Staal

 

I might be new to the game in terms of column writing, but I’m well aware of good analysis when I see it. That’s why I’ve decided to bring you, the readers, an Eastern Conference flavor of Ryan Ma’s Earmarked for Success. Ryan does a phenomenal job of breaking down which players should be penciled in for top six or bottom six roles on each Western Conference team each summer.

 

Ryan has pointed this out in his articles, but I feel the need to reinforce – don’t stress over the potential line combinations we may have listed below. I might have Evgeni Malkin at left wing, for example, when Dan Bylsma blatantly says he will be playing center. The fact of the matter is, he’s a top-six forward, which is the whole point of this exercise.

 

I decided not to use the same terminology Ryan uses, so here’s a quick breakdown of mine if you couldn’t figure it out. Keep in mind that this terminology should be applied for fantasy hockey purposes in the coming season only.

 

  • Golden Boys – Each team’s top six. The top-six role is theirs to lose.
  • Challengers – These guys want to crack their way into the top six and depending on the situation, they just may.
  • Checkers – these players are essentially fourth line players. Some may have very bright futures, but the path of the current team doesn’t seem to have top-nine minutes in store for them.

I’ll look at three or four teams each week, going in alphabetical order. Let’s get started.

 

Boston – top five locked, sixth spot in the air


Golden Boys
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand* - Patrice Bergeron – Rich Peverley
Challengers
Benoit Pouliot, Tyler Seguin, and Jordan Caron
Checkers
Chris Kelly, Greg Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Zach Hamill

 

My Boston lines run on the assumption that Marc Savard will retire. If you’ve been paying any attention to concussions over the last decade, this should be no shock. With Savard’s absence, Krejci is most likely to center the top Boston wingers, Lucic and Horton. While Marchand is a pending RFA, his postseason play will make sure the Bruins get him under contract for the coming season. Bergeron is also a strong center who can swap with Krejci if either center goes through a cold spell. The sixth spot will likely be Rich Peverley’s to start with, though Seguin has the talent to play in this position. Peverley and Seguin are both natural centers and Seguin’s development would be better served as a third-line center.

 

Newcomer Benoit Pouliot is stronger on the left side, but could push to play on the second line in the right-wing slot. Pouliot potted 24 points in 39 games (just over a 50 point pace) with Gionta and Gomez in 2010, but will have a hard time finding top minutes in Beantown. Mark Recchi’s retirement (and a gaping hole on RW), spells major opportunity for Jordan Caron. The 2009 first-round pick saw action last year and should be with the big club all season in 2011-12. With little competition above or below him, Jordan Caron is likely a name that Eastern Conference opponents will learn very quickly.

 

Buffalo – top three absolutely set, next three are up for grabs


Golden Boys
Thomas Vanek – Derek Roy – Jason Pominville
Ville Leino – Nathan Gerbe – Drew Stafford
Challengers
Tyler Ennis*, Brad Boyes, Ales Kotalik
Checkers
Jochen Hecht, Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta, Luke Adam

 

With the departure of Connolly, Gerbe should be a lock for second-line center duties. Vanek finished the year with 21 points in 17 games for the second-most productive season of his young career and will likely perform just as good or better in the coming year. He plays at his best when the team is good (less pressure), and this team is definitely improving. Roy and Pominville should get the lion’s share of ice time as well as both are Buffalo favorites. Leino and Stafford should complement each other well and could slot in as third-line players, but their salaries have second-line written all over them.

 

Boyes and Kotalik can fill in at top-six duties, but are too inconsistent to stay there all season. Tyler Ennis will be the one knocking the hardest for a top spot as the former first-round choice looks to improve upon his 49-point rookie campaign. Luke Adam is a dark horse to steal a spot in the top nine, but odds are not in his favor with the offseason acquisitions.

