September 14, 2014

Thomas Drance

2014-09-14

Goaltenders are winning the war on scoring, training camp battles to watch and more…

 

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Rookie tournaments kicked off in London, On., Traverse City, Mich, and Penticton, B.C. this weekend, so hockey season is really upon us.

 

For NHL rookies – they’ve already had a chance to make some first impressions. For veteran players – they’re surely anxious about this week’s upcoming VO2 Max tests, particularly those veterans who took it a bit easy this summer, what with three-years remaining on their current contracts.

 

For fantasy owners, it’s a time to cram in some pre-draft research. Whether that’s identifying players who are still likely hobbled after a summer of convalescence, or digging into some skaters who posted absurd rate stats in a limited role last season and are poised to see more ice this campaign.

 

Information is key, it’s ammunition, and gathering as much as you can – whether it’s underlying data, injury data, or just knowing which key guys are headed into contract years – puts you in the best spot possible as a fantasy GM.

 

Part of this process of being ‘as informed as possible’, involves making an educated guess about how players will be used this upcoming season. For casual fantasy owners training camp is still football season, but for hardcores or those in a higher stakes league, paying close attention to the news over the next few weeks can give you a serious edge.

 

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Here is my quick list of the five most fantasy relevant training camp battles for fantasy owners:

 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins top-six

 

Pascal Dupuis will be back this season, although he was wearing a no-contact jersey at the club’s informal skates this week, and may take a bit to get up to speed. 

 

Obviously if Dupuis is back with Kunitz and Sidney Crosby then he’ll have fantasy value. Needless to say Patric Hornqvist and his elite even-strength shot rate should be getting a very close look from fantasy GMs this fall, particularly since he’ll likely be at the net-front creating havoc and sticking pucks in the net while Evgeni Malkin bull-rushes defenders down-low.

 

Beyond Dupuis, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Pittsburgh’s two superstar centers – who is filling out the Penguins top-six? That’s a premium lineup spot for fantasy purposes, and we really have no idea who will slot in there. 

 

You know the Penguins would love nothing more than to see Beau Bennett stay healthy and win that spot, but he’s coming off of offseason wrist surgery and is just a huge injury liability. Presumably the likes of Steve Downie and maybe even Blake Comeau (who has generated goals pretty efficiently for a ‘fringe’ NHLer) could get a long look, and if they do, have some Jussi Jokinen potential. 

 

As this shakes out fantasy owners would do well to spend the final weeks before their fantasy draft keeping a close eye on preseason lineup notes involving Bennett, Downie, Dupuis and Comeau. 

 

2. Anaheim Ducks LW

 

Fantasy GMs have been waiting for years for a Ducks forward to step up and emerge as a regular triggerman who can play left-wing beside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and sustainably benefit over the course of an entire season. Basically if the Ducks could find their own version of 2009-2013 Alex Burrows, or Tyler Bozak, or Chris Kunitz; fantasy hockey enthusiasts would appreciate it. 

 

There will be no shortage of candidates heading into Ducks training camp, with all of Pat Maroon, Devante Smith-Pelly, Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri, and even Dany Heatley serving as potential candidates. 

 

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has made noises this summer about starting Heatley out on the first line, but I’d suggest th