Looking at some of the latest training camp cuts, Datsyuk to begin skating, and more…

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The Hurricanes cut 16 players last night including Zach Boychuk and Justin Shugg. Boychuck isn’t overly surprising. He’s done as a prospect worth owning and may be on his last legs as a prospect altogether. Shugg, the Charlotte Checkers’ leading scorer from last season is a bit more surprising. It seems Kris Versteeg grabbed the top-six spot Shugg might have had and that the youngster didn’t do enough to earn a bottom-six role.

Shugg will have to clear waivers before getting sent down but if he can’t make the Hurricanes, it’s hard to envision a team he could make. There’s still a chance he makes the leap this season but his projection goes way down now.

On the flip side, it’s looking really good for those in deep multi-category pools who have Brock McGinn. The hardnosed winger is pushing hard for a roster spot and would make an impact right away in pools counting hits.

Also on the radar is tantalizing Russian winger Sergei Tolchinsky. The Hurricanes can certainly use all the offensive spark they can get and Tolchinsky offers a ton. He’s still a long shot to me but the odds are getting better.

Of course, Noah Hanifin and Haydn Fleury both remain in camp as well. You can check out the remaining 33 players here.

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The Blue Jackets also made some significant cuts yesterday with both Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano getting sent down. The numbers game in Columbus made it almost impossible for either one to really have a chance but word is that both were impressive in camp nonetheless.

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Only a couple of cuts for the Capitals yesterday but a big one was Dan Ellis, which helps to open the door for Philipp Grubauer to grab the backup spot. Justin Peters is still around to muddy the waters but Grubauer remains the favourite.

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The Blackhawks put Jeremy Morin on waivers. This isn’t the end for the young prospect but it’s getting there. Much like Boychuk above we’re nearing the point where maybe the NHL just isn’t going to be a thing for Morin.

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Larry Brooks suggests that popular breakout candidate, Kevin Hayes, has struggled thus far during the pre-season:

Carl Hagelin was Kevin Hayes' LW for 64 of final 73 reg season games and 16 of 19 playoff games. Hayes has looked lost without him in camp.

I maintain that you can only put so much stock into pre-season hockey. The sample is too small and the games are too meaningless. Still, this gives Hayes a slight hit. More important is whether or not Hayes sees the spike in minutes that he’s projected for.

Hayes skated just 13:02 per game with next to no power play time but his per-minute scoring was among the most efficient in the league. Assuming he receives a larger role, Hayes should still produce more than last season, even if he is “lost” without Hagelin. Looking lost could cost him that opportunity for more minutes though.

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Some great news for poolies and Red Wings fans alike – Pavel Datsyuk will begin skating in two weeks and is projected to miss just the first 10 games of the season.

I had Datsyuk projected for just 38 games worth of action, figuring he’d be back closer to January. This bumps my projection up into the 50’s. I still don’t have faith in Datsyuk’s health holding up but if he’s only losing 10 games to the ankle, it’s hard to almost entirely write him off. He’ll produce damn near a point per game too, which turns him into a real under-the-radar asset. This also helps Tomas Tatar who was dynamite alongside Datsyuk.

The potential return of Johan Franzen muddies the waters for Tatar but probably more importantly Justin Abdelkader.

I assumed Franzen was done but he appears to be giving a return a serious go. I still have my doubts, however, especially after quotes like this:

If I would get a really bad hit again and I would feel the same way again, that's probably it," Franzen said on a late afternoon during training camp in Traverse City, Michigan.

If he’s at that point he should probably be hanging them up now rather than subjecting himself to that one more hit that could really mess up his life. We can all sympathize with his inability to let go of the game he loves though so I don’t begrudge his willingness to press on. I’m just dubious of it.

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Peter Laviolette is interested in reducing the minutes for Roman Josi and Shea Weber:

Certainly, ideally you'd like to bring those minutes down a little bit if you could. Sometimes in the course of the game, it becomes a little bit challenging. I do think that we have the support and the depth to try to accomplish that this year, to see if we can't bring it down a little bit. One of the strengths on our team is defense, the depth of our defense. There's guys that still probably don't get the minutes or the situational play that they should, and that's got to be the challenge of the coaching staff, to make sure that these guys are getting the minutes, that they do get distributed a little bit more, that (Mattias) Ekholm's getting a little bit more and (Ryan) Ellis is getting a little bit more and Seth Jones is getting a little bit more and maybe Shea and Roman (Josi) come down a little bit.

