Dany Heatley checks Randy Jones during a game. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
As the number of keeper league hockey pools increase each year, fantasy junkies are becoming more active in the off-season as they prepare for the coming year. Rebuild? Retool? Tweak? Whatever your intentions, it helps to get all the information you can about your players. Fantasy Pool Look will examine at a pair of teams each week and give you the fantasy lowdown. This week, we’ll look through our fantasy hockey goggles at the outlooks for Ottawa and Philadelphia.
Also – don’t forget to send your off-season questions to the THN Fantasy Mailbag, which is posted the last Wednesday of each month during the summer.
Gone – Cory Stillman, Wade Redden, Randy Robitaille, Ray Emery, Mike Commodore and Martin Lapointe.
Incoming – Alex Auld, Jarkko Ruutu, Jason Smith and Brendan Bell.
Ready for full time – Nick Foligno is a gritty, hustling, two-way winger who will stay with the big club for the duration this time around. Also, young rearguard Brian Lee has proven he can handle the rigors of the NHL. He has a lot of offensive potential, but will probably need a year or two to get used to the size and speed of the competition before putting up big numbers.
Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester are next on the list of youngsters ready to make the jump. Bass is a hard-working forward who will probably never crack an NHL team’s top-six forwards. Winchester is an undrafted former college player with a lot of hockey sense. He does have upside, but the best you can hope for this season is 30 points and rave reviews from coach Craig Hartsburg. If he gets those, then perhaps he can be a solid fantasy player in 2009-10.
On the outskirts are forwards Ilya Zubov and Alexander Nikulin. Zubov has high-end skill and first-line potential, but looking at his performance in the American League last season it is clear he needs a miracle to make the jump this season. Nikulin is more of a two-way player likely destined for the third line in a couple of seasons, but he has second-line upside. He, too, could use one more year in the AHL. The problem with both of them is they are from Russia. Will they put up with a demotion? Drafting them could prove tough in your keeper league if they flee to the Kontinental League.
Fantasy Outlook – This is still a good team that can score a lot of goals. Antoine Vermette will take the next step in his development, giving the team a second-line presence. However, there is still little in the way of offense in the pipeline. Still a Cup contender, but the window for making that statement is closing.
Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was C+)
Gone – R.J. Umberger, Vaclav Prospal, Jason Smith, Stefan Ruzicka, Patrick Thoresen, Ryan Potulny, Sami Kapanen and Jaroslav Modry.
Incoming – Arron Asham, Glen Metropolit, Steve Eminger and Ossi Vaananen.
Ready for full time – High-flying junior winger Claude Giroux has a spot already waiting for him on the third line. If he plays the way the Flyers (and his fantasy owners) think he can, he’ll be up on the second line by Christmas. He is a Calder candidate.
Defensive rearguard Ryan Parent probably had a spot locked, but then the team acquired Eminger and Vaananen and suddenly Parent is on the outside looking in.
James van Riemsdyk, although ready for the NHL, has not signed a contract and barring something unforeseen, he will play another season of college hockey.
Fantasy Outlook – As Mike Richards and Jeff Carter develop into stars, the Flyers continue to develop skill around them. Simon Gagne is also ready to return from his concussion. This squad is good right now and the pipeline also boasts JvR and Andreas Nodl. What a great team to build your fantasy roster around!
Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B+)
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 Thursday through the off-season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.