While the Canadiens will be in tough to reach the playoffs, the Wild made significant improvements this summer. (Getty Images)
This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll be analyzing each team’s outlook. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Winnipeg and will eventually work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Time to take a look at the Canadiens and the Wild.
*Note: given that the Shea Weber situation will be resolved this week, I will delay the Nashville analysis/review until next Monday.
Gone – Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Brad Staubitz, Brian Willsie, Nathan Lawson
Incoming – Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon, Cedrick Desjardins, Brandon Prust
Ready for full time – Alex Galchenyuk, the third selection in the 2012 draft, is arguably the most NHL ready of this year’s picks. That said, a knee injury kept him out of all but two regular season games last season and as such he will likely return to the Ontario League. But the Habs will still take a long, hard look at their future star in training camp.
Both Blake Geoffrion and Louis Leblanc have seen plenty of NHL games already. However, with the Habs getting their walking wounded back, as well as the additions of Prust and Armstrong, there won’t be room for both to make the jump full time. In fact, there probably won’t be room for either. A strong camp is definitely needed. Regardless, neither will provide fantasy-significant production in 2012-13.
Because the Canadiens have eight proven defensemen, their future studs will have more time to develop. I’m talking about offensive puck-mover Nathan Beaulieu and defensive rock Jarred Tinordi. That’s not to say neither will steal a job from someone, but it’s unlikely for this year.
Desjardins has been an NHL-ready goaltender for two years now, but injuries have destroyed his opportunities to this point. If he can stay healthy, he’s a far superior option to Peter Budaj and the one to get the starts if Carey Price is ever out for an extended period of time.
Fantasy Outlook – As Price goes, so go the Habs. From a fantasy standpoint, it’s not a good thing for a team to get wins via saves instead of goals, but there are several good players here. Max Pacioretty has only scratched the surface and David Desharnais has underrated upside. P.K. Subban is a potential 55-point defenseman. But Montreal’s system is somewhat bare of offensive potential. Aside from Galchenyuk, Beaulieu, Danny Kristo, Brendan Gallagher and 2012 draftee Dalton Thrower, there isn’t a whole lot there. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C-)
Gone – Erik Christensen, Nick Johnson, Guillaume Latendresse, Mike Lundin, Warren Peters
Incoming – Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell and Jake Dowell.
Ready for full time – Centering Minnesota’s second line will be Mikael Granlund. Expectations are high for Granlund, who will be a Calder Trophy favorite. He could be the typical top rookie we’ve seen of late, tallying in the 50-point neighborhood, or he could be someone truly special that makes a huge impact the likes of which we haven’t seen in several years. Either way, he’s a must-own in all league formats.
There’s no shortage of fantasy-worthy youngsters coming up, but because Granlund will make the team it leaves little or no room for other aspiring forwards. Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Johan Larsson are all highly touted rookies with tremendous upside and all three will be on this team within a season-and-a-half.
Jason Zucker turned pro in March and played the last six games of 2011-12 for the Wild. His upside is that of a second-liner. But again, because Granlund will be on the team and because the Wild signed so many free agent forwards, Zucker may be stuck in the American League for a season or two.
Jonas Brodin is a tremendous two-way defenseman with underrated offensive skills. At this point, there are eight proven NHLers on the back end in Minnesota, so Brodin has his work cut out for him, but don’t count him out. And if he makes the squad, he’ll be a dark horse Calder contender. At this point, he’s ahead of 2012 first-rounder Matt Dumba in the pecking order.
Goaltender Matt Hackett sure looked good in his 12 games last season and he played because the goalies ahead of him – Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding – were injured. Those two aren’t exactly iron men, so there is a good chance we will see Hackett again this campaign.
Fantasy Outlook – Over the past three years, the Wild have really stocked up their pipeline. Some pretty high-end talent is about to make the jump. Adding Granlund, Parise and Suter has taken the NHL roster from below average to well above average. I’m very interested in owning players from this team in my keeper leagues and more than happy to build around them. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was C)
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.
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