Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2012 Projections: Calgary

The Calgary Flames are a curious beast, which very few can understand the inner-workings of.  Over the past few seasons, they have seen Jekyll & Hyde like performances, which has been about the only consistent thing about them, especially in their non-playoff years.  They can be dominating and impossible to beat for good stretches, but they could also be easier to beat than a video game from the bargain bin at most retailers.

I think a lot of this can be stemmed from their best players and the ups and downs that they experience through a season, which has somewhat of a trickle down effect through the roster, but the downs can be much more damaging to the team's overall depth numbers than it will be to their top players.  Both Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff will give a pool team great seasons, although some weeks you are pulling out your hair, but they won't make you regret picking them in the end.

The same can't be said for some of the other players in the past, but the 2012 season will look to displace some of those feelings, with a new open brand of feeling in the dressing room, a lot less stress from the management chairs above, but they will have to deal with some expectations of making the playoffs in a playoff-hungry Canadian city.

Jarome Iginla85Marc Giordano45Miikka Kiprusoff85
Alex Tanguay70Anton Babchuk30Henrik Karlsson15
Olli Jokinen60Jay Bouwmeester30
Brendan Morrison50Chris Butler25
Rene Bourque45Cory Sarich15
Curtis Glencross45Scott Hannan15
David Moss40
Mikael Backlund40
Lee Stempniak35
Matt Stajan30
Niklas Hagman20
Tom Kostopoulos20
Tim Jackman15
Greg Nemisz30T.J. Brodie15
Lance Bouma15Brett Carson5
Brendan Mikkelson5

Pool Worthy Forwards (Inside the top 160, 35 points)
There really is no reason why the Flames shouldn't have a lot of players taken in the pools this year, they should be able to get some scoring from a lot of guys on a good number of nights.  The Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay combination is poised to be another good one again this year and whoever can fill the void in the middle (which may rotate fairly often again) should be able to redeem his ice-time for points.

At centre, it was looking like it was going to be a three-way logjam down the middle with some capable names that could go anywhere between lines one through three, but a deal this week eased the stress and added a winger.  Now, Olli Jokinen and Brendan Morrison will vie for the number one spot down the middle, with the runner up getting the second line.  I think there will be some swapping back and forth, which may see their numbers even out, but these will be the top two to watch, especially early on.

I think a lot of outfits looking at this Flames team are mostly in agreement that Mikael Backlund is now poised to make a move.  I can see some improvement in his numbers this year, but it will be hinged on how the team sorts itself out down the middle and who he gets to play with that makes the biggest difference.

Pool Worthy Defensemen (Inside the top 80, 20 points)
Four out of the top six defensemen, I think, are going to be pool-worthy, with the inclusion of Chris Butler, who the Flames received in return in the Robyn Regehr deal with Buffalo.  If all things go well for the 24-year old blueliner, he might be able to find some points with some good hands and better teammates.

Marc Giordano will continue to have the pressure piled on his shoulders, taking the lead job into training camp, while Anton Babchuk should feel more comfortable with added contract security for his bomb of a slapshot.  I would like to say Jay Bouwmeester steps up into a more prominent role with the team, having the big contract and all, but it's hard to be convinced of that at the moment.

Pool Worthy Goalies (Inside the top 40, 25 points)
I think we all have to expect Miikka Kiprusoff to dominate the minutes played column again for the Flames, which will likely keep Henrik Karlsson from being pool-worthy again this year.  Kiprusoff will be good for a lot of points again in 2012, but 37 wins in 2011 was not good enough to lift the Flames into the playoffs.  On paper, I don't really see an improvement in the Flames, so 40 wins may be a stretch, but Kiprusoff should still be able to ring out some shutouts to boost his points.

Pool Worthy Rookies
The Flames may have some seeds planted in their prospect system, but some of what is already blossoming may not be ready for the big show just yet.  I suppose the closest youngster to make the leap will be T.J. Brodie, the 21-year old defenseman, just because the Flames are probably going to keep the seventh defenseman spot open for a while.

Greg Nemisz could be the closest forward and with the bottom six players under a watchful eye, Nemisz might be able to find his stride working his way up the depth charts.

Key Injuries

2012 Projections: Buffalo

The Buffalo Sabres are one of a hand full of teams that have so much intrigue and potential surrounding them, that it is almost too hard not to get excited about them when the hockey pool draft comes around. The Sabres have finally spent some money, with new ownership opening up the purse strings, and now it is time to see what the masterminds of a budget team can do at the salary cap ceiling.

The Sabres started the Summer with a lot of the right pieces already in place, having some key players in place for a number of years, plus adding a piece or two around the trade deadline.  It may not have been a question of if the Sabres were going to spend money, it was going to be a question of how much.  The Sabres spent the whole whack, even a little bit more, reaching into the projected 10% overage allowed by the NHL during the off-season, which was very impressive.

With the piggy bank emptied, the question then becomes, does the chemistry work between the new and old faces or will we see another version of the pre-salary cap New York Rangers?

