Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – New Jersey Devils
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The Devils will likely sign another winger or two before the summer is over. Likely someone with a bit of upside, such as Alexander Semin or Jiri Tlusty. But it will be a short-term deal because what the team is doing is purging all of the old guard and rebuilding their forward group. It's the weakest group of forwards in the league, which is a shame because their defensemen and goaltending are so good. But when Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri and a 40-year-old Patrik Elias are your four best forwards, you're in trouble. Those four guys could be third liners on most teams.
The Devils have had a long-standing habit of re-signing their players. Finally letting these players go is a step in the right direction.
Ready for full-time – Reid Boucher is a natural goal-scorer coming off of a disappointing season. On most teams, there is no way he makes the jump. But the Devils are beggars and beggars can't be choosers so Boucher could make this team by default. If so, he could be one of those rookies who scores 20 goals and 10 assists for 30 points.
(scouting report on Reid Boucher here)
Stefan Matteau, like his father of a similar sounding name, is a defensive forward with little hope of ever getting 40 points. But he should finally make the Devils and start his NHL career as a checking-line staple.
(Scouting report on Matteau here)
Raman Hrabarenka is an undrafted defenseman who stands at 6-3 and weighs 212 pounds. He has been steady at the AHL level and his improved his offensive game to the point where he scored nine goals last year for Albany. But on a team like the Devils, flush with young skilled talent on the blue line, it is doubtful that translates to the NHL level.
(Scouting report on Hrabarenka here)
Seth Helgeson is a 6-4, 215-pound rearguard who played 22 games for New Jersey last season. He will likely become a full-time NHLer and potentially could rack up 90-plus penalty minutes to go with 10 or 15 points.
Sergey Kalinin and Pavel Zacha are a couple of long shots. I mention Zacha because he is the most talented forward in the system and has the highest upside. The sixth overall pick this summer has NHL size already at 6-3, 210. But if the Devils are serious about rebuilding, they'll give him at least another year and instead bring in a stop-gap free agent forward on a short-term deal. Kalinin is a two-way guy from the KHL who was never drafted and could be NHL ready. But then again, he may not be. It's hard to tell with KHLers. We've seen so many come and go, and more often than not they fail. Kalinin, at best, will impact this team the way Jiri Sekac impacted the Habs last year. Which is – not too much.
(Scouting report on Zacha here)
Fantasy Outlook – I can't think of an NHL team, or organization I'd shy away from more than the Devils. Yes, some promising defensemen – but if they can't pass the puck to a forward with any skill, how high can the upside be? And yes, goaltender Cory Schneider will log so many games that getting 30 wins will be possible every year. But the forward corps are so awful, and other than Zacha there is really no help in the pipeline. In my keeper leagues, if a fellow GM even mentions a Devil to me in a trade offer my instinct is to run away.
Fantasy Grade: D- (last year was D, and in both 2013 and 2012 it was D)