Ryan Dadoun

In The Crease

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Northwest Division Preview

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Vancouver Canucks


Forwards  

  The Vancouver Canucks will once again be led by Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but the big question is how much support they’ll get.  Ryan Kesler fell hard in 2011-12 and they’ll need him to bounce back to solidify their second line.  David Booth and Zack Kassian will also be key components of the Canucks’ next season.  One way or another, the Sedin twins will ensure that the team has a strong offense, but it will be Booth and Kassian who will determine if they also have a deep one.  If both those players perform next season, the Canucks should have enough depth to make a lengthy playoff run.  

  Defense  

  The Vancouver Canucks lost Sami Salo and Aaron Rome, but they signed Jason Garrison to a six-year, $27.6 million contract extension.  Garrison is coming off a career season, so one of the big questions surrounding the Canucks is if he can put up another 30-point campaign or if they overpaid for a player having a contract season.  

  Goaltending  

 
At the time of writing, it’s not clear who the Vancouver Canucks’ opening goaltender will be.  If they hold onto Roberto Luongo, he’ll probably compete for playing time with Cory Schneider all season.  Otherwise, Schneider will be the clear number one netminder.  Either way, their goaltending will be one of the strongest areas of their team.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
As mentioned above, adding Garrison was the biggest thing to happen to them this summer.  Vancouver also signed blueliners Derek Joslin and Patrick Mullen to provide them with some depth.  They also signed restricted free agent Schneider to a three-year, $12 million contract extension.  With that in mind, if they make another major off-season move it will almost certainly involve trading Luongo.  It would be a surprise if they entered the 2012-13 season with their current goaltending tandem, but at the time of writing there is no indication that they’re close to a trade.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Mason Raymond was handed a one-year, $2.75 million “show me” contract.  He’s fallen hard over the past couple of seasons, to the point where he had just 10 goals and 20 points in 55 games last season.  He’s certainly worth keeping an eye on, but keep in mind that he’s at best a dark horse to secure a top-six roster spot out of training camp.  

  Calgary Flames


Forwards  

 
Beyond Jarome Iginla, the Flames’ core of forwards is filled with quite a few question marks.  Will Roman Cervenka be able to make the transition to North American hockey after excelling in the KHL?  Is Sven Baertschi ready to take on a top-six role in Calgary after a very impressive five-game stint with them last season?  Can Michael Cammalleri turn his career around, especially given that he might get to play on the same line as Iginla?  I’m not terribly optimistic about Cervenka and Cammalleri’s chances of excelling next season and as much as I’d be happy to own Baertschi in a keeper league, I don’t think it’s fair to expect too much of him next season.  Calgary’s core forwards have certainly changed drastically since 2011-12, but is it better?  A little, maybe, but it’s not a significant step forward.  

  Defense  

  The Calgary Flames’ group of forwards might not be a safe bet, but their defense is.  While it might not be the best group of rearguards from a fantasy perspective, it’s hard for a Flames fan not to like the top-four combination of Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman, and Chris Butler.  The Flames might end up trading Bouwmeester, but right now it looks like their defense is their strong suit.  

   Goaltending  

 
Miikka Kiprusoff will once again start the season as the team’s undisputed goaltender.  Henrik Karlsson should be expected to chip in with about 15 starts and then Kiprusoff will gobble up the rest.  Kiprusoff isn’t likely to compete for the Vezina Trophy, but he should end up in the upper third of starters from a fantasy perspective.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

  The Calgary Flames traded for the rights to Wideman and then locked him down to a five-year, $26.25 million contract.  They also inked Jiri Hudler to a four-year, $16 million contract and Cervenka to an entry-level contract, but they watched Olli Jokinen walk.  Bob Hartley will take over as the team’s head coach after the Flames and Brent Sutter mutually agreed to part ways.  It’s worth noting that Calgary is edging towards the cap, so if the cap ends up dropping when a new CBA is signed, Calgary might have to make some roster tweaks.  

  Player To Watch

They have a few forwards worth keeping an eye on, but Baertschi is the one with the most upside.  He absolutely dominated in the WHL last season, scoring 33 goals and 94 points in 47 games.  He also got to play for the Flames as an emergency recall and ended up scoring three goals in five contests.  As mentioned above, I’d be hesitant to expect too much of him next season, but he’s definitely someone I’ll be watching closely and pick up quickly in standard leagues if he has a strong October.

  Minnesota Wild


Forwards
 

 
Given that they might enter the 2012-13 season with a first line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley, I think it’s safe to say the Wild has some great top-end talent.  The secondary scoring might not be there, though, and it’s certainly possible that Heatley and Parise will end up as the team’s only two 20-plus goal scorers.  They really need Devin Setoguchi to step up after a disappointing 2011-12 campaign to lead their second line and a strong rookie season from Mikael Granlund, who has been dominant in Finland’s SM-liiga over the last three years, would be a big bonus.  

  Defense  

  The addition of Ryan Suter will be a big boost to a defensive corps that has shed Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns over the last year.   Suter will serve as the offensive defenseman the Minnesota Wild never really had last season after they parted ways with Zidlicky – and arguably even before that, given how mightily Zidlicky struggled with the Wild before he was traded.  

