Taking a break from the ‘Summer Sleeper Series’. I want to review some significant fantasy opportunities in the Western Conference. Next week same thing for the East. As you have read many times here, preparation is only half the battle. An opportunity needs to present itself for a player to really break out or produce at a level above what they have shown.
Opportunity: Top line LW in Anaheim
Contenders: Bobby Ryan, Joffrey Lupul, Andrew Ebbett, Ryan Carter
Ryan seems like an automatic lock to play on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, but the Ducks may want to try either Lupul or Carter there in order to spread out the offensive attack. Lupul would go from a 25-goal scorer to a 35-goal scorer, and Carter would immediately gain fantasy credibility in all league formats.
The Ducks may also go with a popular offensive scheme of pairing up centers and wingers and rotating through those pairings. Getzlaf-Perry and Koivu-Selanne would be the two offensive pairings, with Ryan, Lupul, Carter, and even players like Andrew Ebbett rotating through. Carter may be placed in a more defensive-oriented role where he would be better able to use his agitating and grinding style of play, but he does possess some offense (he had a mini breakout in the 2009 playoffs, scoring twice and recording three helpers in 10 games for the Ducks). Lupul has proven he can bury the puck, but not on a consistent basis yet. Ryan is on his way to becoming one of the best offensive forwards in the game, but because of that he may be asked to carry a line instead of sit shotgun with the dangerous Getzlaf-Perry duo.
Ebbett is an interesting guy to watch – huge season for the Ducks last year (32 points in 48 games), and he clicked nicely with Ryan. He gets bumped from the second line center position with the arrival of Koivu, but he is too talented offensively to bury on the third or fourth line. The Ducks may want to shift him to left wing, and he would also be in contention for that top line gig.
Odds: Ryan – 70 percent, Lupul – 15 percent, Ebbett – 10 percent, Carter – five percent.
Opportunity: Top line RW in Vancouver
Contenders: Alexandre Burrows, Steve Bernier, Mikael Samuelsson
Burrows had a fantastic season last year, scoring 28 goals (zero of which came with the man advantage). He clicked instantly with the Sedin twins, as his energy and aggressive style on the forecheck forced Daniel and Henrik to up their own intensity. Burrows has a nose for the net and very good hands, but the Canucks really want to get him and Ryan Kesler back together. Burrows can play either wing and is also a very strong defensive player. As I mentioned above, none of his goals were on the power play, and he still scored at a 20-25-goal clip before joining the Sedin line. That being said, don’t expect more than 20 out of him if he is back with Kesler.
Bernier is being groomed as the long-term Sedin winger by Canucks management, as they requested that he really work on his hands in close this past off-season. Bernier has a great ability to get open and use his body to angle off defenders, but he was nervous with the puck last season and lacked the poise needed to capitalize on many Sedin-created chances. Look for him to play more of a depth role offensively until he proves he can do more. He will get power play time because of his size and net presence, but he won’t see five-on-five time with the twins until he shows he can bury more of his chances.
Samuelsson was brought in to add some offensive talent, size, tenacity, and playoff experience. He has played with the Sedins before (at the 2006 Olympics), and many around Vancouver speculate that the Sedins recommended signing him to Mike Gillis when they signed their extensions just prior to the beginning of free agency on July 1st. Samuelsson got flack from people in Detroit because of his trigger happy style offensively, but that is exactly what the Sedins need and want in a line mate – someone not afraid to shoot the puck from anywhere. He immediately goes from a 15-20 goal scorer to a 25-30 goal scorer if he plays with the Sedins.
Odds: Samuelsson – 50 percent, Burrows 20 percent, Bernier 10 percent.