September 25 2015

by steve laidlaw on September 25, 2015

Lehtera returning early, the Blues lineup outlook, Chara hurt and more…

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Chris Higgins has a broken foot and will miss at least three weeks. This opens the door for Sven Baertschi to not only make the Canucks but receive top-six minutes out of the gate. You won’t find Baertschi on too many sleeper or breakout lists but he’s out there as a super under-the-radar candidate.

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More bad news for the Bruins as Zdeno Chara left last night’s contest with an upper-body injury. Chara ain’t what he used to be but it would be crushing if he misses any time while Dennis Seidenberg is out.

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Justin Fontaine went down after a knee-on-knee collision with David Clarkson who was booted from the game. Fontaine did not return. He’s a fringe fantasy guy but if he misses time that could create some space for Jordan Schroeder to gain some relevance.

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Ken Hitchcock won’t name his #1 goalie during the pre-season:

When the season starts, we're going to let whoever takes the job evolve," Hitchcock said. "So we're not going to anoint anybody. We're just going to let it evolve and hopefully somebody grabs it. I don't know that we want to get into where we're creating the sharing. We want the play of the goalies to determine who gets more, who gets less.

Anyone familiar with Hitchcock’s style knows that we probably won’t have an answer to who the Blues’ #1 is all season. So be prepared for a heavy tandem situation all year. Even if one of Brian Elliott or Jake Allen gets hurt I could see a tandem situation popping up when Jordan Binnington comes up. I’m not huge on Binnington but none of Elliott or Allen would hold much value if they weren’t Blues goalies either.

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In other Blues news, Jori Lehtera will begin practicing today, which is well ahead of schedule. At least part of my love for Paul Stastny heading into the year centered on Lehtera not being ready for the start of the season allowing Stastny to soak up some valuable minutes alongside Vladimir Tarasenko. If Lehtera can go by opening night Stastny’s outlook starts getting dimmer. I still have him for 60 points this season, but I’m growing less optimistic.

Robbi Fabbri is affected by this big time. Without Lehtera, there are multiple openings in the Blues’ lineup where he can at least earn a nine-game regular season tryout. Lehtera being back doesn’t completely squash that chance for Fabbri but it does make it tougher. Fabbri has apparently looked exceptional in the pre-season drawing rave reviews from Hitchcock:

A step ahead of the play. His thinking, his reaction, there's no hesitation…much better player this year than last year.

One final Blues note. If Fabbri does make the team that certainly pushes David Backes to the wing. He only has center eligibility on Fantrax right now, but you can bet that changes in a hurry. Depending on your pool provider Backes may have some hidden value if he hasn’t gained RW eligibility yet. Oh, and since Fabbri is so young you have to figure Backes will still take a ton of the draws so those of you who score faceoff wins need not panic.

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No team has zeroed in on their final roster more than the Philadelphia Flyers who are now down to just 29 players in camp. Shayne Gostisbehere remains but I’ve talked plenty about what a fan I am of his game. Instead, let’s note that Scott Laughton is also sticking around and impressing.

Much like on defense, the Flyers are saddled with some crappy veterans on even crappier contracts, which clogs things for youngsters like Laughton. Laughton probably needs an injury to crack the roster but it’s good that he is making progress. Laughton didn’t produce a whole lot in his cups of coffee last season.

2015 first rounder Travis Konecny is also still in camp and putting up a fight to make the roster. Konecny has more fantasy upside than Laughton but is less likely to have an impact this season.

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I know that I’ve spent some time William Nylander Calder case the past week, but Mike Babcock had a glowing review of his performance thus far:

He just has to keep doing it and doing it and if he keeps doing it, he takes someone's job.

I still think there are too many bodies in Nylander’s way. Plus, there’s no reason to rush him. But getting proven wrong is part of the fun with this stuff so bring it on!

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Patrik Elias will miss the whole pre-season and is questionable for the start of the season. This stinks because I liked Elias for a bit of a rebound after an injury-plagued disaster of a season. Looks like he’s picking up where he left off.

The worst part is that this hurts everyone in an already weak Devils lineup because players like Elias are so smart that they help to make everyone better. Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Tlusty, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Eric Gelinas, Pavel Zacha, all become weaker assets even if Elias’ absence creates more minutes for a few of them.

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TSN’s Scott Cullen looks at the top breakout candidates for the upcoming season. I really don’t have any disagreements with any of his candidates. I’d argue that he missed Ryan Strome, as one of my favourites but Cullen’s list is hard to poke holes in.

Another one of my favourites, Morgan Rielly, does pop up on the list. Even as the Leafs were falling apart, Rielly scored 17 points in his final 36 games, a 38-point pace over a full 82-game season. He’ll receive every opportunity to produce and should continue to improve. It doesn’t matter how bad the Leafs are, there is room for Rielly to be a 40-point defenseman. Avoid him in leagues that score plus/minus, however, because it will be ugly.

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Dobber takes a look at some of the most critical training camp battles in the Western Conference in his latest piece for Puck Daddy.

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There has been a ton of discussion about how successful three-on-three overtime has been after its debut this pre-season. I’ll take this opportunity to revisit my look at the fantasy hockey implications of three-on-three overtime.

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Make sure you check out Chris Wassel’s Sportsnet piece on John Klingberg’s fantasy value, it’s a beauty.

It’s interesting to me that Klingberg is still a fantasy sleeper in a lot of circles. Maybe I’m “too inside” to view it as anything but a given that Klingberg will be a tremendous fantasy asset this season. It’s reached the point where I almost want to give a contrarian point of view but I can’t. Klingberg is legit and to give a contrarian take would simply be a disservice to all of you so I won’t bother. If he’s still undervalued, absolutely get Klingberg this season. You won’t regret it.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.