Libin takes a look at some of the interesting new players not named McDavid, who you'll find in the Western Conference
These are the Western Conference newcomers, not named Connor McDavid, that have the potential for the greatest fantasy impact this season. Each has fewer than 30 NHL games under their belts. Their inclusion on this list is based on opportunity and the situation in which they will likely find themselves. To that end neither Griffin Reinhart nor Darnell Nurse found their way onto this list as the Oilers have seven, experienced NHL defensemen which should limit their ability to have a great impact. On the other hand Klas Dahlbeck is set to make the Coyotes however his is more of a defensive game and it is unlikely he gets used in much of an offensive capacity.
Kevin Fiala and Steve Moses, Nashville – Forwards
Only one of these two forwards will have a shot at making an impact on the Nashville roster given the returning bodies. It looks increasingly as if there will only be one starting forward spot up for grabs in Nashville. While Moses is the older player he has been playing overseas for the last three years in his only shot at professional hockey. Fiala on the other hand is seven years younger but played half of last year predominantly in the AHL with a couple games in the NHL as well. Moses’ numbers in the KHL last year are significantly more impressive than Fiala’s AHL numbers but there is almost always an adjustment period when going from European hockey to the NHL. Fiala should have the inside track on making the Predators, but for either to make the team it will have to be in an offensive role otherwise a youngster more suited for a depth role, such as Austin Watson or Max Reinhart, could usurp that roster spot.
Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, Arizona – Forwards
These two have a great opportunity to make an impact on the abomination that passes for a roster in Arizona. They made quite the impression as linemates during the most recent world junior hockey championship and the hope is that they will be able to rekindle that magic in the NHL. With the Coyotes’ roster largely bare there are plenty of opportunities for not only playing time but top six minutes. Duclair got into 18 games for the Rangers and tallied seven points while playing only 12 minutes per game. That pace is certainly within reach for Duclair in Arizona given that he would probably see around five more minutes of ice time per game. Domi meanwhile does not have the experience that Duclair has but he certainly has the pedigree. With a translation factor of 0.30 for players moving from the OHL Domi is in line for 30 points. Neither player will light the world on fire but Duclair has a shot at 40 points while 30 points is a good bet for Domi.
Sam Bennett, Calgary – Forward
Sam Bennett is in an outstanding situation whether he plays on the second or third line for the Flames. If Bennett ends up on the third line for the Flames that means he is centering his own line. In that situation Monahan would be getting the best offensive minutes while Backlund takes the toughest defensive minutes, Bennett would then see sheltered minutes in good offensive situations against less than stellar competition. If he is on the second line he is skating alongside Backlund, facing tougher competition but with a player who drives possession and almost always gets the most out of his linemeates. Last year Backlund was a big part of the reason Lance Bouma put up 34 points in 78 games, he could do a lot more for, and with, Bennett. Both situations bode pretty well for Bennett, although the third line center job seems more likely as Backlund seems more likely to play with two way skaters like Frolik and Bouma. Bennett has a shot at 50 points, with second unit power play time, but bet on something closer to 40.
Artemi Panarin, Chicago – Forward
Panarin is very intriguing having put up more than a point per game last season in the KHL. There are opportunities in Chicago for him to grab a top six spot but the competition will be very stiff. Having never played in North America there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period which probably means some time in the AHL. Panarin scored 1.2 points per game last year in the KHL, which translates to close to a point per game in the NHL. With the depth in Chicago he probably will not get enough of an opportunity to reach a point per game. He is a better bet for next year than he is for this year. With spot duty this year, 15 points is probably his peak.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg – Forward
The Jets are very deep so Ehlers will not get a ton of opportunities but he will immediately be one of the most talented players on the team. That talent should help him find his way onto the second power play unit and get him into the top six in the case of an injury to one of the incumbents. Ideally he would be given a shot at a top six role in place of Drew Stafford but that is unlikely due to their contracts and the Jets being in something of a win-now mindset. The power play minutes that Ehlers is likely to see will help significantly with his scoring totals, otherwise he is probably a sub-30 point player, with that power play time he is probably closer to 35 points.
Brandon Gormley, Arizona – Defense
Gormley is the heir apparent for the Keith Yandle spot on the Coyotes’ blueline, the offensive defenseman playing sheltered minutes behind OEL. That is the outlook for his future but this year he will be featured in a reduced role. With Michael Stone and OEL in front of him on the power play Gormley will see second unit minutes. At even strength he is more likely to play limited minutes in a very sheltered capacity. As a defenseman he could be a decent value play as a depth option as the Coyotes power play tends to be very blueline-oriented, so 20 points is very attainable.
The following players are not newcomers but they have been away from the NHL for long enough that may seem like it. Both players will be analyzed based on the same criteria as the new comers namely the opportunities present in the situation in to which they are entering and their expected usage.
Alex Burmistrov, Winnipeg – Forward
Burmistrov returns to the Jets after two years in KHL with very underwhelming numbers. He returns to a very deep Jets team without a lot of openings in top six minutes. He probably ends up on the third or fourth line in some capacity although likely against lesser competition. It is highly unlikely though that he sees any power play time. Last year in the KHL Burmistrov averaged just under one point every two games. That point pace in the KHL translates to a 0.4 points per game in the NHL, which puts Burmistrov at approximately 30 points. Without any power play time and in a limited third line capacity 30 points is probably a maximum that should be expected rather than a minimum.
Viktor Tikhonov, Chicago – Forward
Tikhonov has not played in North America in four years and was not all that impressive when he did. He had 16 points in 61 NHL games and 44 points in 72 AHL games. His numbers in the KHL have been on the decline bottoming out at half a point per game last year after three seasons over 0.65 points per game. In order to land a spot in Chicago’s lineup he needs to beat Panarin, Dano, Morin, Nordstrom, Desjardins and Tropp. Panarin, Dano and Morin he would have to beat out for offensive roles, whereas Desjardins, Nordstrom and Tropp fill defensive roles. If Tikhonov makes the Blackhawks he is highly unlikely to break 20 points.
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