The most difficult thing for poolies to predict is how successful older prospects will be. These late bloomers, for one reason or another, either didn’t have the size or skill as teenagers to make the NHL or were not given an opportunity because of the numbers game. More often than not, these players are smaller and thus have to prove themselves more than the average player does.
Like Steve Sullivan, who was 25 years old before he topped 60 points for the first time, or Martin St-Louis, who was 27 before he reached the mark, it’s boom or bust. What if Chicago decided to pass on Sullivan when the Maple Leafs put him on waivers? What if Tampa Bay decided not to give St-Louis a shot after he was a fringe NHLer in Calgary? If not for those small twists of fate, these two players could have been journeymen instead of stars.
That is what makes finding the next late blooming star so difficult; if the team brings in a few extra forwards in the summer, a promising player could be on the outs. Conversely, that same player could find stardom if a key injury occurs to a player on the team’s top line. Here are three examples of promising late-bloomers to keep an eye on. These guys are teetering on the precipice of stardom. Let’s hope they tip in the right direction.
Andrew Ebbett, Anaheim: He is drawing comparisons to former Duck Andy McDonald. Coincidentally, McDonald is another late bloomer who didn’t even tally 31 points until he exploded after the lockout by scoring 85 as a 28-year-old. Like McDonald, Ebbett is a smallish centerman who was never drafted. He has 29 points in 42 games, but didn’t really get a chance to play and flourish at the NHL level until Teemu Selanne went down with an injury. Ebbett fit in so well on the second line that he made Brendan Morrison expendable when Selanne returned.
If the Ducks don’t add a pair of top-six forwards by next fall, Ebbett will shine and tally 60 points. If they do bring in those forwards, he’ll be on the bubble. It’s funny to note if Ebbett does indeed become that 60- or 70-point player, it will have stemmed from Selanne’s injury. If not for that, he may forever have been yo-yoed between the NHL and the American League.
Jamie Lundmark, Calgary: This former first round pick (ninth overall in 1999 by the Rangers) has eight points in his past nine contests and 15 in 21 overall. When Daymond Langkow and Todd Bertuzzi were injured, Lundmark got another chance. He took full advantage of it and is now contributing on the third line, ready to sub in on the top six when needed. Continued strong play by this 28-year-old in the post-season will go a long way in securing a contract in the summer.
Since Lundmark is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, all bets are off if another team signs him. But in the situation in Calgary under coach Mike Keenan, Lundmark stands a good chance of becoming a surprise 55-point player in 2009-10.
Ryan Shannon, Ottawa: I have to admit, I was pretty certain Shannon missed his golden opportunity because of some bad luck. Vancouver got off to a rocky start in 2007-08 and even though Shannon was arguably their only productive forward at the time, he was also the only player on a two-way contract and the team needed a shakeup. He went down to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on what seemed like a temporary basis and promptly broke his leg.
In the summer he was dealt to Ottawa and lost a roster spot battle with the more highly touted Jesse Winchester. That seemed to be the end of things as far as Shannon’s NHL career was concerned, but his luck changed when his coach in Binghamton, Cory Clouston, became the coach in Ottawa. Suddenly, instead of being given seven minutes on a checking line when he was recalled, Shannon was given top six minutes. He now has 15 points in his past 20 games, including his current five-game point streak.
Much like Ebbett, if the Sens pick up a couple of top six players in the summer, Shannon will be on the bubble again. If a spot is left open, however, look for Shannon to flirt with 55 points.
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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