Derek Roy85Christian Ehrhoff45Ryan Miller95
Thomas Vanek80Tyler Myers45Jhonas Enroth15
Brad Boyes70Jordan Leopold30
Jason Pominville70Andrej Sekera25
Drew Stafford65Mike Weber20
Ville Leino55Robyn Regehr15
Tyler Ennis40Shaone Morrisonn5
Nathan Gerbe35
Jochen Hecht35
Paul Gaustad30
Cody McCormick25
Patrick Kaleta15
Ales Kotalik5
Luke Adam20Marc-Andre Gragnani30Drew McIntyre5
Zack Kassian20
Marcus Foligno15

Pool Worthy Forwards (Inside the top 160, 35 points)
The Sabres' forwards have plenty of potential for points this year, with a healthy Derek Roy ready to go this year, Thomas Vanek finding some of his hands again last season, the addition of Brad Boyes was a good one for the club and you can continue down the line.

I'm not terribly convinced that Ville Leino is going to light up the scoreboard with a great deal of points, he'll be relied upon for some more checking minutes, but the linemates around him should be good enough to bump his numbers, but only to a point.

With all the new veteran faces around and their youth working against them, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe may still be working with some underwhelming point totals by the end of the year, but they could really be swing players for the Sabres.  They have potential to jump higher, but they are down in the chart, looking at the names they have currently.

Pool Worthy Defensemen (Inside the top 80, 20 points)
The addition of Christian Ehrhoff this Summer makes for a very formidable top pair of blueliners, along side Tyler Myers, both of which are poised to excel in Buffalo.  I don't think the chemistry will be there right away for Ehrhoff to exceed his numbers in Vancouver, but he'll definitely help Myers jump up to his level, so it should work in their favour.

With some top end talent in the top potential pairing, numbers may not reflect well on the other four starting defensemen, as Leopold's numbers will rely on who he pairs up with.  Leopold could just as easily pair up with one of the two top defenders, which could help his numbers or he could work with some of the other three, which may hinder his numbers.  He could swing a fair distance this year.

Pool Worthy Goalies (Inside the top 40, 25 points)
Excellent scoring potential, still a fairly defensive system, the Sabres have a good mix on paper to help Ryan Miller pot 40 or more wins in 2012, which will make him a hot commodity when the draft goes down.  I have Miller at 95 points, which should be among the tops for goaltenders, possibly a few less shutouts than his counterparts, but he'll definitely have the wins.  Miller should look really good, with a lot of minutes.

Pool Worthy Rookies
Marc-Andre Gragnani can be a very good rookie this year, having shown some flashes in the playoffs this past Spring.  Gragnani is behind seven quality veteran defensemen, some of which do not require a lot of minutes on the ice to be effective, whereas Gragnani may need those minutes to blossom and mature in the NHL.  I can't quite see Gragnani busting through right away, unless he's earned the minutes that he is going to get, so a close eye will be needed for him in training camp.

Unsigned Players

Key Injuries
In the playoffs last year, Jason Pominville suffered a lacerated leg, which ended up slicing into a tendon.  Pominville required surgery on his leg and the estimated recovery time was anywhere between 4-to-6 months.  The worst case scenario would put Pominville back in the line-up in late October, but I have not seen any reports to confirm what his status is.  For now, I would consider him ready to go, but will pass along any information, if he isn't.

2012 Projections: Boston

The Bruins are the defending Cup champs this season, but they were no screaming hell for the fantasy buffs last season, unless you're talking about the playoff pool.  No, the blue collar bunch were a great combination of physical play, timely scoring and masterful goaltending, to which the physical play and goaltending were really what stood out the most.

The blueprint of the Cup winning team was used once again in forming the latest version of the Bruins team that we're expecting to see come October, plenty of role players in all the right spots, mixed together with just enough skill to get the team by on the scoresheet.  It was a formula that worked and whatever the team lost in the off-season, they were able to replace, so they theoretically should be poised to do it all over again.

Does this mean that they will be a better team to pick from for the hockey pool?  Probably not, but they will have their fair share of players taken, just not quite as high as some other teams.

Patrice Bergeron75Zdeno Chara40Tim Thomas80
David Krejci70Joe Corvo35Tuukka Rask20
Milan Lucic65Dennis Seidenberg30
Nathan Horton55Johnny Boychuk20
Tyler Seguin50Andrew Ference15
Rich Peverley40Adam McQuaid10
Benoit Pouliot35
Gregory Campbell30
Chris Kelly25
Shawn Thornton20
Dan Paille10
Marc Savard0
Jordan Caron20Steven Kampfer15

Pool Worthy Forwards (Inside the top 160, 40 points)
After winning the Cup in the Spring, I think there will be two players on this year's Bruins team that will have a great rise in confidence and thus, a very good rise in production.  The first being Patrice Bergeron, who's two-way game was tremendous in the playoffs, but it will all translate into confidence, where his numbers should boot him right up to the top of their table for the year.

The second will be sophomore Tyler Seguin, who learned the value of being in a hard working group and I think he'll excel, rather than slump, in his second year in the NHL.  Seguin may have been used sparingly through the playoffs, as the coaching staff preferred experience in the line-up, until injuries occurred, but when he was on the ice, he didn't look out of place.