 

Carolina – top five locked, sixth spot up in the air


Golden Boys
Jussi Jokinen – Eric Staal – Jeff Skinner
Alex Ponikarovsky – Tuomo Ruutu – Chad Larose
Challengers
Jiri Tlusty, Drayson Bowman, and Brandon Sutter
Checkers
Zach Boychuk, Tim Brent, Anthony Stewart, Chris Terry, and Zac Dalpe

 

Jokinen, Skinner, Staal, and Ruutu appear to be the golden boys in Carolina and it would take a miracle or an injury for someone to take their place. Ponikarovsky was brought in at a reasonable salary to replace Cory Stillman and Chad Larose continues to see top six minutes. If consistent, Larose could be a solid fantasy asset, but he’s been given plenty of opportunities to prove his worth and has come up consistently short. His real-life value is much better than his fantasy value.

 

Tlusty, Sutter, and Bowman are all younger players who have had a decent amount of NHL exposure, certainly enough to motivate them into capturing a top-six role. This won’t be handed to them on a silver platter though, so for any of them to crack the top-six and see some PP time, they’re going to have to earn it. Play it safe and expect them to lace up on the third line. If Sutter isn’t careful, AHL journeyman Tim Brent could step in and take the third line center role, but that should be a long shot. With a potential fourth line of Boychuk, Brent, and Stewart, expect Chris Terry and Zac Dalpe to get a couple cups of coffee.

 

Next week:  Florida, Montreal, New Jersey


Write comment
Comments (23)add comment

Stuart McDonald said:

Slantman
... Really nice article. I love stuff like this.
July 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Michal Sk said:

StevenY
... Thank you Tim, i like it with exception of one thing - previously both, Russ Miller(east) and Ryan Ma(west) used same terminology and name of the series - Earmarked for Success (West/East). Nevermind, it's just a detail i will get used to soon, or later..
My opinion about Leino - they will try him at center. I think though he will last there as long as Bobby Ryan did...
July 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Chad Burly said:

2sticks1puck
... I've watched virtually all Leino games in the nhl since Det. And for a nolan fan _ far more Ruff games than I care to admit. When healthy and if they don't get help at center, the centers will be Roy, Hecht, Goose, and a fourth liner, my best guess being Adam. I'd be shocked if Leino sticks at center. The reason he got a few faceoffs in Philly is because that is how Lavs rolls, plus Briere got chased from the circle a lot. But the way Ruff trusts his current centers and Leino would need to learn a new position on a brand new team.... I just don't see it unless injuries force Ruffs hand.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... Mid-July - love the debate.

Leino - he'll be tried at center, for sure. His game is more suited to center, but he needs to be better on the draw.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

5hole said:

5hole
Buf and Car Buffalo: Vanek really took off after Roy went down so maybe something like this could work as well. Ennis-Roy-Stafford / Vanek-Leino-Pominville / Gerbe-Hecht-Boyes.
Also Carolina could look like: Jokinen-Staal-Stewart / Skinner-Dalpe-Ruutu / Poni-Sutter-Larose.
Just my perspective.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

ryan said:

ridinryan44
leino at center Definitely agree that it may not stick...I was more surprised by the comment that "Leino will not be a center" than anything. Especially considering that Buff had stated he would be there. Totally agree that it is much different to play center in the NHL, but the opportunity for him to do so is there, that plays a big role. Ennis could easily be that number 2 center, or even Gerbe, but as stated below, that's a pretty under-sized center group.

Who knows what will end up sticking, the only thing I do know is that Leino is getting the first look there. As a Gerbe owner I'd love to see him step up into the top 6, though as an Ennis owner I am also against it!

