A sleeper for 2010-11, fixing a mistake, the future of Cory Schneider, and more…
1. Kyle Turris impressed the heck out of me down the stretch and in the first round against Detroit. He was rushed out of college by the Coyotes and struggled to adjust to the pace of the professional game over the past few years, which led to many in the hockey world to sour on his upside. Skill and hockey sense were never question marks with Turris, it has been about the physical tools – most notably size and strength. He looks much stronger on his skates now than he did a few years ago, and he is in a great situation to break out offensively in 2011-12.
Skill is only half of the equation with young players, there needs to be an opportunity as well. Turris didn’t have this last year, as the coaching staff didn’t trust him to play a regular shift in the top six. That changed over the course of the season. The Coyotes trusted Turris enough to center an “all-kids” line along with Brett MacLean and Mikkel Boedker. If you wrote Turris off as a bust, I hope you did it in pencil and not pen – time to get that eraser out.
2. Chris Kreider cracked my top 10 list for keeper league prospect forwards a few months ago. Not much time has gone by since I put that list together, but I think I would like a do over. I have seen Kreider play a few more times since compiling the list, and his lack of hockey sense is glaring. His size and speed have allowed him to stand out against his college opposition, but I question if he can do the same against professional hockey players. You can always develop speed and size, but hockey sense is nearly impossible to suddenly improve on (even as a young player).
To those of you who went out and acquired Kreider – don’t fret. I have been wrong more than once. It is also too early to write him off as a bust (just like the guy I wrote about above). He will make the NHL based on his speed and size, but his lack of hands and hockey sense will probably hold him back from realizing his full offensive potential.
3. Columbus is disappointed with an awful 2010-11 from several of their forwards, including Jakub Voracek. Voracek has long been a favourite of mine – his Hossa-like strength and skating ability combined with his Jagr-like flowing locks, how could you not like the big Czech? It would be a huge mistake to sell low on him. One reason why I think Columbus is having trouble developing offensive forwards – the lack of puck movers on the back end. Huge difference between receiving a pass on the blade in a good area compared to trying to dig it off the boards after a chip out of the defensive zone.
4. Where will Cory Schneider end up? There will be no shortage of suitors – Toronto (Nonis loves him), Philadelphia (likely), and Tampa Bay (how long can Roloson continue to play?), among other teams. Philadelphia makes perfect sense. The Canucks won’t be able to get van Riemsdyk, but I could see the Flyers dangling a forward like Hartnell or Carter (Canucks would have to add more). Philadelphia would kill two birds – save some cap space, and open up more ice time for the budding stars (Giroux and the aforementioned van Riemsdyk).
5. It will be interesting to watch the Sabres this summer, as they now have an owner who is more than willing to spend money. The Sabres are deep up front, and they have some solid young players. They could use a puck mover or two… Christian Ehrhoff or Joni Pitkanen would both be great finds (depending on the cost, of course). Up front, Lindy Ruff will have several options. I assume Vanek and Roy will be together, probably with Tyler Ennis. A legitimate second line center may help, and there is a lot of potential on the wings with Brad Boyes, Drew Stafford, Nate Gerbe, Luke Adam, Zach Kassian, and Jason Pominville.
The back end looks solid as well. Myers and Leopold are signed through 2011-12, and Gragnani, Sekera, Weber, and Butler are all RFA’s. Look for Buffalo to contend with Boston next season in the Northeast.
6. Where does Simon Gagne end up? The unrestricted free agent had a strong finish to the regular season in Tampa Bay (although he is currently sidelined with a concussion). He turned 31 back in February although it seems as if he has been around forever, and probably has a few years left as a top six winger. Do the Lightning re-sign him? Does he still have fantasy value?
7. Sticking with unrestricted free agency, all eyes are on Montreal to see what they do with Andrei Markov. Will he be able to overcome two very serious knee injuries in about seven months? Do the Habs cut him loose and opt to re-sign James Wisniewski instead? PK Subban’s emergence as a top pairing defenseman will make whatever decision they make easier. Here is a great breakdown on the Markov situation.