I think it is also fair to think that David Krejci should have a better year in 2012 as well, since he slumped a bit in 2010 and only brought some of his numbers back up in 2011.  This should be a good season for him as well.

Pool Worthy Defensemen (Inside the top 80, 25 points)
The Bruins' defense should be fairly solid again in the 2012 season, led by the Norris Trophy candidate, Zdeno Chara, who should be poised to climb right back in the saddle and help his team defend the championship.  I think there could be a small dip in his numbers largely because of the Stanley Cup hangover and the long season that led to it.

The acquisition of Joe Corvo looks to be a good addition on paper for the Bruins, who were not going to re-sign Tomas Kaberle after the Cup run.  Corvo provides a little bit more of a shot from the point, but they do give up a bit in the puck moving department, but really, it's a good trade off.  The Bruins need another quality shot from the point.

Pool Worthy Goalies (Inside the top 40, 25 points)
How much confidence does Tim Thomas have going into the 2012 season?  Probably a lot.  With that sort of confidence and notoriety, all the teams in the East will be looking at him as enemy number one, the guy that they will have to beat to measure their season against.  I think that much work may cost Thomas some points in the year, but not a great deal of points, especially since his skill set is still so high.  He'll be good, but he'll be worked on.

Pool Worthy Rookies
The Bruins depth in veterans is very good this year, which will make it tough for rookies to crack the roster full-time, especially with some youth already in the mix.  At the moment, there is a hole (see unsigned players), which may see a player like Jordan Caron jump in, but I don't expect that hole to be around when camp or the season opens.

Unsigned Players
One of the playoff heroes from the Spring is still left unsigned, as Brad Marchand, a restricted free agent, is still waiting on his new deal for the coming season.  Marchand was a key player in the Cup run, plus he did pot 21 goals in the regular season, so he might have a case to hold out for what he wants, but how long will the Bruins wait to deal with him?  It does sound like a money issue at the end of the day.

Key Injuries
Things are not quite looking up for Marc Savard, as the last word on his potential for the 2012 season is rather cloudy, still dealing with concussion symptoms.  With the concussion problems that Savard has had in recent memory, I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole, fantasy-wise.  That's just terrible risk management and not worth the gamble.

2012 Projections: Anaheim

The Anaheim Ducks were carried into the playoffs by the league MVP, Corey Perry, but he did have a good supporting cast by the end of the season, so as a team, the Ducks look like a pretty good squad going into the 2012 season.

The Ducks obviously felt that they didn't need to make many major changes to the team that earned home-ice advantage in the playoffs, but some tinkering was done to the overall look of the team.  The Ducks added a little bit of speed up front, while also shored up the blueline with another key acquisition.

Anaheim did deal with some injury concerns in 2011, all of which have now been sorted out and they should be able to resume regular season play with a full compliment of players.  All things considered, the Ducks could be in the running for a Pacific Division title this season.

Ryan Getzlaf90Lubomir Visnovsky55Jonas Hiller75
Corey Perry85Cam Fowler35Dan Ellis20
Bobby Ryan80Kurtis Foster30
Saku Koivu40Toni Lydman25
Jason Blake35Francois Beauchemin15
Andrew Cogliano30Luca Sbisa15
Dan Sexton30Sheldon Brookbank5
Brandon McMillan25
Matt Beleskey20
J-F Jacques5
George Parros5
Kyle Palmieri25Matt Smaby5Jeff Deslauriers5
Andrew Gordon10Nate Guenin5

Pool Worthy Forwards (Inside the top 160, 40 points)
Thanks to the big three, the Ducks do have a chance every night, but their scoring depth really drops off to a whisper, hardly pool worthy.  Yes, Corey Perry led the way for the Ducks in 2011, but I think it will be a return to the top of the heap for captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had an off-year last season, mired with injury as well.  Bobby Ryan should now be coming into his own now as well, especially with the help from a healthy Getzlaf.

A pair of veterans highlight the bottom end of the pool worthy players, as Saku Koivu and Jason Blake may be able to help a team in the last couple forward spots for a team.  Both players, 36 and 38 years old, respectively, will likely continue to get some top six minutes, as the team waits on some more of their youth to come in and render these two obsolete.

There is certainly some real potential for Brandon McMillan to make the jump into being pool worthy in 2012, but he would have to make the leap over a few players like Andrew Cogliano or Dan Sexton to get there, which could be difficult.

Pool Worthy Defensemen (Inside the top 80, 25 points)
The Ducks had the best scoring defenseman in 2011, Lubomir Visnovsky, and he'll be leading another solid top four into the hockey pool conversation.  Visnovsky found a great home in Anaheim in 2011 and with solid footing with the Ducks, he should be able to work his way back up to the top of the list again.

Sophomore Cam Fowler will be building upon one hell of a rookie campaign last season, but will likely face some stiffer competition, now that every team in the league knows what to expect from the smooth skating American.

Pool Worthy Goalies (Inside the top 40, 25 points)
It sounds like all systems are a go for Jonas Hiller for the 2012 season.  Hiller missed the back half of the 2011 season dealing with vertigo and other head injury symptoms, which means we should be expecting another solid  season, especially with a blossoming Ducks team.  If there is any concern or a warning, it is the season after a head injury, which should be taken into consideration.

