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Every goal scored by Mason Raymond last season – I was surprised at how many he scored without Ryan Kesler.
A good read on Stefan Elliott – even if he has a strong camp, he’ll need some luck in order to crack Colorado’s defensive group.
I tried unsuccessfully to acquire Alex Pietrangelo yesterday in my keeper league. I offered either Lecavalier or Mikko Koivu for Pietrangelo and a draft pick upgrade (deep at center, figured it was a fair offer). It’s a matter of when and not if Pietrangelo is routinely hitting 50+ points and is regarded as one of the best offensive defensemen in the game.
There are some fantastic future power play combinations around the league right now – Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk in St. Louis, Karlsson and Rundblad in Ottawa, Fowler and Schultz in Anaheim, McBain and Faulk in Carolina, and so on.
The Leafs have two good young offensive defensemen in Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker, as well. Blacker is a fantastic prospect with a lot of offensive upside. He’ll likely play at least one year with the Marlies, though.
If Matthew Lombardi can somehow return to form this season in Toronto (the latest news on his recovery from a concussion is encouraging), the Leafs will have a decent group of centers (albeit injury prone). Connolly-Grabovski-Lombardi is a hell of a lot better than Grabovski-Bozak-Brent.
Toronto is an intriguing fantasy team – something tells me (gut time) that Dion Phaneuf has a good season. He showed signs down the stretch of improved play at both ends of the ice. He was hitting more. When Dion hits more, he is more involved in games. Perhaps he needed the Kaberle trade to get going.
I also really like Likes – he’s an underrated player who doesn’t get much credit league wide. He’s a bit soft at times defensively but he’s incredibly mobile and he sees the ice very well.
NHL.com has a piece on seven potential breakout players here. My thoughts:
James van Riemsdyk – definitely. Was dominant in the playoffs, and will be the top left winger on the Flyers, regardless of who his center is (likely to be Claude Giroux).
Evander Kane – yes, but I think his big offensive season is still two or three years away. He’s got such a tantalizing skill package – size (a projectable frame), speed, skill, hockey smarts. He needs better linemates, though.
Taylor Hall – well, duh. This isn’t exactly a reach. Hall was great at times last season playing for a pitiful hockey team. He has speed to make NHL defensemen foolish every time he’s on the ice.
TJ Oshie – Oshie’s career could go one of two ways. He has the offensive skills to be a 30-35 goal guy each season. However, he also brings it in terms of energy, defensive play, and physicality. Because of that, he may settle in to more of a two way role behind Berglund (and eventually Tarasenko and Schwartz… man the Blues have a bright future).
Okposo – much like Oshie, he may develop into more of a two-way threat. I don’t see the goal scoring upside that many others do. He’s got a good shot but again his compete level and energy may put him in more of a two-way role. Still should be a very good offensive player, but perhaps not a 40 goal guy like many were expecting/hoping when he was drafted a few years ago.
Bobby Butler – considering his competition for ice time is Filatov, Condra, Regin, and Foligno, he’d have to have an awful start to the season not to produce. Butler can play center but will likely see ice time with Spezza if he can carry over his goal scoring prowess from last season to this one.
I’m personally not huge on reading about prospects who are a ways away from even being drafted, but this is a good read on five players who have stood out at the recent Ivan Hlinka tournament.
A hat trick from van Riemsdyk: