Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Detroit Red Wings
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 – Overall, this is an upgrade if you look at it closely. Datsyuk, at this point in his career, is probably a 70-game, 60-point forward. He obviously adds loads of experience and is very strong defensively. Nielsen, over 80 games (instead of 70), matches up well with that. Richards was a power-play specialist who saw little ice time otherwise. Potentially, Vanek matches up well with that, and in fact improves it. Vanek’s points/60 minutes was second on the Wild at 2.13 last year. I expect Vanek to get similar ice time as Richards, so while this may help his PP points, his 41-point campaign of 2015-16 may not improve by much.
Ott will add some leadership, and much-needed grit. He’ll get into the lineup a lot more than Andersson did (just 29 games last year). The style of the team’s play won’t change, but the dynamic changes a lot. Datsyuk’s presence in the lineup always seemed to have a negative impact on Gustav Nyquist’s production. Perhaps Nyquist was always looking over his shoulder, who knows? With Datsyuk gone now, I suspect that Nyquist will take on more of a leadership role – and that’s to the benefit of his fantasy owners. Not to mention his linemate Tomas Tatar, who will produce more if/when Nyquist does.
Ready for full-time – Andreas Athanasiou had 14 points in 37 games last year, including those of the highlight variety. He may be able to earn a top six job, at least by the end of season that could happen. In keeper leagues he is a must-own.
Anthony Mantha is only a month younger than Athanasiou, but his draft class was a year later due to his September 16 birthdate. We saw a glimpse of what he could do last season in Detroit (three points in 10 games) but he has yet to dominate at the AHL level. I suspect we’ll see that domination in 2016-17. Look for more than a point-per-game for Grand Rapids. (Read more on Mantha here)
Xavier Ouellet has the poise and experience to thrive in the NHL now as a two-way defender who takes care of his own end first. He probably won’t help fantasy leagues unless they count blocked shots, but he’s almost a sure thing to make the Wings. (Read more on Ouellet here)
Robbie Russo was signed as a free agent last year and he went on to lead Grand Rapids defensemen in scoring with 39 points in 71 contests. He was also an astounding plus-40. He’s a long shot to make the big club, but will almost certainly get a few cups of coffee. I suspect that, in the long run, he’ll become a Mike Kostka-type in the NHL.
Fantasy Outlook – The Wings continue to fill their roster with draft picks, except those draft picks are no longer turning into Hall-of-Famers. Instead, they’re just merely ‘good’. No more Henrik Zetterberg, Datsyuk or Nicklas Lidstrom. Instead we have Nyquist, Tatar and Athanasiou. That’s not to say that one of these players, or a prospect like Mantha, could not ‘become’ superstars. It’s just not likely. What this means is that Detroit will not be Cup favorites in the near future, but just playoff contenders. And unless one of these youngsters really step it up, they won’t have a 70-point player in the lineup, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy purposes.
Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was B+)
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