The following article was contributed by Anthony Magliaro. He can be found on Twitter at @amags7.
Another fantasy hockey season is upon us. The importance of hitting on a few of your potential sleepers towards the back end of your draft and in free agency is imperative. It allows you to invest more picks into known commodities that you can count on helping you achieve your goal of winning your league.
Look at any championship winning roster and I guarantee you’ll find a few. Let’s flash back to my draft last season. While everyone was plucking goalies in the first couple of rounds, I’m sitting tight, grabbing the likes of Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Matt Duchene, and Max Pacioretty to lead my high-powered offense. Now lets fast forward about an hour later to the late rounds of that draft… “And in the 13th round, Magliaro selects….. Martin Jones”. The reactions of my league mates were priceless. “Martin Jones? He’s a backup!”
While Jones didn’t go on to win a championship last season, my fantasy team did. Now its time to make the case for a few that can do the same for you as you prepare for your drafts.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (ESPN Rank – 150, Yahoo Rank – 117)
After a season-long controversy with the Bolts last season, Drouin stormed back during the playoffs, recording five goals and nine assists for 14 points through 17 games.
Drouin recorded these numbers against top teams in the league and will do much more damage against teams that aren’t as skilled. Seven of these points were also recorded on the power play unit, which he figures to see more time on during the course of this season.
In addition, as it stands right now, Drouin will play on Tampa’s top line alongside gritty left wing Alex Killorn and one of the league’s best goal scorers in Steven Stamkos. With Drouin’s pass first mentality, I can see him accumulating tons of assists on Tampa’s high-powered offense.
P.A. Parenteau, RW, New York Islanders (ESPN Rank – 129, Yahoo Rank – 237)
I had to do a double take on the Yahoo rankings to make sure I was looking at this season’s when it came to Parenteau. Parenteau will be riding shotgun with John Tavares once again, a player which he has shared success with in the past. On two brutal Islanders teams with limited offensive options besides Tavares, Parenteau posted 120 points in 161 games.
Now, Parenteau rejoins forces with his old team and superstar on a much more revamped team that could see his production skyrocket even further. Parenteau will see time on the Islanders power play and will also have Islanders big fish signing Andrew Ladd on his opposite wing.
This is also a contract year for Parenteau, as he signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders this offseason. For his ranking on both sites (especially Yahoo), he’s a steal.
Aaron Ekblad, Defenseman, Florida Panthers (ESPN Ranking – 111, Yahoo Ranking – 83)
All things considered, Ekblad probably shouldn’t have made this list. He is a superstar defenseman who is getting better and better as each game passes. I put him on this list because of his ranking and how he may drop even further due to his injury concerns.
After suffering a concussion at the WCOH playing for Team North America, fantasy owners may stay away and look at healthier options to lead their blue line. This is where a savvy owner should pounce all over the Panthers franchise defenseman.
When looking at Ekblad’s career stats, in his rookie season, Ekblad posted 170 shots and a 7.1 shooting percentage. In this past season, Ekblad posted 182 shots and an 8.2 shooting percentage. Oddly enough, Ekblad posted 3 less points than his rookie year.
You can chalk it up to bad luck, but I’ll chalk it up to him never playing with a defenseman solid enough to set him up for offensive success. Ekblad has played with the likes of Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, and Erik Gudbranson. While they may have been serviceable for the Florida Panthers, they’re all defensive-minded defensemen.
With a revamped Panthers defensive core, Ekblad is keen for a breakout.
The Panthers power play was also already inside the top 10 last season, and now they will have a power play that features Ekblad, Huberdeau, Barkov, Jagr AND Yandle. Yandle has had at least 40 assists in each of his last three NHL seasons. If he is producing, there is a good chance Aaron Ekblad will be as well this season.
Adam Henrique, Center, New Jersey Devils (ESPN Ranking – 133 , Yahoo Ranking – 113)
The Devils made a huge splash this summer when they acquired Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson. A team that was desperate for scoring now will boast a more than competent first line in Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri. This line could be a dark horse for a top line in the league throughout the year.
Hall will do wonders for the game of Adam Henrique. The two played together from 2007-2010 on the Windsor Spitfires and have shown before that they have the chemistry that’s needed for instant production.
Henrique posted 30 goals on a lackluster Devils team last season. With the addition of Hall, expect Henrique’s point totals to increase, while also seeing an increase in his power play production.
