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. Today I’ll look at the two Cup finalists I had to skip over until the battle was won - the Bruins and Blackhawks.
Gone - Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Anton Khudobin, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin
Incoming - Chad Johnson, Jarome Iginla, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Loui Eriksson
Ready for full time - Torey Krug made a huge splash in the post-season, giving the Rangers fits and even playing well against the Penguins. The adrenaline wore off for the young offensive defenseman by the time the Bruins reached the final and he went pointless in his last eight playoff games after starting off with six points in his first seven. A roster spot won't simply be handed to him. After all, he got into the lineup in May at the expense of Dougie Hamilton - and Hamilton is Boston's Golden Boy. It's hard to unseat a Golden Boy. There's still room, but Krug may find himself on the bottom pairing where it will be difficult to produce.
Reilly Smith was up and down between Dallas and their American League affiliate Texas all season long, but he did play 37 NHL games. It'll be a different story in Boston, however. There’s no room for him unless he beats out Jordan Caron and/or Carl Soderberg, not to mention Matt Fraser, who arrived in Boston along with Smith in the Tyler Seguin trade.
Soderberg is a long-time star in Sweden and the Bruins have been trying for years to bring him over. He'll be 28 in October. He signed a three-year deal with the club and will remain with them throughout 2013-14 through better or worse. Soderberg has 65-point upside, but I would treat his approaching season the way I treated Roman Cervenka's season with Calgary. That is to say, there is upside with risk. Expect growing pains.
Fantasy Outlook: The Boston Bruins have a better first two lines than most teams, a pretty good third line, as well as depth scoring to plug any holes when needed. There is a crop of youngsters who would make other NHL squads, but Boston can afford to let them season in lower leagues a little longer. There won't be any 75-point players here, but a handful can flirt with 70. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B+)
Gone – Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Rostislav Olesz, Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik
Incoming - Nikolai Khabibulin
Ready for full time – That's right, just one player brought in so far. In their efforts to keep Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy around, the Blackhawks were forced to move Bolland and Frolik, as well as let Stalberg walk. And in exchange, they brought in…nobody. Fantasy owners are rubbing their hands with glee because finally they have a legitimate crop of youngsters ready to take on a role with the Stanley Cup champions.
There are a few guys ready to fill what could be as many as three forward spots. This includes Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri, Teuvo Teräväinen and Drew LeBlanc.
To me, Morin has the inside track. He is a feisty player with solid two-way skills that could lead him to the second or third line. He has been injured a lot since turning pro, which probably stifled his development enough that he will likely not become a first-liner.
Next up is Pirri, who again led Rockford in scoring and has improved every season as a pro. He has added strength and honed his defensive game, which pretty much covers everything that the team asked of him. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he has an impact similar to what Kris Versteeg did for them as a rookie.
LeBlanc was a coveted undrafted free agent who won the NCAA's Hobey Baker Award earlier this year. The Hawks won the LeBlanc sweepstakes so you know they'll be giving him every opportunity to make this club.
It was tough coming up with a list of my three favorites for what will be two or three available roster spots. It was even tougher when you consider I left off Chicago's best prospect. Teräväinen has high-end two-way skills that are NHL-ready. But he checks in at 169 pounds and the team may give him one more year to bulk up. If he makes the club, it will be because he made it impossible for the team to cut him.
The 6-foot-6 Hayes was a lock to make this team next October until Bickell re-signed. So the position of “giant with good hands” is now filled. Hayes will again be an injury call-up and will bide his time for another year.
Fantasy Outlook – Lots of scoring potential from lots of players, with more on the way. In fantasy hockey, it's more difficult to get players from this team than any other, except for perhaps the Penguins. 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.