This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll provide an outlook for each team. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically (in reverse this season), but switch starting points each year. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Thanks to the lockout, I was able to stretch this out and give each team more attention than usual. Time to take a look at the Bruins and Ducks.
Gone – Joe Corvo, Greg Zanon, Benoit Pouliot, Zach Hamill, Mike Mottau, Brian Rolston, Marty Turco…and don’t forget that Tim Thomas plans to take a year off.
Incoming – Aaron Johnson, Chris Bourque, Garnet Exelby
Ready for full time – Anton Khudobin has gone from being a long-term prospect on your keeper league farm team you were about to drop, to an intriguing dark horse who could pay quick dividends. Khudobin is a 26-year-old goaltender who has done well in pro hockey in North America, but he was probably looking very carefully at his future and possibly giving up the NHL dream to go back to Kazakhstan and play in the Kontinental League. The fact he’s played most of his career in the American League wasn’t because he was not NHL ready, rather because the Bruins had Thomas and Tuukka Rask firmly entrenched ahead of him. Now that Thomas is taking the year off, suddenly Khudobin has an NHL job. When he plays, he’ll thrive. The team in front of him is too good for him to falter. The “dark horse” status comes into play if Rask ever gets injured. And it’s not like Rask is an iron man.
Jordan Caron should make this team full time. It’s not a slam-dunk, given his healthy scratch status in the post-season. A job is not a given. But he should be safe, as he’s looking more comfortable with each game. That means the Bruins are pretty full up front. Injuries do happen though, and prospects do surprise enough in training camp to make it impossible to send them down.
The two forwards worth watching in camp are Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner. Each of them has a bright future, but in all likelihood the pair will take another year or two before making the jump. College star Carter Camper will also get a look, but he’ll only get a top-six spot if a scorer gets injured. Ditto for journeyman Chris Bourque.
Most experts believe blue-chip blueliner Dougie Hamilton is a lock to make the team. I certainly can’t disagree, but they don’t need to rush him if Torey Krug is ready. Krug is an undrafted college star, like Camper, who was a coveted free agent. It will be Krug or Hamilton – training camp will be very interesting.
Fantasy Outlook – The Bruins are deep and have plenty of choices on the pro roster for your fantasy squad. Their farm system, in terms of fantasy upside, is flush with talent. After Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin, they may not have an elite talent, but they certainly have plenty of great assets. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B)
Gone – Niklas Hagman, J-F Jacques, Sheldon Brookbank, George Parros, Lubomir Visnovsky, Jason Blake, Dan Ellis, Rod Pelley, Mark Bell
Incoming – Daniel Winnik, Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Jordan Hendry, Brad Staubitz, Viktor Fasth
Ready for full time – There is a roster spot open on the wing, with three prospects close to being NHL ready who will vie for it. At some point, they could work their way into the top six. I give Kyle Palmieri the nod. After scoring 33 times in 51 games, he has nothing more to prove at the American League level. Given his four goals in 18 NHL games, he has shown he can do it at this level, too. That will make things tough for Emerson Etem to get a roster spot. Etem, who banged 61 pucks home in the Western League for Medicine Hat, is making huge strides. If he makes the Ducks, it will be because he is scoring practically every time he steps onto the ice.
The third candidate is hulking left winger Patrick Maroon. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has steadily improved, posting 74 points in 75 AHL games in 2011-12. Now 24, Maroon has the maturity and experience to contribute as a third-line NHL player. If given several years to progress, he’ll make a fine top-sixer. But if the team thrusts him into a scoring role early, he may not succeed. For this reason, he is probably the odd man out. We’ll call him a dark horse for now.
Undrafted, Swedish-born netminder Viktor Fasth has a backup job waiting for him. Fasth has dominated the Swedish leagues for several years now and, at 30, is one of the older first-year NHLers in history. But he brings with him excellent composure, lots of experience and potential to become a starter if Jonas Hiller goes down with an injury.
Diminutive rearguard Sami Vatanen reminds me a lot of Tobias Enstrom. Enstrom made quite the splash in 2007-08 as a rookie (38 points), but not a lot was said about him in the summer leading up to that season. In other words, he surprised many. Vatanen could repeat the impact and with equal fanfare. However, Vatanen loves to shoot the puck, while Enstrom is more of a pass-first defenseman.
Fantasy Outlook – The Ducks have a great core, but they are coming off a down season. In fact, 2011-12 was so brutal, many poolies have trouble believing they can get back up to their potential. Can Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf get back to 90 points? Will Bobby Ryan finally become an 80-point player? Does Teemu Selanne have another 70-point year in him? Bet on “no” for all of the above. That doesn’t make them fantasy busts; it just means their value isn’t quite as high. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C)
Here are the off-season keeper-league fantasy rankings of all 30 teams. Please note that fantasy hockey differs from reality, so these rankings are not a reflection of their on-ice, Cup-winning potential. The Devils, for example, are not the second-worst team in the league. However, in fantasy hockey we look at the potential for offense in the coming season, as well as an additional two seasons ahead. We look at the amount of fantasy-worthy players on the pro roster, as well as the fantasy-worthy prospects in the farm system (where the Devils fall tremendously short). In parenthesis is last year’s rating.
Pittsburgh: A- (A-)
Philadelphia: A- (A-)
Edmonton: A- (B+)
Minnesota: B+ (C)
Boston: B+ (B)
Florida: B+ (D+)
Los Angeles: B+ (A)
Detroit: B+ (B+)
Vancouver: B+ (A-)
Carolina: B (B-)
Chicago: B (B)
Ottawa: B (D+)
NY Islanders: B (B+)
St. Louis: B (A-)
San Jose: B (B+)
Tampa Bay: B- (B)
Winnipeg: B- (D-)
Buffalo: B- (C+)
NY Rangers: C+ (B-)
Washington: C+ (A)
Toronto: C+ (C)
Montreal: C- (C-)
Dallas: C- (D+)
Anaheim: C- (C)
Nashville: C- (C-)
Phoenix: C- (C)
Calgary: C- (C-)
Colorado: D+ (C)
New Jersey: D (D+)
Columbus: D- (B+)
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.