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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's hot and who's not?

by | Rotowire.com
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Welcome back to another season of the Wrap. All the pertinent Fantasy hockey information spread over eight months, along with other details I'm sure you won't be looking for. Statistics, anecdotes, recipes, random board-game analysis. Even a few guest appearances thrown in for good measure.

With opening night just days away, it's time to prepare for hours and hours of viewing enjoyment. And, of course, to get ready for your own Fantasy campaign. Even if you have already completed your draft, it's never too late to take a look at what's available or what the other owners are doing. Here's a look at who might peek out from under the radar and who might as well hide under a rock.

Of course, the following examples should not be solely based or influenced by major injuries. So I don't want to hear complaints about how Player X never lived up to my expectations because he missed three-quarters of the season after breaking his leg pulling weeds in his yard.

Top 6 Fantasy Surprises

Some may not yet be household Fantasy names, but they're trying hard to hit a higher level. Others may have been relevant commodities at some point, but have recently undergone a change in circumstances to allow for an upswing:

David Booth, F, Florida: It's been nearly two years since Booth was lying on the ice thanks to a Mike Richards shoulder. Another five months passed before the Michigan State alum was knocked out again. Two concussions may be tough to recover from, but Booth managed to suit up for the entire 2010-11 season (although only counting 40 points). Even though Florida now boasts a deeper forward contingent, Booth remains one of the veterans and should excel with Stephen Weiss in all situations.

Cody Franson, D, Toronto: When the Predators needed to shed salary during the summer, Brian Burke came calling and found two serviceable skaters. While Franson may not wow anyone with spectacular numbers (50 points in 141 games during his Nashville stay) or the solid use of his 6-foot-5 frame (you might have guessed more than 46 combined PIM), he can still hurt anyone with his rocket shot. That trait alone should get a look on the Leafs' top power-play unit, thereby making him a decent Fantasy buy.

Steve Mason, G, Columbus: The 2009 Calder Trophy winner has endured significant setbacks the last two years (GAAs over 3.00, SV percentage in danger of going below .900), but he's done more than enough to learn from his mistakes. While Mathieu Garon had pushed Mason for the starting gig during this downturn, newcomer Mark Dekanich should prove to be a lesser worry. And with the Blue Jackets adding some solid personnel the last few months, there is no reason Mason cannot return to his top-10 form.

Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota: With Marek Zidlicky's time winding down and Brent Burns' exodus to the West Coast, the time is right for Spurgeon to shine. Not the tallest blueliner at 5-foot-9, but offensively gifted and someone who will be relied upon to replace Burns on the power-play (thanks to his six power-play points to end 2010-11). The coaches really like the 21-year-old and have publicly stated Spurgeon should receive more ice time. Think that's enough evidence to at least take a flyer on the kid.

Marco Sturm, F, Vancouver: A veteran who knows how to contribute, regardless of location. And with the Vancouver injuries currently rising up front (Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond the notables on this list), Sturm should seamlessly slide in and help the offense for the long haul. He’s a good bet to see action on either the second or third line, mainly as a result of having accumulated seven 20-goal seasons over his career.

Steve Sullivan, F, Pittsburgh: With Sidney Crosby's status still unsettled, there's room for other forwards to grab the leftovers. Enter Sullivan, who was brought in for his experience (13 seasons, 890 games), toughness (comeback after major injury), and power-play skills (192 career power-play points). While he's currently experiencing similar symptoms that necessitated surgery late last season, Sullivan has been given enough rest to recover and provide Pittsburgh with a fine secondary scoring option.

Honorable Mention: Zach Bogosian, D, Winnipeg; Marcus Johansson, F, Washington; David Jones, F, Colorado; Ondrej Pavelec, G, Winnipeg; Ian White, D, Detroit; Colin Wilson, F, Nashville)

Top 6 Fantasy Duds

Want to find a new recruit for your squad? Don't look here! Well, OK, make sure you take a note of the following names to ensure they don't find a way on your roster. A few have held the position of perennial underachiever, while a couple could slip into an unfavorable position:

Brian Campbell, D, Florida: Kudos to Chicago for dumping this albatross of a contract on Florida (at still over $35 million owed). Once regarded as one of the best two-way defensemen, Campbell's role has regressed every year since he signed that monster deal in 2008. He should earn a boost moving to the Sunshine State, but it'll take a hit having to compete with Dmitry Kulikov, Ed Jovanovski, Jay Garrison and even Erik Gudbranson. And forget about that sparkling plus-28 rating from last season, since the Panthers - even with multiple additions - still own a shaky goaltending corps.

