This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look - and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll be taking a look at each team’s outlook. I’ll have on my fantasy hockey goggles, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Winnipeg and I will eventually work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.
Pending UFAs – Samuel Pahlsson, Byron Bitz, Aaron Volpatti, Andrew Ebbett, Sami Salo, Aaron Rome, Steven Reinprecht, Mark Mancari, Matt Climie, Nolan Baumgartner
Pending RFAs – Mike Duco, Victor Oreskovich, Eddie Lack, Ryan Parent, Cory Schneider, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Dale Weise, Mason Raymond
Looking to add – The Canucks could use more toughness and grit up front. This is a pretty deep team at forward in terms of producing points with the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. More was expected from Kesler, but he spent half the year recovering from hip surgery and he’ll spend nearly half of 2012-13 recovering from shoulder surgery. So there is no relief in sight for Kesler owners. Raymond and David Booth were also letdowns offensively.
You saw the Canucks start to address their need for a power forward when they acquired Zack Kassian, but unless they can magically make him more experienced and then clone him, the Canucks will go after another power guy.
They also need to upgrade their bottom-four defensemen in terms of size and strength. The way this team has gone through injuries on the back end over the past two years, there’s no way GM Mike Gillis will settle for the blueline as is.
Ready for full time – Jordan Schroeder will get a long look in camp, but he needs one more season in the American League. He has made huge strides over the past year, though.
Goaltender Lack is ready for NHL duty. If and when Gillis moves Roberto Luongo or Schneider, Lack will slide in as a capable backup. Within two years, he could be ready to take a starting role, assuming his transition to the NHL is smooth.
Their 2011 first-rounder, Nicklas Jensen, is a big winger with speed, which is precisely what the Canucks need. But he needs another year to add some muscle and learn to assert himself even more. He should not be underestimated, though. After all, he played in eight AHL regular season and playoff games (when his season in junior ended) and he scored six times.
Fantasy Outlook – This is a deep team and a winning team that is a threat to make a playoff run over the next several years. The farm system, in terms of offensive studs (which us fantasy junkies love), is not as deep as what many other teams have. But all in all, if you have several Canucks on your keeper league squad, you’re doing well. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was A-)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Pending UFAs – Joey Crabb, Jay Rosehill, Jonas Gustavsson, Jeff Finger, Mike Zigomanis, Philippe Dupuis, Matt Lashoff.
Pending RFAs – Nikolai Kulemin, Matt Frattin, Cody Franson, Ben Scrivens, Jussi Rynnas, Marcel Mueller, Korbinian Holzer.
Looking to add – Opinions vary on what kind of players the Maple Leafs need to add, but people are pretty much unanimous in one area – goaltending. While James Reimer could be a 1A starter who notches 30 wins and Scrivens could be a 1B starter with a heck of a lot of upside, I’m not sure GM Brian Burke will want to take any chances here. There are more than a few options out there for Burke, ranging from acquiring Luongo from Vancouver or Tim Thomas from Boston, or signing Tomas Vokoun or Josh Harding in free agency. Given that the latter two options are injury and/or consistency risks, look for Burke to go hard after one of Thomas or Luongo.
Another area of concern for Leafs fans is their defense. Personally, I’m not as concerned as most because I think Cody Franson is a fantastic offensive defenseman under the right coaching system. Unfortunately for Franson owners, Randy Carlyle is not the coach for him. So the team will need to replace Franson and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him flourish in a new city. I would also not be surprised if he pulls a Keith Ballard and disappears.
I believe Luke Schenn is on a good season/bad season pattern so far in his career, which makes him due for a good one in 2012-13. If he bounces back, Jake Gardiner avoids the sophomore slump and Mike Komisarek gets buried in the minors, the Leafs will be short a bottom-pairing defenseman…but their top four are great.
Toronto needs a No. 1 center. Tyler Bozak has the potential to be a Brendan Morrison-type: A guy who is more of a second-line center, but has a couple of great seasons thanks to chemistry on a big line (remember Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund?). So, if the Leafs fall short of landing a true No. 1, they will fall back on Bozak and he’ll have a big year – think 60-plus. Mikhail Grabovski is another No. 2 center, but lacks the consistency to become a No. 1 guy.
Ready for full time – Joe Colborne deserves a third-line spot at center. He needs to apprentice in the NHL now and garner 13 minutes of ice time each game. If Toronto has any hope of him ever becoming a No. 1, he has to graduate next season.
Matt Frattin is ready to be an NHLer for good. The amount of improvement he has shown over the course of the year has been remarkable. He also leads the Marlies in scoring as they enter the AHL final – 10 goals in 13 games. He is the one prospect who could make an impact in fantasy circles. I’m thinking somewhere in the high-40-point range.
Nazem Kadri is touch-and-go for a roster spot. He should be a full-timer by the second half, but may see time in the AHL to start. He’s still streaky, making him a fantasy asset in spurts, but a liability over time.
Fantasy Outlook – The Leafs proved they could score goals (if only seasons were 50 games long, right Leafs fans?). Their prospect pool has improved from what was easily the worst group in the league four years ago to a top 10 or 12 group today. Their weaknesses are fixable in the off-season and when was the last time you could say that? Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was C)
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.