Continuing the eighth annual Fantasy Pool Look tradition here are the next set of five team reports from a poolie’s perspective: the Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Sens and Flyers.
New Jersey Devils
Gone – Colin White, Brian Rolston, Anssi Salmela, P-L Letourneau-Leblond, Adam
Incoming – Stephane Veilleux, Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen
Ready for full time – When it comes to forwards, the youngsters ready for full-time duty were already in the lineup for a big chunk of last season. Jacob Josefson, Nick Palmieri and Mattias Tedenby will all be regulars this season. With the recent injury to Travis Zajac, Josefson will see even better linemates and more power play time, even after taking into consideration Patrik Elias’ move back to center.
The only other young forward with a shot at a roster spot is Adam Henrique, who is probably still a year away and destined for a third-line role.
On the blueline, recent draftee Adam Larsson is penciled into the team’s top four, but I’d like to see them hold him off the first pairing. In terms of puck-moving ability, when the other options are Andy Greene and Matt Taormina, Larsson will get his share of PP time. Although he is more of a high-end two-way defenseman, I wouldn’t be shocked if Larsson topped 30 points.
Taormina was looking pretty good as a potential puck-mover last season before things were derailed by a broken ankle. He may be an early waiver-wire pickup in your league this fall.
Fantasy Outlook – The Devils have two of the best forwards in the game in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. They also have two potential stars in Josefson and Tedenby. Zajac and Elias are great secondary scoring options, but the bottom drops out pretty quickly after that and the pipeline doesn’t really impress when it comes to natural scorers. Also, the team didn’t address the aging franchise goaltender issue – Martin Brodeur won’t be around forever and the Devils didn’t catch onto that until the 2010 draft. Those goalies (Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont) are still years away, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the team went after a top free agent next summer (currently, the best one is Pekka Rinne). They may be a playoff team this year…but then what? Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was B-)
Gone – Jack Hillen, Trent Hunter, Radek Martinek, Nathan Lawson, Zenon Konopka, Bruno Gervais
Incoming – Brian Rolston, Marty Reasoner
Ready for full time – Nino Niederreiter is a young and exciting right winger with first-line potential. Add him to the second line and the Isles become a much better team.
Future third-line center Casey Cizikas will get a long look, but in the end his spot will be filled by solid vet, Marty Reasoner. Next year, though, Cizikas will be on the pro roster.
Recent draftee Ryan Strome is being touted by some as a potential Jeff Skinner and I’m on board with that. But the roster is set without Strome, so I would expect him to apprentice for another year in junior. However, we may get to see him in a nine-game trial as we did with Niederreiter. Eventually, Strome will be a first-line forward and if he is moved to the wing to play with John Tavares, his already decent upside will increase tremendously.
Al Montoya is ready to seize the starting role. Of course, the job belongs to Rick DiPietro, but us fantasy owners fully expect DiPietro to sprain his knee while tying his skates in preparation for Game 1. So, Montoya makes a fantastic dark horse for the season ahead and I would love to draft him as my third goaltender late in a 24-round draft.
Fantasy Outlook – Other than maybe the Oilers, this team boasts my favorite crop of fantasy prospects/youngsters. There’s so much potential at every position that even if most of them don’t pan out, they are still in better shape than many other teams. They have a franchise player in John Tavares and lots of support around him. The core is still a good five years away from its prime, but you’ll see a big step forward this season. They’re probably not a playoff team, but they’re surprisingly close. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B)
Gone – Vaclav Prospal, Matt Gilroy, Evgeny Grachev, Alexander Frolov, Bryan McCabe, Todd White
Incoming – Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Tim Erixon, Brendan Bell, Andreas Thuresson
Ready for full time – Erixon is a new addition to an impressive stable of young defensemen and could be another Marc Staal. He’s solid in his own end, capable of eating big minutes and possibly becoming a 35- or 40-point player. We won’t see that immediately, but a nice, steady progression (like Staal’s) is in the cards.
Russian blueliner Pavel Valentenko is close to making the jump. He’ll have to beat out Michael Del Zotto to make it, but I think Del Zotto is best served with at least half a season in the American League.
