Fantasy Hockey Preview Part 1
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The first season of the Ducks under Randy Carlyle’s orders was satisfactory, even though the Californian team ended up two wins short of competing in the Stanley Cup final. Guided by veterans Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler, but also by a young and very talented defensive brigade, they had 46 wins and conceded the lowest total of goals in the West, 200 (for an average of 2,43 goals allowed per game).
It’s the end of an era in the desert, with the departure – forced by senior management, some will say – of the longtime Coyotes captain Shane Doan. After 21 seasons and 1540 games, all with the organization that picked him up in 1995, number 19 will shine through his absence on October 7th.
The first trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak took charge of the team last season and there is no reason to think that the next campaign will be different. Now that he has a long-term contract in his pocket (six seasons and $ 40 million), Pastrnak can focus on what he does best since his arrival in the league, score some goals.
The future of the Sabres goes through Jack Eichel. If it was not already obvious since his first time skating with the team, let’s not forget that head coach Dan Bylsma was fired just 24 hours after newspapers in Buffalo reported last April that the talented center player could no longer play for him. He also just signed a lucrative 8 year contract on Tuesday.
At 45 years-old, the legendary Jaromir Jagr found a new home in Calgary. He’ll be shedding some of his expertise on the young offensive core of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkatchuk, who will all have to carry this team. In defense, the Flames got Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders. He’ll complete one of the most balanced top-4 with Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie.
Forward player Sebastian Aho had a more than respectable campaign with the ‘Canes. The second-round pick in 2015 collected 49 points, including 24 goals in 82 games. His role should be even more central this season offensively. On defense, Noah Hanifin continues to progress. At only 20 years-old, he took part in 81 games with his team, recording four goals and 25 assists.
The Stanley Cup champions in 2010, 2013 and 2015 had just been eliminated for a second consecutive season in the first qualifying round, this time through a sweep, courtesy of the Nashville Predators. The team needed to get back to it’s old success, so they brought back Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad. Both were important elements in the Hawks Stanley Cup success.
Not much good can be said about last season for the Avalanche. In his first full season in the league, Mikko Rantanen was one of the only positive elements within the organization. The team’s first-round pick in 2015 reached the 20-goal plateau to conclude the season with 38 points. For his part, striker Nathan MacKinnon was limited to a 53-point crop in 82 games over the past season. A dark cloud is still hanging over the head of Matt Duchene, who has been part of trade rumors for too long.
Columbus Blue Jackets
After enjoying their first season of 100 points in the history of the organization, the Columbus Blue Jackets have taken the means to try and repeat the feat in a most competitive division through the NHL. They’ve acquired 2016 Calder trophy winner Artemi Panarin. The Russian was impressive in his first two campaigns in the league with totals of 77 and 74 points.
The Stars added their biggest asset behind the bench, with Ken Hitchcock taking the reigns of the team. He’ll lead one of the best offensive pair in the league with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The addition of forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal looks to be two promising inclusion to the team.
Detroit Red Wing
All good things has an end. The Red Wing saw their longest active playoffs appearance snap last season. A new era must now begin. Team captain Henrik Zetterberg is now 36 years old and can’t carry this team forever. More than ever, he will need the contribution from rising stars Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.
What a reward the Oilers have offered to their supporters after a decade of miserable results! In their first appearance in the playoffs since 2006, they have come close to reaching the association final with a young, talented and uncompromising team. The team has settled two of its most pressing issues during the summer, by lending long and lucrative contracts to its two offensive super stars, Connor McDavid(8 years / $ 100 million) and Leon Draisaitl (8-year / 68 million). A new winger was found for McDavid by acquiring Ryan Strome of the New York Islanders against another forward player who did not meet expectations, Jordan Eberle.
Several new faces will make their entry to the Panthers squad. Many have little (or no) experience in the NHL, including Russians Evgeny Dadonov and Denis Malgin. Dadonov was a great star in the KHL, with the St. Petersburg SKA, and he’s expected to start the year by completing the first line with Aleskander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Los Angeles Kings
It was a rough year for the Kings last season. They saw goalie Jonathan Quick go down with injury early in the season and miss most of it. Los Angeles hopes that he can stay healthy this year. The lack of aggressive dynamism was particularly damaging for the Kings, who scored only 201 goals, 24 fewer than the previous year. Few changes were made to remedy this shortcoming, except for the return of Michael Cammalleri, who had started his professional career with the organization. Captain Anze Kopitar did not deliver the goods and must offer more in terms of points production. His 12 goals in 76 games are not worthy of the talent he has. The “Big Three” made up of defencemen Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez is always excellent, but the rest of the defensive brigade contains question marks and little experience in the NHL .
The Wilds success was not unrelated to the performance of goalkeeper Devan Dubnyk. The 31-year-old has signed a personal best 40 wins in 65 games last year. He also had a goals-against-average of 2.25 and an EFR of .923.