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2011-12 Draft Prep: Pacific Division preview

by | Rotowire.com
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The NHL landscape has changed drastically over the past five weeks, including the NHL Entry Draft, free agency, and teams' prospect development camps. With that in mind we will begin a series of articles looking at each division on a team-by-team basis to discern the important alterations that affect Fantasy Hockey. We will look at departures, additions and those rookies/prospects that are knocking on the proverbial door for roster spots.

This examination will not cover every player movement but rather those that are considered more pertinent for roto players. Thus don't be overly concerned if some fourth liners, backup goalies and sixth and seventh defensemen are omitted.

Anaheim Ducks

Departures: Todd Marchant, Andy Sutton

Arrivals: Kurtis Foster, Andrew Cogliano, Mark Bell

Knocking: Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Cedrick Desjardins

The Ducks continue to await Teemu Selanne's decision. The person who's most affected, other than second-line center Saku Koivu, is rookie Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri could land anywhere from the second line to possibly not making the team out of camp. The first line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan has few comparables while the second line without Selanne is mediocre at best for an NHL second line with Koivu and Jason Blake. The gritty Matt Beleskey should see time on the third line at left wing alongside new arrival Andrew Cogliano. Cogs' speed makes it intriguing to consider him as a second-line winger, but his atrocious shooting percentages tell another story, making it far more sensible to simply plug him into the now retired Todd Marchant's third-line center role. If Selanne returns, the third line right wing spot is Dan Sexton's to lose with Palmieri pushing him. The 24-year-old Sexton, signed as a free agent after two years at Bowling Green, has 13 goals and 32 points in 88 NHL games and 29 points in 30 AHL games. Palmieri, drafted 29th overall in 2009, had 29 goals and 51 points in 63 AHL games last season and one goal in 10 games with Anaheim. Palmieri and the hockey world await Selanne's decision. Meanwhile Mark Bell was signed to a one-year contract after spending the past two seasons in the Swiss league for Kloten where he scored 29 goals and 53 points in 80 games. Bell, drafted eighth overall in '98, has not played in the NHL since 2007-08 and is more likely to start the year with their AHL team in Syracuse.

Defensively, the Ducks have a great pair of power play QBs in Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler. Nevertheless, Cam Foster's arrival is a big upgrade as far as having a good anchor for the second power play unit who can play on the first unit when needed. Foster has 70 points in his last 155 games. At this point in their careers Foster is a much better point man than Francois Beauchemin.

Jonas Hiller's vertigo symptoms have subsided but one can't help but wonder how many games northward of 50 that Hiller can start next season. That makes Dan Ellis worth drafting late. Ellis filled in reasonably well last season, 21-10-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average, before giving way to the now-departed Ray Emery. Ellis has had trouble staying healthy himself and his consistency has never been his greatest strength either, which brings us to No. 3 goalie Jeff Deslauriers, drafted 31st overall in 2002 yet who's played just 58 career games. Hiller owners hope it doesn't come to that.

Dallas Stars

Departures: Brad Richards, Jamie Langenbrunner

Arrivals: Michael Ryan, Sheldon Souray

Knocking: Philip Larsen

The Stars cannot replace the talent of Brad Richards, now a New York Ranger. What they need, for the offensive drop off to be less felt, is for the further development and maturation of Jamie Benn. Benn made huge strides over the course of the past season and his ability to switch to center makes for an interesting question: do the Stars keep Ribeiro on the second line at center in order to maximize the chemistry that Ribs has with former Montreal linemate Ryan, or do they shelter Benn and play him at second-line center? A first line of Benn, Loui Eriksson and Steve Ott combines a nice mix of skill and grit. A second line of Ribeiro, Ryan and Brendan Morrow also has a good blend of finesse and sandpaper. If you switch Ribs for Benn each line still has both. If you switch Ott and Morrow each line still has both. Do not concern yourself with any other Dallas forwards, barring a last-minute free-agent addition, for there is not much in the way of tantalizing talent on the third line should injuries afflict the top six.

