This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll provide an outlook for each team. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. I began with Winnipeg and will work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Time to take a look at the Blue Jackets and Avalanche.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Gone – Rick Nash, Aaron Johnson, Mark Dekanich (we hardly knew ye), Curtis Sanford, Darryl Boyce, Kristian Huselius, Brett Lebda, Radek Martinek, Mark Methot
Incoming – Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Artem Anisimov, Nick Foligno, Adrian Aucoin, Sergei Bobrovsky
Ready for full time – Cam Atkinson finished the season with 10 points in six games for the big club. He's a favorite dark horse of mine. He showed great chemistry at the end there with R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard. Look for Atkinson to have every opportunity to remain on that line and don’t be surprised if he leads this team in scoring. Then again, as is the risk with newcomers, don’t be surprised if he starts slowly and is sent down, either. There's always risk/reward with these players, but for now I'm pretty high on him.
The big battle for a roster spot will come on the blueline. Five spots are taken and two spots are up for grabs. John Moore, who stuck full time last year, has the inside track. But Erixon, David Savard and highly touted second overall pick Ryan Murray are all hungry. Given Columbus' track record with youngsters, don't be surprised to see Murray develop another year, even though he's NHL ready. Erixon boasts more of an all-round game than Savard, which bodes well for his chances. Regardless, none will have much fantasy value in the season ahead. The power play will be run by Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and Nikita Nikitin (who is another dark horse favorite of mine).
Fantasy Outlook – The worst team in the NHL last year, without the dazzling assets that other weak teams such as the Islanders and Oilers have. They’re truly starting from scratch. This means a lot of opportunity for dark horses to shine, so it's a great team to roll the dice on in late rounds. But as far as keeper leagues go, there are 29 better teams to build around. There's nowhere to go but up for Columbus now, right? Fantasy Grade: D- (last year was B+ when they added Jeff Carter, Wisniewski, Vinny Prospal, they still had Nash…plus we didn't know the extent of Steve Mason's decline)
Gone – Peter Mueller, Kevin Porter, Ryan Stoa, Cedrick Desjardins, Jay McClement
Incoming – P-A Parenteau, John Mitchell, Greg Zanon
Ready for full time – Joey Hishon sat out all last season. Were it not for that, the highly touted all-round center would be a lock. But as it is, he'll get rolling in the American League and if he does well there he'll be a mid-season call up.
Versatile forward Mark Olver has shown he can hold his own on a checking line, which is good because there’s no room for him on a scoring line. But he does have some offensive upside and if injuries hit the roster we may get to see some of that. For now he isn't draftable in any format.
Smallish left winger Mike Connolly was acquired from San Jose in the Jamie McGinn trade and the Avs called him up for a pair of games at the end of the season. He was a WCHA all-star in 2011 and has upside. However, the Avs are set right now so it would take an injury or two for him to win a spot.
On defense, Stefan Elliott is as ready as he can be. He's a future star who did not look out of place with the big club last year, though his production tailed off after the first month. This year he's here to stay and I wouldn't be surprised if he tallied 40 points and made a real splash. He’s one of the best defense prospects to own in a keeper league.
Tyson Barrie is another good one. Between Barrie, Elliott and Erik Johnson, the Avs have a potential defense core that will rival any team. But he's one year away and the Avalanche can afford to wait.
Fantasy Outlook: With nothing spectacular in the pipeline, in terms of forwards, and a below-average NHL roster, Colorado has a ways to go before catching the interest of fantasy owners. The team's main strength is on the blueline where, in addition to the aforementioned trio, highly touted prospect Duncan Siemens is also close. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.