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Fantasy Pool Look: Christmas in Columbus

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Ken Hitchcock’s coaching system has, historically, worked flawlessly for the first two years or so that he’s been with a squad. Somewhere along the way, however, the team stops responding. That happened this year with the Blue Jackets and by the time GM Scott Howson fired Hitchcock, Columbus was well out of the playoff picture. More importantly for poolies, the damage was already done to player stats. However, some promising signs have emerged under interim coach Claude Noel.

Columbus is 9-5-4 under Noel, which may be good enough to remove his interim tag. Kristian Huselius hopes that happens – to say nothing of his fantasy owners. The 31-year-old Huselius has 17 points in 15 games under the new coaching system. He’s making the big money ($4.75 million) and perhaps he’ll earn it if Noel wins the full-time job. Huselius’ career-high is 77 points set in Calgary in 2006-07 and he should finish this season with 67 thanks to a strong finish.

Jakub Voracek is also flourishing. The sophomore right winger has 21 points in 18 games and he should end up with 55 points. That’s just low enough to keep his value down and by the time July rolls around, the fact he was more than a point-per-game player under the new coach may be overlooked.

Another player performing well is Antoine Vermette. The 27-year-old has already set a new career-high with 62 points; 19 of which came in the 18 games under Noel. Vermette had steadily and consistently increased his points-per-game every season until he ran into disaster a year ago, along with all the other disappointing Ottawa Senators. Call last year an anomaly. Now he’s back on his steady upward trend and he should continue that in 2010-11.

Other forwards such as R.J. Umberger, Rick Nash and Derick Brassard have seen modest increases, but nothing that jumps out enough to make you believe the coach is making a difference. From an offensive standpoint, any coach is better than Hitchcock for these players, but Noel is having the most noticeable impact on Huselius, Voracek and Vermette. It’s something to keep an eye on in the summer – who will Columbus name as its full-time coach?

Farm Report: It’s NCAA free-agent frenzy time, which has become a big event. Teams looking for a skill upgrade try to find offensive players who are both NHL-ready and will sign for the price of a plugger. Things worked out nicely for the Toronto Maple Leafs one year after signing Tyler Bozak. This time around, Brian Burke has signed 6-foot-5 power forward Brady Irwin in hopes he has found the next Dustin Penner. However, as far as poolies are concerned, that would only mean a lot of teasing and a 65-point upside that may never be reached. But Irwin, a former teammate of Viktor Stalberg’s at Vermont, will most likely be a third line power guy if his NHL tryout is successful.

Meanwhile, Anaheim signed free agent forward Rob Bordson, who played on a line with diminutive free agent Jack Connolly at Minnesota-Duluth. He has some upside, but much of his NCAA offense (he had 40 points in 40 games this year) could be the result of Connolly…

Two college signings that did catch my eye involved players already drafted by NHL organizations. New Jersey’s American League affiliate in Albany signed Colgate center David McIntyre (138th overall in 2006) to an amateur tryout contract and Anaheim signed Boston University center Nick Bonino (173rd in 2007) to an entry-level deal. Both players have second line upside and both will get a long look for a job there in the fall. Just two names for you to file away.

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 first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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