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Antti Neimi's future?

Can Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks be a true top-flight keeper? (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Can Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks be a true top-flight keeper? (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The first Wednesday of every month throughout the summer, I’ll take your fantasy hockey-related questions. Lots of events from the past month to react to, from Taylor Hall to Jaroslav Halak. Let’s get to some letters!

Does Antti Niemi become a legitimate top-five goalie in most fantasy formats for next season?
Steve, Port Moody, B.C.


To become a top-five fantasy goalie you need to be in line for at least 65 starts. Unless something is done about Cristobal Huet, Niemi will not get the starts needed to put up a lot of W’s. With that albatross of a contract in Huet’s back pocket, the Blackhawks will not allow him to be sitting on the bench for 65 games. So unless they bury him in the minors or somehow trade him, Niemi will remain a very good option but not a great one.

Hi Dobber, in my 10-team keeper league (G, A, PPG, SHG, GWG) I need to make a decision on what to do with Ville Leino. I must sign him to a contract and if I sign him to a one-year deal I can drop him at anytime during the season. If I sign him to more than that, I am stuck with him. The maximum contract length is six years. What do you project for him in the future?
Daniel, Moncton, N.B.


Leino is quite the wild card. He showed us all what he could do with a 19-game run in the playoffs in which he tallied 21 points. That also represents more points than he had in 68 regular season games in his career.

We’ve seen one-hit wonders before. Lonny Bohonos had nine points in nine playoff games for the Leafs back in 1999. He never played an NHL game again. John Druce had 17 points in 15 games for Washington in the 1990 post-season. He had 58 points the following season before slowly fading out of the league.

Leino, 26, is an undrafted late-bloomer who really just needed a chance. He clicked really well with Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell and provided the trio remains together, I think he can get 60 to 65 points this season.

But lines seldom stay together and the Flyers are not done setting their roster yet this summer, so I wouldn’t count on Leino. I still consider him a high risk/reward dark horse and would only sign him to a one-year contract.

Hey Dobber, 10-team league (PTS, PPP, SHP, GWG...W-3, L-1, SO-5) with two keeper spots to be determined. Keepers – Henrik Zetterberg, Jason Spezza, Patrick Marleau, Martin St-Louis, Claude Giroux, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi (also have Corey Schneider, Joe Colborne, Mattias Tedenby and Bobby Sanguinetti on the farm team) On the fence: Patrick Sharp, Daniel Briere, Carey Price, Michael Del Zotto (Pick two).
Carson, Kitchener, Ont.


I would keep Price and Del Zotto. Those two positions are harder to fill and goaltenders fluctuate so sharply it’s hard to imagine the 10 best fantasy goaltenders in 2007 look like the 10 best today. So owning Niemi, Rinne and Price covers your bases.

Hello Dobber, are Jiri Hudler and Nikita Filatov coming back to play in the NHL this year and, if so, how many points would you expect out of them?
Louis, Montreal


Hudler – absolutely. I think he’ll surprise many poolies with his production and his presence will boost the other five Red Wings in their top six. Think 70 points. Filatov – almost certainly. He has expressed his desire to return and the Blue Jackets are working with him and making their expectations clear. He’ll make the team and under a more offensive coach I don’t see why he doesn’t post 55 points.

Related Links

Will Jacob Markstrom be a No. 1 goalie by 2012-13? If/when Tomas Vokoun gets traded, do you expect Markstrom to take over the starter spot? Or will they go to Scott Clemmensen and ease him in?
David, Edmonton


I believe he will be the No. 1 goalie by then. If Vokoun gets moved this year, I think Markstrom will get some starts, but I also think they will be split by Clemmensen and Alexander Salak, who looked good in the American League last year – particularly in the first half.

Dobber, I'm in a deep keeper league (12 GMs with 12 keepers each) and goalies are very tough to grab. But since the signing of Johan Backlund in Philly and the benching of Cristobal Huet in Chicago, I have put high stock in both Backlund and Chicago up-and-comer Corey Crawford to play a fair amount of games this upcoming year. I currently have Miikka Kiprusoff of Calgary and Kari Lehtonen of Dallas. Would you suggest I shoot for one or both of the two up-and-comers early in the draft or sit on Kipper and Lehtonen for the season and draft some offense, and hopefully grab one of these guys later on?
Wes, Toronto


I don’t think Backlund is the answer at all, as he has proven to be fragile already in his short career and the Flyers are already set in net with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Throw in the Marty Turco rumors and I just don’t see Backlund as a piece of the puzzle.

I also wouldn’t trust the Chicago situation. The only way Crawford works this season is if they trade Cristobal Huet or bury him in the minors. If you want a good dark horse goalie to consider, try Alex Stalock of the Sharks. I say this because Antero Niittymaki gets hurt fairly often and if Thomas Greiss stumbles, they will turn to Stalock, who had an excellent AHL campaign. So I would draft offense early and then take Stalock late, as he will be available.

Hey Dobber, I am in a keeper league (pts) where I was just offered James van Riemsdyk for Kyle Beach. If I take van Riemsdyk I can only sign him to a five-year deal since he was activated last year. But Beach still hasn't been activated yet and I could have him for a maximum of eight years. Do you think I should take the deal?
Robert, Quebec City


Absolutely. Take it before he changes his mind.

Note regarding the Fantasy Mailbag – it is important to indicate whether or not your league is a keeper league or a one-year league. Also note whether the league is “points only”, “standard roto league”, or if there are any uncommon rules that are important to know. This will help in advising you on the right course of action.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Mailbag will appear the first Wednesday of every month throughout the off-season. To send the Dobber your question, click HERE.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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