Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – New Jersey Devils
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 – New Jersey took advantage of a bit of their blue-line depth by using it to acquire some forward help. And in Taylor Hall they landed one of the better ones in the league. Between Hall, Bennett and prospect Pavel Zacha, it’s possible that the Devils can ice a solid top six and then follow it up with a decent scoring third line (I’m thinking Joseph Blandisi – Travis Zajac – Devante Smith-Pelly, with Zajac subbing in for Zacha on the second line until the latter is ready). New Jersey’s offense ranked 30th last season. Perhaps now they can crack the Top 25.
Ready for full-time – Zacha should make this team. And although he’ll likely start out on the third line, it won’t take long for the Devils to realize that they need the numbers that he could put up. I’d expect something along the lines of 12 minutes per game over the first six weeks, but then 15 or more the rest of the way. Much will depend on his production early on, because that will determine his linemates from November onward. A few bad bounces in October resulting in a low point total would see him get stuck on a line with Sergey Kalinin and Gazdic far more often than we’d like. (Read more on Zacha here)
Blandisi is an underrated prospect because he was drafted late (by Colorado in 2012) and then allowed to go free by the organization two years later. And his big OHL season (112 points in 68 games) happened when he played there as an overager. Prior to that his best was 50 points in 47 games. But he adapted well to the AHL, putting up points early which resulted in a call-up to the big club. He had 14 points in his first 22 games with the Devils before hitting a wall offensively. With power-play time now going to Hall, Zacha and a healthy Mike Cammalleri, Blandisi will have a lot of trouble making the same kind of splash this year. (Read more on Blandisi here)
Reece Scarlett is a 23-year-old defenseman who really blossomed at the WHL level but took several years to find his stride in the AHL. Last season he found some of that aggressive game that made him such a good prospect when he was a teenager. He’ll have to go through waivers to be sent down so he should get a very long look. Potentially he could get 20 points and 70 PIM this season, though that’s pretty optimistic. (Read more on Scarlett here)
Steve Santini was the 42nd overall pick in 2013 and was impressive over three years in college. He has a bit of offensive potential but for the most part he’ll be a strong two-way defenseman who could eventually reach 20 points and 85 penalty minutes. (Read more on Santini here)
Fantasy Outlook – Hall has my attention and in Zacha the Devils finally have a blue-chip prospect after how many years? Seeing your player get traded to the Devils is no longer the end of the world. But beyond Zacha, the prospect cupboard is still quite bare and Hall still needs someone to pass to (and if you say the word ‘Henrique’ I’ll have to shoot you). An improvement over a year ago, no question. But how could it have gotten worse?
Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was D-, and in 2014, 2013 and 2012 it was D)
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