(Part One)

(Part Two)

Going stride for stride with my Western Conference counterpart, I am providing an Eastern Conference version of Ryan Ma’s Earmarked for Success. As Ryan has cautioned, please do not fret over the line combinations. We are merely separating the top-six players from the bottom-six on each team, which can be applied to potential fantasy success for the upcoming season. Top-six players obviously get the lion’s share of ice time, both at even strength and on the power play.


I decided not to use the same terminology Ryan uses, so here’s a quick breakdown of mine if you couldn’t figure it out. Keep in mind that this terminology should be applied for fantasy hockey purposes in the coming season only.


  • Golden Boys – Each team’s top six. The top-six role is theirs to lose.
  • Challengers – These guys want to crack their way into the top six and depending on the situation, they just may.
  • Checkers – these players are essentially fourth line players. Some may have very bright futures, but the path of the current team doesn’t seem to have top-nine minutes in store for them.

I’ll look at three or four teams each week, going in alphabetical order. Here’s Part Three.


New York Islanders – top six penciled in, with spots to lose

Golden Boys
Matt Moulson – John Tavares – P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey*, Blake Comeau*, Nino Niederreiter*, and Marty Reasoner
Jesse Joensuu, Trent Hunter, Matt Martin, and Trevor Gillies


Kyle Okposo’s injury in last year’s training camp opened the door for P.A. Parenteau and he seized it with full authority. Parenteau finished second on the Isles in points last year and continued to skate on the top line even after Okposo returned. With that chemistry, the Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau line will undoubtedly begin the season together. Grabner and Okposo are two of the brighter stars currently in the Islanders lineup and both should be top-six locks. Nielsen is extremely underrated and has established himself as a capable second line center as well. These Golden Boys should begin the year in a top role, but they will have very strong pressure from the challengers.


Nino Niederreiter will be given an opportunity to make the team out of camp, but assuming Marty Reasoner is slated to center the third line, Niederreiter will have to really turn some heads to knock someone off. Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau are both RFA’s, but it’s likely both will remain in Long Island, at least to start the season. Comeau has filed for arbitration and Bailey, who was rushed into the NHL, has had trouble with consistency. He was even demoted to Bridgeport last season, where he dominated, scoring 17 points in 11 games.  If Bailey comes into camp strong, he could look to bump someone in the top-six (the talent is there), but if he continues to show signs of inconsistency, he may waste away on the third line and even find himself traded.


Trent Hunter and Jesse Joensuu (also an RFA) are both capable fill-ins, but don’t expect either to stick in the top-nine all season unless this team is unable to retain Bailey, Comeau, and Joensuu.


New York Rangers – top six fairly secure, should take injury or trade for a challenger to rise

Golden Boys
Artem Anisimov – Brad Richards – Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky – Derek Stepan – Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brian Boyle – Mats Zuccarello
Mike Rupp, Erik Christensen, Sean Avery, Brandon Prust, and Wojtek Wolski*


These lines run under the assumption that Wojtek Wolski has been bought out and Chris Drury is still unable to play, which has been rumored to be true all summer. I’m not sure what Tortorella has against Wolski, but in the limited post-season action for the Rangers, Wolski’s three points actually led this team. If they manage to keep him, expect him to slot in as a challenger, bumping Zuccarello.


Brandon Dubinsky is definitely a Golden Boy and will be tried out on the Richards/Gaborik line. I believe this spot will eventually land with Anisimov though, as Derek Stepan is being groomed as the number-two center, and if he needs someone to step in and take a draw, Dubinsky would be the perfect fit. If Dubinsky, Stepan, and the newly-signed Ryan Callahan can find chemistry, the Rangers will be an exciting team to watch with a lethal attack. If anyone will get bumped from the top-six by healthy competition, it will likely be Anisimov as the Rangers search for the perfect wing on their top line.


Fedotenko, Boyle, and Prust were the Rangers third line almost the entire season and Boyle has solid chemistry with Prust, but the energetic Zuccarello would perform better in this spot.


Sean Avery and Brandon Prust can prove to provide valuable fantasy contributions in PIMs and hits if they make it on to the third line, while Erik Christensen will need to crack the top-six to provide fantasy-relevant statistics. Avery and Prust both have an equal chance of winning Zuccarello’s spot as a challenger, but I have my money on the pint-sized Zuccarello.


Ottawa Senators – a few locks and a war for the remaining spots

Golden Boys
Nikita Filatov – Jason Spezza – Bobby Butler
Milan Michalek – Nick Foligno – Daniel Alfredsson
Peter Regin, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, and Stephane Da Costa*
Zack Smith, Zenon Konopka, Chris Neil, and Jesse Winchester


It’s unlikely that the Senators acquired Filatov to have him skate in a third-line role, so he should be pegged for at least one of the top two lines. Over the last 10 games of the season, Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler were on the ice together for 51% of the Senators goals (29/57) and the two will most likely begin the year together again. Milan Michalek will likely be handed the second-line role to start, but he could easily be demoted to the third line or even waived/buried in the AHL. Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson are likely to round out the top-six to begin the year.


With the Senators season over fairly early last year, the team had the luxury of experimenting with a number of players from their farm club. Colin Greening and Erik Condra performed quite well in their limited time. Although they averaged 25 games between the two of them, they also each saw over 15 minutes of ice time, during which time they were used in scoring roles. Peter Regin will look to recover from his disappointing season, but after scoring only three goals in 55 games, he might not be the first one called upon for a top-six role. Stephane Da Costa would fill in great as a third-line challenger, but he carries a two-way contract, which often times translates to a season split between Binghamton and Ottawa.