Pool Worthy Rookies
The Ducks are not boasting a great class of rookies for the 2012 season, although if you were going to pick one that should succeed, it would likely be Kyle Palmieri, who is probably the closest, but has a number of bodies to jump over in the depth chart to get there.

Unsigned Players
If there is going to be a return of Teemu Selanne to the league, he'll be playing for the Anaheim Ducks, but as of right now, he remains unsigned.  Sure, he's an unrestricted free agent, but it has been made public that his return will only be with Anaheim.  If I was to wager a guess right about now, I would say that he will make a return and actually play very well once again.

Key Injuries
Defenseman Toni Lydman underwent major shoulder surgery in May, repairing a torn labrum, which had the potential of him missing out on training camp entirely and putting the start of the regular season in doubt for him.  I haven't yet seen any new updates on his condition, so I would say he'd be a questionable pick this year.

Season Written Off For Savard

Well, I had a feeling that this was going to be the case, it's just my 2012 projections for the Bruins isn't going to be posted until later tonight, but you'll see, I had the feeling that Marc Savard wouldn't likely play this season and that his career would be in doubt, as it was reported today on Puck Daddy.

Savard, dealing with major concussions and their subsequent syndromes, was only limited to 25 games last season and with six years still remaining on his deal, they could be the last regular season games he'll be able to play.

With this news, be sure to strike him from your lists and if you need a reminder, swing by tomorrow to see the Bruins' projections... I'll tell it to you again there too.

Tyutin Signs Extension

Back-to-back days of 6-year extensions in the NHL, that has to be considered somewhat notable, right? On Wednesday morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that defenseman Fedor Tyutin, 28, signed a brand new extension with the team, which will earn him $27 million. This will work out to be a $4.5 million cap hit per season for Tyutin and the Jackets, which seems a tad pricey for a blueliner that has topped out at 34 points, three seasons ago.

In 2011, Tyutin picked up 7 goals and 20 assists in 80 games, ranking him 53rd among all defensemen in scoring, which isn't too bad.

This deal is scheduled to kick in for the 2013 season, when he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and his cap hit will be among the highest among 29-year old defensemen next season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Van Riemsdyk Extends For Six

On Tuesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they have signed young power forward James Van Riemsdyk to a new 6-year contract extension, worth $25.5 million. The deal will not kick in until the 2013 season and it will have an annual cap hit of $4.25 million per season.

Van Riemsdyk was scheduled to come out of his entry-level deal at the end of next season and now he is signed on until he is 29 years old, which should make him into an unrestricted free agent by the end of the deal.

In only his second season with the Flyers, Van Riemsdyk picked up 40 points (21 goals and 19 assists) in 75 games and I think he's poised to put together an even better season in 2012.  At $4.25 million per season, the Flyers may have themselves a real bargain, especially if he can live up to that number two overall pick in 2007 status.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Langkow for Stempniak

2010-2011 NHL StatisticsJuly 1st Status
To PhoenixPositionAgeGPGAPYearsCap Hit
Daymond LangkowF3440111$4.5 million
To CalgaryPositionAgeGPGAPYearsCap Hit
Lee StempniakF28821919381$1.9 million

The Coyotes have re-acquired centre Daymond Langkow from the Flames on Monday afternoon, the team that they deal Langkow to back before the 2005 season, in exchange for veteran forward Lee Stempniak.

In the deal, Phoenix gets an aging centre with some pretty good playmaking abilities, but is coming off a year where he was limited to four games thanks to a neck injury, while the Flames get a grinding winger with some offensive upside for significantly less on the cap hit side.

Both players are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2012 season as well, so the experiment doesn't have to last for very long on either end.

Salary CapThe Flames, in this deal, were able to cut $2.6 million in cap space, handing it straight over to the Coyotes. Calgary now stands at an annual projection of $59 million in cap space for 21 players, a buyout and a capoverage penalty, while Phoenix is now holding onto a projected annual cap hit of $48 million for 20 players and two buyouts.

To me, this looks like a bit of a lateral move, as I don't think either side has really improved a great deal on the ice, of course, against the cap, the Coyotes needed to take on some space, while the Flames would do well to rid themselves of some.  Langkow won't have as much talent to play with, while Stempniak is somewhat overused as a second line winger, when his gritty play is better suited as a third liner. I would say that this deal is a bit of a wash today.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coming Soon: My 2012 Projections

I thought I would try something new this season and post my projections on the blog site, giving each of the 30 teams their own post, looking at some key players, some rookies and hopefully an up-to-date injury report going into September.  I am hoping to have all 30 teams posted around September 1st and then have quick updates, as the last minute signings drop and training camps open up.

Once all the teams have been published, I will also have a PDF copy of my player list available, for printing out and working with when it comes down to your draft day.  There's nothing better than a good checklist to have, keeping up with a quick drafting process.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sharks Extend Couture

Reports early on Friday morning were suggesting, later confirmed, that the San Jose Sharks have agreed with one of their young snipers, Logan Couture, giving him a 2-year extension, which would kick in for the 2013 season. Couture was scheduled to become a restricted free agent in July 2012, but the Sharks have taken all the right precautions to see that it doesn't happen.  The new deal is reportedly worth $5.75 million over the duration of the deal, which works out to a $2.875 million per season for a cap hit.