Sheldon Souray is a great late round dart in most fantasy leagues this fall, thought it would be foolhardy to assume that he'll return to his former 50-point prowess. Alex Goligoski is most likely to be the 50-point D-man in Dallas (46 points last season but 15 pts in 23 games after the trade to Dallas). Goligoski saw his ice time jump 5:17 per game to 26:03 after joining the Stars, with an average of 4:19 on the power play. Should Souray suffer injury or fail miserably, Stephane Robidas (30 points in 81 games) and Trevor Daley (27 points in 82 games) would be next in line for first power play deployment. Neither Robidas nor Daley has the potential upside of a rejuvenated Souray. The 21-year-old Danish rookie Philip Larsen had 22 points in 54 AHL games last season, his first in North America. Larsen could be another option on the power play but first he must vault ahead of at least two of the following trio - Adam Pardy, Mark Fistric, Brad Lukowich - on the depth chart just to make the team.

Los Angeles Kings

Departures: Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn

Arrivals: Mike Richards, Simon Gagne

Knocking: Andrei Loktionov, Jake Muzzin, Vyacheslav Voynov

By adding Mike Richards the Kings have made themselves even stronger down the middle and on the penalty kill. Richards is the complete package and a reunion with former Flyers' teammate Gagne bodes well for both of them. Expected to come along for the ride is Dustin Brown while hulking left-wing Dustin Penner is expected to line up on the first line with star center Anze Kopitar and two-time 30-goal scorer Justin Williams on the right. The third line is anchored by former No. 2 center Jarret Stoll, flanked by the likes of Brad Richardson and Kyle Clifford. Should any of the top three centers get injured 21-year-old Andrei Loktionov would be the first to get the call from their AHL farm team in Manchester, N.H. Loktionov has 17 goals and 55 points in 63 games for Manchester over the past two seasons and four goals and seven points in 20 games for the Kings.

On defense Drew Doughty remains unsigned, though all parties appear positive that a deal will get done before training camp starts in a few weeks. The Kings have fewer needs on defense for their power play point spots because Stoll plays the point on the second power play unit. Should promising prospect Vyacheslav Voynov get a fair shot he could be a deep sleeper for 30-plus points. Voynov has the pedigree and requisite experience on the smaller ice - he scored 50 points in 72 games last year in the AHL. Pushing him will be 22-year-old Jake Muzzin, who was an impressive plus-20 in his first pro season playing 43 games for Manchester last season while registering three goals and 15 assists.

Phoenix Coyotes

Departures: Ilya Bryzgalov, Ed Jovanovski, Lee Stempniak, Eric Belanger, Vernon Fiddler

Arrivals: Daymond Langkow, Mike Smith, Jason LaBarbera, Curtis McElhinney, Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon

Knocking: Brett MacLean, Andy Miele

The Coyotes will need internal growth to avoid total decimation this season. They've lost their best player in goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and one of their top four D-men in Jovo Cop. Eric Belanger and Vernon Fiddler can be replaced but Bryzer can't and wasn't. The Russian netminder carried them for the last three years in the desert. The goalie tandem of Mike Smith (67-66-19 lifetime with a 2.71 goals-against average and .906 save percentage) and Jason LaBarbera (52-55-14, 2.90/.906) scares no one and will be one of the league's worst. There's no hot prospect on the farm this year, as their AHL tandem will be Curtis McElhinney (18-26-4, 3.13/.896) and Justin Pogge (1-4-1, 4.35/.844).

Back to that internal growth… Where will it come from? They'll need Kyle Turris (22), Mikkel Boedker (21), Martin Hanzal (24), Lauri Korpikoski (25) to all have the best seasons of their early careers. They'll need good health and at least 90-95 goals from Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt. They combined for 84 goals last year. Fantasy wise, only Doan and Whitney merit attention in standard 12-team leagues, while Vrbata is worth putting on the watch list as he hit 56 points just three seasons ago and only just turned 30. If potential No. 1 center Daymond Langkow can stay healthy, a big "if", he could be worth a late-round dart in many leagues - on the condition that he plays with Doan and Whitney and receives first power play minutes. Brett MacLean, who has nothing left to prove in the AHL with 115 points in 122 games over the past two seasons for San Antonio, will probably need an injury to crack the top nine. Andy Miele, the reigning Hobey Baker winner, will likely start his pro career in the AHL.