Zenon Konopka and Chris Neil are fully capable of third-line duties, but the coaching staff will likely save those minutes for the more offensively talented up-and-coming players.

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Massimo Cinelli said:

Rangers lines Tortorella changes lines so often that it's hard to set "clear" combinations, but this is how I see it playing out the majority of the time:

Dubinsky - Richards - Gaborik
Wolski - Stepan - Callahan
Zuccarello - Anisimov - Fedotenko
Prust - Boyle - Rupp

w/Christensen and Avery getting spot duty when Torts gets tired of Wolski, Zuccarello or Fedotenko. The top 5 guys (Richards, Gaborik, Dubinsky, Callahan, and Stepan) will get the majority of ice time (18-22 minutes). Torts likes to really play his best players, so expect the occasional double-shift from these 5 guys. That fourth line will be the best "checking line" in the NHL.
July 29, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

Isles @Roy Myatt, Capuano has been more than up front with saying that he has no problem playing youngsters on the team, if they earn the spot. In this situation, if any youngster makes the squad in a top-nine role, I just think that's going to be Niederreiter, not Strome. Strome has already impressed in his rookie camp, but I have my doubts that he'll be in an Isles uniform all year long. They already made that mistake with Bailey.

@Pengwin7, Now that I know Joensuu is gone for next year, I'd replace him with Haley. With Konopka gone, he could be in line for an increased enforcer role, but he only averaged 8:02 per game in the 27 games he dressed for last year. Might be worth a depth PIM spot. Really...he had 85 PIM...that's a 258 PIM pace over an 82-game season. If he sticks, he's definitely a solid PIM contributor.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

NYI Where do you see Micheal Haley fitting in with NYI?
How many games might he play?
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

... Good feedback. Keep it coming!

@paul, I completely agree. Hard to really hammer down exactly what the lines are going to look like in October, when we aren't even in August yet. Things will certainly change between now and then. Hell, Drury might be back in the lineup and actually healthy. You never really know.

@fzusher, thanks man. Can't believe I missed that one. Makes things a little easier. smilies/smiley.gif

@Big Ev, I guess I just thought Michalek wasn't received very well in Ottawa. He's only scored 33 and 34 points over the last two years and carries one of the top cap hits on the team. One factor I didn't really think about too deep though, is that they don't actually need that cap space. Most teams would look at Michalek's prodction vs. his cap hit and say enough is enough. At least that's how I feel and that's where the comment came from. You watch the team on a much closer basis than I do, so if you say he's more well received than I'm giving him credit for, then I'll take you at your word.

In regards to Regin, yes, I completely agree. He's on thin ice and might not even win a spot out of camp.

Do you really think Zibanejad has a shot at making the team? I guess he has as good of a chance as anyone else in getting in there, but with the strong play of Greening, Condra, and Butler last year, and having Da Costa and Filatov in the mix, I just didn't really think there would be space for Zibanejad.

I'd love to see Niederreiter get in the top-six (I own him!), but I think Parenteau's play last year has fairly solidified him in the top line. Okposo deserves to be there IMO, but he'll have to outplay Parenteau for that spot (which I should also note that I think he is fully capable of).

Fedotenko might get some ice time on the top line, but I don't know that he'll stick there. When you play an entire season with Boyle and Prust, that says quite a bit about where the coach feels you should be.

@Michal SK, Stepan was getting quite a bit of first-line center duties last year. He might be weak on draws, but I think that's just because of his age. As he gets older, he should become stronger in that regard. Dubinsky actually was one of the stronger Rangers centers last year in the faceoff circle, which is why I had him skating on Stepan's line. That would allow Stepan to grow as a center and potentially develop Dubinsky as a LW, which is where I feel the Rangers could use him the most.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +1

Rob Myatt said:

Strome Good Article.
I'm surprised you haven't included Ryan Stromeas a challenger for the NYI.
NYI have no problem throwing young talent right on to the big stage and also have a ways to go to reach the salary floor. My prediction is Strome plays the whole season, acheives his bonuses and helps them get thier cap hit a bit higher. Maybe that's just the fantasy junkie in me thinking wishfully.[
July 28, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

Michal Sk said:

... Big Ev - i agree with your comments except the Rangers part - Anisimov will stay in the second line centre, it is gonna be his 3rd season and there is no reason to demote him to 3rd line as he was doing very well for 2dn year player. Stepan is weak in draws so i think he will play wing and it is gonna be in top 6.

Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callaghan clicked very well last year so i think they will stay together.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... Good analysis on Ottawa, except for the Michalek comment. There is zero chance he ever gets waived or buried in the AHL. What would be the point of that? You don't waive good two-way character guys, even if he isn't scoring. Sorry but that makes no sense.

Peter Regin is the guy who would be waived if he doesn't perform well in camp.

Also, I'd add Mika Zibanejad to the challengers.

I like Niederreiter or Okposo to steal Parenteau's spot this season.

Fedotenko will play with Richards and Gaborik. Anisimov will be 3rd line centre.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0

fzusher said:

NYI - Joensuu signed in Sweden To make your analysis easier, Joensuu signed a two-year with HV71 of the Elitserien July 1st.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0

paul said:

NYR thanks for the article, july is a long way from opening night

most ranger fans do not have stepan pegged for a top 6 role, nor is anisimov a winger

the top 2 lines will most likely be


Stepan will center the 3rd line and Boyle the 4th line.
July 28, 2011
Votes: +0
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