Erik Cole, F, Montreal: The stats don't lie and they tell us Cole seems to do well only when paired with Eric Staal. Since their partnership began in 2005-06, the power forward amassed 254 points in 343 outings. That's not to take anything away from Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec or Brian Gionta, but it may take a little longer for them to synch up with the 32-year old American. It only took 63 games for Edmonton to realize Cole's shortcomings outside of Carolina. Maybe this revelation will come sooner in arguably the most discerning hockey city.

Olli Jokinen, F, Calgary: Like Campbell, another gold member of the where-have-my-skills-gone club. Not too shabby the last three seasons (each one in the 50-point range), but well under his output during the previous cycle (averaging 75). You would have expected hooking up with Jarome Iginla would solve all of Jokinen's problems. But alas, the Calgary captain cannot work miracles inside the enigmatic Finn's head. Mikael Backlund is ready to take the next step at center, while Brendan Morrison and Matt Stajan could easily push Jokinen down the depth chart.

P.A. Parenteau, F, N.Y. Islanders: Parenteau surprised many when he notched 53 points on a mediocre Islander lineup. But while the former ninth-round pick is projected to skate with John Tavares on the first line, the fight on the right side will be intense. With the return of Kyle Okposo for a full season and phenom Nino Niederreiter ready for the big show, Parenteau won't be able to caddy Tavares all the time (unless your name is Matt Moulson). And the Island's other revelation, Michael Grabner, is set to at least maintain his stellar rookie numbers so there's not a lot of room for Parenteau to grow.

Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles: Those loud footsteps Quick may be hearing belong to Jonathan Bernier, who has been waiting for his No. 1 moment since being drafted by the Kings in 2006. Both coaching staff and management have continued to stick by Quick, thanks in large part to his stats (74 wins, 10 shutouts the last two years) and durability (132 starts, no injuries over the same time period). Bernier started to eat into the workload last season (25 appearances, three shutouts) and could take an even bigger bite should he string together a series of solid performances.

James Wisniewski, D, Columbus: An above-average power-play quarterback, but well under the mark when it comes to um, well, body positioning. He's already suspended for the first eight regular season contests thanks to a late hit during preseason action. The move to Columbus should perfectly suit Wisniewski, but don't be surprised if others like Fedor Tyutin and Grant Clitsome (and yes, Kris Russell, too) start to snipe his man-advantage minutes as the season progresses.

Honorable Mention: Craig Anderson, G, Ottawa; Brett Clark, D, Tampa Bay; Tim Connolly, F, Toronto; Roman Hamrlik, D, Washington; Tomas Holmstrom, F, Detroit; Ville Leino, F, Buffalo

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Player News
Alex Pietrangelo
Blues' Pietrangelo Picks Up Assist In Game 6 Loss
Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL
6:27 AM
News: Alex Pietrangelo had an assist in Sunday's series-ending loss to the Wild. He took five shots and had two blocked shots.
Analysis: Alex Pietrangelo was solid throughout the series despite the Blues loss, registering an increasing amount of ice time as the games wore on, culminating in him seeing 31:12 seconds in the final game. The Blues may be in a shake up in the off-season after another early playoff exit, but it's tough to see Pietrangelo going anywhere. The 24-year-old is an all around rock for the Blues on the bullion.

Kevin Shattenkirk
Blues' Shattenkirk Picks Up Assist In Game 6 Loss
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, STL
6:23 AM
News: Kevin Shattenkirk picked up his eighth assist of the playoffs in Sunday's series-ending loss to the Wild. He was minus-2 with two shots and a hit in the contest.
Analysis: Kevin Shattenkirk will exit the playoffs tied for the playoff lead in scoring. While the Blues could be in for a shake up after yet another early playoff exit, Shattenkirk seems unlikely to be headed anywhere after posting a break out season with 44 points and a plus-19 rating in 53 games. Only a mid-season abdominal injury kept him from being among the top handful of scoring leaders among defensemen.

