Fantasy

Fantasy Breakout Stars for 2008

Seventeen games into this young season, Corey Perry has already racked up 18 points.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Each season a new crop of fantasy stars steps onto the National Hockey League scene. They burst out of, seemingly, nowhere and put up production the likes of which they never have before. For some this was expected, a matter of time until the inevitable, the undeniable, happened. For others, it's as surprising as an intelligent "reality" show.

Some turn out to be one-hit wonders, returning to their previous production level the following season. Others though, are just getting started in their long careers as fantasy studs. So far this season there is a large group of players showing that they belong in this years breakout class. A large part of the reason for this is the unprecedented youth movement that has taken place in the league over the last few years.

Consider this fact, of the 30 first-round picks chosen in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft this past June, 11 have already made their NHL debut as of this writing, with the majority of them playing regularly with the big club.

It is too soon to tell which of these youngins' will be fantasy-worthy and when, but there are a few players who have already broken out this season that look to be here for a good, long time.

After scoring 29 goals and adding 25 assists a year ago, along with 108 penalty minutes, Anaheim went ahead and handed Corey Perry a five-year, $26 million deal this past summer with the hope he'd continue to blossom into an elite forward in the NHL. To this point of the season, they haven't been disappointed.

Seventeen games into this young season, Perry has already racked up 18 points and has recorded 64 shots on goal, a third of the total he had all of last season. His 18 points ties him for fifth in the league, while his 13 assists is tied for third best.

Perry seems a sure bet to set new career highs in every major statistical category this season, and at the age of 23, looks like he could be improving on those numbers for quite a few years to come.

Up the California coast you'll find another player who seems primed for big things, Ryane Clowe. Clowe is off to a fast start, already netting nine goals and adding five assists. Clowe showed glimpses of his breakout during last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs where he only trailed Joe Thornton for the Sharks lead in points.

The fact that Clowe missed most of the 2007-08 season with a knee injury makes his performance in the playoffs even more encouraging. Couple that with his start to this season and you can see why there is optimism surrounding the Fermeuse, Newfoundland native.

Switching gears a bit to breakout blueliners, one name springs to the top of the list, the Nashville Predators Shea Weber. In just his third full NHL season, Weber looks more comfortable in his skates and in his role.

A rough season a year ago (6-14-20) saw the 23-year-old's numbers fall from his 2006-07 campaign (17-23-40). A rash of injuries befell the defenseman, and even when he was back on the ice, he still didn't look like the player people were use to seeing.

Healthy and happy, after signing a three-year deal over the summer, Weber is in a four-way tie for the scoring lead among defensemen with 14 points. At nearly a point per game, Weber is without a doubt one of the brightest young players in the league. The fact that he plays one of the most difficult positions in sports and is producing so much offensively at such a young age is a great indication about what kind of player he is going to be.

There are quiet a few more players out there that are off to amazing starts and probably will find themselves in the same conversation as Perry, Clowe and Weber. The changing of the guard in fantasy hockey began a few years ago with the emergence of a kid named "Sid" and a guy named Alex. Now, they are getting reinforcements.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Tim Godfrey at tgodfrey@sportsnetwork.com.