Great piece, btw.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Karbinkopy said:

Karbinkopy
... Whoops, make that Bobby Ryan, not Booby Ryan smilies/cheesy.gif
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

Karbinkopy said:

Karbinkopy
... In Carolina reverse Dalpe and Bowman and you got me won over, but with Buffalo I have to agree with the others. Leino will be playing centre there. I for one never thought Booby Ryan was going to succeed as a centre and couldn't wait for him to be moved back to wing. With him and Benn moving to centre they ruined my fantasy squad in the early going. Now Leino, which I also own like Benn, I can see succeeding in a move to centre. You make it sound like at 23 he was playing in the ECHL or something. The guy was in the Finnish Elite League and played centre until he moved to Jokerit in his final year before moving to North America. I'm sure he's plenty qualified to play centre in NHL. Probably, more so than Ennis and Gerbe at this time.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

SeaDawg said:

SeaDawg
Ennis After reading the article (great job, btw), my only 'eyebrow raising moment' was Ennis outside the top 6. I was going to comment, and then noticed so many other people have already said what I was going to say. But, for what it is worth, I think the top 6 in Buffalo will go like this:

Thomas Vanek – Derek Roy – Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis - Ville Leino – Jason Pominville

At least I hope so cause I just acquired Ennis!
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Line #2C Tim, you like to make your bold statements... eh? smilies/wink.gif
"I'd put money on Ennis taking that role before Leino."

Consider two more things:
1. Even on a center-heavy team like PHI last year, Leino still took 136 faceoffs.
2. Ennis took just 9 faceoffs. (Probably all "center gets thrown out" types).

Ruff is showing no signs of giving a second under-sized forward a chance to play center. If a team's top two centers are under-sized, that team is going to get muscled around in the corners & in-front of the net all game long. It's just not going to happen with a coach as smart as Ruff.

Where do I sign up for that money-bet? smilies/cheesy.gif
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Richard J. DAngelo said:

bullwinkle
Ennis is in the top 6 The Sabres will definitely give Leino a shot at the center ice position for the second line. There is no question about that, as they have said so themselves.

Ennis is easily a top 6 forward. That is also quite obvious to those of us who follow the Sabres religiously. If anyone goes to the third line, it will be Gerbe.

Here are the lines that I believe are most probable:

Vanek - Roy - Pomminville (if he adequately recovers from his injury)
Ennis - Leino - Stafford
Gerbe - Hecht - Boyes
McCormick - Gaustad - Kaleta

Certainly the third and fourth lines are interchangeable, e.g. Hecht could move to wing on occasion or McCormick to center.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
... Lock was probably the wrong word for Gerbe. That was a poor choice on my part, particularly since I. Misread his positional situation from last year. With your (all of you) feedback, id say I am more comfortable with slotting Ennis there. Apologies.

In regards to Leino at center, the Sabres do have a need for a second line center. So did Anaheim last year when they tried Bobby Ryan at center. This time last year everyone was predicting Ryan play all year at center. They can try him (Leino) at center, but playing center up until age 23 vs playing center in the NHL are two different things and I don't see him transitioning smoothly there. I'd put money on Ennis taking that role before Leino.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

Rad64 said:

Rad64
Buffalo Pomminville has spent most of his time with Connolly the last few years. He hasn't played very much with Roy at even strength. You'll probably see Stafford start off with Vanek and Roy on the top line. I'd also put Ennis in the top six with Gerbe knocking at the door. It should be an interesting top 9, though. All three lines can score and a bundle of wingers who can take draws.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

ryan said:

ridinryan44
leino at center apparently he played center up until he was 23...it's been a while but they want him to have the puck a lot as he's great with it on his stick...this seems to be the best way to do it, but things could change if he isn't successful there..
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

ryan said:

ridinryan44
Gerbe second line center!? Can't see that happening..Why put Gerbe in the top-6 when Ennis was so good there? Not sure how you refute that Leino "will not play center" when the team has stated that he will be tried there..
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
... Leino will not play center. He's a winger all the way. He could play RW just fine, but Buffalo has far too many RW.

I have Gerbe as the second-line center for the sheer fact that there's not really any other competition. I don't see Boyes as their L2 center. I don't care that he took more faceoffs or lined up there in his limited stretch at the end of the year. He's not very effective at center, so he's not very strong competition.

