Let me make one thing clear right off the hop – I’m a big Alexander Radulov fan. I think his potential in the NHL is sky-high. That being said, he is the only major offensive factor to be missing from this year’s team and he is coming off a 58-point season.
When most teams lose a 58-point player without replacing him, the critics won’t even bat an eyelash. However, when it became clear the Preds would be without Radulov (who is currently playing in the Kontinental League), pretty much everyone felt the team was toast. No offense and no playoffs.
The notion seems silly. Radulov’s biggest season is still many years away and for all intents and purposes the team only lost his 65 points (give or take) for the 2007-08 campaign. Assuming his replacement gets 40 points, which means a shortfall of 25 points or 10 goals, that’s certainly no reason to write this team off.
Defensively it’s another story, but offensively Nashville sits seventh in the league in goals for. J-P Dumont continues his ascension into stardom with 14 points in 11 games. Still don’t think he’s capable of 80 points? Consider – most players see prime years between the age of 27 and 32. When Dumont was 27 it was the lockout and when he was 28 he was injured. So we haven’t seen his prime stuff until two seasons ago when had tallied 66 points in his first year with Nashville. A year later, increased ice time and confidence saw him top that with 72. It only makes sense that he improves upon that a couple more times.
Shea Weber should have been a fantasy hockey stud last year, but the rearguard was derailed in the first game by a dislocated kneecap. It was February before he was back to proper game shape, so his coming-out party was put off by one year. He’ll flirt with 60 points this season, while posting a plus-15 or more to go with his 80 penalty minutes.
Weber’s ascent is lifting fellow defenseman Ryan Suter up to new heights, as well. Suter is an offensive defenseman who would otherwise have a ceiling in the mid-40s. Paired with Weber, you can add 10 to that number.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. Jason Arnott, although now 34, had his two best seasons in the past three years. Martin Erat, if healthy, can also reach 70 points. David Legwand is a capable second-line pivot with some upside and the two rookie scorers – Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Jones – both have bright futures and should each top 45 points.
Defensively in Nashville, the team is still trying to find their way, but offensively things are just fine – and that should not be surprising…
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Bryan McCabe (back) is hoping to return to the Florida lineup Thursday. This could slow Keith Ballard’s torrid production or may just extend Jay Bouwmeester’s horrible run. It would depend on which two will man the point on the top power play unit…Marian Gaborik’s lower body injury will keep him out for at least another three games. As long as he is out of the lineup, the Wild will continue to lean heavily on Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen. When Gaborik returns, though, it will disrupt their white-hot pace…
Farm Report: The two big (non-Fabian Brunnstrom) late-blooming Euro signings from this past summer, Ville Leino (Red Wings) and Janne Pesonen (Penguins), have adapted well to the North American ice. Both of them are in the top 20 in American League scoring so far. Leino has 13 points in eight games, while Pesonen has 11 over the same span. The latter was called up for one game last week for Pittsburgh, but saw minimal ice time and was a minus-1. Still, both players should see some NHL time throughout the year and have a lot of potential.
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