Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
In his farewell column for thehockeynews.com, fantasy expert Darryl Dobbs gives you the lowdown on Boston, Anaheim and Colorado for the upcoming season. Who are the sleepers and who should you avoid? 'Dobber' gives you the inside track.
It's the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn't you know it? I'm all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let's see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros
Incoming – Jeremy Smith
Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.
Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.
David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn't sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that's a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year.
Fantasy Outlook – The Bruins are in a bit of a cap situation that will require a trade of some sort. So things could look very different between now and October. But Boston is one of the better teams in the NHL and they have more than a handful of impactful fantasy players. As a result of this depth, the prospect pipeline is also very appealing to the fantasy owners. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was A-)
Gone – Daniel Winnik, Stephane Robidas, Mathieu Perreault, Jonas Hiller, Luca Sbisa, Nick Bonino, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu
Incoming – Dany Heatley, Nate Thompson, Ryan Kesler, Clayton Stoner
Ready for full time – By the end of the post-season, Devante Smith-Pelly was a big part of the Ducks, even seeing time on the big line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He's here to stay. The trouble is, his production will vary based on the line he is on – and that represents quite the range of possibilities. Anywhere from 20 points and seeing minimal minutes to 50 points with lots of time playing with the big guns.
Emerson Etem isn't a shoe-in as he was up and down a lot last season between the NHL and American League and the Ducks have a pretty deep roster. But he'll see his share of recalls and will perhaps stick by the middle of the season. The 22-year-old sniper has tremendous upside, but keep expectations low for 2014-15 and scoop him off the wire if needed. In keeper leagues he is a must-own.
Sami Vatanen is ready to become a permanent part of things and don't underrate him. Not only does he have 50-plus upside for points, but he could surprise as early as this season with 40-plus. Not a lot of poolies know about him or place any faith in what he will do this season, so he makes a great late-round sleeper.
John Gibson is one of the top prospect goaltenders in the world and he could win the starting job in Anaheim. But it says here that he doesn't and Frederick Andersen will assume the mantle. It's possible Gibson wins the job or Andersen is injured and Gibson goes on to have a Calder-type season, but a better bet is that Gibson gets no more than 30 starts.
Rickard Rakell has proven to be solid at both ends of the ice since turning pro last year. He posted nearly a point per game for Norfolk and when called up to the big club he held his own on a checking line. And that may be where he starts things off in the season ahead, with minimal ice time. How he progresses in the long run will depend on the amount of pucks going in the net for him. He's a tweener – he could progress into a scoring-line player or he could man the third line down the road. Either way, he's not draftable for the season ahead in fantasy.
Fantasy Outlook – Assuming the rather unproven goaltending works out – and it should, since both youngsters look fantastic – the Ducks will again be a mighty (pun intended) team. They boast elite scorers in Getzlaf and Perry, secondary producers and a lot of depth options with offensive upside. And there are plenty of kids on the way. This is a great team to build around. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B-)
Gone – Andre Benoit, Matt Hunwick, Brad Malone, Paul Stastny, P-A Parenteau, Mark Olver
Incoming – Zach Redmond, Maxim Noreau, Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart, Jesse Winchester, Daniel Briere
Ready for full time – Noreau was a promising puck-moving defenseman in the New Jersey and Minnesota systems, but he left for Europe just before he would have received his big NHL chance. It actually left a few poolies in the lurch, as they had been sitting on him as a prospect for a year or two. In Switzerland he was one of the better puck-moving defensemen, posting 89 points in 124 contests. Now with Colorado, his fate rests in the hands of others. If Stefan Elliott has a strong camp, then Noreau may be on the outside looking in. But if Noreau makes it, he's a nice dark horse in your draft.
Elliott bounced back with 14 AHL goals last season after a miserable 2012-13. The 23-year-old defenseman is still not at the level Barrie is, but he seems to be back on track and the Avs still have high hopes for him. He'll need an injury to happen to Barrie before getting the opportunity to put up points with the big club.
Fantasy Outlook – Last year Colorado was the surprise team of the league, winning the Central Division when they were expected to miss the playoffs. Barrie emerged as a premier puck-mover and Nathan MacKinnon as a budding superstar. Matt Duchene was healthy and Gabriel Landeskog broke out into one of the best all-around players in hockey. The prospect pipeline isn't the greatest, but other than that this team has turned around better than any other team in recent memory. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was D+ – though to be fair the rating was given prior to MacKinnon getting drafted)
OFF-SEASON FANTASY TEAM RANKINGS 2014
Tampa Bay A
St. Louis A-
Los Angeles B+
NY Rangers B+
NY Islanders B
San Jose B-
New Jersey D
This is my last article for thehockeynews.com and a big thank you to Jason Kay for giving me this opportunity in the fall of 2002. I couldn't have launched dobberhockey.com in 2005 without this start to my career. Thank you also to former web editor Dirk Soeterik, who was great for me early on. And of course Edward Fraser, Rory Boylen, Adam Proteau and Brian Costello, who have all been very supportive over the years. THN.com has come a long way and with this group at the forefront, it's really no wonder.
And, of course, thank you, fantasy-hockey fanatic, for checking in on (and hopefully learning from) at least some of my 821 articles for this website over the last 12 years. – Dobber