As keeper league hockey pools increase in number each year, fantasy junkies become more active in the off-season as they prepare their team for the coming year. Rebuild? Retool? Tweak? Whatever your intentions, it helps to get all the information you can about your players.
Throughout the off-season, FPL will look at a pair of teams each week and give you the fantasy lowdown. Bucking the trend of past years, we will review alphabetically Â– in reverse. Just to be different.
Gone Â– Eric Belanger, Greg de Vries, Jon Sim, Andy Sutton, J-P Vigier and Shane Hnidy.
Arriving Â– Todd White, Chris Thorburn, Ken Klee and Karel Pilar.
Looking to Add - The Thrashers are short a No.1 center and a power-play quarterback, but will likely stick with the options that they have.
Ready for full-time - American League rookie of the year Brett Sterling, by all accounts, is ready for the big time. To be effective, he needs to be on the second line (at the very least), as he is diminutive in stature and his forte is scoring goals. Making the team and playing on the third or fourth line will likely mean an eventual trip back to the AHL for him, while being placed on a scoring line could mean 60 points as an NHL rookie. Swedish defender Tobias Enstrom, another diminutive player, could anchor the power play. The team feels he is ready...except they contradicted that by bringing in Pilar. The two will do battle for the final blueline spot, with the winner seeing time on the PP.
Fantasy Outlook - The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Thrashers needed a No.1 pivot and a quarterback last year as well. Once again, you will see top-heavy points distribution, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov bringing the bulk of the offense. Health permitting, White will also be in the mix for 55 or 60 points and if Sterling or Bryan Little make the squad, look for one of them to flirt with 60 points as a rookie. This team making the postseason is again a tough call. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was C+)
Gone Â– Teemu Selanne (?), Scott Niedermayer (?), Dustin Penner, Ryan Shannon and Ric Jackman.
Arriving Â– Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi.
Looking to Add - In bringing Schneider and Bertuzzi on board, the Ducks have prepared for the possible retirements of Selanne and Niedermayer. They did not replace the unexpected loss of Penner (who went to Edmonton as a restricted free agent by signing an offer sheet the Ducks didn't match), but that opens up an opportunity for a prospect.
Ready for full-time - There are mixed reports on whether future power forward Bobby Ryan is ready for the NHL. If the blue-chip winger fails to crack the roster, look for Drew Miller and/or Ryan Carter to fill the void. Miller or Ryan could debut with a 50-point full campaign, so keep an eye on who comes out of training camp. Top Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller was brought across the pond with the intention of backing up J-S Giguere. When Ilya Bryzgalov gets traded (he is unrestricted in the summer, so he will be moved eventually), look for Hiller to slide in and pick up the odd start.
Fantasy Outlook - GM Brian Burke has proven he can build a contending team and keep it competitive. For that reason alone, it is a smart idea to stock up on some Anaheim prospects in your keeper league. The odds of them panning out is greater than if they belonged to another team. They are again a Cup favorite. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B+)