Fantasy Outlook – The Rangers are an average NHL team with some high-end forwards, potential stars (Derek Stepan), a lot of potential in their defensemen, and a great goaltender in his prime (Henrik Lundqvist). The pipeline boasts some promise, but no more than any other NHL team. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was B-)
Gone – Ryan Shannon, Cody Bass, Curtis McElhinney, Ryan Potulny, Pascal Leclaire, Marek Svatos
Incoming – Mark Parrish, Zenon Konopka, Alex Auld, Nikita Filatov
Ready for full time – The big one is Filatov, but this list is a long one. Filatov is the biggest because he offers the highest risk and reward. He could march out there and make the biggest splash on the team, or fizzle out after 20 games with only four points and move off to the Kontinental League. Would I draft him? Yes, in the early “for my bench” rounds because those players can be replaced via the waiver wire pretty easily. So what’s the upside? Well, with several ifs falling into place, Filatov is capable of 65-plus points. Those ifs are: If he shows chemistry with Jason Spezza. If Spezza remains healthy. If Filatov remains healthy. And if Filatov scores early in the year, because if he gets frustrated with some bad luck he may never be able to right the ship.
Another big one is defenseman David Rundblad, who I have projected as the Calder Trophy winner in my Fantasy Guide. He and Erik Karlsson will dominate this league from the blueline for years to come and they won’t take long to get started.
Oh boy, this list is an article itself, so I’ll just touch on the players:
– Defenseman Jared Cowan is close. May be a mid-season call-up, but otherwise would have to beat out a regular. He’s not beating out Rundblad.
– Mika Zibanejad is a defensive center with underrated offensive abilities. Drafted sixth overall in the first round this past summer, he may need a year of seasoning, but he’s close. And some have him penciled in as the second-line center already.
– Bobby Butler has proven he can score at the NHL level. On this team, he should be able to score 20 or even 25 goals. The assists won’t match that, so put his ceiling at 45 points for the season ahead.
– Colin Greening has top-six potential, but he can also play an energy/checking role and I think that is where he will be used. That role would limit his upside for this year to 40 points at best.
– Erik Condra showed spurts of offense late last season and made huge strides at the AHL level, too. But barring continued problems with Daniel Alfredsson’s recovery from a back injury, Condra will be held to 30 or 35 points as well.
– Ottawa’s recent college prize, Stephane Da Costa, will be in tough to make the team, but I’m sure we’ll get to see him late in the campaign.
Fantasy Outlook – The rebuild is still early in the process, but Ottawa has some young players already making the jump. A lot depends on Filatov and Zibanejad. If they become stars, the Senators are a great team to build around. If they are only average NHL players or worse, then the team is in for a tough few years ahead. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C+)
Gone – Danny Syvret, Nik Zherdev, Dan Carcillo, Sean O’Donnell, Brian Boucher, Kris Versteeg, Ville Leino, Darroll Powe, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Nick Boynton
Incoming – Max Talbot, Andreas Lilja, Jaromir Jagr, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jason Bacashihua
Ready for full time – Schenn is probably going to make this team and he is near the top of most people’s pre-season Calder Trophy ballot. On the third line, he is in the perfect spot to avoid too much pressure, but still perform. He is ready and able to sub in on the second line if Daniel Briere or Claude Giroux get injured. It’s the perfect scenario for Schenn’s development.
Offensive rearguard Erik Gustafsson is also pretty close, but at this point he sits seventh or eighth on the depth chart and needs a couple of key injuries ahead of him before he can make any sort of impact.
Undrafted college star Matt Read certainly made his presence felt last April. Right after the Flyers signed him for three years, he pounded out 13 points in 11 games for Adirondack in the AHL, a team that barely had a 50-point scorer. He’s out of the mix in terms of making the pro roster in October, but he’ll see his share of call-ups.
Fantasy Outlook – This summer’s upheaval may have the Flyers taking a tiny hit in terms of the “here and now” NHL team (although I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory). But it definitely shored up what was a very weak pipeline by allowing them to draft Sean Couturier. There are a lot of valuable fantasy assets on the main roster, although the pickings are still slim beyond that. 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. Get the edge in your league – check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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