Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Columbus Blue Jackets
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. My 14th 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.
Impact of changes – Since the changes have been minimal, the impact is also minimal. Columbus has their hands tied due to their salary cap situation. They have approximately $3.8 million in cap space available and nobody left to re-sign. However, next summer there will several contracts that expire (including Alexander Wennberg) – the only problem is that none of them carry a big cap hit. So they will need to re-sign players (or bring in new players) at a cheap price or move some salary. This is where the four years remaining on David Clarkson’s un-buyout-able contract ($5.25 million per) really starts to hurt. It’s forcing the organization to move Scott Hartnell and free up another $4.2 million of cap space. But do they turn around and spend that now, or save it and ease some of next summer’s pain.
Ready for full-time – There are actually a good 10 prospects who could be listed here, but with the Gagner signing their odds of making the team drop quite a bit.
I think Oliver Bjorkstrand is a shoe-in. If not straight out of camp then certainly before Christmas. He had an incredible AHL and Calder Cup winning performance to go along with an impressive NHL stint. He has a fan in Coach John Tortorella and he will start off on the third line – but quickly move his way up. I have him penciled in for 41 points, but he’s a must-own in keeper leagues. (Read more on Bjorkstrand here)
Zach Werenski is another must-own and another shoe-in. He’s likely to make the jump straight out of camp. He’s only played seven regular season and 17 playoff games for Lake Erie, but it’s already clear that he has nothing left to prove at the AHL level. He had 14 points and was plus-8 during the Calder Cup run. He is potentially an elite puck-moving defenseman who could make an immediate splash of 30 points or more. What may hold him back are all the puck-moving defensemen that Columbus already has, which would of course reduce his PP time. (Read more on Bjorkstrand here)
Josh Anderson is the last prospect I would call a lock to make the team before midseason. He is a crash-and-banger with talent and if the team trades Hartnell then they will need Anderson. Depending on how many games he gets in this season he could potentially give you 10 goals, 20 points and 80 PIM right away. (Read more on Anderson here)
Now we get into the maybes. Scott Harrington was acquired in the Kerby Rychel deal. He offers little in the way of fantasy value as he is a defensive defenseman. But the Blue Jackets have a conditional draft pick on his clearing waivers – the Leafs give them one if Harrington does not clear waivers (i.e. gets claimed). So they may try to push him through. (Read more on Harrington here)
The Blue Jackets have a weak backup in Curtis McElhinney but they do have a pair of intriguing prospect goalies. Joonas Korpisalo came up in relief last season and was amazing, while Anton Forsberg came up in relief (before Korpisalo) and bombed. So you’d think that perhaps Korpisalo has a shot at the backup job. Not so fast. Korpisalo bombed in the Calder Cup playoffs. Again. And again. And again. So Lake Erie put in Forsberg and they didn’t look back. Forsberg peeled off nine straight wins en route to the championship, posting a stellar 0.949 SV%. So he’s definitely back in the mix. What will likely happen is that McElhinney will be the backup while Sergei Bobrovsky sees the bulk of the games. This way the kids can get the most ice time in the minors. Whoever does better in the AHL will get the call if Bobrovsky gets hurt again. (Read more on Korpisalo here and Forsberg here)
Sonny Milano is a talented winger with scoring-line upside, but given the two forwards (above) likely to make the team ahead of him, Milano will remain in Lake Erie this year. He needs to dominate at that level (it could happen as soon as this campaign) before making the jump. (Read more on Milano here)
Pierre-Luc Dubois was the surprise third overall pick in this summer’s draft. And while the Jackets could use the upgrade in scoring talent that he would bring, they’ll let him get bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced at the junior level. No need to rush him when the playoffs are likely not an option for this season. (Read more on Dubois here)
Fantasy Outlook – A young organization with many players that have upside, and with Jones, Dubois, Werenski, Ryan Murray, Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg some key pieces are in place. But the scoring will probably be two or three years coming, and fantasy owners aren’t known for their patience.
Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was B)
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