Tuomo Ruutu will battle for top line ice time in Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Sure, Alex Ovechkin is a top-three pick and Martin Brodeur is a top-five goalie in all fantasy leagues, but what about pick No. 200? It’s the later rounds that win you the pools!
The following teams have several interesting battles you should to pay attention to because the results will have a heavy impact on those later picks.
Anaheim: Joakim Lindstrom vs. Andrew Ebbett vs. Ryan Carter
Assuming Teemu Selanne signs with the Ducks (which he almost certainly will, and you should draft accordingly by the way), these three will be in a battle for the No. 7 forward. That’s the forward that floats from the third line to the fourth line to the press box and back, but he is also the forward who is called for top-six duty when there is an injury. The winner of this battle will have the greatest chance to show off his skills and move up the ladder. All three of these young players have offensive ability and long-term 65-point upside. Carter has the inside track here, while Lindstrom’s two-way deal makes him the odd man out.
Atlanta: Kovalchuk’s linemates
Ilya Kovalchuk is the only superstar on this team. Win a spot on his line and 60 points are achievable, but lose the spot and the upside is significantly less. There are dozens of possible combinations here, in order of likelihood (i.e. the “giant” long shots are at the end):
Centermen candidates: Jason Williams, Bryan Little, Erik Christensen, Todd White, Eric Perrin, Slava Kozlov, Marty Reasoner and Riley Holzapfel.
Right wing candidates: Williams, Perrin, Colby Armstrong, Brett Sterling (moved from left side) and Junior Lessard.
Boston: Tim Thomas vs. Manny Fernandez
Thomas has proven himself time and again, but Fernandez is making four times the money and has recovered from his knee injury. The result? Poolies have their doubts that either one of them will play enough to get 28 wins. This is one battle that will extend into the regular season, barring an injury.
Buffalo: The power-play quarterback
With Brian Campbell gone, the Sabres lack some pop from the blueline, but they have a lot of promise in the pipeline. However, coach Lindy Ruff brings his youngsters along slowly and this is especially true with defensemen. Jaroslav Spacek is decent in the role, but not great. Plus he is pretty fragile. Nathan Paetsch needed to make more of a statement last year and failed to do so. Andrej Sekera is a huge talent and on most teams he would be the man – but will Ruff let him work his magic? The pre-season games should answer that question. Sekera will get anywhere from 20 to 45 points on the year, depending on this result.
Calgary: Second-line left wing
I am assuming that Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Lombardi already have spots sewn up on the second line, but even that is not set in stone. However, the real question mark is the left side. Newcomers Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross will get auditions and young center Dustin Boyd may take a stab at a new position. Long shots include David Moss and Kyle Greentree. The winner should get 45 points this season, whereas the loser could see just 20 or worse – the press box.
Carolina: Two top-six spots
While Carolina is a team that does have a third wave of attack led by center Matt Cullen, it is still quite an advantage to play with one of Rod Brind’Amour or Eric Staal. Justin Williams and Ray Whitney will take two of the four spots, but the other two are wide open. The candidates include Sergei Samsonov, Patrick Eaves, Scott Walker and Tuomo Ruutu. Samsonov has the edge here, but the other spot is pretty wide open and in the end it will mean a difference of 10-15 points.
Chicago: Second-line center
There will be lots of battles going on in this camp, given the huge talent base the Blackhawks have in the pipeline – to say nothing of the situation in net. However, the trade of Robert Lang to Montreal opens up a spot up the middle on the second line. Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd will be the wingers, but there are a slew of talented kids hungry and ready. Petri Kontiola and Kris Versteeg have nothing left to prove at the American League level and have loads of offensive potential. Dave Bolland is also very skilled and is constantly overachieving – he cannot be discounted. The winner could have a surprise breakout season and the loser could find himself in Rockford. The stakes are high!
Colorado: T.J. Hensick vs. Ty Arnason
Now that Joe Sakic is signed, he and Paul Stastny make one of the better one-two punches in the game up the middle. However, the inconsistent Ty Arnason now finds himself with less ice time on the third line. He does not impress when he doesn’t get to play a lot. This was T.J. Hensick’s spot before the Sakic signing and now Hensick will have to steal it from Arnason. If he succeeds, he will banish Arnason to the press box. If he fails, he will find himself back in the AHL. Arnason could get anywhere from 10 to 45 points this season depending on the outcome.
Columbus: Nikita Filatov vs. Jakub Voracek
Yes, I know that Filatov is a left winger while Voracek is a right winger, but hear me out. Both of these kids have tremendous upside and are said to be NHL-ready. Veteran Fredrik Modin is capable of playing on either wing and he will play on the second line. That’s where this battle comes in. If Filatov impresses more than Voracek, Modin will play on the right side and Voracek slips to the third line. If the opposite happens, Modin will play on the left side and Filatov will probably head to Sudbury of the Ontario League. Filatov missing rookie camp due to a leg injury certainly hurts his chances.
Dallas: Matt Niskanen vs. Philippe Boucher
With Boucher and Sergei Zubov now healthy, does their temporary replacement just step back from the top power play? Not if Niskanen has anything to say about it – and he’ll say it with his actions in camp. The difference in potential points between quarterbacking the first and second power play units is vast. As skilled as Boucher is, he’s 35 years old and has only tallied more than 31 points in a season twice.
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 throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.