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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
Rasmus Rissanen
Rissanen Signs With Hurricanes
Rasmus Rissanen, D, CAR
1:36 PM
News: Rasmus Rissanen has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Hurricanes, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The 23-year-old Rasmus Rissanen, who notched 10 points and 91 penalty minutes in 62 games with AHL Charlotte in 2013-14, is in line to reprise his role as an organizational depth blueliner for the Hurricanes.

Andre Benoit
Sabres, Benoit Agree To One-Year Deal
Andre Benoit, D, COL
8:44 AM
News: Andre Benoit signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Sabres on Wednesday, TSN's Aaron Ward reports.
Analysis: Andre Benoit, 30, logged 79 games with the Avalanche last season, accumulating 28 points and 26 PIM. The blue line was a major area of weakness in the Sabres' dismal 2013-14 campaign, and the additions of Benoit, Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros over the summer should only improve the team on that side of the ice during the upcoming season.

Ryan O'Reilly
Avs, O'Reilly Strike Deal
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL
7:13 AM
News: Ryan O'Reilly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Avalanche on Wednesday to avoid arbitration, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
Analysis: The Avs and Ryan O'Reilly had been far apart on a new deal in recent weeks, but with the prospect of an arbitration hearing closing in, both sides were motivated to strike a quick deal. Still, O'Reilly has been angling for a long-term deal with the Avs for quite some time, to no avail, so he could be motivated to join another organization when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.

Chris Kreider
Rangers, Kreider Strike Deal
Chris Kreider, LW, NYR
7:06 AM
News: Chris Kreider was able to avoid an arbitration hearing by agreeing with the Rangers on a two-year, $4.95 million contract Wednesday, The Record's Andrew Gross reports.
Analysis: The 23-year-old reached the deal just before his scheduled 9 a.m. hearing, leaving the Rangers with approximately $6 million remaining under the salary cap. As a rookie last season, Chris Kreider produced 17 goals and 20 assists in 66 games before hand surgery in late March cost him much of the final quarter of the campaign. He ended up providing a big boost to the Rangers in the playoffs as they made their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, totaling five goals and eight assists in 15 contests.

Darren Archibald
Canucks Sign Archibald
Darren Archibald, LW, VAN
12:42 AM
News: Darren Archibald signed a new contract with the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Darren Archibald, who registered just three points in 16 regular season game for the Canucks last season, is far from fantasy relevancy at this point in his career. The 24-year-old spent most time with the American Hockey League's Utica Comets last season and could be developed similarly moving forward.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello Settles Arbitration Case
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
7/22/2014
News: Mats Zuccarello settled Tuesday with the Rangers on a one-year, $3.5 million contract, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.
Analysis: The Rangers and Mats Zuccarello are still trying to reach an agreement on a long-term pact, but after Tuesday's settlement, a new deal cannot be reached until after Jan. 1. The forward is reportedly seeking a contract in the range of three or four years at about $4.5 million a season. He was one of the breakthrough stars of the 2013-14 season, tallying 19 goals and 40 assists over 77 games.

David Booth
Leafs Sign Booth To One-Year Deal
David Booth, LW, VAN
7/22/2014
News: David Booth signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: A 30-goal scorer for the Panthers back in the 2008-09 season, David Booth hasn't managed more than 23 goals in any campaign since, falling below double digits in the category on four occasions. While it's probably safe to assume the 29-year-old won't emerge as a primary offensive contributor for the Leafs, he'll offer some cheap veteran depth as a second- or third-line wing.

Joe Colborne
Flames Sign Colborne For Two Years
Joe Colborne, C, CGY
7/22/2014
News: Joe Colborne signed a two-year contract to remain with the Flames on Tuesday.
Analysis: Joe Colborne enjoyed his first full NHL campaign with Calgary last season, recording 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games. The center, who was acquired from Toronto last September, offers modest fantasy value at the moment, but was once upon a time (that is, 2008) the No. 16 overall pick.

Thomas Vanek
Wild's Vanek Tied To Gambling Investigation
Thomas Vanek, LW, MIN
7/21/2014
News: Thomas Vanek made an appearance at the courthouse in Rochester on Monday in connection to a gambling investigation, News 10 NBC in Rochester reports.
Analysis: It's currently unclear just how Thomas Vanek is involved with the investigation, but he showed up voluntarily at the courthouse and left after a two-hour visit. His agent, Steve Bartlett, released a statement Monday that said Vanek is "not the subject of any investigation or prosecution." Rochester where the Sabres' AHL affiliate is located; Vanek spent eight seasons in a Buffalo jersey.

Jeremy Welsh
Blues Sign Welsh To Two-Way Deal
Jeremy Welsh, C, STL
7/21/2014
News: Jeremy Welsh signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Monday.
Analysis: Jeremy Welsh logged 19 games for the Canucks last season, delivering a lone goal and six penalty minutes. The Blues have superior depth at forward compared to the Canucks, so it wouldn't be surprising if Welsh saw less action at the NHL level in 2014-15.

 
 
 
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