Ryan Dadoun

In The Crease

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Atlantic Division Preview

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


New York Rangers


Forwards  

 
The Rangers seem to be disproving the theory that you build through the draft in the salary cap era.  They might have developed some of their key players, but their offense will be led by 2009 free agent signing Marian Gaborik, 2011 free agent signing Brad Richards, and 2012 trade acquisition Rick Nash.  Gaborik might miss the start of the season due to shoulder surgery, but the three of them might end up on the same line or at least the same power-play unit when they’re all healthy.  That trio of superstars will be complimented by the extremely well-rounded Ryan Callahan and two promising youngsters,  Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.  Throw in a nice cast of bottom-six forwards that includes Jeff Halpern, Arron Asham, and Brian Boyle and the Rangers’ group of forwards looks very intimidating.  

  Defense  

 
The Rangers’ will go into the 2012-13 campaign with largely the same defense as they had last season.  That means that Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, and Marc Staal will continue to eat up minutes during even-strength and short-handed situations.  However, Michael Del Zotto should get by far the most playing time among the Rangers’ defensemen when the team has the man advantage.  Given how many offensive weapons this team has, Del Zotto could beat his career-high of 41 points.  

  Goaltending

 
Henrik Lundqvist will naturally serve as the team’s starter once more.  He’s a good bet to play in at least 60 games and Martin Biron will handle the rest of the starts.  Biron is overqualified for the backup job, but as long as Lundqvist is healthy, Biron’s fantasy value will be kept at a minimum.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
The Rangers focused primarily on signing complimentary players like Halpern, Michael Haley, and Asham.  Meanwhile they watched Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust sign elsewhere.  However, by far their biggest move was the acquisition of Rick Nash, prospect Steven Delisle, and a conditional 2013 third-round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round pick.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Nash has scored at least 27 goals in each of the last eight seasons despite the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets have never offered him much support.  Now that he’s with the New York Rangers, a 40-goal, 80-point campaign doesn’t seem like an unrealistic target for him.

  Pittsburgh Penguins


Forwards  

 
The Pittsburgh Penguins offense will be led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal.  That’s an enviable trio that can match up to any in the league – even the New York Rangers after the Rick Nash trade.  However, the Penguins’ depth is a question mark.  After losing out on Zach Parise, trading Jordan Staal, and watching Steve Sullivan sign with Phoenix, the Penguins will have to hope that Pascal Dupuis can stay sharp after his breakout 2011-12 campaign and Chris Kunitz enjoys another healthy season.  Meanwhile, Brandon Sutter, whom the Penguins got in the Staal trade, is interested in doing more offensively, but he’ll probably end up serving as the team’s third-line center.  

  Defense  

 
Kris Letang is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and might end up as one of the league leaders in points among blueliners.  Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik aren’t nearly as valuable from a fantasy perspective, but they should each eat up well over 20 minutes per game.  Pittsburgh traded away Zbynek Michalek, so there’s a good chance Matt Niskanen might step up and take his top-four spot.  

  Goaltending  

 
Marc-Andre Fleury will enter the season as the team’s starter, but he’ll face stiff competition from Tomas Vokoun.  Both have long track records of success and the Penguins might resort to simply riding the hot hand rather than having a clear-cut starter from Day One until the conclusion of the regular season.

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
Pittsburgh has been nothing if not busy this summer.  They tried to get Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but ultimately failed.  They tried to re-sign Jordan Staal to an extension, but were unable to do so and, as mentioned above, traded him.  They also shipped out Michalek and, in a separate deal, acquired the rights to Vokoun before signing him to a two-year, $4 million deal.  On top of all that, they inked Crosby to a 12-year, $104.4 million contract extension.  At the time of writing, Shane Doan is still an unrestricted free agent and there’s at least a chance he’ll sign with Pittsburgh.

  Player To Watch  

  The biggest X-Factor on the Penguins is Crosby.  His health is an issue given his recent concussion history, but just a big a question is what kind of numbers he’ll put up if he is healthy.  Before a concussion ended his 2010-11 campaign, he had a stunning 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games.  On top of that, he netted eight goals and 37 points in 22 contests last season, despite the fact that, if anything, he should have been rusty after going long periods between games.  His career-high in goals is 51 and his career-high in points is 120.  If he can stay healthy, based on what he’s done over the last two seasons, it seems entirely possible that he can best those career highs.  

