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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
Brad Richards
Blackhawks' Richards Sets Up Kane In Game 4 Win
Brad Richards, C, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brad Richards assisted on Patrick Kane's game-tying power-play goal in Saturday's double-overtime victory over the Ducks in Game 4.
Analysis: Brad Richards has recorded a point in each game of the series thus far, giving the Blackhawks the offensive presence at the second-line center spot that was sorely missing during the past postseason. The 35-year-old submitted a mediocre regular season, but if he can remain productive for just a few more games, he'll be well worth the investment the Blackhawks made.

Brent Seabrook
Blackhawks' Seabrook Nets Game 4 Goal
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brent Seabrook tallied a goal in Saturday's Game 4 triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: It was an effective all-around game for Brent Seabrook, who finished with four shot attempts, four hits, and six blocks across 32:03 of ice time. With coach Joel Quenneville showing little trust in fifth and sixth defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey, Seabrook should be poised to log big minutes for the remainder of the postseason.

Matt Carle
Lightning's Carle Good To Go
Matt Carle, D, TB
4:55 PM
News: Matt Carle (undisclosed) will play in Sunday's Game 5 against the Rangers, ESPN's Mike Mazzeo reports.
Analysis: As expected, Matt Carle will rejoin the lineup after missing Friday's Game 4. He figures to work on the third defensive pairing alongside Andrej Sustr.

Ben Bishop
Lightning's Bishop Starting Game 5
Ben Bishop, G, TB
4:48 PM
News: Ben Bishop led the Lightning onto the ice for warmups before Sunday's Game 5 against the Rangers, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reports.
Analysis: Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it would be "asinine" to bench Ben Bishop, who has allowed 10 goals over the last two games. Another weak outing could perhaps change Cooper's mind, but it would still be surprising if the Lightning turned away from the goaltender who carried them all season.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist Starting Game 5
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
4:46 PM
News: Henrik Lundqvist led the Rangers onto the ice for warmups before Sunday's Game 5 against the Lightning, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reports.
Analysis: As expected, it will be Henrik Lundqvist vs. Ben Bishop for Game 5 at MSG as both teams look to grab a 3-2 advantage in the series. Lundqvist was named first star of Game 4, after stopping 38-of-39 shots in a 5-1 victory.

Patrick Sharp
Blackhawks' Sharp Captures Assist In Game 4
Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI
1:12 PM
News: Patrick Sharp picked up an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: Patrick Sharp was given credit for setting up Antoine Vermette's game-winning goal, though the latter did most of the work in making the play happen. It still counts as the first point of the series for Sharp, who has nonetheless been one of the Blackhawks' best contributors this postseason. He's compiled four goals, six assists, and 45 shot attempts over the team's 14 playoff games.

Jonathan Toews
Chicago's Toews Gets Goal, Assist In Game 4
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
1:09 PM
News: Jonathan Toews recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: The physical Ryan Kesler has been a nuisance for Jonathan Toews all series, but the Blackhawks center finally got the better of his adversary in Game 4. He notched his first goal of the series at the 2:38 mark of the third period, then captured a secondary assist on Brent Seabrook's marker exactly five minutes later. He's now averaging a point per game in the playoffs, tallying five goals and nine assists across 14 contests.

Antoine Vermette
Chicago's Vermette Ties Series At 2-2
Antoine Vermette, C, CHI
1:05 PM
News: Antoine Vermette supplied the game-winning goal in double overtime of Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: After serving as a healthy scratch in Game 3, Antoine Vermette rewarded coach Joel Quenneville's decision to slot him back into the lineup by rebounding his own shot attempt and putting the puck past the Ducks' Frederik Andersen in the game's 85th minute. The center also won 14 of 20 faceoffs in the contest, which should be enough to guarantee his place in the lineup for the remainder of the series.

Patrick Kane
Blackhawks' Kane Comes Up Big In Game 4
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1:02 PM
News: Patrick Kane registered the game-tying goal in third period of Saturday's eventual 5-4 double-overtime triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: Minutes after the Ducks raced back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead, Patrick Kane sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy when he finished off a power-play feed from linemate Brad Richards with 7:21 left to play. The 26-year-old has been spectacular in the Blackhawks' 15 playoff contests, recording nine goals and six assists.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello (Upper Body) Still Day-To-Day
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
9:13 AM
News: Zucarrello (upper body) will not skate Sunday and remains day-to-day, but coach Alain Vigneault indicated he's "getting better," Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Mats Zuccarello continues to work his way back from an upper-body injury that occurred against the Penguins in the first round. While he won't play Sunday, the fact that he's day-to-day doesn't rule out a return at some point in the series.

 
 
 
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