Couture became one of the Sharks' most consistent scorers in the 2011 season, scoring 32 goals and 24 assists in 79 games for the club.  The Sharks will be looking for the same kind of production, if not a little bit more over the next three seasons, making good on his new deal.

The Sharks have not fared well with young goal scoring talent, seeing poor production after some very good years, Jonathan Cheechoo and Devin Setoguchi immediately spring to mind.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Hockey Pool Draft Date Announced

Have you started doing your homework yet?  I mean, the NHL season is just over a month away and the fierce competition of the hockey pool draft is something you will probably have to study for, even just a little bit.  The season opens on October 6th, the pre-season opens on September 19th, so I've found a date right in between.  Just enough time to see who the first few cuts will be and maybe too much time to gamble on the last rookies to get sent back to their junior team.

I was going to do a drumroll, but by the time you've clicked on the link to get here, you've already noticed the date, because it is in big, bold letters.  See below.

September 27, 2011 at 6pm
Jameson's Pub in NE Calgary

The good people of Jameson's Pub will be having us back in the Bud Lounge for our fourth year, we'll be spending the annual three hours going through the 14 rounds of players, a few brews and like a meal or two as well.

Last year, we finally eclipsed the 17-participant mark by having 20 teams take part in the pool, which was a lot of fun and didn't really increase the time spent by too much longer.  I think if we can get a few more teams to enter this year, we can keep that good pace up and have ourselves a pretty good time.

Just a quick recap of the relevant details... $50 to get into the pool (sorry, it doesn't include any free stuff at the pub), 14 rounds (eight forwards, four defensemen and two goalies) and it has taken us about three hours to complete the draft.  I have the Bud Lounge booked for 5pm this year and I would like to get started around 6pm, so we'll have plenty of time to filter in and then take part.

Drafting materials, like pens, paper, player lists and some pool guides will be made available upon request.  Let's have ourselves another great night!

Be sure to check out the Facebook event page to RSVP or e-mail me for details.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chris Drury Retires

On Friday morning, it was announced that former Rangers captain Chris Drury has announced his retirement after a 12-year career in the NHL.  Drury spent time between Colorado, Calgary, Buffalo and in New York, before having his contract bought out by the Rangers in June.

In 892 career games, Drury has 615 points (255 goals and 360 assists) and was a solid fantasy player for a number of seasons, but his numbers quickly dwindled, combined with some recurring injuries, it was getting to be a good time to think about retirement.  In 2009, he finished 75th among all forwards in scoring, dropping all the way down to 412th in 2011.

Drury has one Stanley Cup championship to his name, winning with the Avalanche in 2001, along with some pretty good playoff scoring numbers, 89 points (47 goals and 42 assists) in 135 career games.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zajac Injured, Out 3 Months

Bad news from Devils camp, as the team will now be missing forward Travis Zajac for upwards of three months after injuring his Achilles tendon doing some plyometric exercises for his off-season training. Zajac underwent surgery to repair the tendons and the organization is saying that his rehabilitation will take about three months, which would put him back in the line-up in the middle of November.

In 2011, Zajac played in all 82 games, scoring 13 goals and 31 assists in a down year for the 26-year old forward.  Zajac has finished in the top 75 of pool scoring twice, which makes him a pretty substantial loss in the scoring department, something the Devils desperately were needing last season.

Adjust your lists accordingly.

Coyotes Re-Sign Boedker

The Phoenix Coyotes have reportedly re-signed young Danish forward Mikkel Boedker to a new 2-year deal, worth $2.2 million.  Boedker, 21, is coming out of his entry-level deal as a restricted free agent and was given a very reasonable deal, which signals that he might be ready to take his game to the next level and become a full-time player for the Coyotes.

In 34 games last season, Boedker scored 4 goals and added 10 assists, which had him at a scoring rate of .41 points per game, which may put him just under the threshold of where he should be to be considered as a pool player, but at his age, he does have plenty of offensive upside, which means he should get better.  Boedker could work out to be a good late round pick.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Hockey News Ultimate Pool Guide for 2011-'12

Generally, the middle payday of August means that I've gone out to find the new hockey pool guides and fortunately, the The Hockey News Ultimate Pool Guide for the 2011-'12 season has been released and I usually like to go over them to try and find the most interesting tidbits.

It's kind of funny, this is the first year that I've posted something about one of the pool guides before I have even booked the day for the draft this year.  How strange.

Nevertheless, we're still a good few weeks until the regular season starts and it will be in the two weeks leading up to the season when we'll have the annual draft, so there is plenty of time to study, if you're like me and study all year around.  (NOTE: Studying all year around does not necessarily make you into a better poolie, it may just keep you out of trouble more than anything)

The Hockey News' love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins continues in the new edition of the poolie guide, as Sidney Crosby has returned to the top of the heap, projected to pick up 117 points in 75 games, including 55 goals.  That will be one hell of a feat for the Penguins' captain, one a lot of people may also think could happen.   Crosby is also the only forward slated to reach the 100-point mark, but since there was only one 100-point player in 2011, you could reason with that to a point.

