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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
Ryan Strome
Isles' Strome Could Start Season In The AHL
Ryan Strome, C, NYI
9/14/2014
News: Ryan Strome could begin the season in the AHL, according to Newsday.
Analysis: The reason for this has nothing to do with Ryan Strome's play but he could be caught in a numbers game as the Isles are deep at forward but only Strome and Anders Lee can be sent to the AHL without passing through waivers. Now a trade is always a possibility also. The Isles could always move a forward to a team (Boston, Chicago) that is having salary cap problems and may want to deal a defenseman. Strome could also end up on the top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Islanders training camp should be an interesting one.

Brenden Dillon
Dillon Without A Deal In Dallas
Brenden Dillon, D, DAL
9/14/2014
News: Brenden Dillon, a restricted free agent, still has not signed a contract with Dallas and Dallas GM Jim Nill says that little progress has been made recently, according to Mark Stepneski of NHL.com.
Analysis: A late contract signing, even if Brenden Dillon misses some of camp, shouldn't effect Dillon's fantasy value. They're likely to have a deal done by opening night and Dillon figures to be a prominent part of Dallas' very young defense. One hitch for the team, making it better to get a deal done sooner than later, is that Dillon will still have to clear immigration after signing, meaning that he'll be ineligible to play or practice for a few days after signing.

Cody Eakin
Eakin Still Un-signed In Dallas
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
9/14/2014
News: Cody Eakin, a restricted free agent, is still without a contract in Dallas and Dallas GM Jim Nill said Friday that little progress has been made toward a new deal, according to Mark Stepneski of NHL.com.
Analysis: Cody Eakin figures to get a good role on the Stars third line and a deal is likely to get worked out before opening night, but the time frame is worrisome as far as Eakin getting to camp on time. As Nill points out, Eakin can't play for a few days after a deal is signed because he'll still have to sort out immigration after the deal is put in place. Could be an issue for the team, but a late contract signing isn't likely to effect Eakin's fantasy value.

Philippe Desrosiers
Desrosiers Gets Win For Dallas In Prospect Tourney
Philippe Desrosiers, G, DAL
9/14/2014
News: Philippe Desrosiers got the win for Dallas in the first game of the tournament, stopping 19 of 22 shots against the Rangers on Friday.
Analysis: Philippe Desrosiers got the start in game one, but the team went with Henri Kiviaho for game two on Saturday. Desrosiers, at this early stage, looks like he's above Kiviaho on the AHL depth chart with Jack Campbell as the number one. But it's a long way for Desrosiers to climb to become fantasy relevant with three netminders also in the system at the NHL level.

Jason Dickinson
Dickinson Gets a Goal For Dallas In Traverse City
Jason Dickinson, C, DAL
9/14/2014
News: Jason Dickinson had a goal, three shots, and four penalty minutes in Dallas' win over Carolina on Saturday at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
Analysis: Jason Dickinson is a good player, but he's unlikely to see much, if any, playing time with Dallas this season.

Radek Faksa
Faksa Has Scores In Stars Prospect Team Win
Radek Faksa, C, DAL
9/14/2014
News: Radek Faksa scored for Dallas at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament Saturday, in a 4-2 win over Carolina.
Analysis: Two games into the tournament, Radek Faksa has a goal and two assists. He's a promising prospect for Dallas and is making his mark in the tourney.

Filip Forsberg
Preds' Forsberg Turning Heads At Rookie Tournament
Filip Forsberg, C, NSH
9/14/2014
News: Filip Forsberg scored the game-winning goal and added an assist along with three penalties during a pre-season rookie tournament game Saturday, Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean reports.
Analysis: While spending that much time in the sin bin would not sit well with too many NHL coaches, potting the game winner would certainly more than make up for it in most cases. Penalties aside, this was an impressive game for Filip Forsberg, who is attempting to land a permanent spot on the Preds' roster after playing just 13 games for the big club last season. As for the penalties, Forsberg typically doesn't take too many – he had just 18 PIM in 60 games last season (NHL and AHL combined) – so this game looks more like an aberration than a sign of things to come. Overall, Forsberg has the skills to be a top-six player for the Preds, but the team bulked up on offense during the offseason, so the question is whether they will have room for him.

Michael McCarron
Habs' McCarron Admits To Improper Conditioning
Michael McCarron, RW, MON
9/14/2014
News: Michael McCarron, who is skating with teammates at Montreal's rookie development camp, admitted to showing up out of shape last season after the Canadiens selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft, Hockey Inside Out reports. "Now I know what it takes… I know how much hard work it takes and so now I'm back here ready to go," said McCarron.
Analysis: Michael McCarron skated with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, but even that level of play was more than he expected after spending two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team. He had a disappointing first half of the 2013 season, but did make noticeable improvement in the second half.

Tomas Vokoun
Vokoun Looking For Right Situation
Tomas Vokoun, G, PIT
9/14/2014
News: Tomas Vokoun still wants to play in 2014-15, his agent, Allan Walsh, reports.
Analysis: Tomas Vokoun has declined a couple contract offers already and is waiting for the right situation to sign a deal. The 38-year-old netminder spent most of last year recovering from a pelvic blood clot, but is reportedly 100 percent heading into this season and could be valuable to a team in need of a veteran backup.

Nail Yakupov
Oilers' Yakupov To Switch Numbers This Season
Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM
9/13/2014
News: Nail Yakupov will wear number 10 this coming season instead of 64, the number he broke into the league with, reports the Edmonton Sun.
Analysis: Shawn Horcoff wore number 10 last season, but said Nail Yakupov could take it this season. Yakupov is looking to change things up this season and shake off a horrible sophomore season (24 points in 63 games and a minus-33 rating). He grew up wearing 10 and hey -- it's not like hockey players are superstitious or anything. His game will improve this season, but it won't be because of the number.

 
 
 
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