Max Pacioretty had 24 points in 37 games with Montreal last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/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. As in the past, we’ll run through every team alphabetically.
This week: Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal and Nashville.
Los Angeles Kings
Gone - Alexei Ponikarovsky, Michal Handzus, Ryan Smyth, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Peter Harrold, John Zeiler
Incoming - Simon Gagne, Colin Fraser, Mike Richards
Ready for full time - Scott Parse was ready for full time last year, but missed most of the season with a hip injury. They tried him out on the first line and he managed four points in five games. If healthy, he makes an excellent dark horse. He is versatile and has good offensive instincts. In the right situation he could be a 55-ponts-in-75-games player, though I wouldn’t count on more than 40 points. A player like Parse is what the term “dark horse” was invented for.
You can probably count on Andrei Loktionov making this team. He has a lot of offensive talent, although, as a centerman, he will be too buried on the depth chart to see significant ice time.
Slava Voynov is NHL-ready and is a fantastic puck-moving defenseman. He is also likely ticketed for the Kontinental League if he doesn’t make the Kings this year and since he sits seventh on the depth chart, he will have to take advantage of each and every opportunity he gets.
Don’t forget, for pools that require rookies, goaltender Jonathan Bernier still qualifies. However, it would require an injury to Jonathan Quick for Bernier to have any hope of stealing the No. 1 job.
Fantasy Outlook - The Kings have two strong scoring lines and a solid one-two punch on the blueline with Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. They also have top-notch goaltending throughout the system. There are at least five prospect forwards and one prospect defenseman (Voynov) who I would be happy to own in my keeper league. Great present future on this team. Fantasy Grade: A (last year was B-)
Gone – James Sheppard, Robbie Earl, Patrick O’Sullivan, Maxim Noreau, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette, Chuck Kobasew, Jose Theodore, Cam Barker, Brent Burns, John Madden, Antti Miettinen.
Incoming – Mike Lundin, Jeff Taffe, Dany Heatley, Darroll Powe, Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi, David McIntyre, Chay Genoway, Justin Fontaine.
Ready for full time - Right winger Casey Wellman played 15 games for the Wild last season and I have him penciled in for the third line. I think eventually he’ll be a 50-point player, although I would not expect too much from him this campaign.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon made the jump last season and is now a full-timer. Even though he is small (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), man can he move the puck. With Burns gone, Spurgeon is the No. 2 guy on the power play depth chart and may surprise to the tune of 35-plus points - with many more to come down the road.
Fantasy Outlook - The retooled Wild look very different, from the players up to the coaches. And they have taken what was possibly the worst prospect pipeline in the league and made it into something decent in just 18 short months. Am I ready to build my fantasy team around a bunch of Minnesota players? Nope. I’ll need to see a more wide-open coaching philosophy and the development of Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle (expected in the NHL in 2012-13) before I do that. Fantasy Grade: C (last year was D+)
Gone - Brent Sopel, Mathieu Carle, Tom Pyatt, Alexandre Picard, Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern, Alex Auld, Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski, Dustin Boyd, Nigel Dawes, Paul Mara
Incoming - Mark Mitera, Brian Willsie, Michael Blunden, Nathan Lawson, Peter Budaj, Erik Cole
Ready for full time - Not only did Max Pacioretty show he was ready for full-time NHL duty, he also showed he can be a productive top-sixer, which is where he will play this season. Having only played 37 games (plus 27 in the American League) thanks to a devastating hit by Zdeno Chara that ended his season, Pacioretty may fly under the radar in some drafts.
Russian rearguard Alexei Yemelin is also NHL-ready and is penciled in for the third pairing. The big man would be an asset only in fantasy leagues that count hits.
Fantasy Outlook - The Habs have decent scoring depth, but nobody you can call “elite” and the prospect pipeline is ho-hum. In fact, the only thing this team really has going for it is Carey Price, who is a star they’ll ride for the next decade. Take away Price and…ouch. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was B-)
Gone - Shane O’Brien, Matthew Lombardi, Cody Franson, Marcel Goc, Steve Sullivan, Mark Dekanich, Joel Ward, Wade Belak, Steve Begin, J-P Dumont, Matt Ellison
Incoming - Jack Hillen, Tyler Sloan, Kyle Wilson, Zack Stortini, Niclas Bergfors
Ready for full time - Blake Geoffrion showed flashes of his 25-goal potential last season and if he can steal a second-line spot I think he’ll get 20 goals this season. However, I have him penciled in on the third line, so be careful.
Don’t forget, last season was Cal O’Reilly’s first full NHL season, but it was cut short by a broken leg. He was leading the team in scoring just a few games before the injury happened, so he is another nice dark horse to consider in the late rounds of your draft.
Defenseman Jonathon Blum is still considered a rookie and he will be on the team full time. He is absolutely a top 10 Calder candidate, although my hunch is his offense will come slowly.
A lot of poolies see defenseman Ryan Ellis making this team, but I’m not in that camp. I think he’ll need a season in the AHL before making the jump. However, if he does make it he is considered one of the best offensive talents from the blueline at his age.
Finnish free agent Juuso Puustinen was a decent prospect in the Flames system, but they didn’t retain his rights last year. He then went out and had a 26-goal season for HPK of the Finnish League (59 games) and the Preds were quick to sign him. The 23-year-old will get a long look in training camp.
Fantasy Outlook - You know what you’re getting with this team: about 17 players getting 40 to 55 points. And coach Barry Trotz isn’t going anywhere. Great prospects, but they all seem destined for…40 to 55 points. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C+)
Finally, I would like to address last week’s column. I had noted the Florida Panthers’ pipeline had improved, but was still only “average at best.” However, ESPN’s recent organizational ranking had Florida’s prospect pipeline as No.1 in the NHL, which had me do a double take. Sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m so immersed in the analysis of these depth charts that sometimes I miss the obvious and this summer I had penciled Erik Gudbranson into their lineup so many times I stopped considering him a prospect. But upon reflection, and realizing these oversights, it is clear to me the Panthers have a top five pool of prospects. In the “real” hockey world, that pipeline would be considered second or third in the entire league. In the “fantasy” hockey world, it may not be quite so high, but it is close. I apologize if I influenced anyone’s thought process in the wrong direction and I would like to revise my Florida Panthers fantasy ranking: 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 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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