As keeper league hockey pools increase in number each year, fantasy junkies become more active in the off-season as they prepare their team for the coming year. Rebuild? Retool? Tweak? Whatever your intentions, it helps to get all the information you can about your players.
Throughout the off-season, FPL will look at a pair of teams each week and give you the fantasy lowdown. Bucking the trend of past years, we will review alphabetically – in reverse. Just to be different.
(Also posted by The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca)
Gone – Petr Sykora, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Smith, Jan Hejda, Jussi Markkanen and Brad Winchester.
Arriving – Dustin Penner, Mathieu Garon, Joni Pitkanen, Sheldon Souray, Dick Tarnstrom and Geoff Sanderson.
Looking to Add - The Oilers have been trying to add a top-flight forward all summer (we’re not ready to anoint Penner a upper-tier forward, yet), but have failed to do so. Unless something falls into their lap via the trade route, they are done until training camp.
Ready for full-time - Three players are ready to make the jump here, but there may be only enough room for two of them. Andrew Cogliano, a highly skilled, diminutive pivot signed an entry-level deal. If he impresses in training camp, he could become as high as a first- or second-line center as a rookie. He could also lose that opportunity to another young pivot, Rob Schremp. The latter is a goal-scoring forward with excellent hockey sense and showed great chemistry with Robert Nilsson when the two played in Wilkes-Barre of the American League last season. Nilsson is the third player ready to make the jump. He is a very intelligent player who makes things happen when he’s on the ice. Unfortunately, sometimes those things happen in the wrong direction…otherwise he would be a lock. Look for two of these players to make the jump and all are worth keeping an eye on.
Fantasy Outlook - A lot of the Oilers’ offense will come from the blueline, with the likes of Souray, Pitkanen, and Tarnstrom now in the fold. Without elite linemates for Ales Hemsky, this isn’t a team to stock up on in your fantasy pool. The pipeline is decent enough, though. In addition to the aforementioned threesome, Sam Gagner is also on his way.
Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was B)
Detroit Red Wings
Gone – Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Kyle Calder and Danny Markov.
Arriving – Brian Rafalski, Igor Grigorenko and Dallas Drake.
Looking to Add - The Red Wings would still like to add a second-line center. If they don’t sign Peter Forsberg, or trade for a center, they will have to look within. Candidates for the role include…well, really just Valtteri Filppula. That makes him a decent dark horse. Alternatively, they could split Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk again, as they are both natural centers.
Ready for full-time - Grigorenko is a former blue-chip prospect who, after a serious car accident several years ago, has almost fought his way back to the point where his skill level is at 100 per cent. He is penciled in on the third line and should be good for 40 points in the season ahead – but he could go as high as 65. Jakub Kindl is also ready for prime time, but the rearguard may be a victim of the numbers game, forcing him to wait at least another year.
Fantasy Outlook - Once again, the Red Wings will have a team that should be in the top five in the conference. What’s more, they will score their share of goals – more than you would expect. With more ice time, Hudler could be a scoring machine. Detroit also pulls one top prospect after another out of their hat, despite picking late every year. This is a perennially good team to build a fantasy squad around.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B-)