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Neutral Zone Wrap: Rookie on the rise

by | Rotowire.com
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It's early, so the numbers may look somewhat skewed. Not only for individual results to date, but also for group accomplishments. Can you name the four teams who haven't lost in regulation? The fact all of them come out of the Western Conference may not shock you. San Jose and St. Louis undefeated? Hardly surprising. Colorado? OK, mildly interesting. But Calgary posting a 3-0-2 record?!? Fine, now you've got our complete attention.

Back East, the theme has been one of slow starts - concentrated mainly in the posh Metropolitan Division. Congrats to those who picked Philly to kick off the coach cleansing, albeit a move that was expected in the preseason. Washington's attacking futility does not compare to their defensive ineptitude. But the biggest nuclear meltdown has to be the Rangers, who recently endured a horrific West Coast trip that saw their opponents embarrass them all the way up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Let's return to the standard fare of this column and focus on five of the aforementioned clubs who should catch your fantasy eye:

The Flames are scorching ... for now. So try not to go overboard and snap up every possible Calgary waiver option. Especially rookie Sean Monahan, who has excelled in the offensive end (six points) but may be shipped back to juniors before he hits the 10-game mark (i.e. the point where he would burn a year of his entry-level contract). And neither goalie - Joey MacDonald nor Karri Ramo (combined 3.11 GAA, .897 save percentage) - elicits any form of excitement. Don't sell the farm for Jiri Hudler (team-leading seven points), but consider he may be the top option with Michael Cammalleri (broken hand) missing indefinitely. No worries about Dennis Wideman, as his numbers (three points despite sitting second in the league at 27:46 a game, including 4:24 on the power-play) will eventually catch up and surpass those belonging to Mark Giordano (six).

Colorado's blue-chip talent looks to be maturing at the perfect time. Is it any surprise that first pick Nathan MacKinnon (six) leads the Avs in scoring? Or that Steve Downie (goal, three assists) can do more than drop the gloves or earn suspensions (17 PIM)? Good to see Ryan O'Reilly take charge (four, with two on the PP), but the best story must be Alex Tanguay's triumphant return to the Rockies (five, two PPAs). Not many noticed when Andre Benoit signed in July but he's currently on the radar (three assists, 21:41). Beware of Jamie McGinn (five, but 13 hits and five blocked shots), who has never performed at this level with any significant consistency. And good news for anyone who read last week's NZW, as Erik Johnson (zero) is living up to advanced billing.

With all the hype surrounding other Western outfits, the Blues can boast one of the most skilled lineups from top to bottom. There is almost a perfect mix of veteran leadership to complement the burgeoning youth. For every Vladimir Tarasenko (four) and Jaden Schwartz (three) exist an Alexander Steen (eight, plus-5) and Derek Roy (five, including four PPPs). A little bit of patience for Chris Stewart (two and 17 PIM, but a spot on the first man-advantage unit), who perhaps hasn't hit his stride. Look away from Brenden Morrow (PP goal, assist); he's too far down on the depth chart to serve any important role. Ditto for Jay Bouwmeester (two assists), no matter how many minutes he sees.

Keeping the fans happy in Philadelphia isn't as much a concern as putting some pucks in the net. The Flyers' goaltending, which had been a long-standing concern, is clearly not the problem. With several glowing production resumes, there's no reason they should rank 29th on goals per game (at 1.33). Unless your name is Brayden Schenn (four, two PPPs), improvement should be the main priority. Vincent Lecavalier (lower body injury, out a week) had also been decent (three), but now spends time in the press box. While Claude Giroux (one) is virtually a shoo-in to regain his form, others like Wayne Simmonds (one), Matt Read (none), and Kimmo Timonen (none) will require more of a push to recover. With Scott Hartnell (upper body injury) gone up to a month, Read receives more minutes. And with Lecavalier's absence, Timonen returns to a lead role on the power-play point.

Unless you're late for a dinner reservation, there's no need to hit the panic button on Broadway. With one head coach gone, one could assume Alain Vigneault would become the next sacrifice. Fortunately, several signs of promise exist. Brad Richards (five, including four goals) is once again a valuable fantasy commodity. Ryan Callahan (two PPGs and 20+ minutes Saturday) is back to full capacity. It's unknown how long Rick Nash (concussion) will be sidelined, but that should allow guys like Benoit Pouliot (zip) and J.T. Miller (3:21 PP time in his first appearance) to climb the ranks and contribute immediately.

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Player News
Viktor Stalberg
Preds' Stalberg (Lower Body) Resumes Skating
Viktor Stalberg, LW, NSH
8:19 AM
News: Viktor Stalberg (lower body), is skating outside of team practices, according to the Tennessean.
Analysis: Viktor Stalberg's original prognosis was two-to-four weeks, which puts him back in the lineup hopefully no later than mid-October. Even when he does return, he is likely looking at a checking-line role which gives him minimal fantasy value outside of deeper formats.