Every coach seems to indicate this for his star players and Laviolette does mention how difficult it actually is to pull off once the games begin but if you are looking for more fuel for the Josi regression case this is it. I do not have Josi repeating his 50-point feat.

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Islanders goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin has signed an extension to remain in Russia until 2018. My immediate reaction was that this seriously hurts Sorokin’s fantasy value, and it definitely does but it doesn’t kill it. We were probably waiting a while for Sorokin to threaten to make the team anyhow, especially with how much depth the Islanders have already playing in North America. In particular, Islanders starter Jaroslav Halak is signed until 2018 so there may be a specific timeline in mind here. Sorokin will be 23 when he is able to come over so the door is nowhere near shut.

It does mean that we can’t see Sorokin until 2018, which will certainly hurt his trade value in keeper leagues, even if he remains the best goalie prospect in the Islanders’ system. But the Islanders have other intriguing options like Linus Soderstrom also skating overseas and now there’s a three-year window in which Soderstrom can come over and establish himself ahead of Sorokin’s arrival. This can’t be viewed as a positive even if it’s ultimately innocuous.

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By the way, if you are curious about each team’s goalie depth chart our old friend Justin Goldman has updated his organizational depth charts for September. It’s an invaluable resource.

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The Senators suspended Mikael Wikstrand for his decision to return to Sweden rather than play in the AHL this season. Wikstrand isn’t particularly relevant in fantasy but what really makes this noteworthy is Sens GM Bryan Murray’s comments on the subject:

“I told him that he can go home and be a grocery clerk and play in a beer league, but he could not play hockey in any shape or form if he doesn’t play for the Ottawa organization, and that’s the way it’ll be,” Murray told reporters.

That’s pretty hilarious. I’m not sure taking such a hard line is the most advisable way to approach this situation because it could create a rift should the player eventually want to come back. We saw that it didn’t take long for Alexander Burmistrov to return to the NHL and the situation appears to be going smoothly for all involved. Will we see Wikstrand ever again?

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Check out Tom Collins’ piece for Sportsnet looking at sleepers for the upcoming season:

Sleeper: Jacob Markstrom. He's never been able to prove he can handle the pressure of the NHL. He's been brutal in both Florida and Vancouver (a career 13-28-5 record with a .896 save percentage and 3.19 GAA). Last season, he was awesome in the AHL. This season he will be backing up Ryan Miller, who hasn't been fantasy relevant, or that good, since 2009-10. Markstrom, ranked 389th by Yahoo and 458 in ESPN leagues, could be the starter by Christmas.

I’m not sure that I’m on board with Markstrom. He’s never proven capable of making the NHL transition despite years of wicked play in the AHL. But as Tom indicates, Miller stinks so there’s potential for him to take over.

The bigger issue is that the Canucks probably won’t be all that good, especially if San Jose and Los Angeles rebound, while Edmonton takes a step forward. The Pacific was last season’s worst division but it could suddenly become a lot more competitive. There are leagues where Markstrom does constitute a sleeper but those are supremely deep ones.

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TSN’s Scott Cullen has his own set of sleepers. Not a whole lot to disagree with on this list either. Certainly he’s selected a bunch of undervalued players. I don’t have much faith in most of the names picked out however. Guys like Mikhail Grigorenko, Jake Gardiner, Jimmy Hayes, Adam Lowry and Jordan Staal don’t boast enough upside to be true sleepers. They all have value under the right circumstances but in the average pool these guys will be waiver fodder.

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The boys at NHL.com have five breakout picks for the upcoming season. I disagree with their first choice, Brandon Saad, but I’m on board with their other four, in particular Ryan Strome. I’ve spilled enough ink on Strome, however, so let’s focus on why I’m not a huge fan of Saad.

My main issue is access to power play time. The Blue Jackets had the league’s fifth most efficient power play last season and are returning all of the key players up front (Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell.) There is little reason for them to rock the boat.

The Jackets are also loaded up front so while it appears that Saad will skate with Johansen at even strength it won’t take much of a slump to push him down the depth chart.

Saad is an elite producer at even strength and will see some second unit power play time but that’s no guarantee that he’ll expand on the 52 points that he scored last season. As a top two-way player, Saad may even find some of his minutes diverted towards the penalty kill where Columbus ranked in the bottom-10 in terms of efficiency.

It’s no secret that the Blue Jackets will try to get the most out of their big off-season acquisition. That just may not involve turning him into a fantasy superstar.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.