This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll be analyzing each team’s outlook. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, 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 will eventually work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Time to take a look at the Predators and the Kings.
Gone – Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, Ryan Suter, Jordin Tootoo, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov
Incoming – Chris Mason, Joonas Jarvinen, Daniel Bang
Ready for full time – Gabriel Bourque stuck with the big club for the final half of the season and was made a healthy scratch only three times. He’ll be a bigger part of the picture with Kostitsyn and Radulov out of the mix now - but not as part of Nashville’s top six. Even from the third line, Bourque should flirt with 40 points. This is a team that scores by committee, so you will find nine to 12 players in that 40- to 60-point range.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis will be relied upon to pick up the slack now that Suter is gone. The Preds will be leaning more on Roman Josi, but Ellis will feel his share of pressure as well. He was scratched down the stretch and for much of the post-season, but the 21-year-old is another year older and another year wiser. Offensively, if he and Josi each get 35 points I wouldn’t be shocked.
Jonathan Blum is a highly touted defenseman who took a big step back last season. Even after being sent down to the American League in December he failed to get his confidence back. Blum has remained in Nashville this summer to train under the watchful eye of the team - he wants no excuses for stumbling this time around. If he can return to form it would be a huge boost to the club.
Mattias Ekholm is another solid defenseman on the cusp of making the team. He’ll probably spend at least half the season in the AHL, unless he can unseat Blum. He has some upside, but don’t count on seeing it this season.
Power winger Taylor Beck followed a solid Ontario League career with a nice debut for Milwaukee (AHL). He had 40 points in 74 games. He’ll have a few cups of coffee with the big club, but at this point his impact will be similar to what we’ve already seen from the likes of Matt Halischuk and Bourque. In other words: a slow and steady transition to the NHL.
Fantasy Outlook – Nashville hasn’t been a great team in terms of churning out coveted forwards as far as fantasy hockey goes. This year is no different. They have plenty of depth options for your forward corps and some potential greatness for your defense. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C-)
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Gone – Trent Hunter, Scott Parse, Jeff Zatkoff.
Incoming – None.
Ready for full time – On 25 other NHL teams, Andrei Loktionov would have been established as a third-liner at worst, a top-sixer at best. The 22-year-old has the same problems that a lot of Los Angeles forwards have had over the past several years: the Kings tend to give preference to established scorers. So the skilled scorers in the system have moved on…or the Kings have moved them on. Oscar Moller, Bud Holloway and Teddy Purcell all failed to get a foothold on a tough roster and are now playing elsewhere. Will Loktionov be next? With a top six of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Simon Gagne and then added depth in Dustin Penner it looks as though that will be the case. Barring a couple of key injuries, Loktionov may not get his shot in the NHL unless he is moved. Let’s hope it won’t be to the Kontinental League.
But while the skilled guys may get the short end of the stick, the gritty guys such as Dwight King and Jordan Nolan have roster spots on the checking line waiting for them. Nolan has a lot of fantasy upside as a PIM guy, whereas King could be a complementary winger on a line with a star player such as Kopitar and post perhaps 45 points in an ideal season.
Don’t be soured by Slava Voynov’s three points in 20 playoff games. The Russian defenseman has loads of talent and high-end hockey sense. Pencil him in on your dark horse list for 35 points or more. If the Kings score more than what they managed last season – which won’t be too hard – Voynov will be a big part of that.
Junior scoring sensation Tyler Toffoli would get a long look on a lot of teams, but he has his work cut out for him in Los Angeles. As noted above, the Kings are a tough team to crack if you’re a skilled winger, even one who has scored 109 goals over two OHL seasons. But Toffoli had a great camp last year and if he repeats that you never know…
Fantasy Outlook – How does a team win the Stanley Cup and see its Fantasy Grade drop? By tightening up defensively and leaning on the goaltender - poolies can’t stand that. While the Kings will certainly improve on their measly 188 goals scored (29th overall in 2011-12), it may not be by much. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the talent on the roster and potential in the system still keeps this team up there with the better ones to build a keeper league roster around. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was A)
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.