Jamie Benn scored 22 goals in 69 games for the Dallas Stars last season. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via 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: Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton and Florida.
Gone – Jason Williams, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brad Richards, Brandon Segal, Brian Sutherby, Jeff Woywitka.
Incoming – Eric Godard, Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray, Jake Dowell, Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak.
Ready for full time – Defenseman Philip Larsen has the best shot, although he is likely destined for at least another half season with Texas in the American League.
Goaltender Richard Bachman is ready now, but he is out of the mix thanks to the tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft ahead of him. Fortunately for Bachman owners, Lehtonen is fragile, so he should see some action. Unfortunately for Bachman owners, Lehtonen was (finally) relatively healthy last year.
Fantasy Outlook – The Stars boast two forward lines that can post modest point totals. They really need Jamie Benn to take the next step, as he is the most likely candidate on this squad to become a real star. Now moved to center, he has big skates to fill with Brad Richards leaving town. Speaking of Richards, his departure will not be the drag on Loui Eriksson’s totals some expect. It will hurt, but it won’t be too bad. The biggest key to the offense, besides Benn, is defenseman Alex Goligoski. He is my leading candidate to “pull a Yandle,” which is to say he is primed to break out much like Keith Yandle did in 2010-11. Looking at the farm system, besides goaltending (which is deep), I don’t like the lack of potential star power and won’t be going out of my way to build my fantasy squad around this organization. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C-)
Detroit Red Wings
Gone – Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Ruslan Salei, Derek Meech, Brian Rafalski, Mike Modano, O-K Tollefsen.
Incoming – Ty Conklin, Chris Conner, Garnet Exelby, Ian White, Mike Commodore.
Ready for full time – I am thrilled to see the Wings (so far) leaving a couple of spots open up front for their graduating prospects, but am disappointed they wouldn’t do the same on the back end. Brendan Smith is ready, but it’s looking like he’ll spend at least half a season in the AHL, barring an injury or two.
Left winger Jan Mursak was an offensive dynamo in the Ontario League and has since developed a strong, energetic two-way game as a pro. Given more AHL time, he probably would have taken another step offensively. But he’s now on a one-way NHL deal so he’s in Detroit to stay. He has some long-term potential, but as a rookie I would be surprised if we saw more than 35 points from him.
Center Cory Emmerton is on a two-way deal, but he has to clear waivers to be sent down. Like Mursak, Emmerton was a high-scoring junior player who has developed a strong defensive game as a pro. And because of the two-way deal, there is a chance he’ll get sent down, but only if he is beat out by my next “ready” prospect.
Tomas Tatar, who is still only 20, is a talent who may force the Wings to make an exception. Generally, Red Wings players season in the minors until they are 22 or 23, especially forwards. But Tatar has had two very strong training camps and has fit in every time he has been called up. Second on Grand Rapids in scoring as a teenager, you know Tatar will not be carving out a living as a checker. What really caught my attention: Tatar’s seven-point performance in an AHL game in late-November. While Tatar is a winger and Emmerton is primarily a center, when we are talking about a battle for a depth roster spot, it becomes forward vs. forward and defenseman vs. defenseman. Whether the player is a winger or a center is not necessarily a sticking point if a spot is earned.
Fantasy Outlook – Goaltending is average, but depth in that position is weak. However, the rest of the positions are rock solid, with a handful of players ready to move up and fill roles if given the opportunity. The Red Wing conveyor belt of quality prospects continues to roll, just as it has for nearly two decades. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B+)
Gone – Steve MacIntyre, Martin Gerber, Andrew Cogliano, Jeff Deslauriers, J-F Jacques, Zack Stortini, Alexandre Giroux, Sheldon Souray, Kurtis Foster, Colin Fraser, Liam Reddox, Jason Strudwick.
Incoming – Yann Danis, Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Andy Sutton, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk, Ben Eager, Eric Belanger, Ryan Smyth.
Ready for full time – The argument is for the top pick of the 2011 draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, to spend another year in junior and I’m leaning towards that result. However, you can never discount the first pick overall. More often than not, they stick and RNH has played some great hockey at Canada’s national team camp and has added a few pounds to his skinny frame this summer. The Oilers added some protection for their young stars in Eager and Hordichuk, so you never know. RNH should get a nine-game trial, at least.
Anton Lander is a diamond in the rough. A two-way center by reputation, he has shown increasing offensive flair. I would be surprised if he doesn’t win a spot.
Defenseman Jeff Petry played 35 games for the big club last season. The 23-year-old offensive blueliner will stick full time this year, but will be the fourth man on the depth chart when it comes to the power play.
Fantasy Outlook - Straight from the Pittsburgh Penguin/Chicago Blackhawk School of Rebuilding, the Oilers are in the final two years of their project. That means they will win a few more games this year, but won’t make their serious playoff run until 2012-13. Do you think, a year from now, some of these future stars will be easy to acquire in your league? How easy were Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Kris Letang and Duncan Keith to acquire after their teams took a big leap forward? Impossible, in many cases. Your time to grab Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and even Linus Omark is now. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B) (they would be an A+ were it not for the short-term suffering you are in for)
Gone – Byron Bitz, Patrick Rissmiller, Kenndal McArdle, Mike Duco, Jordan Henry, Alexander Sulzer, Niclas Bergfors, Clay Wilson, Tomas Vokoun, Darcy Hordichuk, Marty Reasoner, Rostislav Olesz, Steve Bernier, Triston Grant, Sergei Samsonov, Bill Thomas.
Incoming – Kris Versteeg, Sean Bergenheim, Nolan Yonkman, Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Jose Theodore, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Angelo Esposito, Sergei Shirokov, Keith Seabrook.
Ready for full time – Does it matter? This team is packed to the gills with veterans, at least when it comes to forwards. Players on the cusp such as Michal Repik or Tim Kennedy need injuries to those higher on the depth chart if they are to get their shot. Jonathan Huberdeau, picked third overall in June, is Florida’s best future hope at a point-per-game player, but at best he’ll get a nine-game trial run this season.
On defense, their franchise cornerstone will arrive in the form of 6-foot-4 Erik Gudbranson. When he fills out, he could be a 30- to 40-point elite shutdown guy and we might even get a glimpse of that this year.
Fantasy Outlook – It is clear to me GM Dale Tallon will follow the same handbook he did in Chicago. The team will stay in games and compete, but probably not win too many. A couple players will surprise with their production, but it’s a bit of a guessing game to determine who they are. The pipeline is improving, but still just average, at best. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was D)
WHO TO BUILD AROUND
Just to re-iterate, I would rate the Red Wings - as an NHL team over the next season - an A- and the Oilers a C-. But in fantasy circles, building around Edmonton in the long-term is equally as wise as building around Detroit.
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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