Dobber’s Offseason Fantasy Grades: Vancouver
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 – I'm not sure if there's a way to sugar-coat this. Perhaps if I use the term "re-tool" instead of "rebuild"? Whatever they're doing, they stuck with the weaker goalie (though the more popular name with the longer track record) in Ryan Miller, they replaced Bieksa with Bartkowski, Kassian with Prust and Bonino with Sutter. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the Canucks were setting themselves up for a tank job. Yes, it's subtle. Each move could be justified and even defended as an upgrade or improvement by Canucks' brass (or fans). But from my standpoint, they look earmarked for a sub-500 record in December. And that would signal a possible fire sale, which in turn would begin a spiral that – if they did it right – would rival what the Leafs did in January.
How can this be avoided? Well, if the Sedin twins match what they did last season. And if Bo Horvat takes a big step forward. And if Miller can do for a full season what he did in October and November of last year.
Ready for full-time – Jacob Markstrom, a former top NHL prospect and for several years was considered the best goalie prospect in hockey, is finally in the show for good. As long as he doesn’t blow it. And before you right off, consider that he's only 25. And that's the age that Ryan Miller was when he became a full-time NHLer. Before that, Miller had 18 career NHL games. Markstrom has played 50 career NHL games. So the difference is that Markstrom has had more time to show us something and has done little. All the same, I consider Markstrom a fine dark horse – his AHL numbers last season were stellar (22-7-1, 1.88, 0.934).
Sven Baertschi has the inside track as the 12th forward, but his skill set would be wasted on a depth line. I think he'll get the odd look on the Sedin line in hopes that something sparks, in which case Vrbata could spread the offense out by jumpstarting the second line. The potential domino effect here would change the entire short-term direction of the Canucks. But it's unlikely. In my experience, banking on a skilled prospect to come in and click with the top guns is the wrong move in fantasy hockey. Best to play it safe and assume that Baertschi sees the bulk of his time on the Horvat line or in the press box. Consider only as a deep sleeper pick or waiver fodder.
Frank Corrado is a depth defenseman ready to make the jump. He's potentially a decent asset in hits and blocked shots in fantasy league, to the tune of maybe 120 and 100. But points-wise he offers little to fantasy hockey.
As noted above, the fortunes of the Vancouver Canucks could be shifted into a better direction of one of their prospects steps in and becomes a star. Baertschi is probably the best bet in terms of talent and NHL readiness. Hunter Shinkaruk and Jake Virtanen are still a year or three away. But winger Nicklas Jensen is within a half-season away and is a long shot to make an impact. He's shown in the past that he can click with the twins, so if he's called up midseason he's worth keeping an eye on.
Fantasy Outlook – As a fantasy owner I'm not a fan of the makeup of the NHL roster here. After the twins and Vrbata, there is nobody I like – and for all we know the twins just ended their last hurrah. Or maybe they have another three or four years in them. We don't know. And that's what I don't like. I prefer minimizing risk, so I don't own the Sedins in any of my three keeper leagues. And the pipeline is filled with a bunch of prospects that I will probably never covet. Some 'decent' ones, but none that I would trip over my own mother to get.
Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was D+)
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