Phoenix's greatest fantasy asset is now Keith Yandle. That's how bad things have gotten in the desert, when your best player by a wide margin is a 59-point defenseman. Yandle jumped from 41 points to 59 points last season, his third in the league. After Yandle, the drop-off in defenseman scoring was massive, partly due to Jovo missing 47 games last season, with Adrian Aucoin's 22 points the next best total on the team. It's slim pickings with Michal Rozsival (21 points) and Derek Morris (16 points) next. The Yotes would be wise to give more power-play time to 2009 sixth-overall selection Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Larsson, who only turned 20 years old last month, had 11 points in 48 games for Phoenix last season and 10 points in 15 AHL games for San Antonio.

San Jose Sharks

Departures: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol, Kyle Wellwood, Ben Eager

Arrivals: Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, Colin White, Jim Vandermeer, James Sheppard, Andrew Murray

Knocking: Alex Stalock, Tommy Wingels

The Sharks’ management team, led by general manager Doug Murray, came to the conclusion this offseason that the team wasn’t good enough to win a championship. They lacked another elite defenseman, having only Dan Boyle. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that they had little room under the salary cap, so they couldn’t just go out and sign an elite defender in free agency. By flipping LW/RW Dany Heatley for RW Martin Havlat they saved $2.5 million. This gave them the Sharks some wiggle room to then trade Devin Setoguchi in a package for star defenseman Brent Burns. This left the team with enough cap space to pick up former Devil Colin White while still having cap space for a possible in-season acquisition or two.

The emergence of Logan Couture last season is one of the main reasons that they could move out two top six forwards and only receive one back in trades. Couture surprisingly outperformed Heatley last season in just his first full season in the league. Newly acquired sniper Havlat projects to start on the first line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, while Couture is expected to play on the second line with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe. The third line will be anchored by the hulking veteran center Michal Handzus with two converted centers - Torrey Mitchell (23 points in 66 games) and Benn Ferriero (nine points in 33 NHL games, 33 points in 43 AHL games) -- expected to be his wingers. James Sheppard, who missed all of last season due to an ATV accident in the summer of 2010, that both broke his knee cap and wore out his welcome in the Minnesota organization, is an interesting reclamation project for San Jose which could pay dividends by next spring. Sheppard had another procedure this summer on the knee and won’t be ready for the start of the season. Drafted ninth overall in 2006, Sheppard is a skilled player who’s yet to realize any NHL success but he’s still just 23.

Defensively, the Sharks have improved their depth and top-six talent with the acquisitions of Burns and White. While the killer Bs Burns (17 goals/46 points) and Boyle (nine goals/50 points) will man the points on the first PP unit, the second unit QBs will likely be Jason Demers (34 points) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (18 points), though projected seventh defenseman Justin Braun (11 points in 28 games, 23 points in 34 AHL games) could become fantasy relevant should an injury occur to one of the expected four point men. Overall, five of the Sharks top seven D-men are considered decent to high-skilled puck moving defenders with only Doug Murray and White considered traditional stay-at-home types. Jim Vandermeer was a depth signing who will have a hard time making the team, unless they decide that Brauns development is better served with another year of logging heavy minutes on their AHL farm team in Worcester, Mass.

