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Blue Line Buzz: Diamond in the rough

by | Rotowire.com
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(All statistics through November 17)

Gem In the Desert?

Erik Karlsson is leading all NHL defensemen in goals through the first quarter of the season with seven. This can be filed under news items that are not news. Second in the league, tied with six goals is Boston's Torey Krug, the man who replaced Zdeno Chara on Boston's power play. The player tied with Krug and six goals? A Phoenix defender not named Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Keith Yandle, but instead … Michael Stone. You can be excused if you didn't have Stone on your roster, but it may be hard to entirely ignore him in deep leagues. While the six goals are nice, Stone has no assists and a modest 24 shots on goal, which is great for leagues that count shooting percentage; two of his goals have come via the man advantage.

Stone is in his second full NHL season and notched five goals last year in the truncated campaign, but a close look at his junior numbers with the Calgary Hitmen show him to be a rather productive scorer, scoring 40 total goals over his last two seasons in the WHL, not to mention a boatload of PIM. In Phoenix, Stone is in the presence of two of the league's top scorers on the blue line, but is capitalizing on his chances. Four of his six goals have come in the last six games, but he's seen limited power-play time, seeing just over 35 seconds per game over the last three. The shooting percentage undoubtedly will correct itself, but Stone is a player worth maintaining an eye on in keeper leagues. The Coyotes have long been rumored to be interested in dealing Yandle given their blue line stable and Yandle's salary, but the presumptive Team USA defender is in the desert for now.

There has also been a David Rundblad sighting in Phoenix, as he notched his first point of the season since being recalled from healthy scratch status. Rundblad was the key piece sent back to Phoenix in 2011's Kyle Turris trade with Ottawa and has been on a permanent shuttle between the AHL, NHL and the press box the last season-plus. It's also worth mentioning that veteran Derek Morris had 10 points through 14 games before missing the last two weeks with a lower body injury, but is nearing a return.

Someone, Anyone

New Jersey isn't the only team with paltry goal-scoring numbers from the back end, as both the Islanders and Colorado each have six goals from its blue liners on the season, the same number as New Jersey. The Islanders are looking for more production from the blue line while Lubomir Visnovsky is out indefinitely with a concussion. While the veteran is out, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic have been leading the way from the back end with a total of two goals and 13 points from the duo. Matt Donovan is the upside play of the future on the Island, but Donovan is seeing 1:13 of power play time per game through 17 tilts and has four points on the season with just one helper in the last eight games.

Colorado is getting decent production from former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, with seven points through 19 games, two of which have come on the power play. Johnson has the most upside on the Avalanche blue line until Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott figure out the kinks in their game. After Johnson's modest numbers, Jan Hejda and Andre Benoit are seeing their names on the scoresheet occasionally as well. If only the Avalanche had a player like Kevin Shattenkirk.

Shea Weber is doing what he's used to doing in the Hockey Tonk, with 10 points through 20 games (five goals, five assists). Okay, maybe a little less than what we're used to from the likes of Weber, but the Predators have not been a positive source of blue line points outside of Weber save for rookie Seth Jones and his eight points. Jones is adapting to the NHL game and is eating minutes at a huge clip, averaging 24:04 per game in the first quarter of his first season.

After Jones and Weber is where the numbers start to look more like a New Jersey blue line, as Ryan Ellis has five points through 18 games while Roman Josi is certainly underperforming after his huge contract with three points through 10 games. However, despite that, Josi might be a player you'd want to target as he has all three points in the eight games he's played since returning from an early-season concussion; he notched two assists in Nashville's blowout win over Chicago on Saturday. Josi has been seeing much power-play time since his return, but remember Josi has a tendency to binge on points, as 12 of last season's 18 points were concentrated over a five-game span, leaving a meager six in the other 42 games. He's likely is kicking around on your waiver wire and can be an option in deeper leagues given his potential, just monitor his minutes on the power play vis-à-vis those of Jones.

The Devils nearly doubled the season's amount of goals their defenders scored in Saturday evening's win over Pittsburgh, getting tallies from Andy Greene and Adam Larsson, 2012's fourth overall pick. The Devils had a mere four goals from blue liners through 19 games and added two more to that humongously-big total. Larsson is one of those players still wearing the potential tag after a tenuous spot in the lineup his first two seasons. He just turned 21 years old and seems to be earning more regular playing time under coach Peter DeBoer and has been playing solid hockey since being paired with fellow youngster Eric Gelinas.

Larsson has been a player fantasy owners believe will breakout at some point in his early career. He has the talent and a bit of offensive talent to his game, but it's been a question of whether he's been given the chance to show it in New Jersey. Dating back to the latter part of the 2012 season and through New Jersey's run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Larsson has been in and out of the Devils' lineup, having his play under scrutiny and often being left out in favor of the likes of Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov. Larsson's numbers this season are not attractive, with three points through 17 games and he's has seen little power play time. What's encouraging about Larsson is that he has two points through the last three games and all three of his season's points have come in the last six contests. He doesn't shoot the puck often, just 15 through 17 games, but there is upside with Larsson for those in deep keeper leagues. He did put up 41 points in 37 games his last season in Sweden for Skelleftea.

Larsson has typically just shown flashes of offensive ability, but still has growing to do, not to mention keeping his head up a bit more.

Video clip of the week:

What are the odds that the Maple Leafs will look to sign embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford after this check on Monday following the Toronto City Council stripping him of most of his powers?

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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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