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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
Nail Yakupov
Oiler's Yakupov Back At Full Strength
Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM
4:14 PM
News: Nail Yakupov (foot) is skating and fully healthy, according to the Oilers web site.
Analysis: Nail Yakupov was injured back in February after taking a slap shot off the foot from teammate Justin Schultz. If the season started tomorrow all systems would be a go.

Jake Gardiner
Leafs, Gardiner Ink Five-Year Pact
Jake Gardiner, D, TOR
2:52 PM
News: Jake Gardiner signed a five-year, $20.25 million contract extension with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Chris Johnston of Rogers Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Jake Gardiner, 24, asserted himself as a long-term building block for the Leafs on defense last season with his second 30-point campaign, contributing 10 goals, 21 assists, 108 hits and 87 blocks over 80 games. With Carl Gunnarsson shipped to St. Louis in the offseason, Gardiner appears poised to claim a spot next to Dion Phaneuf on the team's top defensive pairing, though fellow ascendant youngster Morgan Rielly will provide some heat.

Chad LaRose
LaRose Signs AHL Contract With Hurricanes
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
2:48 PM
News: Chad LaRose agreed to a contract with AHL Charlotte on Tuesday, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: The 32-year-old will try to parlay the AHL contract into a comeback with the Hurricanes at the NHL level, after he sat out the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign. Chad LaRose appeared in 35 games for the Hurricanes two seasons ago, logging four points and a minus-8 rating.

Matt Fraser
Bruins' Fraser Should Be Ready For Training Camp
Matt Fraser, LW, BOS
2:00 PM
News: Matt Fraser, who underwent surgery on his right foot a week after the 2013-14 season concluded, is slated to start skating in early August, ESPN Boston reports.
Analysis: The report adds that the winger -- who is coming off a season in which he recorded 20 goals and 30 points in 44 AHL contests with Providence, along with two goals in 14 NHL contests -- expects to be 100 percent for the start of training camp in September. The 24-year-old is in line to make a run at a roster spot with the Bruins, given that the team needs to fill a couple of spots up front after bidding adieu to veterans Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton this offseason.

Peter Mueller
Blues Sign Mueller
Peter Mueller, RW, FLA
11:57 AM
News: Peter Mueller has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports.
Analysis: Peter Mueller spent last season in Switzerland, scoring 24 goals and 46 points for Kloten of the Swiss A-League. Although he carries concussion concerns, Mueller is a skilled winger who will provide the Blues with a solid depth option up front.

Justin Fontaine
Wild's Fontaine Agrees To Contract
Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
9:53 AM
News: Justin Fontaine has agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the Wild, the Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Justin Fontaine played 66 games during his rookie season for the Wild last season, finishing the campaign with 13 goals and 21 points, including a hat trick in January. He'll continue his development with Minnesota and likely see more playing time in the upcoming season.

Eric Staal
Hurricanes' Staal Undergoes Hernia Surgery
Eric Staal, C, CAR
8:51 AM
News: Eric Staal underwent successful hernia surgery and is expected to be ready for training camp in September, USA Today reports.
Analysis: Eric Staal's procedure should allow him ample time to recover by training camp and be fully healthy by the time the regular season begins. The 29-year-old posted 21 goals and 61 points in 79 games last season, production lower than his usual output. Nonetheless, Staal has only missed 17 games during his 10-year career, so durability hasn't traditionally been a concern for him.

Jimmy Hayes
Panthers Retain Hayes On One-Year Deal
Jimmy Hayes, RW, FLA
8:25 AM
News: Jimmy Hayes has agreed to a one-year contract with the Panthers.
Analysis: Jimmy Hayes joined the Panthers after being dealt by the Blackhawks on Nov. 14 of last year. He played 53 games in a Florida jersey, during which he totaled 11 goals and seven assists.

Michael Frolik
Jets Re-Sign Frolik
Michael Frolik, RW, WPG
8:13 AM
News: Michael Frolik has re-signed with the Jets on a one-year contract, The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle reports.
Analysis: Michael Frolik was reportedly in discussions over a long-term deal to remain in Winnipeg, but instead settled on just a one-year contract. The winger finished last season with 15 goals, 27 assists, and 42 points for the Jets.

Jerry D'Amigo
Jackets Sign D'Amigo
Jerry D'Amigo, RW, CLB
7:59 AM
News: Jerry D'Amigo signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Analysis: Jerry D'Amigo was acquired by Columbus earlier this month in a deal that sent forward Matt Frattin to Toronto. The 23-year-old D'Amigo made 22 appearances for the Maple Leafs last season, scoring one goal to go with two assists. He'll compete for a roster spot with the Blue Jackets during training camp.

 
 
 
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