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 Blues and the Lightning.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Gone: Andrew Murray, David Perron, Kris Russell, Andy McDonald, Scott Nichol, Jeff Woywitka, Jamie Langenbrunner
Incoming: Magnus Paajarvi, Derek Roy, Alexandre Bolduc, Maxim Lapierre, Keith Aucoin
Ready for full time - While both Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin will make things difficult for Ken Hitchcock in terms of camp cuts, there just isn't any room on the Blues. Instead, look for one of them to do what Tyler Toffoli did last year for the Kings. That is to say, get called up at some point during the season and make an impact on the scoresheet despite limited ice time. Both Rattie and Jaskin need to provide the organization with a reason not to sign other free agent forwards next summer.
Goaltender Jake Allen has shown he can play at the NHL level. Although he's currently third on the depth chart, you have to think Jaroslav Halak will get injured at some point and bump Allen up. Injuries have almost become part of Halak's routine since he joined the Blues back in 2010. Allen could be a reasonable No. 4 goalie to place on your bench for a couple of weeks to start the season, just in case Halak gets hurt early on.
Fantasy Outlook - The Blues only had one player, Chris Stewart, to produce at a pro-rated 60-point pace last season. And Stewart ended up with nine points in his last 25 regular season and playoff games. St. Louis is very deep with skilled guys who have high upside. That depth stretches into the farm system where the likes of Rattie and Jaskin await their chance. But as long as a Hitchcock system is in place, the production won't be where it should be…even if the wins are there. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B)
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Gone: Brendan Mikkelson, Vincent Lecavalier, J.T. Wyman, Benoit Pouliot, Mathieu Garon, Mathieu Roy
Incoming: Valtteri Filppula
Ready for full time – Jonathan Drouin is the most-hyped draft pick by Tampa Bay since Steven Stamkos and he boasts just as much upside. Except, where Stamkos scores goals, Drouin sets them up. Is this a match made in heaven? You bet it is. But you may not see them paired up right away. It will be sporadic, but will likely increase in frequency as the season wears on. Drouin is a safe bet for 45 points, but is a dark horse for 70.
Ondrej Palat is getting close to an NHL roster spot, but there may not be room for him if Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik make the team. Palat led the American League in playoff scoring with 26 points in 18 games. His numbers with Tampa during a brief stint were also impressive (14-2-2-4, plus-5).
Tyler Johnson had six points in his first five NHL games last season before he cooled off. His AHL numbers have been solid in his two seasons there - he was eighth in scoring last year and seventh in scoring in 2011-12. He's a smaller player who has performed well when the pressure is on, reminding me of former teammate Cory Conacher in that sense.
Right winger Richard Panik clings to his rookie eligibility status thanks to playing 25 NHL games last season instead of 26. Pencil him in as a third-line energy guy for the coming season and 30 points sounds about right.
Defenseman Radko Gudas is a fantasy hockey revelation. He's not going to get 40 points - not now, not ever. But he can certainly chip in 20 or 25 while challenging for the league lead in hits and penalty minutes. A wonderful dark horse in multi-category leagues and he can probably be plucked in one of the final rounds.
At this point, there is one more spot open on defense and Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio are closest to taking it. Sustr can play a defensive game and he's 6-foot-8, which gives him a big edge. Barberio, meanwhile, is one-dimensional and needs to work on his defensive game. If he can't be “the guy” on the power play, then he may as well remain in the AHL.
Fantasy Outlook – From a fantasy standpoint, this is one of the better teams in the NHL to build a keeper-league squad around. It has a lot of high-scoring forwards on the roster right now (third in goals last season despite missing the playoffs). And the pipeline is almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to high-flying forwards with upside. In fact, in fantasy hockey keeper leagues, the Lightning has the most appealing prospect pool in the league, bar none. Fantasy Grade: A- (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.