.

I could have named so many more players, but this should help guide you through your draft.

Good luck on all your selections.