You won't get very far in fantasy hockey by drafting purely on last season's stats. For one thing, you'll be sure to miss out on a key segment of the fantasy world: the rising star. These are the guys on the upward trend, who are due to see a significant uptick in their fantasy value over previous seasons. We've targeted a number of players with a strong chance of hitting new highs in 2011-12. Here are a handful to consider as you prepare for your fantasy draft:
Jordan Eberle EDM
Eberle, like Taylor Hall, saw a promising rookie season interrupted by injury. He missed 13 games in January with an ankle problem, but recovered nicely to finish the season. Expect him to take another good step forward in his second season, as the young offense in Edmonton continues to develop.
Loui Eriksson DAL
Erikson has set new highs in points in each of his five NHL seasons, though his goal totals have dipped slightly the past two years. He's an elite scoring threat - the best the Star have to offer, now that Neal and Richards are gone. How much will Richards' departure affect Eriksson? While that is cause for some concern, consider in the 10 game stretch without Richards last season, he still managed to pop in 5 goals. Expect 30+ tallies from Erikson in 2011-12.
Michael Grabner NYI
34 goals and 18 assists. It's not often you see a guy with totals that distorted. Grabner piled on the goals in the 2nd half of last season to garner considerable attention for the Calder trophy. The Islanders figure to be a powerful offensive team this season, and his goal to assist ratio should level out. Look for him to better his rookie stats in his 2nd full season.
Taylor Hall EDM
Hall was hanging around in the Calder conversation until he injured his ankle and had to sit out the final 17 games of the season. All told, it was a decent start to what promises to be a stellar career. Expect Hall to be healed and ready to resume justifying his 1st overall selection last spring. Look for a huge jump in goals and points in his sophomore season.
Ville Leino BUF
Ville Leino should finally get the opportunity he's been waiting for, now that he's a big fish on a new team. He did well with the limited playing time he was handed with the Flyers. He immediately goes to the top RW position with Buffalo. Expect either a big jump in production, or a lot of talk about being overpaid.
Bryan Little WIN
Little peaked early in his career, breaking out with 31 goals in his 2nd season. The last two years have yielded more humble results. He's just 23 years old, and is #1 center in Winnepeg this season. His ability to play wing makes him more flexible, so your guaranteed top line duties this season regardless of position. If the Jets can find some scoring to partner with him, he should be able to set a career high in points. Look for a big climb either way this season from Little.
Joe Pavelski SAN
Pavelski delivered an impressive 46 assists last season and continues to emerge as one of the best playmakers in the game. The Sharks have plenty of weapons, including newcomer Havlat, to finish those passes. Look for Pavelski to reach another high in points in 2011-12. 70 points are within reach.
Jeff Skinner CAR
Skinner was one of the biggest surprises of the year, bursting on the scene with 31 goals at the age of 18. He instantly becomes the biggest scoring threat that Carolina can offer and should use his speed and hands to make a push for 35 or more goals in 2011-12.
Derek Stepan NYR
Stepan was a scoring wiz before joining the big leagues. He made his NHL debut with a hat trick on opening night last season. All told, it was a strong rookie year, giving the Rangers a much needed scoring threat at center. He'll be the #2 pivot in town this season, so look for plenty of points from Stepan this year.
Brent Burns SAN
Burns had a rough couple of seasons in Minnesota, mostly due to a series of injuries. He clearly rebounded in style last year, getting back to his 2007-08 form and stats. His move to San Jose will create a potentially dynamic offensive duo when paired with Boyle. Look for another 15 goals and close to 50 points out of Burns this season.
John Carlson WAS
Carlson's strong rookie performance helped ease the pain of Mike Green's demise. He contributed 37 points while logging top tier minutes for the Caps. He'll be a prominent player for Washington once again this season and will continue to push to enter the elite at this position. Look for a 45-point campaign.
Cam Fowler ANA
On one hand, you've got to love the 10 goals and 40 points that Fowler contributed as a rookie. On the other hand, the -25 +/- rating hurts a bit. He's got to shore up his defensive play to make him a solid #2 option on your team. His offensive upside is huge, and he should team up with Visnovski to provide big points from the back end for the Ducks.
Cody Franson TOR
Franson demonstrated decent progression in his sophomore season, rising from 21 points to 29 points, including 8 goals. He'll be hard pressed to supplant Weber and Suter in terms of minutes, but expect him to continue to rise in his third year. He could enter the 40 point range this time around.
Alex Goligoski DAL
Goligoski has been on a steady ascent since he joined the NHL, and he seemed to shine after the move to Dallas last spring. Expect another bump in the point totals this season, putting him into the 15 goals / 50 point territory. He could easily finish as a top 10 defenseman this year.
Erik Johnson COL
Johnson will have to face the burden of high expectations after being brought in at a heavy cost in the deal with the Blues. So far, he's put up decent numbers for a young defenseman. He's just now entering his prime, and he's as good as it's going to get for the Avs, after they parted with Liles this summer. He's a strong bet for 10 goals and 40+ points this time around.
Erik Karlsson OTT
If there was one bright spot for Sens fans last season, it was the emergence of Erik Karlsson. His 13 goals were a very pleasant surprise. His -30 was a bit of an eyesore, but the whole Ottawa roster had that problem last season. Don't expect that +/- to improve dramatically, but you can look forward to another healthy dose of goals and assists from the new power play quarterback in Ottawa.
Dmitry Kulikov FLA
He hasn't shown it yet in his first two NHL seasons, but there's a reason that Kulikov was drafted in the first round. He has the potential to score big points in this league. Entering his 3rd season, you should expect a jump in his totals, putting him into the mix with other 40-point producers.
P.K. Subban MON
Subban did not disappoint in his rookie season. He put up 14 goals, 38 points and 124 penalty minutes. It's surprising he didn't merit much Calder consideration with those numbers. And if that's the starting point, the sky is the limit for this young pup. Anything less than 45 points would be a disappointment in his sophomore season.
Jonathan Bernier LOS
See Cory Schneider. Bernier put up solid stats (2.48 GAA, .913 save percentage) in limited action behind Jonathan Quick in his first full season with the big club. He'll push hard for more playing time and could quite easily be the #1 guy at some point this year. Expect at least 30 starts as a base.
James Reimer TOR
Reimer offered a glimmer of hope to Leafs fans who have been awaiting the emergence of a legitimate #1 goalie for several years now. The job is his to lose this year, as Gustavsson hasn't lived up to the hype. Treat him as a #2 goalie option and hope he can repeat his rookie effort.
Cory Schneider VAN
The story for Schneider hasn't changed much since this time last year. Everyone knows he's good enough to be a #1, but that Luongo guy isn't going away. Draft him for depth.
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