T.J. Oshie
Blues' Oshie Scores In Series-Ending Loss
T.J. Oshie, RW, STL
6:12 AM
News: T.J. Oshie scored the Blues' lone goal Sunday's series-ending Game 6 loss to the Wild. He was minus-1 with three shots, a hit and a blocked shot in the contest.
Analysis: A case of "too little, too late" as T.J. Oshie scored for the first time in the series in Game 6. He finished with just two points in six games despite firing 16 shots on net. Oshie's name came up in trade rumors during the season and with the Blues getting knocked out of the playoffs early once again, there may be some shaking up of the roster. While it seems unlikely he would be moved, the 28-year-old is certainly a marketable piece with his combination of offensive ability and defensive responsibility.

Jori Lehtera
Blues' Lehtera Poised To Return
Jori Lehtera, C, STL
12:02 AM
News: Jori Lehtera (lower body) was on the ice for warmups in advance of Sunday's Game 6 against the Wild, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Based on warmups, look for Jori Lehtera to work Sunday on a trio with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Lehtera -- who was was held out of Friday's Game 5 -- checks back into the Blues' lineup with two helpers in four playoff games to date.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Pots Goal In Win
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
4/26/2015
News: Max Pacioretty potted his second goal of the playoffs in Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 win over the Senators.
Analysis: The goal was an empty-netter and came with less than a second remaining, but it counts the same nonetheless. Max Pacioretty also finished with a plus-2 rating on the night, making up for the minus-2 he sported through the first five games of the series. The winger finished the series with just the empty-net goal and a power-play tally in Game 1, but figures to be the team's top offensive producers going forward.

Brendan Gallagher
Habs' Gallagher Scores In Win
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MON
4/26/2015
News: Brendan Gallagher scored the game-winning goal in Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 win over the Senators.
Analysis: Brendan Gallagher went on a four-game goal streak toward the end of March, but entered Sunday's contest with just one goal in his the 12 games since then. The winger logged a pair of points in the series win, but figures to be a fairly reliable source of offense going forward as the Habs await their second round opponent.

Carey Price
Habs' Price Perfect In Game 6 Win
Carey Price, G, MON
4/26/2015
News: Carey Price stopped all 43 shots he faced in Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 win over the Senators.
Analysis: Carey Price was sensational Sunday as he withstood a late Senators attack to help clinch the series and send the Habs into the second round. Aside from Game 5's five-goal outing, Price has continued his regular season excellence into the postseason as he's posted a 1.94 GAA and .939 save percentage through six games. He's as reliable as they come and figures to remain as one of the top, if not the very best, options for the duration of the playoffs.

Nick Leddy
Isles' Leddy An Assist Machine
Nick Leddy, D, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Nick Leddy was credited with two assists and five shot attempts in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: The blueliner has been an offensive force in the series for the Islanders, as Saturday marked his fourth straight game with an assist. Coach Jack Capuano rewarded Nick Leddy with 28:59 of ice time Saturday, his highest total of the season.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Allows Just One In Loss
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
4/26/2015
News: Craig Anderson stopped 18 of 19 shots Sunday but was on the wrong end of the series-ending Game 6 loss.
Analysis: Craig Anderson did all he could to keep the Sens' season alive after receiving the starting nod since Game 3 as he allowed just four total goals in those four games, but the offense in front of him couldn't provide any support Sunday. The 33-year-old finished the season at 14-13-8 with a 2.49 GAA and .923, but it remains to be seen how the club will approach their goaltending next season between Anderson and the soon-to-be restricted free agent Andrew Hammond.

Ryan Strome
Isles' Strome Assists In Win
Ryan Strome, C, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Ryan Strome gathered an assist in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: After kicking off the postseason with goals in the first two games of the series, Ryan Strome had been held off the score sheet for three contests in a row before breaking through again Saturday. He was skating on the top line Saturday, a role that could prove fruitful again in Game 7 next to a sizzling John Tavares.

 
 
 
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