  Goaltending  

 
The Minnesota Wild will once again feature the tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.  Backstrom has always been a strong starter, but Harding has emerged as a potential successor.  With Backstrom entering the last season of his contract, the two should split the Wild’s goaltending duties pretty evenly in 2012-13.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

  Obviously, the big story in the NHL over the past week has been the Wild’s ability to ink Parise and Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts.  That will provide them with a massive boost, but it’s worth noting that they also added Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka to shore up their fourth line.  At the same time, they did decide to let Guillaume Latendresse go after he was limited to just 27 games over the last two seasons.  If he manages to stay healthy in 2012-13, the Wild might end up regretting that decision.  

   Player To Watch  

  Heatley has dropped from a 50-goal player to a 40-goal threat to just 24 goals in 2011-12.  He’s not likely to bounce back completely, but at the same time the additions of Parise and Suter could prove to be very beneficial for him.  His stock has declined significantly in recent years, which makes him a great value pick in fantasy drafts.  

  Colorado Avalanche


Forwards  

 
After seeing their offensive production decline by 19 goals between 2010-11 and 2011-12, but their forward corps is starting to look pretty impressive.  Since the summer of 2011, the Colorado Avalanche have added Gabriel Landeskog, P.A. Parenteau, Jamie McGinn, and Steve Downie to name a few.  They’ve also saw Ryan O'Reilly break out last season.  They do have some question marks in terms of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny after their disappointing 2011-12 campaigns, but they still have a solid top-six and will likely put together an above average third line.  

  Defense  

 
The Colorado Avalanche have a massive logjam in their defense that they might end up addressing through the trade market this summer.  Currently they have Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Greg Zanon, Ryan Wilson, Shane O’Brien, Ryan O’Byrne, and Matt Hunwick all signed to one-way contracts that each come with an annual cap hit between $1.6 million and $3.75 million.  You’d think that would be their defensive corps, but they also have some very promising young blueliners in Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott who deserve a shot to make the team, but might not due to the Avalanche’s economic situation.  

  Goaltending  

 
Semyon Varlamov got off to a rocky start with the Colorado Avalanche, but he got better as the season went on.  He had a 2.06 GAA and .932 save percentage in 23 games after the All-Star break.  He’s a young and promising goaltender who’s now spent a full season as a starter at the NHL level.  He should be one of the better netminders in the league next season, but if he does falter, Jean-Sebastien Giguere is still capable of stepping up and holding down the fort for several starts in a row.

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
Colorado’s biggest off-season addition has been Parenteau, whom they inked to a four-year, $16 million deal.  Beyond that, the Avalanche’s biggest task this off-season has been re-signing their restricted free agents.  Some of their more noteworthy contract extensions include tying down Johnson to a four-year, $15 million deal and signing Duchene for two years with an annual cap hit of $3.5 million.  As mentioned above, they might address their defensive logjam before the season is done and they still need to re-sign restricted free agents O’Reilly and McGinn.  The rest of the off-season is expected to be relatively uneventful for Colorado.

  Player To Watch  

  The Avs’ have plenty of good candidates to keep an eye on, but I’ll be watching Matt Duchene because I think he’s a great bounce back candidate.  Last season he was hampered by injuries, some of which continued to plague him even when he was in the lineup.  He’s spending part of the off-season working out with Sidney Crosby under the tutelage of the Penguin star’s trainer.  That said, Duchene might have to shift from center to the wing in order to get a top-six spot after the strong season Ryan O'Reilly enjoyed.  

  Edmonton Oilers


Forwards  

 
The Oilers’ forward corps is getting outright scary.  They have the last three first overall picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and now Nail Yakupov.  Throw in 22-year-old Jordan Eberle, who is coming off a 76-point sophomore campaign, and 21-year-old Magnus Paajarvi, who struggled last season but still has a ton of potential, and it’s not hard to see them being an offensive leader in a few years.  They also have some half-decent secondary scorers in Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, and Sam Gagner.  

  Defense  

 
Their defense is far less impressive, but signing NCAA standout Justin Schultz to an entry-level contract was a huge win for them.  He might already be capable of serving as a top-four defenseman, but overall their defense isn’t up to snuff with the competition.  

  Goaltending  

 
Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin figure to battle for playing time in 2012-13 just like they did last season.  Both are adequate goaltenders, but neither is exactly a standout.  Khabibulin is well into the twilight of his career and Dubnyk isn’t necessarily the ideal netminder to lead the young Oilers’ dynasty.  If the Edmonton Oilers are going to make the transition from young and promising to a genuine Stanley Cup contender, their goaltending situation is going to need to be addressed over the next few years.  

  Summer Roster Movement

 
The Oilers have had a particularly quiet off-season, but as mentioned above, getting Schultz was a big victory for them.  Because he was inked to an entry-level deal, Schultz might prove to be the best value signing of the summer.  It’s worth noting that things might start getting more complicated for Edmonton as soon as Hall and Eberle are scheduled to become restricted free agents in the summer of 2013, then Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz will become restricted free agents a year later.  That might be part of their motivation for staying well under the salary cap.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Schultz is a good candidate, but I feel obligated to go with Nail Yakupov.  Hall and Nugent-Hopkins were able to step up and make immediate contributions after going first overall.  Will Yakupov be the same?  On top of that, will Yakupov end up playing on the same line as the other two first overall picks?  Yakupov is certainly an early contender for the Calder Trophy, although it’s worth noting that both Hall and Nugent-Hopkins fell short of that distinction, in part because neither was able to stay healthy in their respective rookie seasons.


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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