Ramblings: WCH, Seguin, This Year’s Stempniak? (Sept 18)

by Ian Gooding on September 18, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: WCH, Seguin, This Year’s Stempniak? (Sept 18)

World Cup of Hockey recap, Tyler Seguin, this year’s Lee Stempniak?

As pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey favorites, Canada did not disappoint, downing the Czech Republic 6-0 on Saturday. The Sidney Crosby and two Bruins line (Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) played a major part in the win, with Crosby and Marchand each scoring a goal and adding two assists.  

I have to admit that I was worried about Carey Price entering this tournament. He has gone from a long injury layoff last season to playing important games for his country. But he got the job done in stopping all 27 shots he faced. The Czechs are not at the same level offensively as some of the other teams in the tournament, so it will be interesting to see how Price fares in the showdown with the Americans on Tuesday and beyond.

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The earlier game was much more of a surprise, with Team Europe knocking off Team USA by a score of 3-0. I have to admit, I thought that the Americans would have an easy time in this game against the unified European team from a grab bag of countries. But it’s a short tournament, so there can be plenty of surprises. I wouldn’t write the Americans off yet, though, considering they were able to beat Canada in a pre-tournament game.

“Euro Trash?” Really, Toronto Sun? Scraping low for headlines. Noted social justice warrior Don Cherry agrees.
 


Here is Europe’s second goal, scored by Leon Draisaitl. How does a team, especially one with as much NHL experience as the United States, give up a two-on-zero? And how is Patrick Kane the last American to touch the puck on that play?
 


 

Draisaitl might be Team Europe’s best player over their last two games (granted, I haven’t watched every period). He also scored three goals in the previous exhibition game against Sweden, which was off the heels of him being benched for two periods the game before. Two Oilers’ analysts believe that Draisaitl has what it takes to be a top-25 player in the NHL, according to the Edmonton Journal. So take that for what it’s worth.

A couple of players who haven’t been getting much love in the preseason rankings excelled for Europe. Jaroslav Halak earned the 35-save shutout, while Marian Gaborik scored Europe’s first goal.

Halak is ranked at 133 by Yahoo, which is even behind Islander and Team Europe tandem partner Thomas Greiss. You don’t normally get to watch two goaltenders battle beyond their own NHL team, but that’s what we’re getting here. Greiss struggled last weekend in a pre-tournament game and was replaced by Halak. So if Halak is the hot goalie entering training camp, he might enter training camp as the favorite. But the goalies should have a clean slate heading into camp, since the Islanders and Team Europe are separate organizations.  

Meanwhile, Gaborik also scored two goals in a pre-tournament game. What if I told you that he’s only owned in 12 percent of Yahoo leagues? If he’s looking this strong in the WCH, maybe there’s some comeback player potential here. But a player with his injury history and on the downside of his career is not worth reaching for. He’s more like a late-round flier to me.

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The other significant hockey news of the day has to do with a player who is supposed to be at the WCH, but will now be watching instead. Tyler Seguin has been diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his heel and will be re-evaluated in one week, according to Stars’ GM Jim Nill (Dallas News). If you want to see how it happened, just click on the Coach’s Corner link above. Cherry has been harping on no-touch icing for what must be over 20 years now, I believe since Mark Tinordi broke his leg crashing into the boards on an icing back in the early 1990s.
 


How much of a concern is this injury for fantasy owners? I’m not a doctor or Will Carroll, but I do know that a hairline fracture should require less recovery time than a normal fracture. My son had a hairline fracture to his arm and only needed a cast for about 2 ½ weeks. Having said that, having a heel at full strength is critical for skating, which is of course necessary for today’s high-speed game.

The good news for Seguin owners is that the season doesn’t start for nearly another month. So there’s plenty of time. I’ll predict that he’ll be ready for the start of the season. But the injury concern, or even the fact that he may not have a full training camp to get up to speed, will probably push his draft ranking down a few spots.

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There is some worry if you’re a Duncan Keith owner. He may not be ready for the start of the season, according to the Chicago Tribune. Even though he’s in a commercial promoting the World Cup of Hockey, Keith has withdrawn from the tournament due to his ongoing knee injury.

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Professional tryouts don’t have an overly high success rate for players looking for an NHL job. However, a handful of players were able to turn a PTO into a contract last season, including Jonas Gustavsson, Lee Stempniak, Tomas Fleischmann, Scott Gomez, and Scottie Upshall. (For more on these players, see Capped: PTOs Paying Off from Chris Pudsey last year.) The most fantasy relevant of the bunch was Stempniak, who went from free agency afterthought to a 51-point scorer for the Devils and Bruins.

Stempniak paid dividends for fantasy owners who were able to grab him off the waiver wire last season. With just 11 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues at the moment, very few fantasy owners believe that he will hit 50 points again, even with a new contract in his pocket from the Carolina Hurricanes. So to be successful in fantasy leagues again, Stempniak will need to follow a similar path. It will all depend on how the lines fall in Carolina and how coach Bill Peters will deploy his youngsters such as Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and Elias Lindholm. So 40 points seems like a more realistic target.

But this also begs the question: Who will this year’s Stempniak be? Or will there be one? We can easily limit the NHL’s top scorer to a handful of names, but we have no idea who will emerge from the rubble to be that unexpected hero for fantasy teams.

There are some familiar names on PTOs entering training camp, including Tuomo Ruutu (Vancouver), Jarret Stoll (Columbus), Raffi Torres (Carolina), Peter Mueller (Boston), Marc-Andre Bergeron (Columbus), Devin Setoguchi (Los Angeles), Kris Versteeg (Edmonton), and James Wisniewski (Tampa Bay). I won’t go through them all here, nor is this a complete list of PTOs. I was able to dig up this list from The Hockey Writers if you’d like to look at a full list.

Ruutu was a solid player at one time, but I was totally shocked when I heard that he played in 33 games last season and managed just ONE point (an assist). Because of injury and suspension, Torres hasn’t played since the 2013-14 season. So I don’t like his chances either. I mentioned Setoguchi in last weekend’s Ramblings.

Versteeg doesn’t have an injury history, although his career stats may make it look that way. That’s simply because he’s been traded so often. With Jesse Puljujarvi likely eased into the lineup, Versteeg could slot in as a third-line guy to start with top-6 upside if Nail Yakupov hits another deep slump. The offensive weapons are there in Edmonton, so even a third-line role is not a bad spot to be in. But we’re not talking tremendous upside for Versteeg, who according to David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, will provide some much-needed “glue” for the Oilers. But he seems like the best bet out of any of these players to make his team. But what you’ve seen in recent years is probably what you’re going to get from the Steeger.

Wisniewski probably offers the highest potential reward of the PTO boys. I was unlucky enough to own him last season for all 47 seconds of his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not his first injury either, something anyone drafting him should be aware of. A 50-point scorer just three seasons ago, Wisniewski should slot in on the second-unit power play if he makes the team. Keep in mind that the Bolts had the 28th-ranked power play last season, and John Cooper often likes to use seven defensemen. So if I’m rolling the dice on any PTO player, it’s probably Wiz.

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Enjoy the Sunday WCH action, which includes a matchup between Sweden and Russia, along with Finland versus North America. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.