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Neutral Zone Wrap: Setting realistic goals

by | Rotowire.com
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Anyone familiar with New Year's resolutions knows this process is confusing and often disappointing. Let's face it: you can't fulfill all your goals if you list the first things that come to mind or take suggestions from the hottest Twitter trends. So instead of wishing for several things to change, your best bet is to focus on improving one specific area and setting realistic goals to do so.

As average citizens strive for something better in 2014, so do professional athletes. No matter how successful a player may be, there is always room for improvement -- no matter how minor it is. NHLers are no different, since they've worked hard for years to refine their game and then maintain their position in the top flight. So as a Fantasy owner, you need to decide which slackers you can trust and which ones don't deserve your time and effort.

Using indicators such as underperformance and relative health, who can step up immediately? We've assembled the top candidates below, based mainly on previous results and current opportunities. As was the case last week, no players from the November edition of this topic will be repeated here.

(Stats as of Monday December 30)

Patrik Berglund, F, Blues: When he was selected in the first round back in 2006, Berglund had been touted as a future No. 1 center. The size, the hands, the vision. For one reason (former defensive liability) or another (perceived lack of effort), the anointing never materialized. A few flashes of brilliance here and there (like the 47 points in his rookie year) but nothing consistent over a significant period. Now that a couple of Blues forwards are dinged up (most notably, Alexander Steen), the supine Swede has the chance to provide more in all situations (and five in his last five is a good start).

Tyler Ennis, F, Sabres: Pick a Sabre forward, any Sabre forward. Heck, we could've included Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford or even (shudder) Ville Leino here. But Ennis has been selected since he skates on the top unit (whatever that would qualify as on Buffalo), has underachieved to date (15 in 39), and owns the moves to break out at any moment. The speedy sniper has proved this in his first three full seasons in the Queen City (114 in 177, 45 of them goals). You may want to lower your expectations based on the complementary offense, but you could pick worse.

Tobias Enstrom, D, Jets: One may be frustrated by Enstrom's performance this season (12 in 40) but it isn't as if he is being prevented from doing well. Check his overall minutes (just under 24 a night) and pay special attention to his solid stint on the power-play (averages 3:30). So the Nordingra native isn't clicking at his normal 0.6 (or higher) points per game rate but at least he notched his first PPP since October 11th (a gap of 32 (!) games). Be patient with this blueliner and you should be rewarded.

Adam Henrique, F, Devils: Ever since his junior days in Windsor with Taylor Hall, Henrique has played second fiddle to some other talented scorer. The 82nd pick in the 2008 draft began his pro career in good company, usually centering a line that included Ilya Kovalchuk. Following an outstanding opening campaign (Calder finalist with 51 in 72), Henrique dropped off considerably in his second spell (16 in 42). And when the Russian superstar opted to retire from North American duty this past summer, it was assumed his numbers would stay low. And while the total isn't awesome (eight goals and eight assists), there is recent hope (tallies in consecutive outings).

Mike Smith, G, Coyotes: Many will remember Smith as that goalie who almost led the Coyotes to the Western Conference Final in 2012. Since then, nothing of note. His record is encouraging (15 wins versus eight losses) but the other indicators would never be categorized as elite (2.83 GAA places him near the bottom, .914 SV% gets him in the middle of the pack). The good news is the lack of competition for the starting job in Phoenix (he ain't afraid of no Greiss), meaning Smith doesn't really have to worry about being replaced unless he really, really sucks.

Honorable mention: Erik Cole, F, Stars; Cory Conacher, F, Senators; David Desharnais, F, Canadiens; Dmitry Kulikov, D, Panthers; Cam Ward, G, Hurricanes

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Player News
Milan Lucic
Bruins' Lucic (Wrist) Will Be Limited In Camp
Milan Lucic, LW, BOS
9/15/2014
News: Milan Lucic (wrist) will remain limited during training camp, ESPN reports. "It's getting better," Lucic said. "Obviously it was a long summer, having to be in a cast for 12 weeks. I feel like I've turned a corner on it the last week, week and a half. Still working hard to get it up to 100 percent."
Analysis: Milan Lucic continues to work toward building strength in the wrist since injuring it during Game 1 of the Bruins' second-round series against the Canadiens. He said he plays to be cautious in camp, which should enable him to be at full strength when the regular season begins. "Every time you have surgery, it never really goes back to 100 percent," Lucic said. "But you hope that you can get back to a point where you were feeling as good as before the surgery. For myself, just trying to get mentally healthy and get that out of the way, the mental part of it. That part of it is a big part of it to overcome, as far as shooting and just pushing and just all that type of stuff. It's a lot of hard work when you get injured to get to 100 percent, and that's your main goal is to try to get there."

Carl Gunnarsson
Blues' Gunnerson (Hip) Skates With Team
Carl Gunnarsson, D, STL
9/15/2014
News: Carl Gunnarsson skated with the team for the first time Tuesday, skating for 10-15 minutes, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Carl Gunnarsson underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a hip flexor injury, and his most recent step is encouraging in regards to his readiness for training camp.

Troy Grosenick
Grosenick Stops 30 For SJ In Scrimmage Loss
Troy Grosenick, G, SJ
9/15/2014
News: Troy Grosenick got the start in the Sharks' second prospect scrimmage against Anaheim. He stopped 30 of 32 shots in a 2-0 loss.
Analysis: Troy Grosenick will start the year with AHL Worcester and will battle J.P. Anderson for minutes in net there. Should an injury occur or should San Jose trade Antti Niemi — there's been much speculation on that front — the battle for minutes between Anderson and Grosenick would gain significance as it's not 100% clear who is third in line on the depth chart. For now, his significance to most fantasy formats is nil, though Sunday's performance is a step toward being number three on for the Sharks.

Hunter Shinkaruk
Canucks' Shinkaruk Strikes In Penticton
Hunter Shinkaruk, C, VAN
9/14/2014
News: Hunter Shinkaruk scored twice in Sunday's 5-4 OT loss to the Jets in the Young Stars Classic tournament.
Analysis: Hunter Shinkaruk was credited with a game-high eight shots on goal, and now has three points (two goals, one assist) in two tournament games. The 19-year-old tallied his second goal of the game with just 39 seconds remaining in regulation, tying the game at four and sending it to overtime. Shinkaruk will need to keep up this level of play if he hopes to make the Canucks' roster out of training camp.

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.

 
 
 
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