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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
Kimmo Timonen
Flyers' Timonen Unlikely To Play This Season
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
12:46 AM
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) in leg confirmed Thursday that the chances of him playing this season are "really slim," Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Though he didn't announce his retirement as some expected Thursday, Kimmo Timonen acknowledged that the blood clots in his lungs and right leg will keep him out multiple months, putting his career in jeopardy. Timonen will have to wait until January to see if his medical tests reveal any dissipation from the blood clots, but it sounds entirely possible that we've seen the last of the respected defenseman in the NHL. Even in the deepest of leagues, it's tough to justify stashing him on the bench until he returns to health, since it's certainly far from a given that that will happen by the end of the season.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild And Kuemper Negotiations Stalled
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
12:06 AM
News: Other than a couple of text messages, the Wild and Darcy Kuemper have not had substantial negotiations over a new contract and he may not report to training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding out several months with a broken foot, the Wild would appear to be highly motivated to sign Darcy Kuemper. However, the two sides are having a dispute about his guaranteed status on the NHL roster and Kuemper's agent has said he's exploring playing overseas. The Wild are offering a two-way deal while Kuemper wants a one-way deal. With Kuemper's status in doubt, the Wild have reached out to Ilya Bryzgalov about coming to training camp. It's still possible Kuemper could sign at the last second, but his status for the NHL season remains uncertain.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Suspended For Off-Ice Injury
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/18/2014
News: Josh Harding (broken foot) has been suspended by the Wild since he suffered a broken right foot while kicking a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: He won't be paid a prorated portion of his $2.1 million salary and he won't count against the Wild's salary cap while suspended. Josh Harding is expected to miss at least two to three months with the broken foot and it's assumed his suspension will end when healthy.

Derek Roy
Preds' Roy Enjoying New Linemates In Camp
Derek Roy, C, NSH
9/18/2014
News: Derek Roy has been skating with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson so far in training camp, the Tennessean reports. "They're both good players with the puck and real smart," Roy said of his new linemates. "Smitty's an offensive dynamic with a great shot. Colin is a great passer and has great vision around the ice. I'm looking forward to playing with those guys and seeing where it goes."
Analysis: With Mike Fisher out until at least late November with a ruptured Achilles, new coach Peter Laviolette has to decide who will be centering his top two scoring lines. At this stage, Derek Roy appears to be right in the mix, while Mike Ribeiro and Olli Jokinen - the Preds' two other free agent acquisitions earlier this summer - will also get a look. A second line of Wilson-Roy-Smith seems like a pretty decent second line possiblity, assuming the trio shows some chemistry together. However, it's still just the first week of camp, and there's sure to be a lot more line juggling to come, so don't assume anything is written in stone just yet.

David Perron
Perron To Open Camp On The Right Side For Edmonton
David Perron, LW, EDM
9/18/2014
News: David Perron will open up training camp playing right wing, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: David Perron is slated to play on a line with Benoit Pouliot and rookie Leon Draisaitl. This line could be broken up however if Draisaitl doesn't make the team out of camp. The Oilers don't have another playmaking center on the roster so Perron's offensive numbers could take a dip this season.

Nail Yakupov
Oilers' Yakupov To Start On Third Line
Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM
9/18/2014
News: Nail Yakupov will open up training camp on the third line, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: Nail Yakupov played mainly on the right wing last season but will be moved to the left side this season playing on a line with Mark Arcobello and Teddy Purcell. This is obviously not good for fantasy owners but this is also not written in stone. A productive camp could see Yakupov bumped back up to the second line.

Johnny Oduya
Blackhawks' Oduya (Foot) Cleared For Training Camp
Johnny Oduya, D, CHI
9/18/2014
News: Johnny Oduya (broken foot) has been cleared for full activity during training camp, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: Johnny Oduya suffered the broken foot in the Blackhawks' Game 7 loss to the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, after it was struck by a shot from the opposition. A summer of rest allowed the foot to heal without too many complications, and he should be on track to reprise his role on the second pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson when the new season begins.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets Receive New Offer From Johansen's Agent
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9/18/2014
News: Ryan Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, has sent a new two-year contract proposal in to the Blue Jackets, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The two sides were reportedly about $3.5 million per year apart when Ryan Johansen left camp, so while this latest offer likely didn't close the gap much it's encouraging to see that there's at least some movement.

Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Cleared To Work Out
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
9/18/2014
News: Stars GM Jim Nill said that Rich Peverley has been cleared to work out, but not to go on the ice, according to Mark Stepneski of NHL.com.
Analysis: Earlier this summer Rich Peverley was told he should be able to play this season, which had previously been in question after he suffered a cardiac incident during a March 10 game against the Blue Jackets. There is not yet a timetable for his return.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets Confirm Byfuglien To Open Season As Forward
Dustin Byfuglien, RW, WPG
9/18/2014
News: Jets coach Paul Maurice reiterated Thursday that Dustin Byfuglien would "start and finish" training camp as a forward, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: This was to be expected after Dustin Byfuglien played exclusively at forward when Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach in January, and it should only help Big Buff's fantasy value in leagues where he retains eligibility as a defenseman. Byfuglien racked up 10 goals and 12 assists over 32 games on the wing last season, scoring at a rate actually lower than what he provided at the blue line. However, with a full offseason to prepare for a role at forward, Byfuglien stands a good chance at boosting his per-game point totals, but perhaps only if he's able to land a spot on the first or second line.

 
 
 
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