The World Cup of Hockey has come and gone with, quite honestly, not much of a stir in the hockey world.
Maybe it was the fact that it took place in September, or maybe it was the two odd teams (North America and Europe) that threw it for a loop, but the World Cup was just flat out not as exciting as the Olympics are. Three key takeaways can be made from the tournament.
#1: The USA needs a change in guard
The United States came and went in the tournament without a win. A management group headed by Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi and Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella put together a group of players based on grit rather than skill.
“If you want to go head-to-head and play a skill game, your odds of winning that game when you look at those matchups is not very good.”
-Dean Lombardi on Team USA facing Team Canada
It’s fairly evident that the United States needs a change up front, which goes hand in hand with a change on the ice.
The players Team USA picked were flat out wrong. The game of hockey is continuing its slow transition to a skill game, and the roster the Americans put together had no chance keeping up with Canada, North America, or arguably anyone else in the tournament.
Whenever the next major hockey tournament the United States plays in is, Olympics or World Cup, this year’s team should be exhibit number one as to why a new set of management and players needs to be used.
#2: The future is bright for hockey
To be fair for the United States, a lot of key, young options were taken from them by the under-23 North American team.
The likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, and Auston Matthews, among others, were unable to play for the United States. Whether or not they would have if they were eligible to is up for debate.
There is no question that the combination of the young Canadians and aforementioned Americans was thrilling to watch. The tournament took a big hit when they were eliminated in favor of Russia.
The North American team exemplified what the future of hockey holds: fast, skilled, and passionate gameplay. These players, combined with those from Finland, Sweden, and other countries throughout the world, prove that hockey will be fun to watch for many decades.
I do not think that there is a doubt that Team North America will exist again in the next World Cup. There’s no doubt, either, that they’ll have plenty of supporters too.
#3: The World Cup of Hockey still needs a lot of work
As it got put before, the World Cup did not live up to all of its hype.
ESPN did a good job at making most games accessible to watch, but the commentating and analysis got rough at times. More experienced additions to the staff may be a good idea next time around.
The venue wasn’t bad, but you could just tell the atmosphere wasn’t up to par. Team Europe moving on didn’t help that. It did get rowdy near the end once Canada tied it and eventually won it in the finals, but that’s to be expected.
The World Cup does have potential, but may never exceed the intensity that the Olympics provide. The two tournaments are just not on the same level.
The NHL has a lot of time to work most of these kinks out. The game has changed a lot since the last World Cup of Hockey in 2004, and it will surely change a lot before the next one in 2020. The challenge the league faces is adapting to that and making the games as intense as possible, which sadly was not the case this year.
All predictions are in part based on intuition and in part based in past line combinations during international play. Read the rest of this entry
Naming a sports team is difficult in today’s age. Nearly every object and animal is trademarked by a team, whether it be professional or an affiliate. Bill Foley and his Las Vegas crew face the challenge of having to come up with something unique and memorable for their brand. The task will be tough, but there are still some options available. Here are three that should be at the top. Read the rest of this entry
Reports came out on Thursday afternoon that Patrick Roy would be leaving the Colorado Avalanche. Roy, 50, spent eight seasons as a player with Colorado and the past three seasons coaching them. Roy was also Vice President of Hockey Operations. Read the rest of this entry
1. Radim Vrbata: Despite being linked to upwards of four teams, Radim Vrbata has not signed anywhere yet. The right wing is older but is only one season removed from 30 goals. He struggled last year putting up only 27 points in 63 games, but almost all Canucks players struggled. Vrbata can still fill a middle-six scoring role on a playoff team. Read the rest of this entry
Tobias Rieder, a current restricted free agent of the Arizona Coyotes, may be spending next season overseas. Read the rest of this entry
In next summer’s expansion draft, teams have two options in which to protect their players. One is protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The other choice is protecting eight skaters and one goalie. The former gives you more players to protect but you risk losing a top-four defenseman, whereas the latter allows you to hold onto that fourth (or fifth, if you so please) defenseman, but you are losing out on protecting two top-six forwards. It is a calculated risk that teams have to weigh, and there are eight teams that should choose to take the second option and protect four defensemen. Read the rest of this entry
The last word you can use to describe John Tavares’ career with the Islanders is consistency. Whether it’s playoff appearances, linemates, or goalies, John Tavares has not had a steady routine in any of his seven years in the NHL. But, the acquisition of Andrew Ladd is expected to provide the star center with that luxury. Read the rest of this entry
The Islanders made a trio of moves in the opening two days of free agency, solidifying their roster for the upcoming season. Andrew Ladd (seven years), Jason Chimera (two years), and PA Parenteau (one year) were all signed to deals. Although long-serving members of the team Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin are all gone, the Islanders lineup still looks formidable and ready to compete.
