Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are the go-to players in Toronto. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
For the past seven years, Fantasy Pool Look has given you some insight on what each NHL team has on tap for the summer - from a fantasy hockey standpoint, of course. Last year we ran through the teams every week starting from Washington and finishing with Anaheim, so in 2010 we will once again reverse that. This week we look at the Blues, Lightning and Maple Leafs.
Gone - Mike Weaver, D.J. King, Darryl Sydor, Chris Mason, Lars Eller, Brendan Bell, Keith Tkachuk, Derek Armstrong, Paul Kariya, Bryce Lampman
Incoming - Vladimir Sobotka, T.J. Hensick, Jaroslav Halak, Dave Scatchard, Nathan Oystrick
Ready for full time - The 13 forwards are set right now, but a huge camp from 2010 draftee (16th overall) Vladimir Tarasenko could earn him a spot. That, combined with an injury to one of the established players, would get him an NHL contract and at least a trial with the big club. A future talent with first-line upside, Tarasenko is definitely a long shot for this year.
Offensive blueliner Ian Cole will get a long look. The Blues already have Erik Johnson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Pietrangelo penciled in for power play time, so Cole will need to show he is NHL-ready in other ways if he plans to stick. He could move as high as No. 4 or No. 5 on the depth chart with a strong camp, otherwise more time in the minors would be best.
Fantasy Outlook - The Blues are a much better team than they showed last season. They have a handful of players with fantasy upside as well as a decent pipeline. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was B+)
Gone - Matt Lashoff, Karri Ramo, Zenon Konopka, Matt Walker, Alex Tanguay, Kurtis Foster, Andrej Meszaros, Antero Niittymaki, Brandon Bochenski, Radek Smolenak, Mark Parrish, Stephane Veilleux, Todd Fedoruk
Incoming - Randy Jones, Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore, Mathieu Roy, Marc Pouliot, Simon Gagne, Brett Clark, Niklas Persson, Pavel Kubina, Dan Ellis
Ready for full time - Prospect Carter Ashton had an impressive camp a year ago. However, the 19-year-old sniper probably won’t make the jump this year due to the regime change in Tampa. GM Steve Yzerman will likely preach patience with his prospects, something he picked up during his apprenticeship in Detroit.
Europeans Niklas Persson and Johan Harju will get long looks in camp. Harju struggled in the Kontinental League though, which indicates the NHL is a long shot for him. Persson, however, is a 31-year-old late-blooming veteran who found his offensive game two years ago in Sweden and continued to flourish in the KHL a year later. He may be one to watch in training camp, although a top six spot is highly unlikely.
Fantasy Outlook - New management is slowly righting this ship, but it will take time. The prospect pool is back to respectability and Simon Gagne could be just what the doctor ordered to get Vincent Lecavalier rolling again. The Lightning are probably not a playoff team yet, but continued patience will get them there soon. Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was C+)
Gone - Mike Van Ryn, Jamie Lundmark, Ben Ondrus, Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin, Jonas Frogren, Garnet Exelby, Wayne Primeau
Incoming - Clarke MacArthur, Matt Lashoff, Marcel Mueller, Brett Lebda, Colby Armstrong, Kris Versteeg, Mike Brown, Jussi Rynnas
Ready for full time - Nazem Kadri has a third-line spot penciled in and strong play could quickly move him into the top six. He needs to add strength and on most teams he would get the time to develop at other levels first. But the Leafs need his skill - and quickly. He’s a wild card for the year ahead, with a projection that ranges anywhere from zero points as he struggles with the size of NHL players, to 50 points as his agility allows him to find space.
Luca Caputi had a second-line winger spot locked up until MacArthur signed. Now Caputi is on the outside looking in, as a checking-line role is not his forte. An injury or a strong camp would change things, though.
Brayden Irwin is a 6-foot-5 monster who showed skill at the college level last campaign. More importantly, he has the ability to play a third- or fourth-line role, which gives him a leg up on the more one-dimensional Caputi and Kadri. He’s likely destined for the Marlies, but you can never count out skilled players who boast such size.
Christian Hanson has yet to be signed and he may be angling for a one-way contract. He has a shot at making the team as a depth player and he brings a lot of energy. The Leafs were 17-11-3 when Hanson was in the lineup last year and 13-27-11 without him. That has to count for something.
Fantasy Outlook - Toronto has one of the strongest defense corps in the league from top to bottom. But they are also the weakest in terms of their top six forwards. But the team is slowly getting back on track and the future is a little brighter. The prospect pool won’t grow as quickly as fans would like, due to a dearth of draft picks. However, GM Brian Burke is proving to be adept at signing late-blooming free agents. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was D+)
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. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.