Ryan Dadoun

In The Crease

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Atlantic Division 2012 Preview

Thursday, July 21, 2011


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Roster Movement

The Flyers were nothing if not bold this off-season. They traded away Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Kris Versteeg and let Ville Leino, Dan Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell, and goaltender Brian Boucher walk. At the same time, they acquired the negotiating rights to Ilya Bryzgalov and locked him up to a nine-year, $51 million contract. They also got Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and a top-tier prospect in Brayden Schenn via trade. Meanwhile, they signed unrestricted free agents Maxime Talbot and Jaromir Jagr.

Projected Top Two Lines

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Jaromir Jagr
Scott Hartnell-Daniel Briere-Jakub Voracek

Battle For Jobs

Brayden Schenn is going to be the man to watch during the Philadelphia Flyers training camp. At first glance, the Flyers lost a significant amount of offensive depth this summer, but Schenn is capable of being a solid secondary scorer in 2011-12. Schenn played for four different teams in three different leagues last season, ending up with 57 points in 29 WHL games, seven points in seven AHL contests, and two assists in eight games with the Kings.

He might start the season as a third liner who gets some power-play ice time, but we wouldn't be surprised if he's playing on one of the team's top two lines before the season is over.

Key Injuries

Chris Pronger is recovering from a back injury and might not be ready for training camp. It's concerning that, by Pronger's own admission, he's behind where he'd like to be in terms of off-season training. We recommend exercising caution when evaluating his fantasy worth for the 2011-12 season.

Player To Watch

There's no shortage of new faces or intriguing stories when it comes to the Philadelphia Flyers, but Jagr's tale stands out in my eyes. He's a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner returning to the NHL at the age of 39 after three years in the KHL. The Flyers are expected to give him a chance to serve on one of the top two lines and there's some logic in pairing him up with the Flyers' two young, rising stars. Personally, I have a hard time believing he can live up to expectations after three years in the KHL – especially given the results we've seen out of other former NHL players who attempted to return after far less time in the KHL – but regardless of whether or not you agree with my assessment, I think it's fair to say that vast majority of us will be watching Jagr with great interest.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Roster Movement

The Penguins were unable to re-sign Maxime Talbot, but they did decide to take a chance on Steve Sullivan. He might not be healthy all season, but Sullivan is an acceptable risk on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

Beyond that, they let Eric Godrad, Chris Conner, Michael Rupp, and Brett Sterling sign elsewhere while inking Steve MacIntyre and Alexandre Picard.

Projected Top Two Lines

James Neal-Sidney Crosby-Tyler Kennedy
Chris Kunitz-Jordan Staal-Evgeni Malkin

Battle For Jobs

Nick Johnson, Mark Letestu, and Eric Tangradi will all be fighting for bottom-six forward spots in training camp. Of the three, Letestu might have the best shot of making the team after scoring 14 goals and 27 points in 64 games last season.

It will also be interesting to see where Steve Sullivan ends up in the depth charts. When healthy, he's capable of serving as a top-six forward, but there might not be room for him on the first or second line.

Key Injuries

Evgeni Malkin (knee) should be fine for the start of training camp, but Sidney Crosby is more of a question mark. Crosby, who hasn't played since January 5th due to a concussion, has resumed skating, but hasn't been cleared for contact. It looks as if he'll be able to participate in training camp, but nothing is set in stone.

Player To Watch

Sidney Crosby had a stunning 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games before his season was abruptly ended because of a concussion. He's not certain to be healthy next season and even if he is, it's possible that he could be somewhat rusty, but we all know what he's capable of. We'll be watching intently to see if he can reach the 60-goal milestone and best his previous career-high of 120 points, as he was on pace to do in 2010-11.

New York Rangers

Roster Movement

The New York Rangers brought out Chris Drury's contract and re-signed restricted free agents Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Dubinsky.

The New York Rangers also watched as Alexander Frolov signed a three-year contract with the KHL's Avangard Omsk. Oh, and they signed the top player in this summer's UFA pool: Brad Richards.

Projected Top Two Lines

Brandon Dubinsky-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Wojtek Wolski-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan

Battle For Jobs

We have no problem admitting that the Rangers' top two lines in their season opener might end up looking nothing like our predictions, and that makes them a key team to watch during training camp. The Rangers could decide to split up Gaborik and Richards, but we would be surprised if they decided to go that route right out of the gate.

