Taking a closer look at the fantasy developments during training camp from Eastern Conference teams …
Although for most established players training camp is simply a tune-up for the upcoming regular season, every year there are important roster decisions involving players that are potentially fantasy relevant. This includes bubble players with offensive talent capable of making an immediate impact as well as bottom-six players with multi-category appeal. Additionally, for every young player that makes it, another one is cast aside.
One extra twist this year is the World Cup, which has kept many players out of training camp including several elite-level stars. Unfortunately, this has left us with little insight as to how some important unresolved line combinations will ultimately play out.
Today we will cover how various situations throughout the Eastern Conference have unfolded to date as well as their impact in the big picture. There is still a lot of preseason hockey to be played, but we already have some data to help point us in the right direction. Of course, things will change throughout the year but getting a handle on things early can help you get a jump start on your competition out of the gate.
After a promising start to his NHL career, Frank Vatrano was expected to take the next step and perhaps offer some nice multi-category value this year. Unfortunately, Vatrano suffered a foot injury and will miss roughly three months. While the setback is a huge blow for him, it opens an opportunity for someone else to step up and make his mark at the NHL level.
So far, the name to stand out the most in preseason is Danton Heinen, a 21-year-old forward who led the University of Denver in scoring last year before turning pro. He was expected to develop in the AHL for the time being, but the door is now wide open for him to stick with the Bruins. With such a great opportunity to land in a top-nine role, Heinen could prove to be another example of a rare chance allowing a prospect to realize his potential much sooner than anticipated.
Another candidate is Austin Czarnik who led all AHL rookies with 61 points last year. At 23, he is more experienced as a pro, which could play in his favor as the Bruins finalize their roster. However, he is also undersized, which could play against him. While Heinen has more long-term upside, Czarnik might be a safer short-term pick, although in the worst case, he will still get looks as an injury call-up.
Meanwhile, Seth Griffith is once again failing to force himself into the NHL to stay with just a single assist in three preseason matches. Once a highly-touted prospect, he is now in danger of no longer being relevant in fantasy land. He might still be kept around as a depth piece, but at this point, it is difficult to envision him climbing up the Bruins’ depth chart.
After months of speculation about the availability of goaltender Roberto Luongo to start the season, we finally have our answer. Luongo made his preseason debut last week and is ready to continue his role as the team’s top goaltender.
This is a huge blow to the value of James Reimer, who was highly coveted as a potential early-season starter should Luongo miss extended time. Both will see their fair share of starts but Reimer is clearly the backup. Barring injury, he will start less than half of the games. At this point, the real value lies in owning both Panthers’ goalies and getting all 82 starts from such a strong team.
After last season’s debacle, there is room for some new faces to earn spots on the Canadiens’ roster. Thus far, Philip Danault and Paul Byron have done more than enough to stick in depth roles, leaving fewer spots for the team’s prospects with bigger long-term upside to latch on right away.
At this point, Michael McCarron, Artturi Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto and Daniel Carr are fighting for two or three roster spots. Results have been mixed, but McCarron brings more versatility in addition to some much-needed size and toughness. This could leave one of the smaller forwards on the outside looking in. Considering Lehkonen will return to Sweden if he does not stick in the NHL, he may very well get the first opportunity with the Canadiens.
It is worth noting, Stefan Matteau and Bobby Farnham, both dark horse candidates to post good multi-category numbers, are on waivers after failing to crack the final roster. Meanwhile, prospects Jacob de la Rose and Charles Hudon have already been cut.
Also of interest has been the play of defensemen Zach Redmond and Mark Barberio. After a good stint with the Canadiens last year, Barberio appeared to be the favorite going into this year and could have been a good short-term pick-up should the team experience more injury trouble on the blueline. However, Redmond has been very impressive thus far showing some offense as well as some physical play. Back in 2014-15, in Colorado, he had 20 points along with 59 hits, 76 blocks and 93 shots in just 59 games. He has some sneaky multi-category potential if he can somehow become a regular in the Canadiens’ lineup.
