It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. This week, we look at Steve Mason’s current and former teams.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Gone – Nick Schultz, Jack Skille, Derek MacKenzie, Matt Frattin, Blake Comeau, Nikita Nikitin, R.J. Umberger
Incoming – Brian Gibbons, Jerry D’Amigo, Scott Hartnell, Simon Hjalmarsson
Ready for full-time – Hjalmarsson is a Blues draft pick (39th overall in 2007) who not only remained in Europe but also took only sideways or backwards steps in his development. That is, until St. Louis let him go. Then he started to flourish. Hjalmarsson finished this past season with 57 points in 55 games, good for fourth in Swedish League scoring. Still only 25, he’s both NHL-ready and has room to improve. I liken his situation to that of Carl Soderberg in Boston from a year ago, though Hjalmarsson may not have quite the upside offensively.
D’Amigo will battle for the last roster spot with Gibbons. Gibbons has the skills to put points on the board, while D’Amigo has modest offense but is tenacious on the forecheck and may be a better fit for a depth line.
Michael Chaput was the 2012 Memorial Cup MVP and was a pretty good scorer in the Quebec League, but he has carved out his reputation in the pros as a two-way guy. A poor man’s David Bolland (minus the injuries), Chaput could anchor a checking line and score some clutch goals down the stretch and in the post-season.
Two key prospects in the system, Kerby Rychel and Alexander Wennberg, are at least a year away.
Fantasy Outlook – This is a good team built on character and pretty decent skill. There aren’t any elite scorers in the organization, but the Blue Jackets boast more than a handful of players who will not only top 60 points, but several of their young guns could post 70 within two or three years. Goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky is rock solid. Still, their lack of a game-breaker makes a lot of fantasy owners say “meh.” For what it’s worth, if I were to pick a young player with the potential to be a game-breaker, it would be 25-year-old Cam Atkinson. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was C+)
Gone – Tye McGinn, Steve Downie, Bruno Gervais, Scott Hartnell
Incoming – Zack Stortini, Andrew Gordon, Nick Schultz, R.J. Umberger
Ready for full time – Scott Laughton is Philadelphia’s top prospect, and he’s close to making the jump full time. At the very least, he’ll see some cups of coffee with the big club in 2014-15. His high points at the junior level probably won’t translate to the NHL, but eventually he will be a solid second or third liner. As a rookie, I would expect some transition time. Keep expectations low for his first two or three seasons.
Undrafted Jason Akeson is an underrated winger who just won’t take no for an answer. When called up for a regular season game in 2012, he scored. When called up for the second time, for the final game of 2013-14, he picked up an assist. Akeson was hard to remove from the lineup, so he went onto play all seven playoff games. While, as to be expected, mistakes happened, for the most part Akeson impressed with his ability to create scoring chances. He is one to watch as a potential 40-point dark horse.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere turned pro after winning ECAC player of the year, the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament MVP, the ECAC best defensive defenseman and making the NCAA east first all-American team. In other words, he had kind of a good junior year for Union. Gostisbehere needs to add bulk and get stronger, but his talent is such that he may be a mid-season call-up for the Flyers and make an impact quickly.
Fantasy Outlook – The Flyers were 8th in the league in goals scored and they boast the aforementioned “game-breaker” in Claude Giroux. The pipeline is weak from a fantasy standpoint, but the team has a reputation for addressing offense (what fantasy owners care most about) via trade. Fantasy Grade: B (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. 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.