LW – Andrew Ladd
C – John Tavares
RW – PA Parenteau
Breakdown: John Tavares will technically have two new linemates this year, although Parenteau did spend most of his two seasons with the Islanders on Tavares’ wing. Parenteau put up 120 points in 161 games in that span, which took place from 2010 to 2012. Ladd, however, is completely new and is expected to add a much needed dynamic presence to the wing on the top line. When Matt Moulson was on the left wing to this duo, he put up 31 and 36 goals respectively in the two years. With more skill and a similar playing style, how many can Ladd pot? Only time will tell, but this line should be a good one. Also, it’s possible Mathew Barzal gets a crack on the right wing next to John Tavares if he makes the opening night roster, but with the addition of Parenteau it is likely Barzal heads back to Seattle.
LW – Anders Lee
C – Ryan Strome
RW – Shane Prince
Breakdown: Ryan Strome finally slots back into his natural center position with Frans Nielsen gone. How long that will last, no one knows. But regardless, it’s a great opportunity for Strome to rebound from his pitiful 2015-2016 campaign. As for his wingers, Anders Lee returns to top-six action after his season was ended last year by a broken leg. Although he struggled to get on the scoresheet early last year, he was doing everything right. There is no reason to worry on that front. As for Shane Prince, he’ll be entering his second full season. An analytical darling, he has a chance to put his tremendous shot and speed to work in the top-six. He could be a breakout candidate this year.
LW – Nikolay Kulemin
C – Brock Nelson
RW – Josh Bailey
Breakdown: This line is up in the air. It has the potential to be good with a two-way forward (Kulemin), a sniper (Nelson), and a playmaker (Bailey), but all three have to bounce back from bad years. It’s almost a misfit line where the players don’t fit anywhere else. It was together for a short stint last season but was very, very bad defensively. But maybe it’ll work out.
LW – Jason Chimera
C – Casey Cizikas
RW – Cal Clutterbuck
It’ll likely take a little while for Cizikas and Clutterbuck to get used to their new linemate, but this line will have the ability to inflict some serious damage. Will all respect to Matt Martin, Jason Chimera is flat out a better player. He put up 20 goals and 20 assists last year on a deep Capitals team and still skates with speed like he’s 23 years old. All three members of this line will be pests to play against, both defensively and offensively. If you liked the old fourth line, you’ll love this one (probably).
Defensive pair #1:
LD – Nick Leddy
RD – Travis Hamonic
Breakdown: This pair saw most of last season’s action together. Both are extremely talented skaters and are good at both ends of the puck. They can be deployed in all situations without worry.
Defensive pair #2:
LD – Calvin de Haan
RD – Johnny Boychuk
Breakdown: Like Hamonic and Leddy, these two have seen a lot of time together. One thing that is worth keeping an eye on is Boychuk’s progression this season. He took a big step back last year, albeit still while being a serviceable defenseman. The Islanders can’t afford to have him drop off even more.
Defensive pair #3:
LD – Thomas Hickey
RD – Ryan Pulock
Breakdown: Ryan Pulock is ready (finally!) to step into a full-time top-six role next year. Thomas Hickey, his counterpart, had a tremendous end to the season and playoff run.
Goalies: some combination of Greiss, Berube, and Halak
Breakdown: Something is going to give in the three goalie situation eventually. The ideal scenario is Jaroslav Halak being traded, but suitors are thin and he has had health problems. JF Berube going through waivers and down to Bridgeport is another last-resort option if Halak can’t be moved, but he has a high chance of being claimed. The only safe one right now is Thomas Greiss.
Scratches: Alan Quine, Mikhail Grabovski, Adam Pelech
Breakdown: Quine and Pelech are youngsters who have proven their keep but just can’t find a spot in the lineup right now. They’ll be the first ones called on when injuries happen. As for Mikhail Grabovski, it is unlikely he sees much playing time this year, due to a combination of concussion issues and poor play. It is not even known if he is fully healthy yet.
Islanders fans, despite looking at a completely reformed roster, have a lot to be excited about next season. The injection of new blood and veteran leadership will hopefully push them over the ledge and bring them to a conference finals and beyond.
