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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
Jimmy Howard
Wings' Howard To Play Wednesday
Jimmy Howard, G, DET
3/4/2015
News: Jimmy Howard will be in the net for Wednesday's game against the Rangers, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Jimmy Howard has alternated starts with backup Jonas Gustavsson over the last four games, but he should still be viewed as the Red Wings' unquestioned No. 1 goalie. He's graded out as an above-average netminder this season with a 2.23 GAA and .917 save percentage, but he could struggle to uphold those numbers against a potent Rangers attack that ranks second in the league in scoring.

Alec Martinez
Kings' Martinez Hopes To Resume Skating This Week
Alec Martinez, D, LA
3/4/2015
News: The Kings are hopeful that Alec Martinez (concussion) will be able to resume skating at some point later this week, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Alec Martinez, who will miss his 11th straight game Tuesday against the Oilers, is evidently showing some signs of progress in his recovery from concussion-like symptoms, but until he gets back on the ice, a return from IR shouldn't be viewed as imminent. The 27-year-old's absence prompted the Kings to address the blue line at the trade deadline, with the team reeling in Andrej Sekera from the Hurricanes last week.

Gregory Campbell
Bruins' Campbell Iffy For Thursday
Gregory Campbell, C, BOS
3/4/2015
News: Gregory Campbell (upper body) did not absorb contact at Tuesday's practice.
Analysis: Gregory Campbell remains iffy for Thursday's game against the Flames, though with the Bruins having added forwards Brett Connolly and Maxime Talbot at the NHL trade deadline, the team can probably afford to not rush Campbell back.

Tyler Kennedy
Isles' Kennedy Will Start On Second Line
Tyler Kennedy, C, NYI
3/4/2015
News: Tyler Kennedy will begin his Islander career on the second line, according to the Islanders web site.
Analysis: Tyler Kennedy won't remain on the second line for long. With the Islanders suffering some injuries they need Ryan Strome to center the third line so for now Kennedy will play on a line with Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen but this will be changed as players like Kyle Okposo, Casey Cizikas and Mikhail Grabovski come off of IR.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers To Start Scrivens On Tuesday
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
3/4/2015
News: Ben Scrivens will be in the crease for Tuesday's game against the Kings, Jason Gregor of OilersNation.com reports.
Analysis: Ben Scrivens will be sure to rise to the occasion for a game against his former team, but it's doubtful that his team will do much to help him out. An already porous Oilers squad became a little more suspect Monday by trading away Jeff Petry, leaving the team quite depleted in front of Scrivens. Of course, his offense hasn't been doing much of late either for Scrivens, who has given up two or fewer goals in three consecutive games but only has one win to show for it.

Kevin Bieksa
Canucks' Bieksa Remains Sidelined
Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN
3/4/2015
News: Coach Willie Desjardins indicated Tuesday that Kevin Bieksa (hand) is at least a week away from a return to action, Jon Abbott of tsnradiovancouver.ca reports.
Analysis: Such a timetable effective rules Kevin Bieksa out for at least the Canucks' next four games and a return to action March 12 against the Kings is hardly a lock for the blueliner, who last suited up Jan. 20.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Isles' Visnovsky Back In The Lineup
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI
3/4/2015
News: Lubomir Visnovsky will draw back into the lineup Tuesday for the Islanders, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: Coach Jack Capuano has been playing musical chairs between Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait and Tuesday Strait was left without a chair when the music stops.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Confirmed For Tuesday
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
3/4/2015
News: Frederik Andersen has been confirmed as the starter in goal for Tuesday's game against the Coyotes, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: It will mark Frederik Andersen's first game since suffering a neck injury in his Feb. 8 start against the Lightning. John Gibson filled in admirably in Andersen's stead and has been especially sound in his last handful of outings, which may result in the Ducks employing a timeshare in goal over their next several games. That was precisely the situation that both goalies found themselves to start the season, only for Andersen to quickly emerge as the No. 1 option after Gibson floundered in the opener and later was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.

Jared Spurgeon
Wild's Spurgeon Gets In Skate Tuesday
Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN
3/4/2015
News: Jared Spurgeon (head) participated in Tuesday's morning skate, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Jared Spurgeon didn't appear to be facing any limitations during the session and is considered a possibility to play Thursday against the Capitals. However, with the Wild not holding practice Wednesday and thus not being able to make another assessment of Spurgeon's condition, the blueliner might have to wait until the weekend to get back in the lineup.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke Resumes Skating
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
3/4/2015
News: Matt Cooke (sports hernia) has been able to skate for the last week, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Despite his involvement on the ice, Matt Cooke isn't expected to resume practicing in the near future. It looks like a mid-March return is a best-case scenario for the winger, but it seems more likely that his timetable will extend beyond that.

 
 
 
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