Boy, someone likes to write. Thousands of words into this thing and Chris Kreider hasn’t even been mentioned until now. The Boston College standout possesses the highly-coveted and rare NHL blend of size, speed and skill. He got his feet wet in the playoffs for the Rangers this past spring and didn’t look out of place at all. As ready as he appears to be for the NHL though, his role may well lend itself more to deeper fantasy leagues initially. Unlike someone like Granlund, who will all but certainly remain in a prominent offensive role all season, John Tortorella won’t necessarily ‘need’ as much from Kreider this season. It’s not meant as a knock on Kreider in the least. I just get the sense the excitement over his on-ice abilities is exceeding what will be in store for his fantasy owners in ’12-13.
When the rubber hits the road, how quickly will Justin Schultz be able to put up points for the Edmonton Oilers? The college standout will be in a position to succeed immediately, assuming he’s manning the point on the first power play unit with an embarrassment of forward riches on this young team. Schultz is likely to be available quite late in your draft given his newb NHL status, which could make his poolie payoff immense. Not for nothing, but what if Ryan Whitney can actually stay healthy too? He and Schultz could then each put up 35-plus points without much of a problem at all. Considering the likelihood you can grab either or both guys in the dying rounds of most drafts, that’s a nice return on a minimal investment.
May as well mention what you know already too: Nail Yakupov seems likely to be a top six regular right away and with Edmonton’s burgeoning young stars on the first few lines, he should be one of the rookies in a position to produce.
In a really deep league where EVERYTHING matters? I tweeted this recently, but Chris wasn’t the only Stewart working hard over the summer. Older brother Anthony, who is Canes property, shed 10 pounds over the summer and trimmed body fat from 17 percent to 11 percent. Sounds like he is determined to be more than a bubble player this season.
Wings coach Mike Babcock intimated over the summer that 26-year-old Swiss foward Damien Brunner would be given a chance to skate one one of the top two lines at the start of the season. The bench boss saw Brunner play at the World Championships and said, “…he’s high, high paced, he scored, looks like he has tons of skill..” In most situations, Brunner may translate better as an early-season free agent pick-up – rather than a late draft pick – if he produces right out of the gate.
In terms of guys who couldn’t possibly do anything BUT improve this season, Colorado Avalanche centre Matt Duchene had just 28 points in an injury-shortened 58-game campaign. He trained with Sidney Crosby over the summer and said he was ‘learning to get better bio-mechanics with my body’ and that he feels great. Duchene should be in store for a solid campaign.
If you’re in a league with penalty minutes and especially one with wing/ centre designations, Brandon Dubinsky should see his stock rise. He’ll become one of the more important forwards for his new Columbus Blue Jackets and with something in the range of 45-50 points with yet another 100-PIM effort, he’ll be even more valuable if tagged as both a pivot and a winger in your league. Either way, his contributions will mean fewer games wasted on fighters in an effort to rack up more PIM.
Why not include guys like Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi or Tampa Bay’s Brett Connolly today? Tangradi, could, yet again (how many years in a row has this been?), be in line for a top-six wing slot with the Pens. Connolly skated with Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell at the Lightning’s first scrimmage before the lockout. As much as each guy has worked hard to get himself into what might be an enviable position, in most fantasy leagues they’ll more likely be better in-season additions if they get the gig and begin to produce. As mentioned off the top though: the deeper your league, the more pressing your need for guys like this to fill those final slots as you round out your roster.