Day one of NHL free agency has come and gone, but it has left a considerable mark on the league in the process. Here’s a team by team breakdown of who signed who and what the outlook is for the team and player.
The Anaheim Ducks really didn’t do anything. Actually, they did nothing. Beside lose Jamie McGinn and David Perron, that is. There is still time to turn it around, but it was a rough start for Bob Murray. It’s expected that they at least pick up a goalie — one of Ramo or Enroth.
The Arizona Coyotes had a quiet but successful day, picking up some depth pieces. Jamie McGinn is a nice add. Justin Peters provides goalie insurance if Mike Smith goes down with injury again. And, Ryan White will play bottom six minutes. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad for GM Chayka’s first frenzy day on the job.
The Boston Bruins brought in three free agents, one especially notable in David Backes. The gritty center signed a five year deal in Boston at six million per. That’s the price you’re going to have to pay. I don’t really see the fit though with Krejci and Bergeron in the middle, but I am sure Backes knows what is best. Boston also welcomed back Anton Khudobin as a backup and added Riley Nash down the middle as well.
The Buffalo Sabres didn’t do much, but they hauled in arguably the biggest free agent of the class. Kyle Okposo signed there for 6 million. I was expecting the AAV to be higher, so good on you Tim Murray.
The Calgary Flames added two new players in Troy Brouwer and Chad Johnson. Brouwer will play a top-six role in Calgary and Johnson proved to be a formidable NHL goaltender in Buffalo last season. It was a good day for Brad Treliving. I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up another forward, either.
The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t add any big names, but they brought in some depth. Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg were both signed to deals. I like both of these for Carolina. Very bang-for-your-buck type players.
Chicago was thwarted by the cap but managed to squeeze Brian Campbell in. He’ll be a valuable addition. Side note: it was reported that he left almost 2.5 million on the table from Florida to join Chicago. Wow.
Colorado had a solid and surprisingly sensible (sorry Avs fans) day. They inked Joe Colborne to a deal, a player I’m surprised the Flames let slip away. They also nabbed reclamation project Patrick Wiercioch for under a million which could turn out to be a steal. Fedor Tyutin, master shot suppressor, was also signed.
Columbus, like Anaheim, really didn’t do much. Seth Jones getting locked up was about as big of an offseason win as you could’ve gotten in Columbus.
Dallas finally got Dan Hamhuis after trying for him at the trade deadline. His 3.25 million cap hit is surprisingly low. This is a great signing for Dallas and Hamhuis alike.
The Detroit Red Wings had a busy day, signing three forwards. They grabbed Frans Nielsen (six years) and Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott (one year). Nielsen was the best center on the market and helps fill the Datsyuk void. Vanek can be a good signing if he turns it around. If not, you let him go next year. No biggie.
Edmonton got their guy in Milan Lucic, thankfully because if they lost Taylor Hall AND didn’t sign Lucic, hell would’ve broken loose. The AAV is high, but you have to do what you have to do. They also got backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
Florida made one big acquisition with James Reimer. With Berra being just traded for, you have to wonder about Lu’s future. Rumors of health issues have been going around. We’ll see.
Los Angeles was one of the more active teams, signing five players, albeit none of high salary. They signed Teddy Purcell, Zach Trotman, Michael Latta, Tom Gilbert, and Jeff Zatkoff. All very affordable and solid options spread across all three bases. Solid day for Dean Lombardi.
Minnesota was also very active, signing Eric Staal, Alex Stalock, Victor Bartley, and Chris Stewart. Both Stewart and Staal present a bit of a risk but have the possibility to pay high dividends. Minnesota needs to get over the second round hump soon.
Montreal made a few waves today, mainly by signing Alex Radulov. They also signed depth players with defenseman Zach Redmond and goalie Al Montoya. Radulov will be a fun storyline to watch this year. Hopefully for Montreal, it will work out better than Semin did.
Nashville made a few defensive depth signings but nothing major. Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber will be joining the team. Maybe Weber will take #6?
The Devils didn’t have an overly active day, but got Ben Lovejoy and Vern Fiddler. Lovejoy knows Shero from his Pittsburgh days. I think we’ll see one more move up front from New Jersey.
The Islanders lost Nielsen, Okposo, and Martin but added Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. Overall a successful day for them. They probably need another forward, if not Mat Barzal will have to step in, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Time will tell.
