Erik Ersberg posted a 2.48 GAA and .927 SP in 14 games with Los Angeles last season. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via 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 pools. These teams have several interesting battles you should pay attention to because the results will have a heavy impact on those later picks. Here is the second part of our ‘Battles to Watch’:
Detroit: Valtteri Filppula vs. Jiri Hudler vs. Mikael Samuelsson
Marian Hossa is a Red Wing. That gives Detroit three superstar forwards, but coach Mike Babcock is adamant they will not be playing together at even strength. Tomas Holmstrom is a lock, as is Johan Franzen. So one lucky player will get a spot in the top six and playing with a 90-point player on your line is quite literally like winning the lottery, given the contract rewards for posting big points. While Ville Leino and Dan Cleary will get looks at times, the battle will really be between Filppula, Hudler and Samuelsson. The winner is really going to bust out.
Edmonton: Mathieu Garon vs. Dwayne Roloson vs. Jeff Deslauriers
Garon stole the No.1 job last season, but Roloson stole it back during the stretch run. Deslauriers is now 24 and deemed ready for the NHL – he is also on a one-way contract and must clear waivers to be sent down. Teams don’t carry three goalies for long, so if Deslauriers really steps up you should look for a trade to clear space for him.
Florida: Two top-six spots
Assuming the Panthers continue to play Nathan Horton on the right wing with Stephen Weiss, and Shawn Matthias wins the second line center job, that leaves just two top-six spots. Newly signed Cory Stillman will take one. Candidates for the other include, in order of my favorites, David Booth, Rostislav Olesz, Brett McLean (who also could center the third line), Richard Zednik, Ville Peltonen and rookie Michael Frolik. The production upside on the second unit will be in the neighborhood of 50 points, versus 30 to 35 for whoever misses out.
Los Angeles: The power play quarterback and the No.1 goaltender
People are quick to anoint Jason LaBarbera as the Kings’ goalie, but Erik Ersberg performed extremely well in the spring. Jonathan Bernier, their goalie of the future, also cannot be counted out. The other battle will be on the blueline, with Tom Preissing, Jack Johnson, Peter Harrold and even Drew Doughty making a pitch to quarterback the power play. Whoever seizes the reins here will see big numbers by season’s end. My personal favorites in the above battles are Ersberg and Harrold.
Minnesota: The kids vs. the veterans
There are more spots available than usual in Minnesota and the team expects a lot of kids to step up. Jacques Lemaire has enough veterans to fill his top nine if need be, but he would love to see two or even three of the youngsters crack a scoring line. James Sheppard is already on the team, but he has a chance to see significant minutes if he earns them. Benoit Pouliot is another favorite who could get on the second line. Long shots include Corey Locke, who deserves a chance to be on a scoring line, and Cal Clutterbuck, who will look to secure a checking/agitating role.
Montreal: Centering Alex Kovalev
Kovalev’s pivot from a year ago, Tomas Plekanec, is suddenly faced with some competition. Robert Lang had excellent chemistry with Kovalev when they were in Pittsburgh and training camp will determine if the old chemistry can trump the new. Whoever wins the spot will flirt with 70 points; the betting here is Plekanec will take it.
Nashville: Alexander Radulov’s spot
If Radulov returns to the NHL this year, then obviously there will be no battle – the spot is his. However, if he remains in the Kontinental League the Preds will need a top-six sniper. The candidates are all rookies: Ryan Jones, who was acquired in the Marek Zidlicky trade, Antti Pihlstrom and Patric Hornqvist. The Swedish sniper Hornqvist is my favorite here. The winner could see the happy side of 45 points.
New Jersey: Power play quarterback
Johnny Oduya had a solid second half last season (21 points in his last 43 contests) and quarterbacked the power play during his junior career as well as in Sweden. Paul Martin, on the other hand, was supposed to take on this role last year, but didn’t. Throw in the signing of Finn Anssi Salmela and you have an interesting three-way battle with one, or possibly two of them clearing 40 points this campaign.
N.Y. Islanders: Top left winger
Not a lot of players on this team will clear 50 points this season. In fact, last year nobody did. But a few players will flirt with 50 this season and chances are they will play on the first line. It’s anybody’s guess who will win the job, but the top left wingers on the team are Andy Hilbert, Sean Bergenheim and Jeff Tambellini. With a new coach brought in to give the kids ice time, any one of those three could take the spot.
N.Y. Rangers: Two top-six spots
Scott Gomez and Chris Drury will center the top two lines and Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund will obviously be two of the wingers. That leaves two spots open for Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Petr Prucha, Dan Fritsche and even Brandon Dubinsky, if he’s moved to the wing. The winners will see power play time this year, while the losers will see very little. Simple as that.
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.