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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
Jonathan Bernier
Bernier, Leafs Rach Two-Year Agreement
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
8/2/2015
News: Jonathan Bernier and the Maple Leafs came to terms Sunday on a two-year, $8.3 million contract, thus avoiding an arbitration ruling, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: It initially looked like the two parties were too far apart to agree on a deal, but they were able to find common ground near the midpoint and avoid the risk of an arbitration decision. The deal is closer to Jonathan Bernier's proposed figure, but the second year buys out a year of free agency. Bernier is coming off a disappointing 2014-15 campaign, during which he saw his numbers drop in the wins (21), GAA (2.87), and save percentage (.912) categories from the season prior.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

Cam Talbot
Oilers' Talbot Expects Battle For Starting Job
Cam Talbot, G, EDM
7/30/2015
News: Cam Talbot expects to battle for the starting job in training camp, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: One would think that Cam Talbot is just taking the high road here. Unless he performs miserably in camp he should be the starting goaltender once the season opens. He won't have anywhere near the defense playing in front of him that he had with the Rangers, so there will be off nights, but he's still better and offers much more upside than any other goaltender on the roster.

Alex Galchenyuk
Habs' Galchenyuk Re-Signs On Two-Year Deal
Alex Galchenyuk, C, MON
7/30/2015
News: Alex Galchenyuk re-signed to a two-year, $5.6 million deal with the Canadiens on Thursday, ESPN reports.
Analysis: Alex Galchenyuk will return to the Canadiens on a contract paying him an average of $2.8 million per year. During the 2014-15 season, he played in 80 games for the Canadiens, finishing with 20 goals and 26 assists, both of which were career highs for the forward. The former third overall pick will join the likes of David Desharnais and Lars Eller as depth at center behind Tomas Plekanec. He also could see some time on the wing behind Max Pacioretty.

Jakub Voracek
Voracek Inks Eight-Year Extension With Flyers
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
7/30/2015
News: Jakub Voracek signed an eight-year, $66 million contract extension with the Flyers on Thursday, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: It isn't surprising that the Flyers opted to lock Jakub Voracek up long-term after his performance in 2014-15. He exploded last season, racking up a career-best 81 points (22 goals, 59 assists), good for fifth best in the NHL. While fantasy owners shouldn't expect the 25-year-old winger to top 80 points year in and year out, if he can continue to stay healthy, he should continue to be a top fantasy commodity for years to come. Voracek will return to his role on the Flyers' top-line and power play unit in 2015-16.

Brandon Gormley
Gormley Inks One-Year Deal With Coyotes
Brandon Gormley, D, ARI
7/30/2015
News: Brandon Gormley signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Coyotes on Thursday, Craig Morgan of FOX Sports Arizona reports.
Analysis: Brandon Gormley suited up for 27 games with the Coyotes in 2014-15, managing to tally four points (two goals, two assists) in those contests. He fared a little better in the AHL, registering 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 23 games with AHL Portland. He will get a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Coyotes in training camp.

Viktor Arvidsson
Preds' Prospect Arvidsson Hoping To Crack Roster
Viktor Arvidsson, RW, NSH
7/29/2015
News: Viktor Arvidsson could crack the Predators' roster this upcoming season, according to the Tennessean's Adam Vignan.
Analysis: In his first full season in the AHL, Viktor Arvidsson led the Milwaukee Admirals last year with 55 points, and also led the entire league with 272 shots on goal. If Arvidsson can secure himself a roster spot with the Preds, he could flourish under coach Peter Laviolette's uptempo, attacking system and provide the team some scoring depth. In deeper fantasy formats, Arvidsson is one player to keep an eye on.

Oliver Kylington
Flames' Kylington To Play In North America in 2015
Oliver Kylington, D, CGY
7/29/2015
News: Oliver Kylington will play in North America in 2015, Roger Millions of Sportsnet Calgary reports.
Analysis: The defenseman's team in Sweden allowed him to get his path to the NHL started this season, which is good news for both Oliver Kylington and the Flames. Calgary will likely let its second-round pick grow his game in the minors for a while, especially with its current depth on the blue line. Kylington has an abundance of hockey talent, but needs to put it all together to be a standout player.

 
 
 
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