T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues look to bounce back from an injury-slowed season. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Continuing the eighth annual Fantasy Pool Look tradition, here are the next set of four team reports from a poolie’s perspective: the Yotes, Pens, Sharks and Blues.
Gone – Ed Jovanovski, Andrew Ebbett, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Belanger, Ilya Bryzgalov, Petr Prucha, Lee Stempniak
Incoming – Patrick O’Sullivan, Kyle Chipchura, Boyd Gordon, Mike Smith, Raffi Torres, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Daymond Langkow
Ready for full time - The future “Kid Line” of Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Brett MacLean are all set for the big time. The problem is, Turris has yet to sign and MacLean’s deal is a two-way pact. I’m sure Turris will sign eventually, but MacLean will likely end up in the minors. The three of them have unique styles that complement each other, with a nice combination of goal scoring, passing savvy and speed. Given the ugliness the Coyotes have up the middle, even with the injury-plagued Langkow, Turris will have an opportunity to seize a top-six role. A breakout to the 50-point mark will happen if he takes advantage of every opportunity.
Boedker is also a candidate for 50 points, although I wouldn’t bet on more than 40 from him this season. There is a lot more competition on the wing in Phoenix than there is at center.
Fantasy Outlook – I like the crop of youngsters this team has in the pipeline, especially on the back end. But as far as forwards go, there is no real hope of a superstar on the way. In net, the fragile Mike Smith will need to hold the fort for a long time, as the young goalies in the system still need several years. Other than Keith Yandle, I don’t see any 65-point players on the team this season. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C+)
Gone – Alex Kovalev, Eric Godard, Chris Conner, Brett Sterling, Andrew Hutchinson, Maxime Talbot, Mike Rupp, Mike Comrie, John Curry, Steve Wagner
Incoming – Jason Williams, Steve MacIntyre, Alexandre Picard, Steve Sullivan
Ready for full time – There are four players who are ready to make the jump, but only one will actually do so at the start of the season. If injuries force the issue, as many as three will make it by the time February rolls around. The Penguins are gaining a reputation for their patience with forward prospects and their lack of trust in them. In fact, whenever they need a forward they just sign one (Sullivan) or trade for one using one of their many solid young defensemen (Alex Goligoski for James Neal).
Dustin Jeffrey, who is ready for a second-line role, may not even have an NHL job waiting for him when he recovers from his knee surgery. As a center, he may never be the right fit in Pittsburgh given their depth at the position. Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson are also on the cusp. Tangradi is not playing the power game he needs to play, but at this point it’s more of a growth issue as opposed to a dominate-the-AHL issue. Johnson, now 25, has done all he can in the minors. He is a complementary player who needs to score whenever he gets a sniff on a good line, because he won’t get a lot of those chances.
I also think goaltender Brad Thiessen could be an NHL backup now, but Brent Johnson has that role locked up.
Fantasy Outlook – There are so many question marks surrounding the health of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and so much riding on their two stars. The team will still win hockey games without them, but as we saw last year that can still mean zero 60-point players. However, if Sid and Geno can combine for 140 games, I think we’ll see five or six players top that plateau. Big difference. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was A+)
Gone – Scott Nichol, Dany Heatley, Ian White, Ben Eager, Kent Huskins, Jamal Mayers, Devin Setoguchi, Niclas Wallin, Kyle Wellwood
Incoming – James Sheppard, Colin White, Andrew Murray, Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, Jim Vandermeer, Brent Burns
Ready for full time – Thomas Greiss struggled in Europe last season and is buried behind two goaltenders this year. But he is an underrated goalie who has done well in North America when given the chance. And it’s not like Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi are iron men.
Versatile forward Andrew Desjardins is ready to make the jump, but only in a depth role. Former college star Tommy Wingels will get a long look as a third-line winger.
Fantasy Outlook – The Sharks are deep in fantasy-valuable NHL players, with at least nine who are draftable in most formats. Their farm system is thin, but it has always been thin and yet they manage to find one gem every year and add him to the pro roster. It’s an interesting system that has worked for five or six years. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B)
Gone – Ty Conklin, Cam Janssen, Tyson Strachan, Dave Scatchard
Incoming – Jason Arnott, Jonathan Cheechoo, Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Nichol, Brett Sterling, Kent Huskins, Brian Elliott, Evgeny Grachev
Ready for full time – In net, Ben Bishop has the opportunity to become the full-time backup, but would need to beat out an established NHLer in Brian Elliott to do it. I think he can.
The rest of the roster is set for this year, barring an injury. With David Perron return uncertain (concussion), there may be a wing position up for grabs. Someone has to bring their ‘A’ game to sneak in, but Grachev and Sterling are the most interesting names.
Fantasy Outlook – I love the Blues now. I spent the summer trying to acquire some of them. I just think a lot of their young players are on the cusp of great things, most notably Patrik Berglund. I am also thrilled with Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk, as well as future studs Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. The latter is arguably the best player not in the NHL. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B-)
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 and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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