So much happened around the NHL last week that to effectively analyze the impact on fantasy-relevant players, I’m breaking it into three columns.
In Part 1, I looked at Ryan Callahan, Jaroslav Halak, Ales Hemsky, Matt Moulson, Martin St. Louis, Lee Stempniak, Tim Thomas and Tomas Vanek.
In Part 3 Thursday, I’ll run through the key prospects who changed organizations: Hudson Fasching, Sebastian Collberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Brayden McNabb, Chris Brown and David Rundblad.
Cory Conacher, Buffalo Sabres
Conacher, who the Sabres claimed off waivers from the Senators, is a talented prospect. I still consider him a prospect because, after winning the American League MVP and rookie-of-the-year awards in 2011-12, he played 35 games with Tampa Bay and had 24 points. Then he was traded to Ottawa and right from the start you knew it wasn’t a good fit. So from a fantasy-hockey standpoint, I’m erasing Conacher-in-Ottawa from my memory. To me, he’s still just a 35-game NHL player coming straight from Tampa Bay.
In Buffalo he picked up an assist in his first game and was lined up with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. He’ll do very well in Buffalo, but the caveat to that is – it’s Buffalo. Will any player get 60 points next season? Given the answer is probably no, look for Conacher to be one of a handful in that 45 to 55 range.
Martin Erat, Phoenix Coyotes
Something happened to Erat during one of his injuries that has affected his play either physically or psychologically, because he’s not the same player. Not even a trade to Pittsburgh to play with Sidney Crosby could help.
In two games with Phoenix, and playing with the Coyotes’ top goal scorer and fellow countryman Radim Vrbata, Erat has zero points. I have trouble betting he’ll reach 30 points on the season, even though he has 18 games left. He’s sitting at 24 points right now.
Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings
On the plus side, the Kings won both games Gaborik has played with them so far and scored seven goals in the process. That’s a huge boost in Los Angeles standards, as the team has struggled to put the puck in the net all year.
On the negative side, Gaborik has been held off the scoresheet as a King. But his arrival adds another dimension to the team’s attack and the power play is more potent. Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter make up the forward line on the top PP unit that has gone 2-for-7 since the trade. With 17 games left, Gaborik is capable of 18 to 20 points, but I would put my money on something closer to 13 or 14.
David Legwand, Detroit Red Wings
With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg out for what looks to be a long time, Legwand becomes Detroit’s No.1 center. From a short-term standpoint, he’ll be in the best position to put points on the board since 2006-07 when he was playing with Paul Kariya and posted career highs.
Right now he’s lining up with Gustav Nyquist, who represents Detroit’s best offensive player now that the two superstars are injured, along with Johan Franzen.
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Luongo is back with the team in which he played his best hockey. While with the Panthers, he was hands down the best goalie in the NHL and one of the top, if not the top, fantasy goalies. Sure, the wins were never in abundance, but man did he face a lot of shots. And while this is a different Florida team, in many ways it’s the same, including that “giving up a ton of shots” thing.
I get the sense Luongo is at his best when seeing loads of game action and facing a ton of rubber. Those leagues with extensive goaltending categories will love the new/old Luongo.
Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo Sabres
For the next seven months or so, there will be a lot of rhetoric coming out of Buffalo about how Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth will battle for the No.1 job and that nothing has been decided yet. We saw it in Toronto last summer. But everyone knew that the No.1 guy would be Jonathan Bernier no matter how well James Reimer played.
The same goes here with Neuvirth. He’ll be the guy and all he has to do is stay healthy. An injury would hand the job to Enroth, but otherwise Neuvirth should be good for 50-plus starts next season.
Tuomo Ruutu, New Jersey Devils
Ruutu was immediately plunked on a line with countryman Jaromir Jagr and center Travis Zajac. He has two points in two games so far, after managing two in his prior 11 with the Hurricanes.
In his case, any change would have been good. But getting to play with Jagr is a nice bonus and bodes well for his final 17 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tallied 15 points in that span and worked that ugly minus-18 up to a slightly more respectable minus-10.
Dustin Penner, Washington Capitals
Penner’s best opportunity for fantasy value was with Anaheim, so leaving that organization put a nail in his coffin. He had some on-again, off-again chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and as long as the coach was patient with him on that line, he had potential for 60 points.
But coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t have the patience to work with Penner through any slumps or perceived lack of effort, so he was frequently removed from the big line or scratched altogether. But at least before the trade, we had the hope that Penner could get back on that line and go on a little run. No such hope with Washington. Penner has zero points in four games.
The signs point to a couple more games with meaningless minutes and then a stint in the press box. I wouldn’t touch Penner with a 10-foot pole in any fantasy league.
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.