It’s a small sample size. And it’s certainly not a reliable sample size. But the pre-season and the first couple of nights of NHL action are enough to at least give us that tickle on the back of our collective necks. You know what I’m talking about – the feeling that “this guy is going to have a huge year” or “this guy is going to hit a wall.” And it’s so strong that you can’t shake it – you have to act.
Here are my hunches.
Mikhail Grabovski, Washington Capitals
After finishing tied for first in pre-season scoring with eight points in four games, Grabovski exploded for four points in his first regular season game with his new team. Poolies are tripping over each other in their efforts to get to their pool managing site in time to either grab him off the waiver wire, or make crazy-big trade offers to the person who owns him. Grabovski tends to be extremely streaky and those streaks get very hot when he has something to prove. I suspect he will continue to fly throughout October, but then seriously slow down. The end result will still be a career year, but don’t expect even 70 points from him.
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
The living legend is bound for a huge season. That is, if the season ends in late October. My hunch is that he will get off to a fantastic start – which makes him draftable. But then he’ll hit a wall that will gradually turn into healthy scratches by February. He finished off last season with just 24 points in 46 games and was a minus-10. Very un-Selanne like.
Rookies sent back to junior
When a prospect plays his 10th game as a pro, his NHL contract kicks in and a year is burned from the three-year entry-level deal. So more often than not, the prospect will be returned to junior after his ninth game. Eligible players are Sean Monahan (Calgary), Elias Lindholm (Carolina), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), Ryan Murray (Columbus), Valeri Nichushkin (Dallas), Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Mathew Dumba (Minnesota), Seth Jones (Nashville), Griffin Reinhart (N.Y. Islanders), Olli Määttä (Pittsburgh), Morgan Rielly (Toronto), Tom Wilson (Washington), Connor Carrick (Washington). My hunch tells me that the following will be sent down prior to playing a 10th NHL game: Dumba, Reinhart, Määttä, Rielly, Wilson and Carrick. So six of the 13.
Mark Arcobello, Edmonton Oilers
I’ve always liked the small, skilled guys (as many long-time readers would know), especially if they were never drafted. I’m a softie for the underdog. Arcobello was ticketed for the American League, but injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner have given him not only an NHL shot, but a good one. He’s playing with Jordan Eberle and David Perron. He played on a line with Eberle last year during the lockout and enjoyed great success. After coming off of a decent pre-season (four points in six games), he picked up an assist in the first game of the season against the Jets. So far so good. He’s looking like a nicer dark horse with each passing day.
Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings
Voynov will finish second on the Kings in scoring and make people stop considering Drew Doughty “the man” on the blueline for the power play. Crazy? Well, I can’t shake this feeling.
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators
Smith will pick up where he left off in his rookie year. The sophomore jinx is behind him and after a strong World Cup and pre-season, he’s ready to finish top three in scoring on the Preds.
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Great player. Underrated upside. But I have a feeling that Atkinson will miss 25 games or more with another injury. Last season it was a high-ankle sprain. In the pre-season he missed time with a lower-body injury. Small sample size, I grant you. But this itch on the back of my neck…
Mathieu Perreault, Anaheim Ducks
Perreault will make a big splash early. Like Grabovski, he tends to be streaky and he tends to step up when he’s driven. So a new team, new environment means a motivated Perreault. He’ll show signs that he can handle second-line duties and will take a serious run at stealing the job from either Saku Koivu or Nick Bonino by January. He started Wednesday’s game on the second line and is playing for his former coach from Washington, Bruce Boudreau.
James Reimer vs. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
Despite the sound bytes coming from Toronto brass, I get the feeling the secret gameplan is to run with Bernier as the de facto starter down the stretch and into playoff glory. But Reimer is a gamer and he’ll outplay Bernier during split starts until mid-season when an injury will ruin everything.
Pekka Rinne and Magnus Hellberg, Nashville Predators
Rinne had his hip surgically repaired in the off-season and was cleared to play in mid-September. It seemed a little rushed to me. I’m always suspicious when a player “happens” to be healthy just in time for the season. In the off chance that he re-injures it, the Preds won’t turn to backup Carter Hutton, they’ll turn to blue-chip prospect Hellberg.
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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.