It's the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Anaheim and will finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Devils and Islanders.
New Jersey Devils
Gone – Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Matt D'Agostini, Henrik Tallinder
Incoming – Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Rostislav Olesz, Cory Schneider
Ready for full time: Mattias Tedenby will take his fourth stab at cracking the roster, as he has yet to approach the potential that the Devils saw in him when they drafted him 24th overall in 2008. His ice time with New Jersey averaged 12:32 per game in 2010-11, 10:45 in 2011-12 and 8:59 in four games last season. He's still only 23, but we haven't seen anything promising even at the American League level. He could get a depth roster spot by default, but only because the Devils aren't very deep.
Andrei Loktionov has been up and down between leagues for four years now, but he's on a one-way contract this time and he's now a full-time NHLer. The 23-year-old has pretty good upside, but unless Travis Zajac or Adam Henrique get injured, Loktionov will be hard-pressed to post 40 points this season.
The organization is very high on winger Reid Boucher, who scored 62 goals for Sarnia in the Ontario League last campaign. But he will need at least one season in the AHL. Still, he's one to watch in training camp.
Two defensemen, Damon Severson (60th overall in 2012) and Jon Merrill (38th in ‘10) appear to be close to NHL-readiness. Both have strong puck-moving and decision-making abilities and either one would be fantasy worthy if he makes the big club. Severson had an amazing season with Kelowna of the Western League and looked really good in two games with Albany (AHL). But he's still 18 years old. Merrill is 21, but showed a weakness on the defensive side of the puck after turning pro in March.
Fantasy Outlook: The Devils lack an elite first-liner. Even with Ilya Kovalchuk, they lacked one – because let's face it, the guy only had 31 points last year playing 25 minutes a game. Any second-line player in the league can do that!
I exaggerate to make a point, but the weakness is all too real. Unless Patrik Elias has another 70-point season up his sleeve, it will be “goals by committee.” The top scorers, besides Elias, will post in the 45- to 55-point range, which is another Nashville situation. Fantasy owners hate that stuff. Fantasy Grade: D (last year was D)
New York Islanders
Gone – Jesse Joensuu, Keith Aucoin, Nino Niederreiter, Mark Streit
Incoming – Peter Regin, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Ready for full time – Ryan Strome is one of the most coveted prospects in fantasy hockey. That's what 268 points in your last 164 OHL games will get you. His progress in training camp will be watched by everyone in your league, as his potential for the coming season ranges from zero points (if he fails to make the team) to 65 points as an elite rookie. My money is on some AHL time, with several cups of coffee with the big club throughout the year.
Brock Nelson led Bridgeport in scoring in his first pro season and has the size and two-way acumen to take the next step. The 21-year-old center may have to move to the wing to crack the lineup – and if he does make this team, expectations should be tempered. At least for his first season.
Defenseman Matt Donovan has been a pro for two years now and in those two years he has been one of the better offensive defensemen in the AHL. With Mark Streit gone, the Isles could use another puck-mover. Donovan averaged more than two shots per game for Bridgeport.
Fantasy Outlook – The Islanders have their superstar (John Tavares) and a fine young supporting cast, including three or four other guys who could top 60 points. They have three defensemen who can move the puck – four, if you include Donovan. And they have a solid crop of prospects with offensive upside. All the ingredients are there for a long and sustained run as a high-scoring team. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was 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.