I could spend all day writing about all the players who need to make an impact quickly or lose pretty much all fantasy relevance. But I managed to pick out five interesting players who stand out the most. In some cases, failure to make their mark could mean we never see them in the NHL again. In others, it could result in their fantasy value being pigeonholed as nothing more than what we have already seen.
Marc-Andre Gragnani, Buffalo
You would think after leading his team in post-season scoring he would have a spot locked up. But the timing was off. A new owner has taken over and Terry Pegula wants to make a splash.
At best – he makes the team, mans the second power play unit and one of Ehrhoff or Sekera gets hurt so Gragnani can sneak onto the top unit. That would mean the mid-40s for points.
At worst – he either gets cut or he sees such little ice time that it’s impossible for him to do what he does best (put up points). After a dozen games with just one assist, he finds himself in the press box more often than not. That would mean 15 or 20 points in 65 games.
Joakim Lindstrom, Colorado
Talk about coming back from the dead. Lindstrom was a dark horse favorite of mine a number of years ago, but injuries and just plain bad luck interfered. Despite 20 points in just half a season with Phoenix, which was a fairly promising breakthrough, he couldn’t land a one-way contract and left for the Kontinental League. Two years later, after leading the Swedish Elite League in scoring (not to mention being second in penalty minutes), the Avs signed him. He’s been playing with Paul Stastny and has been doing very well. I think he’ll make this team. For good? Well, that remains to be seen.
At best – he continues to click with Stastny and manages to avoid injury, establishing himself as an NHL top-sixer. That would mean high 50s in points.
At worst – by Game 10 he twists an ankle or tweaks a knee, putting himself out of the lineup for a couple of weeks. He is then unable to regain his spot in the top six and eventually winds up clearing waivers and going to the AHL. That would mean 10 points in 20 games.
Ian White, Detroit
White had a career high of 38 points in 2009-10, but otherwise he has never tallied more than 26. He is a smallish, puck-moving defenseman who recently turned 27. Another smallish defenseman, Brian Rafalski, had a career high of 32 points at the age of 26 and went on to four seasons of at least 52, with several others in the 40s. He was a favorite defense partner of future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom. The relevance? Well, White is Lidstrom’s new partner and it seems to be working out so far.
At best – he fits in seamlessly in the Detroit system and becomes the yin to Lidstrom’s yang. That would mean upwards of 50 points or even a tad higher.
At worst – he continues doing what he’s been doing, showing flashes of promise and bouncing on and off the top pairing. That would mean 35 points or so.
Wojtek Wolski, NY Rangers
The enigmatic Wolski followed up his breakthrough 65-point season in 2009-10 with a 35-point campaign. And that makes two seasons in a row where the original team he started with didn’t want him anymore by mid-season. He has great offensive instincts and talent, but he is developing a reputation as a perimeter player. If he’s not on the first line, he’ll fail miserably on the third or fourth. There is no grey here - it’s black or white.
At best – he performs well on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. That would see him flirt with 65 points and salvage his faltering career.
At worst – he gets held off the scoresheet for three or four games in a row. That would bump him down to another line, which of course would be doom for a player of his skill set. That would mean 35 points in 75 games.
Nikita Filatov, Ottawa
In 2020 we could be saying “Filatov” the way we say “Kovalchuk” today. Or we could be saying “Filatov” and then wracking our brain trying to remember who that is (quick - Pavel Brendl, who drafted him?). He has new life on a new team and is doing very well on a scoring line there in camp. But what happens if he gets hurt again?
At best – he goes through the season with only a minor injury or two, having some very hot streaks and a strong finish that is spurred on by Jason Spezza’s traditional second-half tear. This would mean 55 to 60 points in 75 games.
At worst – Filatov strains or sprains (or breaks) something, comes back too soon in early December and re-injures it. He’s still not back on track by February and winds up leaving in the off-season for the KHL. This would mean 10 points in 25 games.
(Note: Brendl was drafted fourth overall by the NY Rangers in 1999.)
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.