Assuming that Gaborik and Richards do play on the top line together, the next big question is who will play alongside them. We're penciling in Dubinsky for that role, but Wojtek Wolski is another strong contender, especially if the Rangers want to keep Dubinsky on the second line to provide them with more secondary scoring. Although it's more of a long shot, we also wouldn't dismiss the possibility that Sean Avery might be given a chance to play on the top line.

Key Injuries

The New York Rangers should be relatively healthy going into training camp.

Player To Watch

After recording 37 points in his rookie season, Michael Del Zotto had just 11 points in 47 NHL contests in 2010-11. He also spent 11 games in the AHL where he registered seven assists in 11 games. Del Zotto is an interesting sleeper pick and isn't a bad player to gamble on towards the end of a fantasy draft.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Roster Movement

Other than naming Peter DeBoer as their head coach to replace Jacques Lemaire, who has retired, the Devils have been relatively quiet in July. The only players of note they signed were Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen while they parted ways with Anssi Salmela and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The biggest off-season addition they made was during the draft, when they selected blueliner Adam Larsson with the fourth overall pick. That being said, they did have to take steps to keep their 2011-12 largely intact by re-signing Andy Greene, Johan Hedberg, and Tim Sestito.

At the time of writing, Zach Parise is still a restricted free agent, but the team has filed for arbitration and a hearing is scheduled for August 3rd.

Projected Top Two Lines

Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac- Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise-Patrik Elias-Brian Rolston

Battle For Jobs

After inking an entry-level contract with the Devils, Larsson has a great chance of making the team's opening game roster. The Devils have five defensemen signed to one-way contracts, so the inclusion of Larsson means that defensemen Matt Corrente, Mark Fayne, Matthew Taormina, and Mark Fraser will each have a very tough time making the team out of training camp.

Key Injuries

Bryce Salvador missed the 2010-11 season due to a concussion, but he appears to be on track to participate in the Devils' training camp.

Player To Watch

As mentioned above, there's a good chance Larsson will make the team out of training camp and he should be regarded as an early contender for the Calder Trophy. Larsson has plenty of offensive upside and the Devils lacked a reliable offensive defenseman last season. We wouldn't be surprised if New Jersey gives him a fair amount of power-play ice time in his rookie season.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Roster Movement

The Islanders continued to stock their organization with young, talented forwards by selecting Ryan Strome with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Other than that, they remained relatively quiet, signing Marty Reasoner to a two-year contract while parting ways with free agents Radek Martinek, Nathan Lawson, and Zenon Konopka.

They did try to make a splash by acquiring the rights to Christian Ehrhoff, but they then dealt him to Buffalo after it became apparent they were not going to be able to sign him before July 1st.

Projected Top Two Lines

Matt Moulson-John Tavares-Nino Niederreiter
Michael Grabner-Frans Nielson-Kyle Okposo

Battle For Jobs

Joshua Bailey will have to work hard if he wants to earn a spot on one of the Islanders' top two lines. He has plenty of potential, but he hasn't been able to produce much in the way of results since he made his NHL debut in 2008.

Niederreiter's job isn't secure going into training camp, but he definitely has the inside track after an impressive 2010-11 campaign with the WHL Portland Winterhawks. He had 41 goals and 70 points in 55 regular season games and another nine goals and 27 points in 21 playoff contests. Strome might also make the team, though he's definitely more of a long shot.

On the goaltending side, things are pretty complicated as Al Montoya, Rick DiPietro, and Evgeni Nabokov are all signed to one-way contracts. Nabokov signed with St. Petersburg of the KHL last season, but he decided to leave them and ink a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. However, in order to play for Detroit, he had to clear waivers and the Islanders claimed him. Rather than play for a team he didn't feel could compete in 2010-11, he refused to play and the Islanders suspended him. The Islanders later exercised their right to toll his contract, which means they also own his rights for the 2011-12 campaign.

It's possible that the Islanders will trade Nabokov, but currently it looks as though he is willing to attend the Islanders' training camp. If nothing changes between now and the start of the preseason, the Islanders' goaltending situation will be worth keeping a close eye on.

Key Injuries

Frans Nielson hasn't played since March 31st due to a concussion. Mark Streit missed the entire 2010-11 season due to torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, but he should be ready for training camp. Andrew MacDonald should also be able to play in the Islanders' season opener after his season ended in March due to a labral tear in his right hip.

Player To Watch

As mentioned above, Niederreiter could start the season on one of the Islanders' top two lines after a successful WHL campaign and a nine-game stint in the NHL last season. He's among the most promising players in next season's rookie pool.


Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
Email :Ryan Dadoun



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