Corey Abbott

In The Crease

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Pacific Division Preview

Thursday, August 25, 2011


SAN JOSE SHARKS

Roster Movement

The Sharks made significant changes to their roster this past summer with the hope of getting over that final hurdle and into the Stanley Cup finals. San Jose has been defeated two years in a row in the Western Conference finals, so they shipped wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild in a pair of trades to acquire forward Martin Havlat and defenseman Brent Burns. The Sharks also gave up prospect Charlie Coyle and a first round selection in the deal that landed them Burns. In a third trade with the Wild this past off-season, the Sharks sent a third round pick in 2013 for reclamation project James Sheppard.

San Jose also sought to add to their organizational depth with contracts going to free agent forwards Michal Handzus, Andrew Murray and Ben Guite, defensemen Jim Vandermeer , Colin White and Matt Pelech. Goaltender Thomas Greiss has returned to the team after spending the previous year in the Swedish Elite League.

Ian White, Kent Huskins, Ben Eager, Jamal Mayers and Scott Nichol were not retained by the Sharks and signed contracts with other NHL clubs. Kyle Wellwood was permitted to walk away as well, but he has yet to find a new team and defenseman Niclas Wallin agreed to terms with Lulea of the Swedish Elite League.

Projected Top Two Lines

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Battle for Jobs

The bottom-six forward group on San Jose will likely feature Handzus, Jamie McGinn, Torrey Mitchell and Frazer McLaren. However, the other spots could be up for grabs at training camp between Murray, Benn Ferriero, Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, Cameron MacIntyre and Sheppard.

Vandermeer and White should compete for a third-pairing job on San Jose's defense corps this campaign along with Justin Braun. Mike Moore and Pelech could be granted opportunities to shoot up the depth chart as well.

Key Injuries

Joe Thornton sustained a shoulder injury during the playoffs, but he should be fine for the start of the year. Sheppard is also trying to come back from a broken kneecap that kept him out of the 2010-11 campaign, but his roster spot wouldn't be guaranteed even if he was healthy.

Player to Watch

Burns and Havlat have the potential to break out in a big way this season with the Sharks, but sophomore sensation Logan Couture gets special consideration here. He finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy in 2010-11 and should develop into a productive two-way player.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

Roster Movement

Los Angeles did not sit idly by this summer either. They aggressively signed depth forwards to go along with their strong youthful core. The Kings traded Wayne Simmonds, top prospect Brayden Schenn and a second round choice to Philadelphia to bring in tenacious center Mike Richards. They also inked veteran winger Simon Gagne to a two-year contract to give them two solid lines going into 2011-12.

Free agent Ethan Moreau was brought on board later in the summer to add leadership and grit to their bottom-six forward group. Colin Fraser was acquired from Edmonton in the deal that sent Ryan Smyth back to his original NHL home.
The Kings also parted ways with Michal Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Peter Harrold.

Projected Top Two Lines

Dustin Penner - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Justin Williams

Battle for Jobs

Andrei Loktionov may push for permanent NHL duty this season. He has offensive potential and could challenge Jarret Stoll for the third-line center position.
Viatcheslav Voynov, Davis Drewiske and Thomas Hickey will have a tough time trying to crack the top six group on the blueline, but they should get looks at camp.

Key Injuries

Colin Fraser isn't expected to be available for training camp and possibly the start of the season because of a crack/cyst problem in his foot.

Player to Watch

It would be easy to forget that Scott Parse was playing well on the Kings' first line before missing 66 games due to hip surgery. If injuries occur or players fail to find chemistry then he may be the leading candidate to move up the depth chart.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Roster Movement

The biggest question remaining for the Anaheim Ducks going into training camp is Teemu Selanne's status with the team. He is an unrestricted free agent who is considering retirement and is coming off a procedure on his left knee. Selanne is expected to make his decision next month.

In other off-season moves, the Ducks obtained center Andrew Cogliano from Edmonton in exchange for a second round pick in 2013 and they dealt defenseman Andy Sutton to the Oilers in a separate trade for fellow rearguard Kurtis Foster.

