It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Now we’re really getting into the powerhouses – today we take a look at the Blackhawks and the Penguins.
Gone – Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jason LaBarbera, Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus, Nikolai Khabibulin
Incoming – Michael Leighton, Kyle Cumiskey, Brad Richards, P-C Labrie
Ready for full time – Jeremy Morin is NHL-ready. He was NHL-ready last year. And if you want to know why Kevin Hayes took a pass on signing with the strong Stanley Cup favorites, look no further than Morin. Hayes didn’t want to sit in the minors for two or even three more years when there are many teams that would play him right now. Morin was in the same boat. But he should make the team now and even with minimal ice time is a pretty good dark horse for 40 points, upwards of 200 shots and 90 PIM.
Teuvo Teräväinen is the stud prospect every fantasy owner wonders about. And while TT has the talent to keep up in the big league, he lacks the size and strength. Granted, he is packing on the pounds this summer (hopefully not too quickly, as that can stunt development), but the Hawks have made it pretty clear they’d be OK with him spending the full season in the American League.
Antti Raanta was a very capable backup to Corey Crawford after Nikolai Khabibulin went down with an injury. Crawford tends to run hot and cold and Raanta has No. 1 goalie upside. Raanta will likely be held to just 20 or 25 starts, but if Crawford gets hurt or hits a nasty slump, things could get interesting.
Adam Clendening is a very promising young blueliner who racked up 59 points in his second AHL season. On many NHL teams he would be a lock, but on Chicago he sits eighth on the depth chart. Ninth, if Cumiskey makes an impression. Still, the 21-year-old Clendening is a must-own in keeper leagues and should be on the team come 2015-16.
Fantasy Outlook: Chicago has been a fantastic team for fantasy hockey owners for several years now and that’s not about to change in the next few years. Don’t overrate the acquisition of Brad Richards, but he should be a fine 45-point player if held to third-line minutes and secondary PP time. Top to bottom though, this team can score and the only problem poolies have with that is trying to decide which promising players will crack the top six. Fantasy Grade: A (last year was A)
Gone – Lee Stempniak, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen, Harry Zolnierczyk, Chris Conner, Joe Vitale, Taylor Pyatt, Tomas Vokoun, Brooks Orpik, Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, coach Dan Bylsma, GM Ray Shero – and the kitchen sink, too.
Incoming – Steve Downie, Thomas Greiss, Blake Comeau, Christian Ehrhoff, Nick Spaling, Patric Hornqvist, coach Mike Johnston, GM Jim Rutherford
Ready for full time – Say what you want about the Penguins and their struggles with developing top talent up front, but there is nothing to criticize when it comes to the back end. Over the years they have used the likes of Alex Goligoski, Joe Morrow and Ryan Whitney to land the forwards they needed. And the conveyer belt is still rolling. After last year’s new addition of Olli Maatta, this year will see Derrick Pouliot make the jump. Pouliot could be the best offensive rearguard of them all when it’s said done, but we won’t be able to make that statement for a decade. Pouliot underwent shoulder surgery several months ago and although he hopes to return in time for training camp, that is doubtful. So look for him to get in some American League playing time to start, and then a mid-season call-up. A must-own in keeper leagues.
The Pouliot injury opens the door for former NCAA star Brian Dumoulin to get his foot in. Dumoulin has a bit of offensive upside, but is likely earmarked as a two-way guy on the second pairing. That may mean as many as 25 points in the season ahead and a long-term upside in the high-30s, but he would offer valuable plus/minus potential.
Fantasy Outlook – For several years running, the Penguins have had an ‘A’ grade in fantasy hockey. They are the only team to really boast two potential 100-point players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin), plus two more potential 70-point players (Chris Kunitz and now Patric Hornqvist), as well as a defenseman in Kris Letang who if healthy could flirt with 70 as well. Not to mention a 40-win goaltender. Fantasy Grade: A (last year was A)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.