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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
Darren Helm
Wings' Helm Dealing With Oblique Injury
Darren Helm, C, DET
3/3/2015
News: Darren Helm is dealing with an oblique strain, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports.
Analysis: Per the report, GM Ken Holland indicated that Darren Helm's injury is not considered serious, but it looks like the forward will be out a week or so.

Sven Baertschi
Flames Deal Baertschi To Canucks For Pick
Sven Baertschi, LW, CGY
3/3/2015
News: Sven Baertschi was traded to the Canucks on Monday in exchange for a future second-round pick, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Analysis: A former first-round selection by the Flames in 2011, Sven Baertschi made the NHL squad out of training camp in 2013-14 but wasn't able to maintain a spot after tallying 11 points over 26 games. He failed to break camp with the Flames this season and didn't make much of his opportunity when injuries resulted in his promotion to the big club. His pedigree still made him intriguing to many organizations, so the Flames decided to part with him before his value completely bottomed out. Still only 22 years old, Baertschi could unlock his full potential with the move to the Canucks, though he'll likely have to prove himself at AHL Utica first.

Simon Despres
Pens Deal Despres To Ducks
Simon Despres, D, PIT
3/3/2015
News: Simon Despres (head) was traded to the Ducks on Monday in exchange for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins indicated the head injury that Simon Despres suffered in Sunday's win over the Blue Jackets appears to be minor, but that didn't prevent the team from seeking a veteran blueliner on deadline day. While Lovejoy possesses more NHL experience and might offer more present-day value than Despres, it appears the Ducks have added yet another intriguing young blueliner to a corps that also includes three under-25 talents in Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. At 6-foot-4 with a willingness to hit and the ability to score, Despres could become a mainstay on the defense for the Ducks over the next several seasons.

Chris Stewart
Stewart Moves To Playoff Contender With Wild
Chris Stewart, RW, BUF
3/3/2015
News: Chris Stewart has been traded to the Wild in exchange for what is expected to be a 2017 second-rounder, WGR550.com reports.
Analysis: Even though this deal was snuck in just ahead of the deadline, Chris Stewart was as good of a bet as any player in hockey to get dealt Monday. He'll head to a playoff contender, which should immediately boost his plus-minus prospects. And Minnesota might start to be considered Buffalo West, with four former Sabres on the roster once Stewart gets settled. Stewart has a disappointing 25 points in 61 games this season, but he's been playing better lately with the potential to do more with better talent around him. Keep an eye on his line assignment, though it's worth noting that inconsistency has always been a part of his game.

Ben Lovejoy
Ducks Deal Lovejoy To Penguins
Ben Lovejoy, D, ANA
3/3/2015
News: Ben Lovejoy was traded to the Penguins on Monday in exchange for Simon Despres, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins will surrender the younger, higher-upside Despres for the more battle-tested Ben Lovejoy, a veteran of six NHL season. He started his career in Pittsburgh in 2008-09 before spending the past three seasons with the Ducks, where he's served primarily in a top-four role. He'll likely occupy a spot on the Pens' second or third defensive pair the rest of the way, where he should be a solid source of hits and blocked shots.

Cam Atkinson
Jackets Keep Atkinson Around For Three More Years
Cam Atkinson, RW, CLB
3/3/2015
News: Cam Atkinson signed a three-year, $10.5 million extension with the Blue Jackets on Monday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Cam Atkinson was a central name in trade rumors as Monday's deadline approached, but the Blue Jackets elected to keep the winger in the fold after no team stepped up with an overwhelming offer. The 25-year-old has been a rather inconsistent producer during his tenure with the organization, though he has shown the ability to get hot during certain stretches of action. Atkinson is currently hanging on to a top-six role alongside Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get on another scoring run at some point before the season comes to a close.

Torrey Mitchell
Mitchell Traded To Habs
Torrey Mitchell, C, BUF
3/3/2015
News: The Sabres traded Torrey Mitchell to Montreal on Monday in exchange for a prospect and a draft pick, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: Torrey Mitchell, who has notched 13 points in 51 games for the Sabres to date, will boost the Habs' depth up front, but he's not likely to make a significant fantasy impact with his new club. The 30-year-old pivot is eligible to eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Scores Game Winner Sunday
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
12:29 PM
News: Clayton Stoner scored the game winner in the third period of Sunday night's clash in Dallas.
Analysis: Not normally known for his goal-scoring prowess, the defenseman was able to score his first goal in nearly a full calendar year. Seeing as how his career total is now at five goals and 33 assists, don't expect the 30-year old to suddenly become fantasy viable.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Hits Scoresheet Twice In Win Sunday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
12:22 PM
News: Corey Perry tallied a goal and an assist in Sunday's win over the Stars.
Analysis: The points give Corey Perry 45 points on the season. Despite missing 15 of his team's 64 games this season, Perry is only second to linemate Ryan Getzlaf in team scoring.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ducks' Getzlaf Records Milestone Marker
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
12:16 PM
News: Ryan Getzlaf tied Paul Kariya for second on the Ducks' all-time scoring list with a goal and an assist Sunday in Dallas.
Analysis: This gives Ryan Getzlaf 669 points in 693 career games for the Ducks. He now has 61 points in 61 games this season, good enough for eighth place in NHL scoring.

 
 
 
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