Alex Ovechkin comes in at number two, expected to make the leap back into the forefront, chasing down his old nemesis in the scoring race.  Ovechkin is also scheduled to score 50 goals, but fall short of triple-digits by a couple, projected to come in at 98 points.  Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom, Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf all finish in the top 10 among forwards, with Malkin and Getzlaf rounding out at 87 points each.

Expectations have increased for Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, as he has been slotted in at 11th with 86 points, while the Islanders' John Tavares isn't too far behind at 18th with 82 points.

The defensemen situation is expected to return to its 2010 season form, Mike Green is projected to lead all NHL blueliners with 73 points in 78 games, which is far and away the best of the bunch, with Drew Doughty (pending a new contract) coming in at 60 points in 80 games.  If the Capitals are going to return to their scoring ways, Green will be there racking up points.  Kris Letang, Lubomir Visnovsky, Alex Goligoski, Mark Streit, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle, Andrei Markov, Shea Weber and Nicklas Lidstrom all round out the top 11, with Weber and Lidstrom tied at 52 points.

In goal, the Hockey News is high on the Buffalo Sabres as well, as they have put Ryan Miller among the tops in goaltending, expected to win 40 games, 5 by shutout, which would work out to about 90 points, give or take an assist or two.  The Sabres spent a lot of money, but the application of all this new talent may have it's fair share of growing pains.  Henrik Lundqvist is also expected to pick up 90 points, 37 wins and 8 shutouts, so he'll be giving poolies something to think about when they make their first goalie selection.  Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne, Martin Brodeur, Tomas Vokoun, Miikka Kiprusoff, Ilya Bryzgalov and Corey Crawford are all projected for over 80 points by the Hockey News.

The rookie class is another one to take a close look at, when should you be looking to draft a rookie or two?  Well, like most players, you really want to be picking them where you project them to finish in the scoring race.  The Hockey News has the Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leading all rookies with 55 points in 2012, which would put him in around the top 100 in pool scoring, just outside of the 3rd round.  Brayden Schenn will start a new life with Philly, projected to pick up 50 points with the Flyers, while Ryan Johansen will jump onto the scene with 45 points.  I wouldn't be in a huge rush to pick up the rookie class, they haven't proven to be great sleepers over the last few years, turning out to be bigger busts than most players.

The checklist feature of the projections is a very handy tool and I know many of my poolies use this guide to get them through 14 rounds of player selections and last year the draft went pretty well.  I think there is plenty of information at your fingertips, so I would recommend this one, like I do most years.

Habs Add Woywitka

The Canadiens added a little bit more defensive depth on Monday morning, as they announced the signing of unrestricted free agent defender Jeff Woywitka, signing him to a 1-year deal. The deal is a two-way contract, which gives the club a little bit more payroll flexibility and lowers the expectations of the 27-year old blueliner.  The salary number was not announced, but I would assume it would be in the $525,000 to $550,000 range.

Woywitka spent the 2011 season with the Dallas Stars, his second season in Texas, playing in 63 games and scoring 2 goals and adding 9 assists.  That was good enough for 143rd among all defensemen in scoring and is surprisingly good enough to rank 3rd among all Canadiens defensemen in scoring last season.

With Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges having some injury-shortened numbers on the Habs roster this off-season, you can immediately see why Woywitka will be challenging for the sixth spot on the blueline, likely giving Yannick Weber a good run for his money in training camp.

Woywitka has played in parts of six NHL seasons between St. Louis and Dallas, but has not yet played a full 82-game season in the big leagues, topping out at 65 games in 2009.  He should be bringing a level of experience to the last pairing, possibly seventh defenseman position, which likely won't generate too much offense for us poolies, unless there is some magic found with one of the current roster defensemen.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Flames Ink Hannan

The Flames announced on Saturday that they have signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Scott Hannan to a 1-year deal, worth $1 million.  Hannan was one of the last experienced defensemen on the open market in this off-season and the Flames did well to snap him up before it was too late.

In 2011, Hannan split time between the Avalanche and the Capitals, being sent to Washington at the end of November last season in a deal that sent Tomas Fleischmann to Denver.  In 78 games between the two sides, Hannan scored 1 goal and added 10 assists, which ranked him 146th among all defensemen.

Hannan isn't so much a fantasy type defenseman, having only topped out at 24 points in his days with San Jose, but if he was able to get himself back into the 20-point range, he would likely get some looks during the mid-season waiver draft days, trying to fill in for an injured player.

Jarome IginlaMarc GiordanoMiikka Kiprusoff
Alex TanguayAnton BabchukHenrik Karlsson
Olli JokinenJay Bouwmeester
Rene BourqueCory Sarich
Curtis GlencrossScott Hannan
Brendan MorrisonChris Butler
Matt Stajan
David Moss
Niklas Hagman
Mikael Backlund
Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos
Daymond Langkow

The addition of Hannan now gives the Flames a fairly solid top six, rich with some experience, physicality and some good skating, which should be tough for other teams to play against on a nightly basis.

