For hardcore fantasy junkies, all training camp news is of interest. Two cities in particular are catching this fantasy-hockey addict's eye, however: Atlanta and Columbus.
These two hockey teams have several important (and when the word Â“importantÂ” is mentioned in a fantasy context it indicates Â“offenseÂ” and Â“potential dark horseÂ”) roster spots available. Generally speaking, it will be a competition amongst youngsters to win the jobs.
In Atlanta, the Thrashers have a set line with Todd White centering his old Ottawa linemate Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov. Star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk is without linemates. Furthermore, while Alexei Zhitnik has the quarterback's job sewn up (14 points in 18 games since joining the Thrashers), he could always use a partner.
For the Â‘Kovalchuk job,' keep an eye on Bryan Little in training camp. If the youngster cracks the lineup, he won't be lounging on the fourth line Â– he'll be on Kovalchuk's line. His competition will come from Eric Perrin and Jim Slater.
For the Â‘second quarterback job,' keep an eye on diminutive Swede Tobias Enstrom. By all accounts he is ready for NHL duty and he came all the way from Sweden with one thing in mind Â– an NHL job. He is a power play specialist who could surprise. He will compete with fellow youngsters Marc Popovic, Nathan Oystrick and Karel Pilar. The winner of that battle could see upwards of 35 points this season.
Columbus has similar opportunities available. Who will center Rick Nash? Is Sergei Fedorov's 40-odd points per season good enough to earn the role? Nope.
That job will be wide open in camp, with prospect Derrick Brassard already making a strong case for it in the rookie tournament. Gilbert Brule's role with the team increased towards the end of last season, so perhaps he is ready. Youngsters Dan Fritsche and Geoff Platt will also get a look, as will Kris Beech Â– who was signed this off-season. The winner could tally 55 or 60 points.
The Blue Jackets also lack a power play quarterback and are hoping Kris Russell can step up. His rookie tournament performance has been a little lackluster, but it is early, yet. The 20-year-old is the future of the team in that department. If he falters this month, the job will belong to Ron Hainsey, who has garnered coach Ken Hitchcock's trust.
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery's wrist appears to be fine. He received clearance from doctors to start on-ice drills this coming SaturdayÂ…
Farm Report: Some solid fantasy prospects have performed well in development camp and deserve a long look in the big camp: Jakub Voracek and Brassard (Columbus); James Sheppard (Minnesota); Ryan Stone, Tyler Kennedy and Jonathan Filewich (Pittsburgh); Anton Stralman (Toronto); Mason Raymond (Vancouver).
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