The Rangers made some depth signings with Gerbe, Grabner, Paliotta, and Clendening. The two forwards will provide as bottom-six help, whereas Clendening will likely slot in as a seventh defenseman. Nothing major in the Big Apple yet.
Ottawa, like Anaheim and Columbus, didn’t do much today. They made a few minor-league signings but not anything noteworthy. New GM Pierre Dorion feels Mike Blunden can step up into a bottom-six role next season.
Philadelphia added two bottom-six players in Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon. The Weise deal is for four years and will either look really good or really average after this year. Luckily for Philadelphia, if things go bad, Weise has an easily moveable cap hit.
Pittsburgh, due to cap, didn’t add anything outside of two depth defensemen. They got Stuart Percy, ex-Toronto Marlie. I guess that makes up for losing Scott Harrington in the Kessel trade?
San Jose added David Schlemko and Mikkel Boedker in an attempt to push them to the next step, which is winning the Stanley Cup. Many people were surprised by Schlemko getting four years, but the AAV is low and he is a very underrated defenseman.
The St. Louis Blues brought back David Perron on a two-year deal. He is a solid replacement for Troy Brouwer. They also got Carter Hutton to backup Jake Allen, the recipient of a new four year deal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed two depth forwards, Michael Bournival and Jeremy Morin. Not much to write about here.
Toronto only made one move, signing Matt Martin to a four year deal. The AAV was surprisingly low at only 2.5 per. He’ll provide energy for the Leafs as well as protection for the young kids. Personally, I think it’s a good signing. Others think the opposite. To each his own.
The Canucks signed Loui Eriksson to a six year deal and he is expected to slot in beside the Sedin twins. I think it’s a good fit for the team, but I’m surprised Eriksson isn’t in a “win now” mode.
Washington signed Brett Connolly to a cheap deal. He has the skill to really make this a great signing for Washington. The former first round pick hasn’t been able to find his knack in Boston or Tampa Bay.
Lastly, the Winnipeg Jets made a trio of moves grabbing Shawn Matthias, Quinton Howden, and Brian Strait. Matthias is a good depth option, Howden is a youngster who never got a chance in Florida, and Strait is a 7/8 defenseman. Not spectacular, but not a bad day.
Plenty of free agents are left. We’ll see what day two has in store.
Yes — we are just as confused as you are.
In thirty minutes, the course of the next NHL season changed dramatically. In what was likely the biggest flurry of trades in NHL history, PK Subban, Taylor Hall, Shea Weber, and Adam Larsson were all dealt. Not to mention Steven Stamkos re-signed in Tampa Bay.
So let’s start at the first trade of the day. New Jersey acquired Taylor Hall from Edmonton in exchange for Adam Larsson. This was a desperate move met by a lot of scrutiny, mostly rightful, by Peter Chiarelli. With trading chips such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, a deal involving Taylor Hall shouldn’t have been necessary. Adam Larsson is a solid young defender, but nowhere near the caliber of defenseman that should have been brought in for Taylor Hall.
Regardless, this likely makes Edmonton the firm landing spot for Milan Lucic. That’s not to say Lucic is a formidable replacement for Taylor Hall, but it is what is going to happen.
As for New Jersey, they get a bonafide first line winger. They’ve been devoid of scoring for a few years now and this is a tremendous pickup.
Just a few minutes later, rumblings from Nick Kypreos came out that PK Subban could be on the move. That happened a few minutes later when he was traded to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber.
This is a mind boggling deal. Subban is a better player than Weber, who has significantly declined over the past few years. Weber will also be turning 31 at the start of the season and still has ten years left on his deal. It’s hard to find a rationale from Bergevin’s side when looking at this trade.
From Nashville’s side, it is a fantastic trade. They get a younger, dynamic defenseman in Subban who can anchor their top-four for years to come. Ryan Ellis, PK Subban, Matthias Ekholm, and Roman Josi is a scary defensive corps.
Moving on from trades, the Lighting also announced that they had re-signed big fish free agent Steven Stamkos to a eight year, 8.5 million per deal. This is a lower AAV than what other teams may have given him, but with no state income tax in Florida, he’ll earn a lot more than he would elsewhere.
This changes Friday’s gameplan drastically. Almost every team was going to take a shot at Stamkos, so now they all have to revert to Plan B. David Backes and Frans Nielsen just moved up the leaderboard big time.
Stay tuned for more NHL news, because I’m sure we’ll get some.