This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll analyze each team’s outlook. I’ll have on my fantasy-hockey goggles, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’ll start at Winnipeg and eventually work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.
Pending UFAs – Jim Slater, Tanner Glass, Kyle Wellwood, Tim Stapleton, Randy Jones, Mark Flood, Chris Mason, Derek Meech, Kenndal McArdle
Pending RFAs – Evander Kane, Eric Fehr, Spencer Machacek, Ondrej Pavelec.
Looking to add – Two secondary scorers. If Nik Antropov gets back to form it would take care of one problem. But injuries have turned him into what I think is a 50-point player at best (he had 76 points over the past two campaigns). Alexander Burmistrov taking another step forward would also help. If you recall, Burmistrov had nine points in the first nine games this season and finished with 19 in his last 67. But the Jets need more than a 40-point player, so Burmistrov’s step forward would have to be a giant one to be effective.
Wellwood is coming off a career high 47-point season and if the Jets re-sign him I think he has another gear. But his offense is best when it comes from the third line. This team would be best served adding a secondary scorer such as Jiri Hudler or former Jet (!) Shane Doan.
The Jets also need a backup goaltender. If they don’t re-sign Mason, look for them to consider Johan Hedberg (former Manitoba Moose), Scott Clemmensen or Martin Biron among others.
And finally, the team needs some defensive stability on the blueline. They may look to the trade market for this one and use some of their strength – puck-moving D. With Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian providing one of the best trios of offensive defensemen in the league (not to mention Grant Clitsome), there isn’t any room for Paul Postma, who is knocking at the door. It’s probably not a good idea to have five defensemen on the roster with the primary strength of ‘offense.’ A true stay-at-homer and a crushing physical checker are in order here.
Ready for full time – Postma is probably a half-season away from making the jump, but he won’t get the chance to without an injury or a trade to clear the way. Eighty-nine points in his past 125 American League games shows he can definitely make things happen out there.
Spencer Machacek is a steady, proven 50-point player at the AHL level and he impressed late in the season with nine points in 11 games with the Jets. A hard-working forward, his best fit is on the third line and with a strong camp he should win a spot.
Mark Scheifele is Winnipeg’s future No.1 center and he actually initially made the Jets last fall. But he would be best served adding some more strength in another season of junior hockey. That said, if the Jets don’t fill a top six need, he could be the answer and his upside is tremendous.
Another possible top six solution, though a long shot, is Ivan Telegin. As a 20-year-old in the Ontario League, Telegin exploded for 64 points (35 goals) in just 46 games. A bit of early success in pre-season play could see him stick and it won’t be as a checker.
Fantasy Outlook – This is a young, promising organization with four players having already taken the next step over the past two seasons: Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. All four of them still have another gear. From a fantasy standpoint, there are several great options in the pipeline, too. Overall, there is plenty of promise for long-term success, as well as an abundance of goals for the fantasy owner. You just have to wait a short while. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was D-)
Pending UFA’s – Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern, Keith Aucoin, Dennis Wideman, Tomas Vokoun.
Pending RFA’s – Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, Mike Green, John Carlson.
Looking to add – For this team, a lot depended on the fate of the coach. Because Dale Hunter has decided to return to London (OHL), there is a good chance the offensive players will come to life, making them far more valuable in a fantasy setting. Had Hunter remained, we may have been looking at the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom tallying 70 to 75 points, followed by a slew of 50-point guys. With Hunter out of the mix, while some of his values may have been instilled on these stars, a new coach is likely to ease up a little. The new coach couldn’t possibly clamp down further…could he?
Semin’s goals will need to be replaced and they can no longer turn to top prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov since he has signed on to stay in the Kontinental League for another two seasons. So a secondary scorer is needed. If Hunter had remained, maybe Shane Doan would have been the right fit. Since Hunter has decided to leave, perhaps Mikael Samuelsson or P-A Parenteau is the answer. Or if Caps brass loves smacking their heads against the wall in frustration from time to time, maybe they’ll consider Andrei Kostitsyn or Kristian Huselius.
Ready for full time – The aforementioned Kuznetsov is ready. Too bad he’s not “willing” at this point, because he’s an impact player.
Cody Eakin is knocking on the door. He may need another half-season in the AHL, but he has the makings of a second-line center. Or perhaps the team moves him to the wing. With Mathieu Perreault, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson, the Caps will need to move two of their pivots to the wing and somehow make it work. But Eakin showed the ability to be a 45-point player on the second line right away, if given the opportunity.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov is ready to step into the lineup on a full-time basis. He was pretty much there already, but was a healthy scratch throughout the post-season. That won’t happen in 2012-13. He provides, size, strength and mobility – better than most other blueliners in the system.
Of course the playoff hero, Braden Holtby, is ready to make the jump. Do the Caps rely on him to be their No. 1? I certainly like him for the job. He boasted an 11-9-1 regular season and playoff record, with a post-season .935 save percentage. But before you get carried away, James Reimer was 20-10-5 for the Leafs with a .921 SP in 2010-11 and relying on him to be their No. 1 in 2011-12 didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, Michal Neuvirth is a far superior backup option than Jonas Gustavsson and can certainly be a No. 1 if Holtby falters. I think the Caps will roll with this duo.
Fantasy Outlook – Any team with one of the Big 3 on it (so…two teams) is an automatic fantasy draw when we’re talking keeper leagues. Ovechkin and Backstrom are obviously high-end fantasy options and there are some great young guys on the way (let’s not forget Stanislav Galiev). But with Dale Hunter holding the reins they wouldn’t have produced to potential. With an “easier” coach, this team is still a B+. But for now - Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was A)
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.