Nikita Filatov had four points in eight games with the Blue Jackets last season. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
For the past six summers, Fantasy Pool Look has given you insight on what each NHL team has on tap for the summer – from a fantasy hockey standpoint, of course. Last year we ran through the teams every week starting from “Anaheim” and finishing with “Washington.” This summer, we’re reversing that. Keep in mind the ratings reflect the current and potential offense of teams (fantasy value) and not necessarily the outlook for the wins and losses of the on-ice product.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Gone – Jason Williams, Craig MacDonald, O.K. Tollefsen, Wade Dubielewicz, Aaron Rome, Christian Backman, Chris Gratton, Manny Malhotra, Jiri Novotny, Michael Peca, Mike York
Incoming – Mathieu Roy, Mathieu Garon, Samuel Pahlsson
Ready for full time – Nikita Filatov didn’t have NHL size and strength last year, but he absolutely had NHL skills. Now that he has bulked up a little, he’ll be difficult to hold back. However, the top six is full and he’ll need to displace one of Jason Chimera, Raffi Torres or Jared Boll from a third line spot (assuming Fredrik Modin and Pahlsson are locks for that line). You know which way coach Ken Hitchcock will lean – the veteran way. It may take an injury for Filatov to strut his stuff.
Fantasy Outlook – There are lots of promising youngsters already on the squad in an offensive role. Once Filatov cracks the lineup, however, the pickings get a little slim for poolies. The coach’s team system will hold the offense down, but the skill these youngsters boast will eventually give you plenty of scoring options - probably as early as this year. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was C+)
Gone – Cody McCormick, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Ben Guite, Joe Sakic, Andrew Raycroft, Ryan Smyth, Tyler Arnason, Lawrence Nycholat, Ian Laperriere, Tony Granato (coach)
Incoming – Kyle Quincey, Tom Preissing, David Koci, Craig Anderson, Joe Sacco (coach)
Ready for full time – Ryan Stoa bounced back from a 2007-08 season in which he was sidelined with a knee injury to completely dominate the college circuit. He’s not only ready, but the Avs desperately need his combination of size and skill. I’ve been pimping him as a Top-10 Calder candidate all summer long at DobberHockey.com.
This summer’s third-overall pick, Matt Duchene, is close to being NHL ready and there is room for him. I can see his season looking similar to Kyle Turris’ last year. That means a couple of healthy scratches, some signs of future greatness and 30 or 40 points. He’ll springboard off that and into stardom by his second or third season.
Fantasy Outlook – The team is rebuilding and has a handful of promising offensive prospects in the system. There is still a ways to go, but they’re on the right track. Keeper league teams looking at a long rebuild could consider some of the Avs kids. In three years it will really start to pay off. Until then, it will be painful, although winning next summer’s Taylor Hall sweepstakes will ease that pain in a hurry. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C+)
Gone – Nikolai Khabibulin, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Havlat
Incoming – Tomas Kopecky, Marian Hossa, John Madden
Ready for full time – One of Antti Niemi or Corey Crawford will be the backup netminder this season and will see his fair share of games. What is causing poolies to hesitate, however, is the threat of a three-headed goalie monster. That is, the team keeping both goalies and rotating them with starter Cristobal Huet. That would shave a good five starts off Huet and it would make owning either Niemi or Crawford almost useless. I’ll be watching training camp carefully to see how events unfold.
Jack Skille is ready for full-time duty, but this squad is so deep up front that he won’t get on a scoring line. Given his strong camp a year ago, another player ready to make the jump is Igor Makarov. The problem is, he can’t possibly make this team; Chicago is way too deep. But if he somehow pulls it off, it would speak volumes about his skill and persistency. Makarov owners would welcome a trade.
Fantasy Outlook - As hinted at last year with a strong fantasy grade, the Blackhawks are offensive juggernauts top to bottom. Their pro roster is jam-packed and they have several talented kids champing at the bit, just waiting for an injury to open up a spot. Fantasy Grade: A (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. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday throughout the off-season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.