I really only see Ennis as a strong competitor for that #2 C role, but he's been used quite a bit at LW. I did fail to realize how little apparently that Gerbe was used there as well though, so it's more of a coin flip between Gerbe and Ennis for that spot. I gave the edge to Gerbe, but you have valid reasoning why the edge might be given to Ennis.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

sentium said:

Dakkster
... Carolina: Jim Rutherford has said that Dalpe will play with Ruutu and Skinner next year. Ponikarovsky has no place in the top six. Bowman is not even close to Dalpe or even Boychuk on the depth chart. According to Rutherford, if there's only one rookie next year, that will be Dalpe. They love him there.

Buffalo: Leino will be tried at center, making the top six Vanek - Roy - Pominville and Ennis - Leino - Stafford. Gerbe has excelled with limited icetime and most Buffalo fans are slotting him in on the third line where he can be kind of a wild card. Kotalik will most likely be shipped to the AHL or Russia to clear his cap hit.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +2

Blackie_O said:

Blackie_O
What? Ennis not a lock for the top six? Ummm....
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Gerbe Overall, excellent article.
BOS & CAR are summarized very well.

However, Tim, you are going to have to re-visit the following statement:
"With the departure of Connolly, Gerbe should be a lock for second-line center duties."

Do you have any solid reasons for this? Sources?
Ruff slotted Gerbe on the Goose's wing for over half his ES shifts.
Gerbe took a grand total of 17 faceoffs last year.
"Lock"? IDK.

Down the stretch, Brad Boyes was actually taking faceoffs on line 2.
But Boyes sucks on the dot... and Stafford & Hecht even got plugged in there against Philly in the playoffs. Ruff isn't going to make Gerbe his 2nd line center - I will avatar-bet you on that one!

Leino is actually pretty reasonable on the draw.
It is possible that he will take the draws on line #2. Stafford/Ennis/Boyes will fill the two winger spots on this line.

Gerbe should see more time with Goose on Line #3.

Some Stats:
Frozen Pools, last 10 regular season games, BUF, ES:
21.24V;19 CONNOLLY,TIM - 29 POMINVILLE,JASON - 26 VANEK,THOMAS
16.34V;22 BOYES,BRAD - 63 ENNIS,TYLER - 21 STAFFORD,DREW
14.2V;28 GAUSTAD,PAUL - 42 GERBE,NATHAN - 12 MANCARI,MARK

Frozen Pools, 2010-2011, Nathan Gerbe, BUF, ES:
19.59%EV28 GAUSTAD,PAUL - 42 GERBE,NATHAN - 36 KALETA,PATRICK
15.05%EV28 GAUSTAD,PAUL - 42 GERBE,NATHAN - 12 MANCARI,MARK
10.49%EV28 GAUSTAD,PAUL - 42 GERBE,NATHAN - 8 MCCORMICK,CODY
7.66V;42 GERBE,NATHAN - 9 ROY,DEREK - 26 VANEK,THOMAS
5.81%EV28 GAUSTAD,PAUL - 42 GERBE,NATHAN - 25 GRIER,MICHAEL
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
Ennis @Kevin, Ennis was the toughest to pencil in. He's been playing LW in Buffalo which is where I expect he'll stay. The fact that they've given a big salary to Ville Leino leads me to believe that Buffalo's top two LW are set with Vanek and Leino.

That being said, I get the feeling Buffalo wants to get to a three line attack, similar to how Philadelphia has been structured the past few years. Ennis could certainly play in the top six, but if he does, it's likely not going to be at LW. He would have to unseat Gerbe, who played center more often than Ennis last season.

I do share your opinion though which is also why I noted that he will be the one knocking hardest for a top-six role. smilies/wink.gif
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Kevin said:

mrmojorisin
Ennis After Ennis was the best player on Buffalo in the playoffs and spent the last 12 games of the regular season on the top line I find it hard to believe that they demote him to third line duties?
July 14, 2011
Votes: +1
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