Fantasy Pool Look: Ready to run Wild

With five NHL seasons under his belt, Minnesota forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard is poised to finally reward his patient fantasy owners with a breakout year.

Granted, six years is a long time to wait, considering most players breakout in Years 3-5, but Bouchard should be an exception. He made the team as an 18-year-old and was played sparingly – not just in minutes per game, but also in actual games. He played only 50 contests as a rookie and just 61 as a sophomore. In most organizations, Bouchard would have played another year in the Quebec League, followed by one in the American League before making the jump.

So after three seasons of point totals ranging from 57 to 63, Bouchard enters his fourth “real” NHL season. Long-time readers of FPL know this is my favorite year for player breakouts. It’s not just the right year, either – Bouchard’s age is also in the right range, as forwards take the next step between the ages of 24 and 26. At 24, the Sherbrooke, Que., native is recognized as the No. 2 man in Minnesota and it took until midway through the 2007-08 campaign to get such recognition.

With Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston gone and only Andrew Brunette brought in to round out the top six, Bouchard will be relied upon now more than ever. Known for being a fast starter, there is little doubt he will post a point per game in the first half. The only question is: will he keep it up throughout? Last year, 35 of his points were in the first 41 games.

There is a new philosophy in Minnesota; one that focuses more on using the blueline for offense, thanks to the acquisitions of Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron, plus the promotion of Eric Reitz. This will help the power play and pad the numbers of those players who play on the first unit, such as Bouchard.

Don’t be surprised if Marian Gaborik isn’t the only Wild player to reach the 80-point mark this season…

With two points in two games, Wade Redden is off to a good start with his new team. The Rangers gave him more than 21 minutes of ice time and top power play duties in each of those contests. If the 31-year-old can stay healthy – and he managed 80 games last year – I would expect a return to 50 points, which would be a career high…

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Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Tim Connolly missed the last five pre-season games with a bad back. The most recent contest he missed was precautionary, because he is now good to go. Look for him in the lineup in the first game this weekend for the Sabres… Every fall, a handful of players struggle with groin injuries coming out of camp. The most innocent groin injury can lead to complications that impact the entire season (i.e. Chris Clark in Washington last year) or they just cause a player to miss a game or two. Poolies never seem to know for sure until it is too late. I can’t shed any light in that department, but I can update the status of a few notable players for you. Mike Fisher (Ottawa) and Petr Sykora (Pittsburgh) have already missed two regular season games with this ailment. Atlanta’s Jason Williams has struggled with groin injuries for the better part of a year and is currently out with an undisclosed injury – if that turns out to be his groin, red flag him. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and San Jose’s Joe Thornton are both back practising and even got into their most recent pre-season contests.

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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 throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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