Salary CapWith the team listed above, the Flames could now start the season and ice a team, with 13 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies now on the team table.  By my calculations, including a buyout on the books and a very small cap overage penalty from the 2011 season, the Flames come in at a very reasonable $61.6 million, giving the team some much needed flexibility against the cap ceiling and a very full team.

Sabres Re-Up Gragnani

On Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani to a 1-year deal, worth $525,000.

Gragnani doesn't really have the numbers that would normally get him mentioned in a post for the hockey pools, with only 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists) in nine games for the Sabres in the 2011 regular season, but he did rise to prominence in the playoffs, where he had 7 points (1 goal and 6 assists) in the opening round against the Flyers.

Unfortunately for Gragnani, the Sabres went and spent a lot of money and a lot of time on rebuilding the blueline, adding pieces like Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr, which puts Gragnani in a bit of a tight spot, trying to make the roster for the 2012 season.  He will likely be competing for a spot with Mike Weber or Shaone Morrisonn, so if he can make it, he'll probably be carrying some momentum from camp into the season, which could make him into a bit of a sleeper pick.

If you can hold out until training camp to select your pool teams, then keep a close eye on the Buffalo blueline.  Otherwise, you may just want to keep a close eye on Gragnani for picking him up mid-season.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coyotes Re-Sign Tikhonov

The Phoenix Coyotes have re-signed former 1st round pick (2008, 28th overall) Viktor Tikhonov to a new 1-year, two-way deal on Wednesday, reportedly worth $827,000 at the NHL level.

Tikhonov has been a long-term project for the Coyotes since his draft, playing in 61 games in the 2009 season, picking up 16 points and since then has split time between the KHL and the AHL.  Last season with the San Antonio Rampage, Tikhonov played in 60 games and picked up 10 goals and 33 points, which is a step in the right direction.

I can't say that I have high hopes for the youngster, but he will get another shot at making the team in training camp, which has the potential of being his last shot with the Coyotes.  A few years and a number of draft picks since, the Coyotes may have this kid on a short leash.

Predators Buyout Lebda

The Nashville Predators have decided against keeping defenseman Brett Lebda around, after acquiring him from Toronto in the deal that sent Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi to the Maple Leafs earlier in the off-season.  Lebda had one year remaining on his current contract, valued at $1.45 million, but only scoring 4 points in 41 games last season and not having a good all-around year was likely to blame for the buyout.

Brett Lebda buyout from
2011-12: $516,667
2012-13: $466,667

This move should open up some room for one of the team's younger prospects to come up through the system and take away some of the liability from the blueline.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Schremp Signs in Sweden

Early on Wednesday morning, news broke of Rob Schremp signing with Modo in the Swedish Elite League for the 2012 season. Schremp, one of the biggest underachieving forwards, will have a chance to regain some confidence overseas, likely to try an NHL return again in the near future.

Between Long Island and Atlanta in 2011, Schremp played in 63 games, scoring 13 goals and 13 assists, which ranked him 229th among all forwards in pool scoring.  He has been a prospect of many poolies to possibly break out and be a star offensive force, but topping out at 26 points in his NHL career isn't going to work for anyone playing points for money.

If Schremp can manage a big year in Sweden, you may want to re-visit his fantasy value, but for now, this isn't a big loss to the game and it removes a fairly big risk from your drafting list.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Predators Add Hillen

The Nashville Predators have breathed a sigh of relief when Shea Weber's arbitration process was complete, so on Monday, they went ahead and started to fill in the rest of the holes on their blueline, doing so by adding unrestricted free agent defender Jack Hillen to the mix. Hillen signed a 1-year deal, reportedly worth $650,000 at the NHL level (in a two-way deal).

Hillen played on Long Island during the 2011 season, playing in 64 games, scoring 4 goals and adding 18 assists.  Those 22 points were good enough for 79th among all defensemen in scoring, which would put him on the inside of the pool draft's top 80 defensemen, which makes for a pretty good year and some potential for a better year with more ice-time.

Hillen's inclusion on the team table has him in the 3rd position among defenders in scoring, which makes this signing a little bit better, as they were able to add a player that could be a top four defenseman on their side, something they desperately need.  Stay tuned to where Hillen lines up for the Predators in training camp, the right pairing could mean could things for the 25-year old blueliner.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sharks & Wild Deal Again

2010-2011 NHL StatisticsJuly 1st Status
To San JosePositionAgeGPGAPYearsCap Hit
James SheppardF2300000RFA
To MinnesotaPositionAgeGPGAPYearsCap Hit
2013 3rd Round Draft Pick

Well, this is by no means a big deal, since James Sheppard wasn't a fantasy pool-type player when he was healthy, but it's just a little something to post on a Sunday morning, when there is nothing much else going on.

Yes, the Wild and Sharks have made yet another deal, creating another pipeline between two teams that have decided to make trades with one another on a regular basis, this being the third deal in this off-season alone.

