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. Today we take a look at the 12th-place Rangers) and 11th-place Wild.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Gone – Brian Boyle, Stu Bickel, Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Daniel Carcillo and Raphael Diaz
Incoming – Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Dan Boyle, Matt Hunwick, Mike Kostka, Tanner Glass, Chris Mueller
Ready for full-time – The big one is J.T. Miller, who is more than ready for NHL duty. He can still get sent down without passing through waivers and he’s on a two-way contract, which counts against him. But as things stand now, the last forward spot would go to Chris Mueller or Chris Bourque – and Miller should easily beat those two. Expectations for Miller, as with most youngsters, should be kept low in the beginning. But he has the talent to work his way up the lineup quickly and injuries will play a role in that as well.
Jesper Fast played 11 games last season and boasts NHL speed, but his hands haven’t caught up yet and he could stand to bulk up. Look for more cups of coffee for him in the year ahead. Long term he’s looking a little like a potential Carl Hagelin.
The 10th overall pick from 2010, Dylan McIlrath, is a hulking prospect who uses his size effectively. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds he can clear the net effectively. In fantasy circles, his 165 PIM in 62 American League games with the Hartford Wolf Pack last year is of the most interest. He would need to beat out Mike Kostka for the No. 7 spot on the blueline, assuming the Rangers would want him in such a role. He may need half of a year with Hartford first.
Fantasy Outlook – While I don’t believe there are any 80-point players on this team, I definitely believe there are four players with a pretty good shot at 70. The emergence of Ryan McDonagh as a legitimate fantasy-worthy defenseman, as well as the steady goaltending numbers from Henrik Lundqvist (last October the exception), makes this team one of the better ones to build a fantasy squad around. The system also boasts several pretty good prospects with offensive upside, too. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B+)
Gone – Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson, Clayton Stoner, Mike Rupp, Jake Dowell, Brad Winchester and Ilya Bryzgalov
Incoming – Jordan Schroeder, Thomas Vanek, Michael Keranen
Ready for full-time – Michael Keranen is a late bloomer who exploded for 52 points in 52 games, good for a share of the lead in the Finnish Elite League scoring race. The Wild signed the highly sought-after 24-year-old to a one-year, two-way deal, so he may go a similar route as Ville Leino, which is a year in the minors and then a season up and down before making the jump.
Jason Zucker is a future scoring-line winger who just signed a two-year contract. This coming season is a two-way arrangement, but 2015-16 is a one-way deal. With that being said, don’t count Zucker out from not only making the team this year, but also flirting with 40 points in his first full season.
Christian Folin was another highly sought-after undrafted free agent. He got into the last game of the 2013-14 season and picked up an assist and was plus-3. However, it remains to be seen if he will be the next Danny DeKeyser…or merely a Jack Hillen. He boasts size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and defensive acumen, with some offensive upside.
Now that Matt Dumba is eligible for the AHL, look for him to spend a big chunk of time there. Last year he was in that awkward phase of “too good for junior hockey, not good enough for the NHL.” The AHL will be perfect for the future power play quarterback.
Fantasy Outlook – Like the Rangers, the Wild have several possible 70-point players, but zero 80-point players. Though, to be clear, in the long term Mikael Granlund could easily get there. The pipeline for the Wild is a pretty good one in terms of fantasy prospects. The weakness on this team is goaltending. If Josh Harding’s health wasn’t such a question mark, it would be a different story. But it’s difficult to own any Wild goaltender with any confidence right now. Fantasy Grade: B+ (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.