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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
Philip Samuelsson
Samuelsson Signs With Penguins
Philip Samuelsson, D, PIT
12:17 AM
News: Philip Samuelsson has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Penguins.
Analysis: The 22-year-old blueliner saw action in five games with the big club in 2013-14, but spent the bulk of the season with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he notched 22 points in 64 games. He'll compete for a depth spot on the Pittsburgh back line in training camp this fall.

David Moss
FA Moss Signs With Swiss Team
David Moss, RW, PHO
7/10/2014
News: David Moss signed a two-year contract to play in Switzerland, but he has a one-week out clause to reach an agreement with an NHL team, FOX Sports Midwest's Andy Strickland reports.
Analysis: David Moss will have a week to shop his services around the NHL, and will head to Switzerland if he can't find a deal to his liking. The 32-year-old winger scored 22 points (eight goals) in 79 games with the Coyotes last season.

Brett Connolly
Connolly Signs With Lightning
Brett Connolly, RW, TB
7/10/2014
News: Brett Connolly has signed a one-year, two-way contract, with the Lightning, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Brett Connolly, who spent most of last season with AHL Syracuse, recording 21 goals and 57 points in 66 games, will continue to provide the Lightning with depth up front. The 22-year-old scored a goal in 11 games with the big club last season and has 17 points in 84 career NHL contests overall.

Trevor Smith
Smith Re-Signs With Leafs
Trevor Smith, C, TOR
7/10/2014
News: Trevor Smith has signed a one-year contract with the Leafs, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Trevor Smith, who recorded nine points in 28 games for the Maple Leafs in 2013-14, will reprise his role as a depth center for the team this coming season.

Matt Tennyson
Sharks Re-Sign Tennyson To Two-Year Deal
Matt Tennyson, D, SJ
7/10/2014
News: The Sharks signed Matt Tennyson to a two-year, two-way contract extension on Thursday.
Analysis: Matt Tennyson made his NHL debut last season, appearing in four games with the Sharks. He spent the rest of the year playing with AHL Worcester where he had seven goals, 14 assists, and 33 penalty minutes through 54 games. Tennyson has a strong shot at making the team out of camp this year.

Daniel Cleary
Cleary Re-Signs With Detroit
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
7/10/2014
News: Daniel Cleary has signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings.
Analysis: Coming off a season in which he recorded just eight points in 52 games, Daniel Cleary isn't much of a fantasy factor these days, but the 35-year-old will continue to provide the Wings with depth and experience at left wing this coming season.

Micheal Haley
Sharks Sign Haley To One-Year Deal
Micheal Haley, RW, SJ
7/10/2014
News: The Sharks signed Micheal Haley to a one-year contract on Thursday.
Analysis: Micheal Haley had seven goals, 11 assists, and 131 penalty minutes through 53 games with Hartford of the AHL last season. In his career he's played 52 NHL games spread over four seasons. In that span he has two goals, an assist, and 163 penalty minutes.

Scott Hannan
Sharks Re-Sign Hannan
Scott Hannan, D, SJ
7/10/2014
News: The Sharks signed Scott Hannan to a one-year, $1 million contract extension on Thursday.
Analysis: Scott Hannan played 56 games for the Sharks last season, totaling three goals, nine assists, 55 penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating. He figures to slot into a 6/7 role on the San Jose blueline.

Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg To Get Look In Training Camp
Alexander Wennberg, C, CLB
7/10/2014
News: Alexander Wennberg will get a chance to earn an NHL roster spot in training camp, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The new regime under GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn't afraid to give young players opportunities, as Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray proved, and Alexander Wennberg seems ready for North America after an impressive showing at the world juniors and a 16-goal campaign in the Swedish Hockey League. He's most likely ticketed for the AHL, but if last year's 14th overall pick wows in camp, don't be surprised if he starts the year in Columbus.

Vladimir Sobotka
Blues' Sobotka Leaves NHL For KHL
Vladimir Sobotka, C, STL
7/10/2014
News: Vladimir Sobotka agreed to a three-year, $12 million contract with the KHL's Avangard Omsk on Thursday, Roman Jedlicka of the TV Nova Sport reports.
Analysis: The Blues' re-signing of Steve Ott to a fairly sizable contract earlier in the day signaled that the team likely wouldn't have room to keep all of its forwards in tow, and it looks like Vladimir Sobotka will be the first domino to fall. Money was likely the motivating factor in Sobotka opting to leave the NHL, while heading to Russia also allows him to be closer to his home country, the Czech Republic. Sobotka, who netted nine goals and 24 assists in 61 games last season, will be allowed to opt out of his contract with Omsk at the end of any of the three years, with the Blues retaining his rights if he decides to head back to the NHL.

 
 
 
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