One of the top stories to follow in New Jersey is who will ultimately play with newly acquired Taylor Hall. Through two preseason games, it appears Adam Henrique will be the center for now while the right wing spot is still to be determined. Here is the line combination chart courtesy of Hall’s profile page at Frozen Pool:
Obviously sticking with this line combination would boost Devante Smith-Pelly’s value tremendously, as his size could be a great asset on the Devils’ top line. While Bennett is a former first-round pick with upside, he has never been healthy enough to sustain any success. Do not expect him to hold a spot on this line for long.
Even more interesting is Kyle Palmieri being out of the mix, at least for now. Being on the team’s second line on a more permanent basis would put his probability of repeating last year’s breakout campaign in greater danger. Hall is obviously the golden boy in New Jersey, so the focus will always be on his line carrying the team.
On defense, Yohann Auvitu has made a splash this fall and will probably spend the year with the Devils. The 27-year-old defenseman has never played in the NHL but has posted good numbers playing in Finland and is a solid puck-mover. Despite the strong start in the preseason, he should not be expected to post big offensive numbers this year.
The other story to follow is the addition of Kyle Quincey, which puts prospect Steve Santini’s chances of sticking with the Devils in doubt. Long-term this is probably a good thing for Santini as he is just 21 years old and was at Boston College last year. Meanwhile, Quincey can play in different situations and should help take the pressure off of some of the Devils’ other defensemen.
New York Islanders
On a yearly basis the wing situation on John Tavares’ line is always on the radars of fantasy managers. Due to the World Cup, we have yet to get any insight on the lucky winners. Obviously, expensive free-agent Andrew Ladd is the favorite to land one of the gigs and the other will likely be a revolving door throughout the year.
Like the Devils, the Islanders also added depth to their blueline with the signing of Dennis Seidenberg. Adding a proven veteran is never a bad thing but in the big picture there are ramifications, especially in keeper leagues. Previously, youngsters Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech had been battling for a roster spot. Now it appears both will start the year in the AHL barring injuries. For Mayfield things are getting interesting, as he turns 24 soon and must clear waivers. Should he get claimed and given a regular role he could be a nice source for PIM, hits and blocks.
With Clarke MacArthur suffering another concussion recently there was some doubt as to who would line up next to Derick Brassard and Bobby Ryan. So far Zack Smith, Matt Puempel and Ryan Dznigel have been given looks in this role and this spot could be a revolving door should MacArthur be out for a while. Smith was excellent last year in the top-six down the stretch. He posted a career-high 25 goals while being a multi-category beast. A repeat is unlikely, but he could provide very good value for some stretches.
Thankfully it appears MacArthur is working towards a return before long. If he can somehow stay healthy he could provide some solid value on the wing. He should be available on the wire in most leagues and could easily provide 0.5 points per game when in the lineup.
So far, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, both first-round picks in 2015, have made tremendous strides towards landing roles in the NHL this year. Konecny’s short-term upside would likely be limited as the Flyers are solid on the wing, although he would improve their secondary scoring in a third-line role. Meanwhile, Provorov could start posting decent numbers out of the gate. He is an elite-level prospect who could land a permanent role on the second power-play unit immediately.
Provorov’s arrival would have some ripple effects, as it would push the likes of Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald down the depth chart. Both had some value in multi-category leagues last year for different reasons. Manning brings a lot of sandpaper to the table while MacDonald provided decent offense along with a ton of blocks when called upon.
Like Tavares, Steven Stamkos’ wings are an interesting situation to follow. Last year, his most frequent linemates were Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan, not the most ideal choices for a top line. This year the team has the benefit of having a pair of emerging young forwards with big upside in Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov. Nothing is set in stone yet but look for the duo to get their share of looks on the top line this year.
On defense, the recent dismissal of James Wisniewski from his tryout is very newsworthy. He is coming off of a major knee injury but has a great history producing points in the NHL. Had he been up to the task, he could have slowly cut into the offensive opportunities of some of the other Lightning defensemen. As it turns out he is not at the level he should be and as a result is out of the NHL for the time being.
Without Wisniewski defensemen such as Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison, Nikita Nesterov and Slater Koekkoek have more certainty of posting stronger numbers. Keep an eye on Garrison who has three 30-point campaigns under his belt and could surprise yet again. He also adds good value in some peripheral categories.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.
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