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Player News
Tyler Kennedy
Sharks' Kennedy (Upper Body) Won't Return Saturday
Tyler Kennedy, C, SJ
10/26/2014
News: Tyler Kennedy (upper body) will not return from injured reserve for Saturday's game with the Sabres, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: There was some optimism Tyler Kennedy might be back in action Saturday after he took part in line rushes during Friday's practice, but the team decided he could use a little more recovery time. The Sharks could choose to activate him for Sunday's game against the Ducks, or at some point later in the upcoming week.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Prepared To Start Sunday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
10/26/2014
News: Semyon Varlamov will be in the net Sunday against the Jets, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov performed only so-so Friday in his first start since being sidelined with a groin injury, limiting the Jets to three goals on 29 shot attempts. Fortunately, the Avs' sputtering offense finally decided to show up Friday, busting out for seven scores in the runaway victory. It's probably a long shot for Varlamov to replicate last season's total of 41 wins, but if his mates play up to their talent level with any consistency, Varlamov should finish with a record well above .500.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts Move Callahan To IR
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: Ryan Callahan (lower body) was moved to injured reserve Saturday, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: The placement on IR will be retroactive to Ryan Callahan's most-recent game on Oct. 20, allowing the forward to return to action as soon as the team's medical staff deems him fit to play. Callahan was able to get in a skate Friday, but because the Bolts are labeling his injury as week-to-week, there's no guarantee that he'll be back in action within a few games.

Alex Killorn
Bolts Place Killorn On IR
Alex Killorn, C, TB
10/26/2014
News: Alex Killorn (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Saturday but is considered close to a return, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Alex Killorn already ruled out Saturday for the Bolts' fourth straight game, he'll be placed on injured reserve retroactively and will be able to play as soon as the team determines he's healthy. Killorn suffered the injury during Monday's morning skate, when he collided hard into the end boards with his shoulder and head, resulting in some soreness and tightness but no concussion-like symptoms. If he's able to get in a practice in the next two days, he could be cleared to return to action Tuesday against the Coyotes.

Brett Connolly
Bolts' Connolly Week-To-Week With Injury
Brett Connolly, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: Brett Connolly suffered a lower-body injury in Friday's game against the Jets and is considered week-to-week, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: The 22-year-old Brett Connolly seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough in his first eight games of the season, notching two goals while seeing time on the team's second line. However, it looks like the injury will present an unfortunate roadblock for him to build on those early successes, as Connolly figures to miss the next several games. Michael Blunden and Jonathan Marchessault were recalled from AHL Syracuse on Saturday to provide the Bolts with some extra forward options while Connolly remains unavailable.

J.T. Brown
Bolts' Brown Ruled Out Saturday
J.T. Brown, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: J.T. Brown is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not play Saturday against the Wild, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: It's assumed that J.T. Brown suffered the injury at some point in Friday's loss to the Wild. Fellow winger Brett Connolly also fell victim to injury and will not be available Saturday, prompting the team to promote Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Blunden to the NHL squad to replenish some depth at forward.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Expected To Stick With Quick On Sunday
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
10/26/2014
News: Jonathan Quick is expected to draw the start in goal Sunday against the Blue Jackets, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice at Saturday's practice, a likely sign that he'll be receiving the nod for Sunday's tilt. The 28-year-old has certainly justified his big-money contract through six appearances in 2014-15, going 4-1-1 with a 1.54 GAA and .958 save percentage.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Expected To Return Tuesday
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
10/26/2014
News: Coach Dave Tippett said he expects Martin Hanzal (lower body) to return to action Tuesday against the Lightning, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal was able to get in a skate Saturday morning, and while he won't be cleared to return for the game later that evening against the Panthers, the forward noted that he was feeling better than anticipated during the session. If Hanzal is able to get in a practice on either Sunday or Monday, the team's trianing staff figures to sign off on his return to game action.

David Moss
Long-Term Absence Could Be In Play For Yotes' Moss
David Moss, RW, ARI
10/26/2014
News: David Moss (upper body) appears to be dealing with a long-term injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: David Moss hasn't resumed skating since leaving Thursday's game with the upper-body injury and will face more tests Saturday to receive a clearer diagnosis of his condition. If the tests confirm that Moss' injury is more than a day-to-day concern as expected, look for the Coyotes to place him on injured reserve at some point next week.

Cory Schneider
Devils' Schneider Will Start Saturday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
2:08 PM
News: Cory Schneider will start between the pipes Saturday night against the Senators, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: Cory Schneider has dropped his last four decisions, but will look to get back on track Saturday against the Sens. The netminder is now 3-2-2 on the season with a .907 save percentage and a GAA of 2.93.

 
 
 
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