Will Jonathan Toews takes the next step this season? (Getty Images)
For the past eight years, Fantasy Pool Look has offered insight on what each NHL team has on tap for the summer – from a fantasy hockey standpoint, of course.
I’ll look at the changes made and what the outlook is and then grade the team based on its appeal as an NHL team you would want to build your keeper squad around.
The grades are for dynasty leagues and will often veer from what’s deserved in the NHL world.
Here is the next set of four – the rest of the ‘C’ teams.
Gone – Bryan Rodney, Erik Cole, Troy Bodie, Cory Stillman
Incoming – Tomas Kaberle, Anthony Stewart, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brian Boucher, Tim Brent
Ready for full-time – While Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman are all very close, it is Dalpe who is the odds-on favorite to not only win a spot, but also see decent ice time. By the end of the season, he could very well be the second-line center on this team. As an American League rookie, he posted nearly a point per game (57 points in 61) and looked great during 15 NHL contests. He is solid at both ends of the ice and could eventually develop into a 70-point player.
Boychuk and Bowman should each be mid-season call-ups. By next season they’ll be full-timers. Their game is better suited for a scoring line.
Fantasy Outlook – The Canes boast an enviable group of puck-moving defensemen, with Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain and Kaberle. The NHL is starting to shift towards creating offense from the blueline, so it’s good to see the Canes get in on the ground floor. Goaltending is solid and the pipeline has several fantasy-worthy prospects.
Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was B)
Gone – Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Troy Brouwer, Chris Campoli, Ryan Johnson, Fernando Pisani, Marty Turco
Incoming – Sami Lepisto, Dan Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Sean O’Donnell, Rostislav Olesz, Steve Montador
Ready for full-time – Alexander Salak is an underrated goaltender and he is ready to become an NHL backup. His potential is more than that, however. That being said, the Blackhawks have invited veteran Ray Emery to a tryout. And have you ever known the competitive Emery to lose a battle when the odds are against him? Camp will be interesting.
Jeremy Morin is also NHL-ready, but his skill set forces him to be in the top nine and there just isn’t any room for him there. So barring an injury or two, we won’t see more than a cup of coffee from him this year.
Marcus Kruger was thought to be NHL-ready late last season when he came over from Sweden. But the jury is still out on that, as he was scratched a few times towards the end. In fact, there are some who feel 2011 draftee Mark McNeill is actually better suited for a fourth-line role. In the future, McNeill could work his way up to a scoring line. That’s one school of thought, anyway (though not mine).
Fantasy Outlook – Goaltending is unproven, but the talent up front is deep and considerably grittier and more experienced now. Offense from the defense is also pretty solid and the pipeline is flush with potential fantasy studs. I still like this team in terms of building your fantasy squad around them, but I would feel so much better if Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane would take that next step into superstardom.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was A+)
Gone – Brian Elliott, Tomas Fleischmann, Peter Budaj, John-Michael Liles, David Koci
Incoming – Shane O’Brien, Semyon Varlamov, Chuck Kobasew, J-S Giguere, Jan Hejda, Joakim Lindstrom
Ready for full-time – Gabriel Landeskog should make the jump right away. The second overall pick this past summer has the size, strength and talent to contribute on any of the top three lines.
Diminutive forward Mark Olver continues to impress enough so that the team will have trouble cutting him in September. He has the tenacity to hang in there on a checking line, but is probably best suited for the second or third trio.
Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, recovering from a serious shoulder injury, is a very underrated talent. And what I like best about him is that he is behind two Band-Aid Boys – Varlamov and Giguere. It’s almost a sure bet those two goaltenders will be injured at the same time at some point this season. That’s when Desjardins will get his shot.
Defenseman Stefan Elliott is such a quality player that it would be a shame if a depth guy like Matt Hunwick or Ryan Wilson prevents him from making the jump. Elliott’s ready and if he makes the team he’ll have an impact.
Fantasy Outlook - Guarantee me health on this roster and I would give it a B+ at worst. After all, Peter Mueller and Milan Hejduk are great players, Varlamov is an excellent goaltender and David Jones is a solid secondary scorer (yes, I know he co-led this team in goals, but on most teams he is a secondary scorer and nothing more). But all four of those players are shaky in terms of health. In the pipeline, as far as fantasy hockey is concerned, the Avs have elite talent on the blueline, but are a little weak up front.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was B)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Gone – Andrew Murray, Sami Lepisto, Kyle Wilson, Jan Hejda, Scottie Upshall, Mike Commodore, Mathieu Garon, Nikita Filatov, Jakub Voracek, Chris Clark, Ethan Moreau, Craig Rivet, Anton Stralman
Incoming – Vaclav Prospal, Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, Aaron Johnson, Alexandre Giroux
Ready for full-time – Ryan Johansen is coming off a solid effort for Team Canada at the WJC, as well as a 92-point season for Portland of the Western League. At 192 pounds, his 6-foot-3 frame may be a little on the light side, but as far as his hands and hockey sense go, this guy is ready. In a year in which the Calder Trophy race is wide open, he has to be considered a candidate.
With Matt Calvert making the jump mid-season last year, the team may have room for one more forward. That could go to either Tomas Kubalik or Cam Atkinson. My favorite is Atkinson (generally that means I’ve cursed him). What he lacks in size he makes up for in skill, speed and smarts. And so far, everything he has touched since turning pro has turned to gold. He is one to watch.
Goaltender Mark Dekanich will be Steve Mason’s backup this year. Dekanich is a strong goaltender who blossomed in the Nashville system last season. Another shaky season out of Mason and Dekanich could surprise with plenty of starts.
The team has room for another defenseman and although John Moore is more highly touted, do not discount David Savard. Savard had an excellent AHL debut for Springfield with 43 points in 72 games. This was on the heels of 77 points in 64 Quebec League games. Yes, he can move the puck.
Fantasy Outlook – The pipeline has always been one of the better ones and now that the team has made a few “right here, right now” moves, the NHL club is solid as well. The additions of Carter and Wisniewski will bring a production boost throughout the roster. If Mason could ever return to his rookie form, this team would be a dark horse to win a lot of hockey games.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was C)
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 and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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