Colin Wilson
Preds' Wilson (Undisclosed) Practices Wednesday
Colin Wilson, C, NSH
8:15 AM
News: Colin Wilson (undisclosed), who wore a no-contact jersey for Tuesday's practice, was a full participant Wednesday, according to the Tennessean.
Analysis: Colin Wilson centered a line with Erik Nystrom and Rich Clune during practice, which would represent either the Preds' third or fourth line most nights. While the injury concerns surrounding Wilson appear to have faded, we need to see him back on a scoring line to view him as fantasy-worthy in most formats. Earlier in camp, he was skating with Derek Roy and Craig Smith, so hopefully he gets reunited with these two higher-caliber linemates at some point.

Max Domi
Coyotes' Domi Having Strong Camp
Max Domi, C, ARI
7:28 AM
News: Max Domi, the Coyotes' top prospect, has registered four assists in three pre-season games as he makes a case to stick with the club.
Analysis: Max Domi, coming off a stellar campaign with London of the OHL, is seeing regular shifts and plenty of power play time (more than 4:00 minutes per game) in the pre-season. If coach Dave Tippett uses him that way in the regular season, Domi's skill level should net fantasy owners a nice return.

Fedor Tyutin
Jackets' Tyutin Notches Two Assists Wednesday
Fedor Tyutin, D, CLB
7:14 AM
News: Fedor Tyutin picked up two assists in Wednesday's 6-3 preseason win over the Hurricanes.
Analysis: Although he's very steady on the Columbus blue line, Fedor Tyutin's fantasy upside is limited as long as Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski remain on the top power play unit.

Mikkel Boedker
Coyotes' Boedker Scores First Of Pre-Season
Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI
7:13 AM
News: Mikkel Boedker netted his first goal of the pre-season Wednesday in a loss to Edmonton. It has his only shot in more than 16 minutes of ice time.
Analysis: Mikkel Boedker will look to build on a breakout season that saw him top 50 points for the first time. He will man the wing on one of the top two lines for the Coyotes and see plenty of ice time on the power play.

Matt Calvert
Jackets' Calvert Has Three-Point Night
Matt Calvert, LW, CLB
7:12 AM
News: Matt Calvert scored two goals and added an assist in Wednesday's 6-3 preseason win over the Hurricanes.
Analysis: He's seen a lot of work this preseason with top prospect Alexander Wennberg, and with Ryan Johansen (contract dispute), Nathan Horton (back) and Boone Jenner (hand) all currently sidelined Matt Calvert will likely be asked to take on a bigger share of the offensive load when the regular season begins. He could be a bit of a sleeper in deep leagues.

Devan Dubnyk
Coyotes' Dubnyk Loses To Former Team
Devan Dubnyk, G, ARI
7:04 AM
News: Devan Dubnyk took the loss Wednesday against his old team - Edmonton - giving three goals on 30 shots.
Analysis: Devan Dubnyk will back up Mike Smith in Arizona this year as he looks to rehabilitate his career coming off an awful season in 2013-14. He is not in line to see all that many starts barring an injury to Smith.

Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg Adds Two More Assists
Alexander Wennberg, C, CLB
7:03 AM
News: Skating between Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert on Wednesday, Alexander Wennberg picked up two assists in a 6-3 preseason win over the Hurricanes, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: He's making it very hard for the Blue Jackets to send him to AHL Springfield, but with Ryan Johansen (contract dispute), Nathan Horton (back) and Boone Jenner (hand) all currently sidelined the club has plenty of vacancies to fill on its forward lines.

Marko Dano
Jackets' Dano Scores Twice Wednesday
Marko Dano, C, CLB
7:00 AM
News: Skating on a line with Artem Anisimov and Scott Hartnell on Wednesday, Marko Dano scored two goals in a 6-3 preseason win over the Hurricanes, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The young Slovak has had a strong camp overall, and with Ryan Johansen (contract dispute), Nathan Horton (back) and Boone Jenner (hand) all sidelined right now there's a golden opportunity for Marko Dano to break camp on the NHL roster and possibly even win a top-six line placement to kick off the regular season.

Erik Karlsson
Sens Name Karlsson Captain
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT
6:50 AM
News: The Senators named Erik Karlsson as the new team captain Thursday.
Analysis: The news comes as sort of a surprise considering most people thought veteran defenseman Chris Phillips would be the new captain, but Erik Karlsson is certainly a longer term solution. The announcement shows that the team's management is committed to rebuilding, and turning their attention to the future leaders of the organization like Karlsson, Bobby Ryan, and Kyle Turris, rather than trying to hang on to past success. Karlsson is in line for another big year for his first season with the "C," as he'll try to improve on his 2013-14 campaign in which he racked up 20 goals and 54 assists in 82 games.

 
 
 
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