Marc Methot of Columbus and James Neal of Dallas battle for the puck. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
For the past seven years, Fantasy Pool Look has offered insight on what each NHL team has on tap for the summer – from a fantasy hockey standpoint, of course. As we did in 2009, we’ll run through every team alphabetically. This week – the Blue Jackets and the Stars.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Potential UFAs – Nathan Paetsch, Brendan Bell, Derek MacKenzie
Potential RFAs – Tom Sestito, Jared Boll, Mike Blunden, Anton Stralman, Grant Clitsome, Chad Kolarik, Kevin Lalande, Dan Lacosta
Looking to Add – The Blue Jackets are one of the few teams that have most players already signed for next year, including all of their main roster spots. But the Jackets would love a proven puckmoving defenseman. If they don’t get one via free agency or trade, then Anton Stralman and Kris Russell will continue their trial-by-fire development in that role.
Ready for full time – Nikita Filatov was ready for the NHL this past season. The one drawback with the future star sniper is his size and an injury history already. But the other tools are all there and it is safe to say that new coach Scott Arniel will give him a better shot than Ken Hitchcock did. Filatov will produce from the third line and be the first player promoted into the top six when a spot is opened via injury.
Many Columbus fans are excited about Matt Calvert, after a strong camp in 2009 and a solid season of junior hockey in the Western League. But unless your last name is Kane, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound player won’t be an NHL regular at the age of 20. Calvert will also need to show he can play the pro game at the American League level without the star linemates he got used to (Brayden Schenn, Scott Glennie) in Brandon.
Another player who impressed in camp last year, John Moore, will get a long look. But unless he forces Arniel’s hand, he’ll have another year of development.
Finally, goaltender Gustaf Wesslau is an undrafted Swede whom the Jackets recently signed. At 6-foot-4, he covers a lot of net and has posted strong numbers at other levels. A few undrafted goalies have been signed during the past three months and Wesslau is one of the more promising ones. He’s a Steve Mason injury away from getting an NHL look.
Fantasy Outlook – Columbus is a much better team than it showed this past season and under Arniel the goals will be a little more abundant. That means Rick Nash’s 67 points should become 75 and several other underachievers should pad their 2009-10 numbers by a few as well. Filatov is one of the most talented players not in the NHL and Mason, despite this season’s inconsistency, is one of the game’s great young goaltenders. The team is still a borderline playoff squad, though, with a pipeline that is below average after Filatov, Calvert and Moore. Fantasy Grade: C (last year was B)
Potential UFAs – Marty Turco, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Krys Barch, Andrew Hutchinson, Dan Jancevski, Matt Climie, Warren Peters
Potential RFAs – Fabian Brunnstrom, Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen, James Neal, Raymond Sawada, Perttu Lindgren, Maxime Fortunus
Looking to Add – The Stars may be on the lookout for a backup to goaltender Kari Lehtonen, especially given his injury track record. They also need a power play quarterback.
Ready for full time – Goaltender Richard Bachman is very underrated and wasn’t even part of the picture during AHL Texas’ playoff run. But after a great college career, he was a man among boys in the ECHL this past season and constantly exceeded expectations. Look for a strong camp from him and if Dallas doesn’t sign a backup, Bachman will be the guy. Which means he’s a Lehtonen injury away from getting a whole lot of starts.
Defenseman Philip Larsen could make the team and be the next Tobias Enstrom. That is to say that he is undersized and not well known, but has great offensive instincts and could surprise with his numbers.
Fantasy Outlook – Unless Lehtonen can stay healthy enough to play 65 games (insert laugh track here), the Stars will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. Offensively, they have some depth up front, but not much at the back. The pipeline is average, from a fantasy standpoint. Not a lot of keeper league teams are focusing on Dallas players. 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. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.