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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who will avoid the jinx?

by | Rotowire.com
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You've been ready for months with stats in hand and hope in heart. But no matter how long you wait or how hard you will the NHL powers to make a deal, the information becomes stale and slowly slips away from conscious memory. We understand how you feel. That's why this column continues amidst the turmoil. To provide the best in Fantasy coverage so everyone stays sharp in anticipation of the first puck drop.

Many phenomena occur in natural existence and you'll find a bunch of them widely used in sports. The sophomore jinx is a concept as old as the earliest post-secondary academic institution. In 2011-12, we saw the likes of Michael Grabner (slipped from 52 down to 32) and Magnus Paajarvi (34 to eight, but part of that was due to injuries) drop off the expectation charts.

The second-year resurrection is almost as common and, frankly, much more interesting to speculate. Think back to last season, when Tyler Seguin (more than tripling from 22 to 67), David Desharnais (22 to 60), and Nick Leddy (seven to 37) turned around disappointing debut campaigns and rewarded those owners who held on to their stock.

While predicting negative trends may look like a worthwhile hobby, you won't see it detailed in this edition. I've never been shy to bash those who could be best described as overrated and/or underperforming. But when it comes down to it, the idea of boosting rookie morale proves to be a more appealing proposition. And with all the bad vibes surrounding the lockout negotiations, wouldn't it be nice to look at something a little more positive?

Here are the top candidates to break through in their second season, whenever this crazy game resumes. No one who was featured in any of the previous installments will be mentioned, although only Roman Horak and Nino Niederreiter (or possibly Jonathon Blum) would qualify amongst last season's so-called busts. Most of these skaters lasted the bulk of the season in the bigs and some recorded significant ice time. The following is based purely on hearsay and hunches. Fine, and a few pieces of real information for show:

Brett Connolly, F, Lightning: The sixth pick of the 2010 draft has already logged 68 NHL games (but only 15 points) and is tearing it up in the AHL (12 points in 14 games). You'd think there would be no room for Connolly among the glut of Tampa forwards, but the 6-foot-2 sniper can work as the perfect complement for either Steven Stamkos or Vincent Lecavalier.

Ryan Johansen, F, Blue Jackets: The perpetually rebuilding Blue Jackets finally said goodbye to Rick Nash and can now safely look to the future. One of their cornerstones up front looks to be Johansen, who is putting together a nice starting resume in Springfield (10 in 14 after 21 in 67 with Columbus). He's another member of the stellar draft class of 2010 (at No. 4 overall) and someone who isn't afraid to outmuscle and outhustle the opposition to make life easier for his teammates.

Adam Larsson, D, Devils: The Swedish phenom was inserted almost immediately into a regular role after arriving from Europe but ended up struggling on the defensive side. His point totals ended up suffering (18 is respectable, although most of them were concentrated in a four-week stretch) as his shifts dwindled and he disappeared during the Devils' Cup run. But thanks to offseason training and his current success (eight in 13 with Albany), Larsson should be more at ease on the smaller rink.

Marco Scandella, D, Wild: Betcha didn't know Scandella ranked second last year in rookie defensemen minutes per game (21:46, only behind Justin Faulk at 22:50). He earned a fair share on the man-advantage last season (six power-play points) as other Wild regulars went down/out. The good news is that Scandella is continuing this role adequately in the AHL (six of his nine assists are power-play points) and should increase his value with the parent club - even with mega-millions winner Ryan Suter in the fold.

Brayden Schenn, F, Flyers: The numbers weren't terrible in 2011-12 (18 in 54) but the playoff figures (nine in 11, which include two power-play goals) point to Schenn improving the second time around. He has showed off his wheels and playmaking skills (nine goals, 11 assists) in the AHL. And if Claude Giroux's ‘neck' injury turns out to be something worse (like, say, a concussion), then expect Schenn to rise to the occasion. Having older brother Luke join him in town won't hurt his chances either.

I don't really want to delve too deep into the lockout because, well, you are probably as frustrated as I am. The outlook appeared promising from the onset but it has steadily deteriorated in the subsequent weeks. Let's just say a deal is difficult to properly work out if one side doesn't know what the other side really wants. I'd characterize this whole situation as ridiculous but that description clearly doesn't do it justice. How many more steps back must it take to finally bridge the gap and reach a resolution?

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Player News
Boyd Gordon
Oilers' Gordon In Line To Serve As No. 3 Center
Boyd Gordon, C, EDM
12:44 AM
News: Boyd Gordon is expected to serve as the Oilers' No. 3 center to begin the season, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: Though filling the hole at the second-line center spot is the more pressing need for the Oilers, it appears that rookie Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello will be given the opportunity to do so before Boyd Gordon does. Gordon is serviceable two-way depth center for the Oilers, but he doesn't offer enough offensive upside to keep up with the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov on the wings. Look for Gordon to finish with another season where he hovers around the 20-point mark.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Talking To Bryzgalov About Tryout
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
12:41 AM
News: Minnesota has approached Ilya Bryzgalov about coming into training camp on a tryout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding suffering an ankle injury this summer and Darcy Kuemper unsigned and threatening to play overseas, the Wild may bring back Ilya Bryzgalov to serve as Niklas Backstrom's backup.

