Fantasy Hockey: The Beginning
The 2015-16 is about to begin. Your Fantasy drafts are complete, your lineups are set and you’re ready to begin your quest for a championship. In today’s column we are going to go over a Fantasy tidbit or two for each NHL team. Good luck this season. The order is the final overall league standings from last year.
New York Rangers: The Rangers are still one of the better teams in the league, but where will the goal scoring come from? Can Rick Nash score 40 goals again? It won’t be easy, as defenses will be focusing a good deal of their attention on him.
Montreal Canadiens: All offseason, the only real worry about Montreal was the health of winger Max Pacioretty. Coming off a fractured tibia the worry was legitimate, but he’s good to go and should be in your lineup from the start.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are making noise that they might split up the dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf; to spread out the scoring they say. We’re not sure how true this is or even how much sense it would make. Ryan Kesler centers the second line, a pretty good player in his own right; so all this would really do is push the scoring from line one to line two.
[caption id="attachment_98043" align="alignright" width="433"] Alexander Ovechkin has never met a puck he didn't like to shoot. Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels[/caption]
St. Louis Blues: The big question for the Blues this season will be who starts in goal. Jake Allen took over the starting job from Brian Elliott late last season but didn’t perform well in the playoffs. Coming into this season it was expected that Allen would get the starting gig, but coach Ken Hitchcock has said the duo will play evenly the first month of the season and then he will make his decision. Allen should be their future, as Elliott is really nothing more than a very good backup, but Hitchcock is also coaching for his job, and he knows it, so he’s not thinking about what’s good long term for the team. He needs to win now.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos will still center the top line for the Lightning but his line mates to start the season will be Jonathan Drouin and Ryan Callahan. Playing with Stamkos should give both players a healthy bump to their Fantasy Hockey ownership, although power play time will still be hard to come by.
Nashville Predators: Those who are hoping or expecting a bounce back year from James Neal can forget about it. There is no Evgeni Malkin on Nashville. Sure, this is still a good team, but one built to win with goaltending, not goal scoring.
Chicago Blackhawks: How will the Hawks do this season after trading away a couple of their top offensive forwards in Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad due to salary cap concerns? Perhaps Teuvo Teravainen or Artem Ansimov can pick up some of that slack. Perhaps not. And yes, I do believe all of the legal stuff surrounding Patrick Kane can’t be a good thing for his prospects this season.
Washington Capitals: For years now we have always wanted to believe that whomever plays with Alexander Ovechkin will be a valuable Fantasy player. On the surface this makes sense, but the problem is no matter who is on that line, the idea is to get the puck to Ovechkin. So that player needs to be unselfish and willing to do so; if not, he won’t be playing with AO for long.
New York Islanders: Like who will play with Ovechkin, the Islanders have their version also; who will play with John Tavares? Kyle Okposo gets first crack again along with Brock Nelson, but coach Jack Capuano won’t keep that trio together for long. He likes to change things up and the Isles have a host of young players (Anders Lee, Ryan Strome) who could eventually get their shot.
Vancouver Canucks: For a time there this offseason it looked like Alex Burrows (remember him) was going to play on the top line with the Sedin twins, but as of this writing it looks like Brandon Sutter will get that honor. He could make for a solid pickup but remember, the Sedin twins aren’t what they once were.
Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk won’t be ready for Opening Night, as he is still recovering from ankle surgery. He is unlikely to play until November at the earliest. Is this a big deal? Not really, Fantasy Hockey season is long and in the long run missing the first month isn’t that big a deal, not as long as he can stay healthy for the last six.
Minnesota Wild: Don’t forget about Thomas Vanek. Yes, he was disappointing last season, his first in Minnesota. He struggled from the start. Perhaps the gambling probe he was involved in or the pressure of playing in front of family was too much from him. The second year could be better, especially once he works himself onto one of the Top 2 lines. A sleeper to watch is Nino Niederreiter. Everyone keeps forgetting about him, but he has 30 goal potential.
Ottawa Senators: There really isn’t much to like here on offense as far as Ottawa is concerned. Can Kyle Turris and Mark Stone carry this team offensively?
Winnipeg Jets: People seem to forget all about Blake Wheeler. He has averaged 27 goals over the past two seasons, and with the team improving around him there is little reason to believe he won’t put up similar numbers again.
Pittsburgh Penguins: If you’re looking for a sleeper to grab, look no further than Sergei Plotnikov. He is going to start the season on the second line with Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. That has value. If he’s available, he should be added.
