For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – David Perron, Jori Lehtera, Ryan Reaves, Nail Yakupov, Brad Malone, Landon Ferraro, Kenny Agostino, Ty Rattie, Reid McNeill, Yannick Veilleux, Andrew Agozzino, Alex Friesen, Morgan Ellis
Incoming – Brayden Schenn, Chris Thorburn, Nate Prosser, Beau Bennett, Oskar Sundqvist
Impact of changes – For years many have wondered the heights that Vladamir Tarasenko could reach if given a competent number one centre to work with. Paul Statsny did his best through injury and age and Jori Lehtera seemed to be gifted a ton of minutes next to the superstar simply because he was a warm body. The Blues decided it was time to try something new and parlayed Lehtera along with two first round selections in subsequent years to the Flyers in exchange for 26-year-old, Brayden Schenn. Schenn is well known in fantasy circles for his ability to generate a ton of power play points – 59 in the past three seasons, culminating with the seventh most last season with 28. He comes with a high pedigree and expectations that perhaps haven’t yet been met. It is all but assumed that the former centre, turned winger will revert to the pivot position and try his hand at creating some chemistry with the game’s second-most consistent goal scorer. The team lost several depth pieces but should be able to promote from within the organization to fill those holes. The loss of Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline gave an indication of how those prime minutes will be filled and that is with Alex Pietrangelo and not Colton Parayko as many expected. While Ryan Reaves brought little in the way of fantasy value outside of the PIM column, somehow the Blues managed to ship him to Pittsburgh in exchange for a prospect and the final selection in the first round – Klim Kostin. Kostin is a high-skilled forward with a big upside and that transaction must be viewed as a huge win for the organization.
Ready for full-time – Ivan Barbashev had himself a quality second professional season. He made nice progressions in the American league, accumulating 19 goals and 37 points in 46 games for the Wolves while periodically bouncing up to the Blues, totaling his first 30 NHL games. When up with the big club, Barbashev seemed to defer to his linemates a great deal rather than driving play as he did in junior and in the AHL. He did manage to produce five goals and 12 points while seeing just over 11 minutes of ice per game, but he also converted on 25 percent of his shots – that’s 20 total shots in 30 games for those scoring at home. He’s never been a volume shooter, but you want to see an offensive player at least be a threat to shoot with the puck on his stick. The 21-year-old Russian will come to camp and look to battle for the third-line centre positive, or perhaps find himself on the wing to ease his transition. Another year bouncing up and down is realistic as well as he has one final season before becoming eligible for waivers. Read more on Barbashev here.
After being acquired in the deadline trade that sent Shattenkirk to the Capitals, Zach Sanford managed to stay in the NHL – either in the lineup or press box, seeing 13 regular season contests and another four playoff games. Sanford looks prepped to step in as the team’s full-time fourth line centre or 13th forward depending on how the 24-year-old competes at camp. Read more on Sanford here.
Klim Kostin has made it clear that he won’t be playing in a junior league this fall. The power Russian forward immediately signed an entry-level contract with the club after being drafted and is coming to camp looking to earn a spot with the Blues. While he remains a long shot, his pure offensive skillset and mature frame make him a possibility, and his commitment to staying in the AHL – something few young Russians will do, is an indication of his dedication to play in the NHL. Keep an eye on him during camp and pre-season games as he could be that player selected later in the draft that ends up in the NHL as an 18-year-old. Read more on Kostin here.
Fantasy Outlook – The Blues remain a strong contender in the West. The boast one of the most consistent and dangerous snipers in Tarasenko who has scored 116 goals in the past three seasons – second only to Alex Ovechkin. Their forward corps are buoyed by the likes of Jaden Schwartz and Statsny who can each push into the 60-point range, an aging but still capable Alex Steen, and Robby Fabbri entering year three after battling injury through his sophomore campaign. Pietrangelo remains a horse at both ends of the ice and should be in line for a few more 50-point campaigns if he remains on the top power play unit, while Parayko is nipping at his heels. St. Louis has some nice prospects coming in the way of Barbashev, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin up front and Jake Walman and Vince Dunn on the back end. Jake Allen may settle in as a league average starter, but on a playoff team, you could do worse for your second fantasy net minder. Overall, St Louis has fallen into the middle of the pack in goals scored and power play percentage the past two seasons but with Mike Yeo having the coaching reins all to himself this season, we may see the Blues open their systems just a tad. With the infusion of Schenn into the top-six and their best players entering their prime, there is reason to be optimistic about owning a handful of Blues this season.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (Last year: B+)