Some of you might know me for my work at Talented Mr. Roto where I covered fantasy hockey the past two seasons. As you probably know by now, Talented Mr. Roto was acquired by ESPN where fantasy hockey gets barely more coverage than fantasy sheep herding. So I’ve moved on to DobberHockey, which I consider the premier fantasy hockey site on the Web.
Training camps open tomorrow or Friday for most teams so for my first column I’ll focus on things to keep an eye on as the pre-season unfolds. An important factor in evaluating a player’s fluctuation in value from one season to the other and even during the regular season is the players he lines up next to. Any player who had the good fortune of lining up next to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux saw his fantasy value increase exponentially. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at some players whose fantasy value, and thus draft value, will hinge upon the linemates with whom they are matched during training camp. I won’t cover all teams, focusing only on situations that hold the most importance as far as poolies are concerned.
Andy MacDonald has been a great bargain for those who drafted him the past last two years. First jumping from 30 points to 85 points in 2005-06, then proving he was no fluke with a 78-point campaign last season. He was no fluke, but the bigger question is how much of his value was a byproduct of playing with Teemu Selanne. Since it looks like Selanne will retire, a big drop can be expected from MacDonald. How big a drop will depend on his ability to establish a rapport with Todd Bertuzzi. Big-Bert isn’t the same player since the Steve Moore incident and he’s certainly no Selanne. I won’t predict a return to 30 points for MacDonald, but I’d draft him expecting a 20-point drop unless Selanne returns.
The Ducks also have to deal with the loss of Dustin Penner. It’s anyones guess right now as to who’ll earn the chance to play with rising stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. As listed on DobberHockey in a members’ poll, the candidates are plenty and not very impressive unless Bobby Ryan surprises and wins the job. Penner’s departure is unfortunate as it limits the values of both Getzlaf and Perry who were much more difficult to stop with the behemoth at their sides. However, if Selanne returns it would enable Bertuzzi to replace Penner and provide a big boost to all players on Anaheim’s top two lines.
Acquired by the Bruins last season, Chuck Kobasew had a very difficult season last year. He scored a mere five goals and missed over 30 games due to various injuries. He didn’t get much of a chance to establish himself with the Bruins, but he’ll should a shot to bounce back and prove that he can build on the 20-goal production he accomplished in 2005-06. However, he needs a good playmaker at this side so watch carefully to see if he can earn a spot on the top two lines.
Phil Kessel inspired many last season, battling back from cancer to play 70 games and scoring a decent 11 goals and 29 points as an 18-year old rookie. He has great upside, but is currently stuck as the team’s third center behind Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron. There’s a chance that either Kessel or Bergeron will be asked to play wing. Such a move would enable Kessel to play on the top two lines and if that happens I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach the 70-point mark.
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