Mike Ribeiro
Ribeiro Likely Candidate For Preds' Top Line
Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH
9/17/2014
News: Mike Ribeiro is a likely candidate to center the Predators' top line this season alongside James Neal, The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Mike Ribeiro and Neal were teammates in Dallas for three seasons (2008-2011) prior to the trade that sent Neal to Pittsburgh, so it makes sense for the Preds to try and re-create whatever chemistry may have existed between the two back then. In fact, Ribeiro's two best seasons came during this period (83 points in 2007-08 and 78 points in 2008-09), however don't expect him to put up similar numbers with his new team. We think a 50-point season is within his reach, with upside to 60+ if all goes well.

Chad LaRose
Canes' LaRose Injured, Likely Bound For AHL
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Chad LaRose is currently injured and not on the Hurricanes' training camp roster, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: Details of the injury have not been provided, however Chad LaRose was not likely to crack the Canes' lineup this year anyway, after sitting out all of last season. If and when he returns to health, expect to see LaRose suit up for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Brock McGinn
Canes' Prospect McGinn Slowed By Injury
Brock McGinn, LW, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Brock McGinn has been invited to the Hurricanes' training camp despite being slowed by a leg injury at the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. GM Ron Francis said McGinn was not at 100 percent during the tournament, and described the injury as a "charley horse".
Analysis: Despite the injury, Brock McGinn was one of several Canes prospects to receive an invitation to training camp, even though most, if not all, will likely wind up back in junior or at AHL Charlotte. McGinn is one of the Canes' more promising prospects, having scored 85 points in 58 games last season with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.

Victor Rask
Canes' Rookie Rask Invited To Training Camp
Victor Rask, C, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Victor Rask has been invited to the Hurricanes' training camp after impressing the coaching staff at the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: The 21-year-old Victor Rask will now compete for a roster spot after finishing the tournament with eight points in four games. "[Rask] played well all four games," GM Ron Francis said. "He has very good hockey sense and was good at both ends of the rink, and on special teams. He was consistent, every shift, every game." Bottom line, despite his strong showing thus far, Rask will face some stiff competition in his attempt to crack the Canes' roster. It will be interesting to see how he fares in camp against seasoned NHL veterans. Monitor closely.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Ruled Out Indefinitely
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/17/2014
News: Josh Harding has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot sustained in an off-ice incident Sept. 14.
Analysis: Josh Harding will fortunately be able to avoid surgery on the foot, but the injury more than likely dashes his chances of playing in the Wild's season opener. More details surrounding the nature of Harding's injury should become available in the coming days, but expect his stock to fall considerably in drafts as the season approaches. Harding already came with plenty of built-in health risk due to his complications with multiple sclerosis that have prematurely ended each of his last two seasons, so the injury only further damages his standing. Look for either Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper or perhaps a currently unsigned goalie to compete for No. 1 duties in training camp.

Max Domi
Domi Could Make Big Contribution
Max Domi, C, ARI
9/17/2014
News: Max Domi, who had a brilliant 93 point campaign for London in the OHL in 2013, is being looked to crack the Coyotes' lineup and add scoring, according to Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Analysis: Max Domi's offensive ability is not in question, but coach Dave Tippett will need to be assured that he can handle his defensive duties in order for Domi to get the kind of ice time he needs to reach his potential.

Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz Remains Unsigned
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
9/17/2014
News: Jaden Schwartz, a restricted free agent, remains unsigned with one day left before camp opens, reports Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
Analysis: Reports suggest that Jaden Schwartz and the Blues remain far apart. The 22 year-old had a break out season with 56 points and a plus-28 rating. It is unlikely that he will miss time in the regular season and hopefully any time he misses in camp does not cause him to get off to a slow start.

Justin Braun
Sharks Sign Braun To Five-Year Extension
Justin Braun, D, SJ
9/17/2014
News: Justin Braun, who set career bests with 17 points, four goals, and 13 assists last season, has inked a five-year, $19 million extension with the Sharks, which will begin in the 2015-16 season.
Analysis: Justin Braun's strengths for fantasy lie in his 20:59 of average ice time last year, but his value in other categories is generally limited. Though he occupies a prominent place on the Sharks' penalty kill, the aforementioned career-highs are nothing that will get you drafting him in early rounds. It's a great signing for the Sharks, but strictly from a real-life perspective.

 
 
 
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