Sheppard, a restricted free agent in this deal, did sign with the Sharks after the fact, which is good news for him, but the details of the deal were not disclosed, but if I had to guess, it would be in the 1-year range, likely for $600,000.  Again, this is just a guess, not a report.

The 23-year old forward missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing major knee surgery in the middle of September, which is why his stat line is all zeroes.  With the trade and signing, I believe it is safe to assume that Sheppard will try and make a push for a job next season with the Sharks, who have plenty of spots available in their bottom six as of today.

Sheppard's best season in the NHL came in 2009, where he finished with 24 points in 82 games with the Wild.  That year, he finished 357th in pool scoring, 241st among all forwards.  I wouldn't jump on his stock too quickly, especially if he is going to be a bottom six player.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Poll: Who Do You Take First?

It might be a little too early to think about this question, but who would you take first in your fantasy draft going into the 2011-'12 season?  It has been a long time, from which I am trying to draw from memory, when there are a number of options in the 1st overall spot, which could be considered as reasonable picks.  In recent memory, it really only seemed like there were a couple of options, even with a few of different Art Ross Trophy winners in the mix.

The Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin have ran hand in hand over the past few seasons, working as the poster children for fantasy hockey drafts everywhere, the superstars of the league, the prized possessions of many.  Now, with Crosby's concussion problems and Ovechkin's offensive cool down in Washington, I think this opens the door wide open for consideration to a number of players.  Sure, you won't look uneducated taking either Crosby or Ovechkin for your team, but you may look like a bigger gambler.

Before having to leave the 2011 season with his concussion problems, Crosby was on a tear, scoring at a pace of just over 1.6 points per game, finishing up with 66 points in 41 games, ranking him 37th overall in scoring.  In my 20-team draft last season, that would have been good enough for a 2nd round pick and he only played half the year.  If he is getting the full bill of health in October, you can easily justify picking Sid first.

The questions that hang over top of the Russian superstar belong more to the team and how they are going to play. The Capitals were turned from an offensive juggernaut into a grinding playoff team with a focus on defense first. Well, that shift really took the sting out of the Caps' offense and the power play fell off, dropping down to 17.7% effectiveness, which was in the middle of the pack in the league.  Ovechkin's numbers also tailed, but nevertheless, he's still Alex Ovechkin and he'll continue to be in the conversation at this time of year.

If you don't trust either one of the perennial favourites, how does one of the last two Art Ross Trophy winners suit you?  Yes, the Canucks have one of the most formidable pairings in the league, led by the 2011 Art Ross winner, Daniel Sedin, who was the only player in pool scoring to finish over 100 points (picking up 104).  With the 2010 Art Ross winner, Henrik Sedin, helping to put the puck in the net on a nightly basis, choosing one of the two twins cannot be a bad idea going into the 2012 season.  The team around them hasn't changed a great deal, which should keep their options open, but which one will you take?  Daniel the goal scorer or Henrik the playmaker?

Maybe you're not after the West Coast scoring touch, where you would rather head down to the sun belt and invest in another scoring tandem, this time from Tampa Bay.  The sexy pick from the Lightning will be Steven Stamkos, who had an amazing 2011 season, which had potential to be off the charts.  Stamkos finished with 91 points in all 82 games for the Bolts, but the smart money could be on Martin St. Louis, who finished right behind Sedin for the scoring race, picking up 99 points in all 82 games.  Stamkos, the up and coming star on the NHL or St. Louis, the diminutive & crafty veteran.

I think we should also be looking to include the Hart Trophy winner from last season, Corey Perry.  Perry finished 3rd in the pool scoring rankings, finishing up as the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL and he also finished with 98 points with the Anaheim Ducks.  Yes, Perry lifted his team up and his stock went along for the ride, as he could be an outside shot at being a guy taken 1st overall in your hockey pool draft.  I think you would have to be a pretty big fan to jump on the Perry bandwagon that high, you might get a few oohs and ahhs from your opponents, but you could look at that pick as being a shrewd one.

Maybe you're going to shock your other poolies and drum up a name that no one is expecting, yet might not drum up too many jeers when you call the name.  Evgeni Malkin, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards or Jaromir Jagr, possibly?  Okay, well, you're probably going to get a lot of jeers if you were to call out Jagr's name, but the others have their fair share of potential and all could be considered 1st round picks down the line.  You may think of these guys more as good runner-up prizes for not getting the first pick in the draft, but not 1st overall picks... unless you really feel like gambling.

The last time a goaltender finished 1st in overall pool scoring was 2007, when Martin Brodeur topped everyone with 48 wins and 7 shutouts, so we could be due for a goalie to jump back up into the forefront and take the title as the pool's best player.  Last year's overall top goalie was Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 98 points (36 wins, 11 shutouts and 4 assists), followed by Carey Price (94 points), Tim Thomas (91 points), Roberto Luongo (87 points), Miikka Kiprusoff (87 points) and Ilya Bryzgalov (86 points).  There are plenty of good options on some pretty good teams, which would definitely make for a good 1st pick overall.

Well, if you have some idea of which way you are planning on going, put a vote down in my poll in the top right-hand corner of the blog page.  I'm curious to know who you would take in the opening spot of the draft.