8. One more point on the Canadiens – if they can find a way to bury a bad contract (cough Scott Gomez cough), I really like their chances as a contending team in the Eastern Conference. They need to add a few defensemen this summer, but the key pieces are in place. Carey Price, PK Subban, Josh Gorges, Max Pacioretty, Mike Cammalleri, and Tomas Plekanec is a very nice core to build around. The Habs are going to free up a ton of money this summer, as they only have six forwards and two defensemen signed through 2011-12.
9. A final note on Montreal – it must sting for Habs fans to watch #2 on the American team at the World Championships right now. Ryan McDonagh looks like a 10-year veteran. The offense will come next season – it took him this season to figure the defensive side of the puck out. He’ll never be an elite producer but should settle in nicely as a second pairing quarterback capable of both setting up and finishing plays.
10. Two sides to the Alex Semin playoff struggles coin. One – he has been a huge flop for consecutive springs, after proving that he can be an elite player at the NHL level. Is he unable to elevate his compete level to where it needs to be? Can he fight through tight checking and constant physical pressure? Both of those questions have an answer, and it doesn’t begin with the letter y. Two – his fantasy value should be unaffected (or affected only a bit). Playoff scoring has no impact on regular season pools. Semin is a great winger to own in almost any league format, and there will be no shortage of poolies sour on him after another bad spring.
The risk of fleeing to the KHL exists, but at this point it does for the majority of Russian NHL players. Semin’s value has never been lower (save for this time last year), and he’s money in the bank for 30-40 goals in 2011-12.
11. The Calgary Flames have several veteran centers under contract for next season, including Daymond Langkow ($4.5 million), Matt Stajan ($3.5 million), and Olli Jokinen ($3 million). It will be hard to add a legitimate first line center with those three taking up roster spots (as well as a significant chunk of the salary cap).
12. Another played poised for a breakout next season – Patrik Berglund. Berglund had 11 goals and 24 points in 32 post All-Star games. He had 76 shots on goal in those 32 games, well ahead of his first-half pace. He wasn’t going to come in and dominate over night, especially with his size and skill combination. Big, skilled forwards usually take another year or two to really find their way. Berglund has been the best player at the World Championships for Sweden, as well. If you own him in your pool, count your blessings.
13. Tampa Bay and Boston… I am not sure how to call this one. On the surface, it should be low scoring with two fantastic goaltenders. The Lightning have an immobile defense, but Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 scheme hides it very well. Gamebreakers definitely favour the Bolts, although David Krejci is having as good a second round as any forward. To those Philadelphia fans who say I am looking ahead (which I am), this isn’t 2009-10. No/injured Chris Pronger, no chance.
14. I do my best to respond to as many questions as I can. In addition to writing and managing this site, I am a personal trainer with a full client base in my “other” life. If you have a fantasy hockey question, send me an e-mail or fire me a note on twitter. I’ll do my best to answer it within 48 hours. DobberHockey has grown immensely over the past few years, but the essence is the same – a community of like-minded hockey fans with opinions to share.
15. This is the first year that I will be a contributing writer to the DobberHockey Prospects Report (which is out in a little over three weeks). This thing is just as (if not more) important than the Pool Guide if you want to win your keeper league. Pick it up here.
Elliotte Friedman’s weekly 30 Thoughts column on the CBC website is the best read in hockey. Friedman is insightful, articulate, knowledgeable, fair, and most importantly, interesting. He has sources and contacts in the hockey world that most could only dream of. Most importantly, has an ability which is rare in this day and age - providing a balanced and reasonable opinion on the league, the players, and all 30 of the clubs.
Each week I will post my own observations (I couldn’t completely steal Friedman’s idea so I’ll pick a number other than 30) with a heavy emphasis on the fantasy side of hockey, of course. Prospects, goalies, sleepers, busts, it will all be covered each week.