I’ll go into a bit of depth on a fantasy issue or two pertaining to the other 15 NHL clubs. Check Part I out here.
It’s too bad Brock Trotter opted to sign in the KHL for the coming season. He had a 2009-10 with Hamilton, and had a decent (but not decent enough for his liking, obviously) shot at cracking Montreal’s roster in a depth scoring role. He would have had to clear waivers to be sent back down to the AHL this season, so many are wondering why he didn’t stick around for camp. Trotter is only 22, so keep an eye on how he does in Russia. Something tells me this isn’t the last we have heard of him...
I have a hunch that Dustin Boyd finds a way to become an offensive producer for the Canadiens this season. He can play both wings and center, and he has lit the lamp on a consistent basis in junior and at the AHL level. Montreal’s winger situation on the top two lines after Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta is wide open – Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot are far from sure things, as both are very streaky and inconsistent.
Much is made of Nashville’s embarrassment of riches in terms of defensive prospects – Cody Franson, Jon Blum, and Ryan Ellis get most of the attention, but Roman Josi may be the cream of the crop. Josi, who turned 20 in June, will play most of 2010-11 in Milwaukee, but he should see some time with the Predators throughout the season. He is a good skater and incredibly smart with and without the puck – he is one of those prospects that you look at and say, “He is going to be a really good pro.”
The Devils are a completely different team with Ilya Kovalchuk, so it is hard to speculate on how the roster shakes out right now. Look for Martin Brodeur to have a big season – he played behind a very ragtag defensive group last season. Paul Martin played in only 22 games, and Johnny Oduya was dealt away at the deadline. However, the signings of Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder will help to stabilize the defensive group in front of Brodeur. Both are very solid defensively, but in much different ways. Volchenkov blocks shots and throws hits, Tallinder defends with sound positioning.
New Jersey is expected to play a more offensive system with John MacLean now behind the bench, but Brodeur still has a very large say in how things are done. And when the Kovalchuk issue is settled, you can bet his 45-55 goals will equal another four or five wins for Marty.
Glen Sather’s ability to make both horrendous and fantastic decisions each summer continues to amaze me. Signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury in 2007 was a mistake, and he only compounded it in 2008 when he overpaid for Wade Redden. However, Last summer Sather managed to dump Gomez’s massive contract on the Canadiens, and he also inked superstar Marian Gaborik. Just when you think he’s gone crazy again (Derek Boogaard), he makes an incredibly shrewd signing ($3 million for a proven top six winger in Alexander Frolov).
I’d love to see a Frolov-Artem Anisimov-Gaborik line. Anisimov is big and skilled, and he’s got a lot of upside. Brandon Dubinsky is more of a second line player, and the Rangers don’t have another skilled center ready for the top line spot right now.
Islander fans are once again in for a very long season. Dwayne Roloson is on the wrong side of 40, and the core of the team is still very, very young (save for Mark Streit). Unless John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Kyle Okposo all take a giant leap forward, don’t expect Long Island to contend for anything other than last place in the East.
One player who bears watching (more on him in the 2010-11 Pool Guide) is center Frans Nielsen. Originally expected to be nothing more than a solid fourth line role player, Nielsen was essentially the second line center behind Tavares by the end of the 2009-10 season. He isn’t big, but he is fast and tenacious. Don’t be surprised to see Nielsen approach 50 points this season. He can play in all situations and Scott Gordon is a huge fan.
With Chris Campoli signed (one year, $1.4 million), Ottawa’s top six is now set – Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba, Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner, and Campoli. Brian Lee will probably slot in as the seventh defenseman since he has a one-way contract. Look for Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch to both see limited action this season. Lee has struggled as a pro, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ottawa use him as trade bait.
It’s anybody’s guess as to how Philadelphia will divide up their offensive talent. Assuming the Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, and Villie Leino line is kept together, that leaves Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Nikolai Zherdev, James van Riemsdyk, and Claude Giroux (and probably Dan Carcillo as well).
My guess – Richards centers Zherdev and Carcillo, while Giroux centers van Riemsdyk and Carter. Philadelphia will score a lot of goals, and Dan Carcillo could be in a career year in terms of offensive production. His PIM totals will probably be adversely affected, though.
Unless Phoenix signs or trades for a center before September, they are heading into camp with a huge hole at center. Wojtek Wolski, who hasn’t played center since junior, is going to shift back and see how he does on the top line. After him, Martin Hanzal and Verne Fiddler are more suited for two-way defensive roles. Hanzal has some offensive upside, but he is more valuable in a shutdown role. Kyle Turris will have to really struggle in camp not to earn a spot on the Coyotes.
I have never been a huge fan of Marc-Andre Fleury from a fantasy standpoint - he isn't a particularly strong shut-out goalie, and he is incredibly inconsistent. However, with Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek now in the fold, expect Fleury's numbers to improve. Pittsburgh's defensive group is air-tight from top to bottom, and Fleury's numbers should increase across the board.
I'll toss a few over/under's your way - 35 wins for Jaro Halak, 45 points for Erik Johnson, 60 points for David Perron?
Devin Setoguchi has plenty of motivation this season - San Jose wasn't willing to pony up big bucks for a multi-year extension, so he signed a cheap one-year contract to prove that his 2008-09 season wasn't a fluke. San Jose's top six is stacked, and they have some pretty good young talent on the third line too (particularly Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn), so Setoguchi will always have strong linemates to play with. The Sharks are still a defenseman away from being a contender, and it remains to be seen how Antero Niittymaki fares as starter. Perhaps a recent cup-winning goalie is on his way to San Jose?
The Dominic Moore signing bumps up the offensive numbers of Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier in my eyes. Moore is a shutdown center who can play in all situations. It's not as if Tampa Bay was going to place Stamkos or Lecavalier in a checking role, but Moore will take some of the tougher situations away (defensive zone draws, that sort of thing).
The Tomas Kaberle trade watch will end August 15th one way or another (his NTC kicks back in). I foresee a big offensive season from Dion Phaneuf, as I see him setting in nicely as "the man" in Toronto. He is a powerplay specialist and the Leafs usually have a good power play, even if they can't figure out how to play in the defensive end.
Roberto Luongo is primed for a monster season. Vancouver's defense is one of the best in the league (less goals against), the division is weak (more wins), and the offense lost no major parts after recording the second most goals for in 2009-10 (easier to play with a lead).
The defense features four potential 30+ point players as well. Keep an eye on who ends up playing with the Sedin twins at even strength - they create a lot of offense in five-on-five situations, and it usually means another five or 10 points for whatever offensive defenseman is paired with them (Christian Ehrhoff in 2009-10).
I am still dumbfounded that a Stanley Cup contending team is settling with a rookie as the second line center (either Mathieu Perreault or Marcus Johansson). Washington has the cap space to add a center at the deadline, but to me a free agent like Kyle Wellwood makes a ton of sense. He is incredibly smart, and his puck possession game would fit in very nicely in Washington. Flanked with big, scoring wingers like Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, and Alex Semin, Wellwood's size wouldn't be an issue. He developed into a very good defensive center over the past two years in Vancouver, as well.
George, if you are reading this, take a chance on Wellwood!