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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
Matt Duchene
Avs' Duchene To Start Skating Monday
Matt Duchene, C, COL
4/21/2014
News: Matt Duchene (knee) will join the Avalanche for the two-game road swing in Minnesota, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Matt Duchene will resume skating Monday, but it's still looking unlikely that he'll be available for Round 1. However, with the Avalanche already owning a commanding 2-0 lead, the series could end up going as few as four games, affording ample time for Duchene to rest up before Round 2 commences.

Mark Fistric
Ducks Recall Fistric From Assignment
Mark Fistric, D, ANA
1:15 PM
News: Mark Fistric (lower body) was recalled from his long-term conditioning assignment with AHL Norfolk.
Analysis: Mark Fistric has joined the Ducks in Dallas and will be available for Game 3, if coach Bruce Boudreau chooses to use him. Fistric has compiled five points, 145 hits and 46 blocked shots in 36 games with the Ducks this season.

Emerson Etem
Ducks Recall Etem
Emerson Etem, RW, ANA
1:12 PM
News: Emerson Etem was recalled from AHL Norfolk on Sunday.
Analysis: He'll give the Ducks some added depth at forward while Matt Beleskey remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. Emerson Etem had 11 points in 29 games with the Ducks during the regular season and was averaging over a point-per-contest with Norfolk.

John Gibson
Ducks Send Gibson Back To Minors
John Gibson, G, ANA
1:09 PM
News: John Gibson was reassigned to AHL Norfolk on Sunday.
Analysis: The Ducks have made rookie Frederik Andersen their top goalie for the postseason, with the experienced Jonas Hiller on hand as his backup. It would be risky for coach Bruce Boudreau to go with two rookie goalies in the postseason, so John Gibson will remain in Norfolk for further seasoning.

Chris Kelly
Bruins' Kelly Still Out
Chris Kelly, C, BOS
11:54 AM
News: Chris Kelly (back) will not play Sunday against the Red Wings, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: With Daniel Paille also unavailable Sunday, Justin Florek and Jordan Caron are slated to remain in the Bruins' forward mix Sunday against Detroit.

Daniel Paille
Bruins' Paille Remains Out
Daniel Paille, LW, BOS
11:52 AM
News: Daniel Paille (undisclosed injury) will not play Sunday against the Red Wings, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Neither will fellow forward Chris Kelly, which paves the way for Justin Florek and Jordan Caron to remain in the Bruins' mix up front for Sunday's Game 2 against Detroit.

Brent Seabrook
Blackhawks' Seabrook Suspended Three Games
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI
11:36 AM
News: Brent Seabrook was handed a three-game suspension Sunday for his illegal hit on the Blues' David Backes during Saturday's Game 2, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: Brent Seabrook was immediately ejected following the hit, and with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock sounding pessimistic about Backes' chances of being available for Game 3, the league office moved quickly to keep Seabrook off the ice as well. It's a big loss for the Blackhawks, as Seabrook had provided two points in each of the first two games of the series. They'll now be without his services until Game 6 while they try to overcome a 2-0 series deficit.

Matt Bartkowski
Bruins' Bartkowski Out For Game 2
Matt Bartkowski, D, BOS
11:02 AM
News: Matt Bartkowski (illness) will not be in the lineup for Sunday's Game 2 against the Red Wings, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports.
Analysis: Matt Bartkowski will now miss the first two games of the series with the illness, as Kevan Miller draws in on defense in his stead.

Nick Foligno
Blue Jackets' Foligno Skates Saturday
Nick Foligno, LW, CLB
10:19 AM
News: Nick Foligno (knee) was able to skate on his own after Saturday's morning session, Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Coach Todd Richards said afterwards that he hopes to have Nick Foligno available for Monday's Game 3. He's missed the Blue Jackets' last seven games with the injury.

Brenden Dillon
Stars' Dillon Officially Out Monday
Brenden Dillon, D, DAL
10:14 AM
News: Brenden Dillon (lower body) will not rejoin the Stars' lineup for Monday's Game 3 against the Ducks, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports.
Analysis: Brenden Dillon was able to skate before Sunday's practice, but it still looks like he's going to need some more time to recover from the lower-body injury. With the Stars already in a 2-0 hole in the series, it's possible we may not see Dillon again this season if the Ducks are able to clinch over the final two games.

 
 
 
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