Anaheim also signed free agent defender Matt Smaby, goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, as well as forwards Jean-Francois Jacques and Andrew Gordon for depth roles, while allowing Jarkko Ruutu, Kyle Chipchura, Andreas Lilja, Brad Winchester and Ray Emery to test the market.

Projected Top Two Lines

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Kyle Palmieri

Battle for Jobs

If Selanne does not return then it will be open season for Anaheim's top-six forward group. Palmieri and Beleskey are likely contenders to move up and vie for roles, while Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and Emerson Etem could be in the mix as well.

Anaheim prospect Devante Smith-Pelly is projected to compete for a roster spot on the Ducks too.

Toni Lydman's health is a concern to start the year so Smaby and Sheldon Brookbank might factor into the team's starting defense corps.

Key Injuries

As previously mentioned, Lydman may begin the 2011-12 campaign on the sidelines after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Player to Watch

Kyle Palmieri has potential as a speedy scoring winger in the NHL and he enjoyed a strong finish to the AHL campaign in 2010-11 with 15 goals in his last 14 games. He could be primed for top-six minutes this season if Selanne is a no show.

DALLAS STARS

Roster Movement

The writing was on the wall for Brad Richards to leave Dallas as an unrestricted free agent and he predictably ended up with the New York Rangers. The Stars also did not re-sign Jeff Woywitka, Brandon Segal, Brian Sutherby, Aaron Gagnon and Karlis Skrastins.

However, they were fairly active in bringing in new faces with contracts going to Sheldon Souray, Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Adam Pardy, Eric Godard and Jacob Dowell.

Projected Top Two Lines

Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Loui Eriksson

Battle for Jobs

Tom Wandell and Eric Godard will need to prove their worth if they don't want to start the year as extra forwards, but if they make the team they will probably be limited to fourth-line action.

Mark Fistric will likely have to compete for a spot on the Stars' defense corps, as the off-season additions of Souray and Pardy threaten his position on the active roster.

Key Injuries

Wandell and blueliner Niklas Grossman were injured while playing for Sweden at the World Hockey Championships, but they should be ready for camp.

Player to Watch

The exodus of Richards to the Big Apple will give Jamie Benn a golden opportunity to be a top-six center with the Stars this campaign. He shined when he was given increased ice time and responsibilities in 2010-11 and has the potential to carry that success into this year.

PHOENIX COYOTES

Roster Movement

The biggest blow to Phoenix this off-season came when they were forced to trade number one goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's negotiation rights to the Philadelphia Flyers. His absence on the Coyotes' roster will certainly be felt in 2011-12. Mike Smith was signed as a free agent to try to help fill the void, but he has a difficult task ahead of him.

In addition to Bryzgalov, Phoenix also did not bring back Eric Belanger, Ed Jovanovski, Vernon Fiddler, Dane Byers, Nolan Yonkman and Andrew Ebbett.
The Coyotes brought in Andy Miele, Raffi Torres, Petteri Nokelainen, Boyd Gordon, Alexandre Bolduc, Patrick O'Sullivan, Kyle Chipchura, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Curtis McElhinney to help fill out their roster and supply depth.

Projected Top Two Lines

Ray Whitney - Kyle Turris - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Battle for Jobs

After capturing the Hobby Baker Award, for being the best collegiate hockey player last year, Andy Miele is expected to compete for a roster spot with Phoenix at training camp.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson should push for a permanent position in the Coyotes' lineup in 2011-12, but he will have to contend with David Schlemko and Maxim Goncharov.

Smith and Jason LaBabera are projected to battle for starts this year, but Smith is penciled in as the team's starter going to camp.

Key Injuries

Derek Morris ended the year on the sidelines with an upper-body injury in the playoffs and although his status is unclear, we expect him to attend training camp this fall. At the other end of the spectrum, Kurt Sauer has played in just one game over the last two seasons because of a concussion and his status is very cloudy going into 2011-12.

Player to Watch

Kyle Turris might slide into Phoenix's top slot at center this season due to the team's lack of offensive-minded pivots. If he can secure that position then he should be in store for a solid year.


Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
Email :Corey Abbott



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