USA Today Sports Images - Lars EllerLaidlaw mines some value at the right wing position, discusses Eller moving to the wing and some injury updates.

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Max Pacioretty was named captain of the Canadiens yesterday. This has little fantasy relevance. What’s more important is Pacioretty getting back from off-season surgery healthy and ready to produce. I think he’ll make it back in time but will have a slower start. My projection is 75 games played at nearly a point-per-game pace.

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More Canadiens’ news, with Alex Galchenyuk moving to center, it appears Lars Eller will shift to the left side to create room. This is huge as Eller becomes the second best LW on the roster and suddenly has access to top-six minutes once again.

The last time Eller received top-six minutes he opened the 2013-14 season with a bang scoring nine points in 13 October games. This was after closing the 2013 season with 13 points in 14 April games. A run of 22 points over 27 games for those of you scoring at home.

For those still scoring at home that’s a 67-point pace over an 82-game season. His shooting percentage across those two months was a fully unsustainable 17% and yet it offers some promise for a 25-year-old who has shown flashes in the past.

This switch is enough to push my projection for Eller from a cold 25 points up to a potentially relevant 40. The big thing to jump on is if Eller gets off to a hot start. Cash him in for mucho coin as he has never proven himself a power-play producer, which is what he’ll need to take a real leap to fantasy relevance. I was able to turn Eller’s hot start a couple years ago into Kyle Okposo, a trade I am still reaping the benefits of.

 

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Bobby Ryan wants to score more goals this season. That would be welcome for fantasy owners who have watched him flounder since landing in Ottawa. Flounder is harsh. Ryan scored 54 points last season. If that’s a down year then let’s all buckle up for a good year. The good news is that Ryan’s shooting percentage fell into the single digits, at 8.1%, for the first time in his career so he is primed to rebound on that front. He probably won’t hang onto all the assists he racked up last season if more pucks are going in for him directly but he could push into the 60’s if he does.

Right now Ryan is going outside the top 120 players in Yahoo! leagues, which puts him firmly in the territory where you can find draft steals. The problem is picking out the winner from a grouping of wingers going in that 110-140 range and deciding who the steal is going to be. Among RWers you’ve got Jeff Carter, Ryan Kesler, Jarome Iginla, Radim Vrbata, Patric Hornqvist, Tyler Toffoli, Mark Stone and Ryan all going in that range. Depending on where you draft them any one of those guys can be a steal for you.

What’s crazy is just how much proven talent is in that group. Now compare that to a list of guys going between 20 and 100 picks ahead of that group, starting with Jordan Eberle and continuing on with Nathan MacKinnon, Filip Forsberg, TJ Oshie, Tomas Tatar, Jiri Hudler, Brandon Saad and Gustav Nyquist. That’s not the full list but these are names that jump out as being either way off the map or fairly unproven.

For instance, Eberle is gone by the 35th pick on average. That’s just nuts. He’s proven to be a reliable asset but is he really 100 picks better than Iginla or Vrbata? The McDavid halo effect is apparently strong.

Oshie is another one that boggles my mind. The Capitals aren’t any higher scoring a team than the Blues but Oshie switches teams and he’s suddenly going to go off? I bet Oshie doesn’t even skate a regular shift with Alexander Ovechkin. Getting to 60 points is going to be a struggle. Again, proven guys like Iginla and Vrbata are offering way more value.

Saad is the last one that annoys the heck out of me. His career high is 52 points. How does jumping from the defending champs to Columbus create such a spike in draft position? Hornqvist scored one fewer point last season in 18 fewer games and did so with much stronger peripheral stats. Not a chance I’m taking Saad ahead of Hornqvist, and yet Saad is typically going 25 picks earlier.

This is where creating tiers on your list of players can work wonders on draft day. Not everyone I’ve listed above is in the same tier. But let’s say that they were. Who is better off, the guy drafting Eberle in round three or the guy drafting Iginla in round 11? Or to bring it back to what started us off. Which pick offers more value, Eberle in round three or Ryan in round 12?

I’m definitely wondering if part of the problem is that the middle class keeps getting fatter and fatter in fantasy hockey so there simply aren’t as many sure-fire picks up high but there is plenty of value to be had in the later rounds. Like it’s become a situation where the guys going in round three are essentially as good as what will be there in round 12. I don’t think we’ve hit quite that extreme level yet but the examples provided are telling.

What’s really scary is that I haven’t even touched my distaste for Patrick Kane and Rick Nash as top-20 picks in the average draft. But that’s a story for another day.

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If the Bruins defense wasn’t already looking thin Dennis Seidenberg is day-to-day to open training camp. I’ll bet he’s ready for the opener. No sense putting on more miles during training camp. Still, this is not a team that can afford to have its depth tested.

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It looks like the injury woes are starting early for Darren Helm as he’ll miss the next week with a head injury. I’ve never heard of any timeline for a head injury that actually makes any sense so as far as I’m concerned the timeline is indefinite and I’m bumping Helm’s games played projection from 70 to 60. He has some second half potential when Pavel Datsyuk returns but there’s not a league where I’d be drafting him out of the gate.

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Sticking with injury news, it appears Grant Clitsome will miss the season after failing his physical. He already missed half of last season after injuring his back and it appears that injury will cost him more time, if not his career. The 30-year-old was headed into a contract year as well so this is bad timing.

Not really a fantasy relevant injury mind you but notable all the same. The injury removes one piece from a loaded defense group. It still isn’t enough on its own to get Josh Morrissey a chance of making the big club this season but he will turn pro this season so he’s now just an injury or two away from getting his shot.

Clitsome’s absence also makes things a little tougher on the goaltenders who are already questionable as is. I maintain that Connor Hellebuyck is a huge asset in fantasy as this is a loaded franchise and he’s potentially the best goaltender in the system. The question is not if but when he takes over.

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Interesting trio that the Oilers have assembled for their third line out of the gates with Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Nail Yakupov. A heck of a lot of talent there. New head coach Todd McLellan had this to say about the group:

The interesting line for me is that Draisaitl-Lander-Yakupov line. If we can get them gelling and playing the right way, they can be very dangerous. That’s a goal of ours anyway.

You don’t want to overreact to training camp line combos but the reality is that they are out there and people will do it anyway.

The obvious sore spot in this group is that none of them have proven capable of carrying a line or even being a quality NHLer for a full 82 games. So they’ll have to do it together if they are to make an impact. Lander becomes a very intriguing fantasy commodity with the talent flanking him. It should also be remembered that Lander spent a bunch of time as the net-front presence on the Oilers power play at the end of the season so he has more upside than you might expect. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored the most of these three this season.

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The “big news” of the day was Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang getting sent home on day one of training camp for showing up late. People love controversy. To me this is a non-story. He was never going to make the team anyhow so getting sent back to junior was inevitable. If the stories of Ho-Sang being troublesome are true then you might even see this as a positive that may snap some sense into the player. So again, non-story.

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Mike Schmidt has three draft strategy tips for you in our latest piece for Sportsnet.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.