Victor Hedman (Getty Images)
Fantasy expert Darryl Dobbs looks at the Victor Hedman plus the short and long view of Tampa Bay's offensive core, from a poolie's perspective, of course.
Team Sweden and fantasy hockey are, quite clearly, vastly different animals. While Victor Hedman's stock in fantasy circles is soaring higher by the day, the Swedes don't deem him fit to play on their Olympic team. Nor does he even deserve the opportunity to sit by the phone waiting for a call as a reserve player. Nor join them as honorary stick boy.
Alright, so I made that last part up. But the fact remains: Hedman is a seriously underrated player in both the real and fantasy worlds. And he's not the only one. How many of you fantasy owners are waiting for this Lightning team to come down to Earth? I mean, Steven freakin' Stamkos hasn't played for them in nearly three months and the team is still flying!
I've always had a soft spot for teams who develop their players rather than load up on free agents. This soft spot grows when the players they develop are focused on offense. That goes without saying, since I'm in the fantasy hockey biz. So it's been a real pleasure to follow this Lightning team and watch how things develop over the months. They have so many potential top-sixers at varying degrees of development, yet as the name indicates, there are only six spots. We'll touch on that later, but first back to Hedman.
There are many things I look for in a young NHLer, particularly one who was drafted so high (Hedman was taken second overall behind John Tavares in 2009). I look at steady improvement first and foremost. Not just with points, but also in ice time and power play time. I also look at competition in the system. That's actually part of the reason why I'm so surprised at Jacob Trouba's progress, as noted in Tuesday's column.
As far as offense goes, the Lightning have Matt Carle, Hedman and Mark Barberio. The team also has Slater Koekkoek on the way, as well as Nikita Nesterov, but as things stand now, the field is pretty empty. Lots of room for Hedman to seize the reins. As for Hedman's production, take a look:
YEAR GP PTS PTS/GP
2009-10 74 20 0.27
2010-11 79 26 0.33
2011-12 61 23 0.38
2012-13 44 20 0.45
2013-14 46 32 0.70
Doesn't get any steadier. And his ice time is consistently around 22 minutes per game. He's a legitimate 55-point defenseman now and I think he has another gear left to use. The Lightning will be building around their offense in the future. Either that, or they'll have a dozen misplaced and mismatched forwards in a couple of years. So with that in mind, Hedman is going to be an elite fantasy own, assuming he's not there already.
Now back to the forwards. We already know what Stamkos and Martin St-Louis can do. We're well aware of Teddy Purcell's role, as well as Valtteri Filppula's. What we don't know about are the kids. All four of the above veterans are signed for next season, so from a 2014-15 standpoint, there are two top six spots available.
Let's look at the candidates, both short and long term.
Short term - Brown is a gritty player with skill, but he's a little small (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) and his style of play often sees him injured. He can hold his own on a checking line, which probably means that is where he'll be since not all of the players listed here can play anywhere besides a scoring line.
Long term - While he does have second-line upside, it's unlikely he'll ever get the chance. Certainly not with this team.
Short term - Connolly is learning to play a stronger, more aggressive game while apprenticing in the American League. He is also shoring up his two-way play while gaining confidence offensively. This is the last year of his entry-level deal, but I can see the team signing him for two years in the summer, with the first year being a two-way and the second year being a one-way. With so many other options, the team can give him another half-season in the AHL after this one.
Long term - Still only 21, there is a lot of time for Connolly and he will eventually be a top-sixer, possibly on the first line. He has the ability to take the choice out of Tampa Bay's hands by producing right away next season.
Short term - Drouin will once again be favored to make this team in the fall. Of all the players in the organization, he is the only one with the upside of Stamkos. However, the sheer number of prospects champing at the bit will make it tough. But I think he sticks and plays limited minutes. Think Tyler Seguin in his first year with Boston.
Long term - Superstar first-liner. I seriously doubt you'll see him 10 years from now as a checker and I would bet good money he’ll be in the NHL full time.
Short term - While Johnson has the skills to play on the third line for a couple of years, his calling is in the top six. He'll get there, because he doesn’t fit as a checker.
Long term - There are better fits in checking roles, so he'll be groomed to score. It's top six or bust and he's looking far from a bust right now.
Short term - Killorn was really clicking with Stamkos and St-Louis before the Stamkos injury and I suspect he'll be put back on that line. But that is by no means assured. However, he makes a pretty good gamble for the short term.
Long term - Killorn is too good in other areas and that could cost him a top-six spot in the long run. In a keeper league I would definitely shop him.
Short term - Kucherov gets 14 minutes of ice time per game and despite that he still puts points on the board.
Long term - The 20-year-old has “star” written all over him and a zero percent chance that we'll see him killing penalties and checking stars in 2018.
Short term - The leading scorer of the Syracuse Crunch has obvious talent, but the numbers game will assure he spends this year and next in the AHL.
Long term - Namestnikov is best-suited as a second-liner, but he can probably apprentice on the third line in 2015-16. And by 2016-17 the Lighting will either have room for him in the top six, or they'll make some.
Short term - He has 22 points in his past 26 games, but when Stamkos returns it's entirely possible they’ll reunite the star with Killorn and St-Louis on a line, thereby keeping Johnson and Palat together as part of a potent third line. If that happens, say goodbye to Palat’s PP time and his production will dip to a point every two games.
Long term - Palat was drafted 208th overall just two-and-a-half years ago, which puts him behind the eight ball when competing with talent drafted in the first round. But he's doing what he has to do and if he keeps it up he'll certainly be in the mix for a scoring role in the long run.
Short term - The numbers game keeps him in the press box and when Stamkos returns Panik will probably go to the AHL.
Long term - Panik is NHL-ready, but there is no room for him with the Lightning. That makes him an appealing chip to play during trade talks. If he's moved somewhere else, I could see him becoming a solid 40-point third-liner.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.