We are going to take a look at the Eastern Conference today and the Fantasy impact of any offseason moves the teams may have made. The teams are listed in the order of last year’s finish so please don’t read anything into that. We will go over the Western Conference later this week.
Washington Capitals: Not much has really changed for the Capitals. Alexander Ovechkin is still likely to be the first left wing taken off the board and possibly first overall. T.J. Oshie had a really good playoff run that could push him up right wing rankings. Evgeny Kuznetsov could be the next superstar. Braden Holtby could also be the first goalie taken if some still have worries about Carey Price.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have broken up the Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino line that was so successful during last year’s playoffs. They have elected to replace Bonino with Evgeni Malkin. Can’t blame them really but Malkin didn’t mesh well with Kessel when they tried this last year. Marc–Andre Fleury has the number one goaltender job all to himself after Matt Murray injured his hand.
Florida Panthers: One of these years Jaromir Jagr will realize he’s 100 years old. The Panthers are loaded with several interesting prospects (Jonathan Huberdeaux, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Reilly Smith), but when do you grab these guys and who will break out? I’ll take my chances with Huberdeaux. Roberto Luongo is healthy and has recovered from his hip injury. He’s still a G2 but you can now draft him with more confidence.
New York Rangers: The Rangers may not have a Top 3 forward on their roster. Maybe Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello or Chris Kreider become that, but they aren’t there yet. Rick Nash could also become a more valuable player but it’s fair to wonder if he’s a good enough skater to once again become an elite scorer. Jimmy Vesey may have had his choice of teams to sign with but when was the last time a college player who suddenly became a free agent truly helped a Fantasy team? Henrik Lundvist may no longer be the best of the best, but he is still Top 5 and can anchor a championship team.
New York Islanders: The only question that really needs to be answered here is whether or not Andrew Ladd can provide the Islanders with that reliable wing to play opposite John Tavares. Pierre Parenteau is back with the team but I wouldn’t assume big things are coming, even if he plays on a line with JT. The goalie situation is up in the air, as the team would like to deal Jaroslav Halak to clear some cap room and open up the job for Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube. It’s a situation you may want to avoid.
Tampa Bay Lightning: This team is just loaded with offensive talent. Steven Stamkos and Niikita Kucherov are first or second-round picks with Tyler Johnson not far behind. Ondrej Palat is a solid depth winger. The interesting player is Jonathan Drouin. He has a ton of talent and could be the next top wing for TB. He’s a slight gamble, but I want him. Victor Hedman may not get the love he deserves but since I like to wait on d-men, I have no problem with him anchoring my team. Ben Bishop is a Top 5 goaltender but with Andrei Vasilevsky on board the team doesn’t have to overwork Bishop. Since he is a free agent after the season, the team could consider moving him during the year but will probably deal his rights before the draft for a pick.
Philadelphia Flyers: The big news here is that Jakub Voracek will begin the season on the second line and will not play with Claude Giroux. That honor will belong to Wayne Simmonds and thus he is more valuable than Voracek at this point. Shayne Gostisbehere is the real deal and a high end D2. Steve Mason is also a low end G2 with upside but he just can’t stay healthy for any length of time.
Detroit Red Wings: This is a team that really needs to rebuild. Henrik Zetterberg is nowhere near the player he used to be and is nothing more than a depth wing at his point in his career. Dylan Larkin has speed to burn but his size will always make him an injury concern. Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, and Tomas Tatar are nice players but none of them are worthy of being on the top line. Mike Green is not the offensive defenseman he was in Washington but could still be a solid D3 or 4 for your team. The goaltending will be a problem for multiple reasons. Petr Mrazek has the skills to be elite but we know the team is average at best, and with Jimmy Howard still on board, he has little room for error.
Boston Bruins: Yeah, I think they overpaid for David Backes, especially since he is slotted to be the third line center at this point. Brad Marchand is signed long-term and is a wing worth grabbing early. Patrice Bergeron is a good C2 but that’s about it on offense. Zdeno Chara is an aging veteran and no longer can lead your Fantasy defense; think more D3 than D1. Tuukka Rask has the skill to be a G1 but on this team and with the talent of goaltenders throughout the NFL, he is a G2 for me.
Carolina Hurricanes: Fantasy-wise, and more than likely NHL-wise, this is not a very good team. Sure, I will take Jeff Skinner as a wing, probably a bench wing, but that’s it on offense. Justin Faulk is a goal scoring defenseman who is more valuable in point leagues than in ones that have plus/minus as a category.
Ottawa Senators: This is a team like several others, with quite a few Top 6 forwards but none that can be Top 3. Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, and Bobby Ryan are all worthy of being drafted but more as reserves or Flex plays depending upon your rules. My other worry might be how the power play lines will be broken up. Derrick Brassard does give the team a reliable number two center but he’s a depth Fantasy player. Erik Karlsson is more than likely the first d-man taken off the board but how early really depends upon your league settings. Craig Anderson doesn’t make my Top 10 for goaltenders but he does have upside. I still don’t want to rely on him as a G1 however.
New Jersey Devils: Sure, they won the trade for Taylor Hall. I’m not sure what Edmonton was thinking, but it still doesn’t cure their offensive problems. It does give a slight boost to Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri but not enough to make them Fantasy starters. Michael Cammalleri is another possible reserve or waiver wire pickup as he always seems to manage to figure out a way to light the lamp. Cory Schneider is one of the best goaltenders in the league. The only category I worry about is wins.
Montreal Canadiens: The two players I’m most curious about are Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov. With Galchenyuk it would be nice if they just left him alone and let him play center to see what he can do. Fantasy wise he’s a C3 or C4. Radulov has always had the talent but not the maturity that is needed to be a top wing. Perhaps playing on the Canadiens (equivalent to playing for the Yankees in MLB) will wake him up. He could be a very sneaky pick. I won’t take Carey Price as my top goaltender this season but I will soon after. Much of the offseason talk was about the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade. Fantasy-wise neither player changes much in value, although I’d still prefer to have Subban than Weber.
Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel still lacks experience but I would take my chances as a C2, same with Ryan O’Reilly. Kyle Okposo may get a bad rap for not being able to perform with Tavares but I don’t see life getting so much better here. Still, he has value as a flex play. I’m about done with Evander Kane. He seems to be another player whose talent level does not match his maturity level. Sam Reinhart would be a player to watch. Rasmus Ristolainen is a low end D2. They say Robin Lehner is in the best shape of his career. That’s great, I still don’t want him unless he’s a backup.
Columbus Blue Jackets: I’m a big believer in Brandon Saad and will take him on my team. I expect Nick Foligno to have a bounce back season as well. They don’t have a D1 Fantasy-wise but they are hoping that Seth Jones will be that in time. Sergei Bobrovsky can be a G1 but he hasn’t had the one little ability that we all like, availability. He’s a G2 for me.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews will be a star, but it won’t be this season. He’s only truly valuable in keeper or dynasty leagues. James van Riemsdyk will be on another team before the trade deadline expires.
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