Calgary Flames: Who will start in net for the Flames this season? It was assumed that Jonas Hiller would get the job, but now it seems Karri Ramo has the upper hand, and there are even those who believe the job should belong to Joni Ortio. That’s quite a few cooks in the kitchen. They may need a trade or two to sort this out.
Boston Bruins: Don’t go out and grab Zdeno Chara because of name value. He will be 39 years of age in March, missed 20 games last year due to injury, and is currently on the IR with an upper body injury. He still might begin the season with Boston, as he can be activated off of the IR at any time, but the Bruins are rebuilding and won’t be a consistent offensive threat.
Los Angeles Kings: This team has all the making of a comeback season. They signed Milan Lucic to play on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. His physicality should open up room for Gaborik, who could once again reach or surpass the 30 goal mark. Also, don’t forget about that second line, as Jeff Carter always seems to be underrated even though he has averaged 27 goals over the past three seasons, and Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli are just starting to come into their own.
Dallas Stars: The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Patrick Sharp may end up being the best in Fantasy Hockey. I’m a little surprised they didn’t put Sharp on the second line to even out the scoring a bit, and it’s because of this that I’m not as high this season on Valeri NIchushkin. We have been high on him for a couple of seasons now and he is finally healthy, but having Ales Hemsky on his line rather than Sharp curbs my enthusiasm about him just a little bit.
Florida Panthers: Listen, I love Jaromir Jagr, he’s a living legend, but you know something is wrong with your team when a player who turns 44 in February is anchoring your top line; mentoring can only go so far.
Colorado Avalanche: What is coach Patrick Roy thinking? He currently has Nathan MacKinnon slated to center the team’s third line. This is crazy as MacKinnon may also be the team’s most dangerous forward. Is MacKinnon being punished? Doesn’t seem to be. Could this change? Of course, but why even start out this way, and why would you play Carl Soderberg ahead of him? Maybe it’s just a wakeup call. Fantasy owners had better hope so.
Columbus Blue Jackets: I love this team this season. I know the Blackhawks had to deal Saad because of salary cap issues, but one team’s loss is another team’s gain, and although he may have gone under the radar a bit in Chicago because of the other superstars he played with, that won’t be the case after this season. A big year is coming for both him and several of his teammates, as this team will return to the playoffs.
San Jose Sharks: How will Martin Jones do as the starting goaltender for the Sharks? No one really knows. The Sharks are not a bad team and could compete for a playoff spot but Jones is also going to find out real quick that the Sharks’ defense is not the Kings’ defense. The Kings also play from the goaltender on out whereas the Sharks are more of an attack team. Jones should not be relied upon as anything more than a low end G2 to start the season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Outside of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and I’ll even throw in Wayne Simmonds, this is very bad team.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils don’t even have those scorers the Flyers do. Seriously, you almost have to feel sorry for goaltender Cory Schneider. If he had an average offense in front of him he would easily be a Top 10 goalie this season, an above average one, Top 5.
Carolina Hurricanes: Could Eric Staal have more value to your Fantasy team now that he has been moved to wing (he should have this eligibility in your Fantasy league)? He won’t have as much defensive responsibility at wing, this should help a team desperate for any offense they can get.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Just because the Leafs traded away Phil Kessel doesn’t mean this team won’t score any goals this season. James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak should not be forgotten about. One other thing, the Leafs aren’t done making personnel changes; any of those four and Dion Phaneuf could be moved along as the season moves on.
Edmonton Oilers: Say what you want about the Oilers but the offensive talent is there; Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and now Connor McDavid. This team really shouldn’t have a problem scoring goals. About McDavid, yes, he’s probably going to end up being a superstar, but it also probably won’t be this year. Like every rookie he will have his ups and downs, so if you took him in a re-draft league, you better be prepared to slow your roll a little bit.
Arizona Coyotes: This is another ugly team, as there just isn’t much to like outside of some of their youngsters, but one player who could be on your waiver wire that could provide some value is Mikkel Boedker. A 25-plus goal season really shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres certainly felt like they received second prize when they lost the draft lottery and with that, McDavid, but don’t be surprised if it ends up that they won’t feel that way as Jack Eichel’s career rolls along. Will Eichel make the highlights like McDavid will on a consistent basis? Probably not, but he may just end up being the better overall player, someone who can be relied upon in both zones.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
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