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It’s been an awesome six-plus years here at DobberHockey… only two days left as the website manager, and you can bet your last dollar that these will be two ramblings/days that you don’t want to miss.
My updated thoughts on Canada’s potential roster for the 2014 Olympics (a seven update with a few lineup changes from my take from back in February).
My new lines (explanations are in the above link):
Don't forget to cast your vote for the new DobberHockey banner (which appears across the top of the website).
A lot of question marks on line three:
Drayson Bowman - Elias Lindholm - Zac Dalpe
Personally, I would like to see Mason Raymond or Damien Brunner signed for one of the wing spots on this line because I'm not 100% sold on Dalpe or Bowman, but if we're going with what the team has now, this is a line I'd like the Canes to experiment with. Having three scoring lines will be important and you have three players who can provide secondary scoring here. It also features three excellent skaters who can tilt the ice in the Hurricanes favor and possibly play some tougher minutes to take some heat off the first two lines.
Being able to control territorial play is one thing Bowman did well last year and Dalpe has shown flashes of being a great puck-possession, guy too. If they want to stick in the NHL, next year is as good of a chance as ever for both of them.
Great move with essentially zero risk for Edmonton. To those saying that the Oilers have enough skill guys, I say - can you really ever have too much skill? Even in a depth role, Omark is a massive upgrade on the below-average players that Edmonton was rolling out last season.
Nugent-Hopkins could very well be out for five or six weeks at the beginning of the season (still rehabbing his shoulder injury). Edmonton's center depth even with the Nuge around is very thin... Gagner, Lander, and Gordon, essentially. Arcobello is in the mix, too.
With a fully healthy lineup:
I could see Yakupov and Hemsky switching spots once in a while. Gordon is definitely going to put up some nice numbers, even with the tough defensive minutes he should see. He will have some talented wingers at the very least.
Without the Nuge, I'd potentially look at moving Hall to center, or bumping every center up and calling up Arcobello.
Cory Conacher checks in at eight on the top 25 under 25 list for the Senators.
His play in the Montreal series illustrates that Conacher has the potential to develop into an effective agitator/pest player in the NHL. He visibly irritated several Canadiens players in the crucial third game of that series. Playing with that kind of edge more often will help Conacher cement his place in the lineup. While he has the potential to be a top-six player for the Sens, bouncing between the second and third lines seems realistic for a player entering his first full season in the NHL.
I may be alone, but I could see Conacher busting out with 20 goals and 45-50 points alongside Spezza/Ryan this year. Michalek is the favourite to play there, but it isn’t set in stone. Conacher could just as easily have 12-15 goals in more of a depth role, but he has a lot of offensive ability. Pegging him as an agitator or depth guy, even at this point, sells his talent short.
And while we are on a roll here, number six – Patrick Wiercioch.
Before I post an excerpt from the link, I have Wiercioch pegged for 34 points this year (one of the bigger jumps relative to 2013 expecations among my predictions). I’m expecting big things from him in Ottawa, and I think he’s ready for a huge increase in ice time and responsibility.
Wiercioch still isn't a sure thing on Ottawa's blue line. He could play anywhere from top pairing to bottom, getting 15 minutes a night or upwards of 20; a lot of it will depend on how assertive he is on both ends of the puck and how well he can endear himself to MacLean. Based on his usage last season (he started 62.7 per cent of his shifts in the offensive zone), it's obvious that Wiercioch hasn't yet earned the full trust of his coach. He'll have to rectify that situation very quickly this season.
It will be interesting to see where Gallagher slots in this year. Does he play on the top line, or is that reserved for Briere? Does he beat out Gionta for the remaining top six spot? The Canadiens don’t exactly boast a lot of size on the right wing, but Gallagher plays a tough and gritty game so that shouldn’t be an issue.
He did receive his share of “puck luck” last year when consulting the advanced stats, but Gallagher created so many of his chances through hard work and tenacity. That doesn’t go away suddenly.
His 15-goal, 28-point season equates to roughly 26 goals and 50 points over a full 82-game campaign. I’m not sure he hits those numbers as a sophomore, but expect him to end up in the 20-goal, 40-45-point range – with the upside for more.
In no particular order, here are 11 players (beyond the sleepers I have listed on the front page) who I would be targeting (with info on league format):
Marcus Johansson (one year or keeper, points)
Zack Kassian (keeper, multi-category)
Tyler Toffoli (keeper, points)
Taylor Beck (keeper, multi-category)
Nick Bjugstad (keeper, points)
Rick Nash (one year, multi-category)
Mark Letestu (one year, points)
Jussi Jokinen (one year, points)
Mark Scheifele (keeper, multi-category)
Dustin Penner (one year, points)
Jannik Hansen (one-year or keeper, multi-category)
And five "under the radar" players:
Tommy Wingels (one-year or keeper, multi-category)
Matt Fraser (keeper, multi-category)
Brian Flynn (keeper, points)
Chris Brown (keeper, multi-category... and no, not THAT Chris Brown)
Richard Panik (keeper, multi-category)
(To my UFP competitors... you are welcome!)
Is New Jersey’s new group of forwards… good enough? Good enough for what, exactly? The postseason? I think that depends on the play of Broneider (Brodeur + Schneider).
There are a few reclamation projects up front, and/or players who really need a big bounce back season, including Clowe, Zajac, and Olesz. But with Elias, Ryder, Jagr, and depth forwards like Zubrus around, there should be at least enough offense to remain in the pack.
There is a good mix of scoring (Elias, Ryder), puck possession (Jagr), and playmaking (Clowe). Zajac needs to bounce back, and the Devils need some players to emerge on the third line, be it Josefson, Matteau, Tedenby, or Loktionov.
Corey Pronman ranks Ottawa’s top 10 prospects. A really strong list with 10 potential NHLers (not every team can say that).
Matt Puempel, a boom-or-bust offensive prospect, checks in at number eight:
Just about every scout will describe Puempel as one thing, a goal scorer. He is a true plus-or-better shooter, with one of the best releases in junior hockey. Puempel is a skilled player with the puck as well, with above-average hand-eye coordination and offensive hockey sense. He is a decent-sized player who battles well and goes to the front of the net.
Merrill may not make an impact this year, but he's not far off from being a top pairing fantasy stud (hits, PIM, goals, SOG, points). Draft him now im your keeper and thank me later.
Marc Staal has no limitations caused by his eye injury last season. Man, he sure got lucky… that was about as bad as a puck hitting an eye could look.
Staal is on the fringe/bubble for Canada’s defense, but the fact he is a left-side defenseman works in his favour.
It will be interesting to see if his production changes under Alain Vigneault. Del Zotto and McDonagh are going to be the offensive guys (and perhaps Moore), but Staal and Girardi should both see more offensive opportunities (not a lot, but a few).
And one I wrote – Nicklas Jensen is the fourth best prospect in the Canucks organization.
Crosby and Bergeron’s first time as linemates:
The title says it all:
For my final ramblings tomorrow... I'm taking a few questions from the comment section below. So if you have anything fantasy hockey related on your mind - fire away!