It boils down to optimal playing time. A top-line player will get the best of everything, while a top-six player will receive decent even strength/second unit power-play ice-time. A bottom feeder will most likely receive checking line ice-time and thus less optimal ice-time, which will hamper their scoring ability during the season. Their big break will only come if there are injuries or big slumps from their team’s top-six.

 

There really isn’t a sense in projecting 80 points for a player who isn’t even on a team’s top-line let alone top-six.

Note: Take the line combos with a grain of salt. They are just arbitrary and are used primarily to separate a team’s top-six from the bottom-six. I really don’t want to get into arguments about how Bobby Ryan is going to line up alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry instead of Joffrey Lupul. Anyways, onto the good stuff.


Dallas - Top six solid, but faces stiff competition

Loui Eriksson – Mike Ribeiro – Brendan Morrow
James Neal – Brad Richards – Steve Ott

Bottom Feeders
Fabian Brunnstrom, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Brian Sutherby, Krys Barch, Toby Petersen, and Jamie Benn.
With the return of Morrow, the Stars’ forwards look pretty deep. Neal and Eriksson both had solid seasons last year, but with the depth of this year’s talent plus the additional pressure coming from the bottom six (Brunnstrom and Lehtinen), there will be plenty of opportunities for them to lose their top-six spots if they falter throughout the season. With the talent on the top-nine, it probably means that the highly touted Jamie Benn won’t get a fair shake of the sauce bottle this season.


Detroit – Top-six relatively set, faces some competition from bottom-six
Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Tomas Holmstrom
Valtteri Filppula – Johan Franzen – Jiri Hudler (RFA)

Bottom Feeders
Ville Leino, Dan Cleary, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader.
Detroit’s line up doesn’t look as strong as the start of last season with Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson both fleeing. It still bolsters plenty of depth, just not of the superstar variety. Zetterberg spent about a 70/30 ratio of without/with Datsyuk, this season I think it creeps up towards the 50/50 mark. Once split, look for Cleary to line up alongside Datsyuk. Leino could see a boost in responsibility if Hudler walks.


Edmonton- Top-six uncertain, faces shallow competition
Dustin Penner – Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Patrick O’Sullivan – Sam Gagner – Andrew Cogliano

Bottom Feeders
Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson, Fernado Pisani, M.A. Pouliot, Zach Stortini, J.F. Jacques, Rob Schremp, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Potulny, and Gilbert Brule.
The Edmonton line up bolsters plenty of cooks, but not very many chefs. What I mean by that statement is that they have plenty of mid-ranged guys that can produce around the 50 point range, but not very many that are of the superstar variety that can flirt with the century mark. I temporarily placed Penner in the top-line left spot, but they are desperate to find a replacement, so that position is openly up for grabs. Heatley seems to be a perfect fit, but we all know about what’s going on with that situation... If nothing happens, O’Sully could find himself on the top-line spot beside Horcoff and Hemsky. Nilsson could also make a run at a top-six spot alongside Gagner and Cogliano. Either way there’s plenty of movement available on the Oilers’ top-six. This might be the final year for Schremp to make his mark in the NHL, but don’t expect a top-six role. Eberle will probably spend another year in juniors.


Los Angeles – Pretty Certain, but faces shallow competition
Ryan Smyth – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Alex Frolov – Jarrett Stoll – Justin Williams

Bottom Feeders
Michael Handzus, Oscar Moller, Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson, John Zeiler, Raitis Ivanans, Trevor Lewis and Teddy Purcell(RFA).  
The Kings really solidified their top-six with the addition of Smyth. Kopitar and Brown are both adamant shooters and with Smyth lurking around in the front of the net, they might produce a very productive fantasy season this year. Moller, Purcell and Handzus could provide a few speed bumps for the top-six, but generally speaking the top-six for the Kings are sitting pretty comfortable at the moment. Moller and Purcell should enjoy plenty of ice-time on the second power-play unit.


Minnesota – Top-line locked, plenty of competition for rest of the lineup
P.M. Bouchard – Mikko Koivu – Martin Havlat
Andrew Brunette – Eric Belanger – Owen Nolan
Bottom Feeders
James Sheppard, Colton Gillies, Antti Miettinen, Cal Clutterbuck, Derek Boogard, Peter Kalus and Benoit Pouliot.
The top-line of the Wild is locked. There won’t be much competition coming from the rest of the team for those spots. The rest of the spots however are completely up for grabs. Nolan, Brunette and Belanger form a temporary second line, but with Lemaire leaving town, Sheppard, Gillies, Miettinen, Kalus, Pouliot and even Clutterbuck could see themselves in a top-six roles throughout the season.     
Next week we finish off the remaining top-six for the Predators, Coyotes, Blues, Sharks and Canucks. Questions or comments? Like always I’ll be ready and willing to discuss them in the comments section below.

 


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Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... Jays,

I'm thinking they're gonna run 4 O, 1 D on the power-plays...
My initial thoughts are going to be Smyth-Brown-Kopitar-Frolov-Doughty on the first PP unit. And Stoll-Moller-Purcell-Williams-JJ on the second unit. If you look at the numbers from last year, Brown 3:40, Kopitar 3:50, Doughty 3:34, Frolov 3:23... Stoll 3:12, Moller 2:51, Purcell 2:47, Williams 2:44, JJ 1:52... So the power-play units are essentially going to be the same in terms of ice-time averages, but Handzus' 3:12 average from last year will essentially turn into Smyth's PP ice-time. As for Eriksson, IMO he's a top-six too, I've put him on the top-line of the Dallas unit, but what I will add is that his spot isn't as secure as say Brendan Morrow. Morrow would need to be hitting a massive slump in order for him to lose his top-six spot, where as with Eriksson his spot could be in jeopardy if 1) Brunnstrom starts the season on a tear (like 15 points in the first 10 games...), 2) if he happens to slump to start the season, or 3) he doesn't mesh well with Morrow, there's more job insecurity with Eriksson than with Morrow. If you are looking for a similar situation on another team, I think it could be comparable to Columbus, where Nash is pretty much immovable (like Morrow) and Huselius would be the equivalent of Eriksson, where he could feel some heat from third liners like Chimera/Torres. Chances are they won't get unseated, but hey you never know...
July 22, 2009
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... Rick,

Out of those three I think Smyth is probably the safest pick. Playing in front of the net with two shooters in Kopitar and Brown should yield plenty of garbage goals for him.

July 22, 2009
Votes: +1

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... RE: Purcell

Yeah I wrote the article mid-last week when he wasn't signed and submitted it before Purcell was re-signed.

I don't think it affects the top-six too much, Smyth-Kopitar-Brown, Frolov-Stoll-Williams seem pretty locked in the top-six, but if an injury were to happen Purcell might get a boost in value.
July 22, 2009
Votes: +0

bluejays said:

bluejays
... How will Purcell and Moller get lots of 2nd PP time if they are in 6-9 spots?
Teddy should get a top 6 after next year when Frolov leaves.
IMO there's no way Loui E is not a top 6.
July 21, 2009
Votes: +0

Rick Wakeman said:

Shoeless
... Note from the grammar cop - bolsters s/b boasts I think.

Nice article Ryan - made me realize how invested I am in the teams you profiled today. Hemsky, Purcell, Gilbert, Moller, PMB, Ott, Hudler - yeesh.


Additionally I have the 2nd OA pick in our waiver draft - Smyth, Gagner and Cogs are all available - do I dare venture even more investment? One gets weary of living in the land of promise after awhile.
July 21, 2009
Votes: +0

tradejunkie said:

tradejunkie
Purcell Teddy was signed to a 1-yr, 1-way contract by LA. (No longer RFA as you have shown...)
July 21, 2009
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... Eriksson vs Neal I think both could be in danger if they both falter, they don't have the job security that Brendan Morrow has in Dallas. Personally I see Eriksson being a better fit in the top-six than Neal just because Eriksson takes less PIMs and is a bit more offensive. Neal I see more as a grittier player so he's better suited in a checking role than Eriksson would be. But another thing you have to consider is that Eriksson shot an amazing 20.2% last season, which is pretty much unsustainable for this season(Considering Ovechkin shot 10.6), so look for him to take a hit in that department. I think the general consensus out there is that it could go either way with Eriksson, it's around 50/50 where he could take another step forward or bottom out. I personally think that he bottoms out because of Brunnstrom nipping at his heels, and the fact that he won't be shooting 1 for 5 this season. As for Gagner I would say that hes 75% secure. Just looking at the depth chart there isn't really any glaring players that are capable of taking that second line center job away from him. Pouliot is a third line guy. Schremp could affect Gagner, but from what I've read/seen he doesn't have the skating ability to cope as a second liner. Eberle could surprise with a great camp. The thing with Gagner is that he had a terrible sophomore slump, most players who experience that slump usually bounces back with a solid third season. I say bare minimum he gets back into the 50 point range, but wouldn't be surprised if he got back into the 60s-65s.
July 21, 2009
Votes: +0

jason said:

jayz16
... Hey Ryan... Just looking for some insight. I read what you stated about Dallas, but I was wondering whose spot is less secure, Eriksson or Neal? Do you think that Loui can build on what he did last year or is he just a flash in the pan? Also, how safe is Sam Gagner? and what do you think he will do fantasy-wise? Thanks again!
July 21, 2009
Votes: +0
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