  Philadelphia Flyers


Forwards  

 
Claude Giroux is one of the best players in the league, but past him, the Philadelphia Flyers will be counting on less proven youngsters like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Matt Read to play big roles.  It would certainly help matters if Scott Hartnell managed to maintain his 2011-12 career highs of 37 goals and 67 points, and Daniel Briere bounced back after a disappointing campaign.  Beyond that, Jakub Voracek is a capable top-six forward and Wayne Simmonds is a nice guy for fantasy owners to pick up given that he could get you over 20 goals, 20 assists, and 100 penalty minutes next season.  

  Defense  

 
There’s no guarantee that Chris Pronger (concussion) will be ready for the start of the 2011-12 campaign or even play next season.  Kimmo Timonen will turn 38 before the 2012-13 campaign is over, so he’s also becoming more and more of an X-Factor, even if he has performed relatively consistently throughout his career.  That being said, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn are great defensive defensemen who are also capable of chipping in a bit offensively.  

  Goaltending  

 
Ilya Bryzgalov was extremely inconsistent last season and while his overall numbers weren’t disastrous, his save percentage did leave something to be desired.  He ended up playing in 59 games last season, but given that Michael Leighton is penciled in to be the team’s new backup goaltender, Bryzgalov should be leaned on significantly more in 2012-13.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
Philadelphia lost Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr as free agents.  They traded away James van Riemsdyk to get Luke Schenn and also inked free agents Ruslan Fedotenko, and Bruno Gervais.  The Flyers also inked Shea Weber to a massively front-loaded 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, but the Nashville Predators exercised their right to match it and keep Weber.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Brayden Schenn has a ton of potential and things seem to be lining up for a breakout season.  With Jagr and van Riemsdyk gone, there’s a good chance he’ll end up getting top-six minutes and a fair amount of playing time with the man advantage.  On top of that, being united with his brother Luke should help him from a morale perspective.  

  New Jersey Devils


Forwards  

 
The Devils lost Zach Parise over the summer, but they still have a solid core of top-six forwards that includes Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, and Travis ZajacDavid Clarkson broke out last season with 30 goals and while he might regress somewhat in 2012-13, he should still end up with over 100 penalty minutes.  

  Defense

 
Marek Zidlicky figures to lead the Devils’ blueliners in terms of power-play minutes, but Adam Larsson should also get a healthy amount of playing time with the man advantage.   Larsson had a decent rookie season given that he was a teenager attempting to make the jump straight from the Swedish Elite League to the NHL.  Now that he’s adjusted to North American hockey, he might take a significant step forward in 2012-13.  

  Goaltending  

 
The Devils will be relying on 40-year-old Martin Brodeur and 39-year-old Johan Hedberg.  Brodeur is a legend, but at that age, he can’t be counted on to be more than an average starter.  Meanwhile, Hedberg will get a healthy amount of playing time by the standards of a backup, but he’s not a threat to steal the number one gig.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
Other than losing Parise, this has been a relatively quiet summer for New Jersey.  Brodeur tested the free agent market, but he ended up inking a two-year/$9 million extension with the Devils.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Adam Henrique had 16 goals and 51 points in 74 games during his rookie season, but those numbers were inflated by the time he spent playing alongside Parise and Kovalchuk.  Travis Zajac is healthy after missing the vast majority of the 2011-12 regular season, so he might end up pushing Henrique down in the depth charts.  On top of that, as we mentioned above, Parise is no longer a member of the Devils.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see Henrique regress in his sophomore season.

  New York Islanders


Forwards  

 
The Islanders will be led by John Tavares and Matt Moulson, but everyone else is a question mark.  With Kyle Okposo take a step forward this season?  Will Michael Grabner bounce back after his sophomore slump?  With this be the year that youngsters Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter, and/or Ryan Strome break out?  Can Brad Boyes regain his all-star caliber form?  

  Defense  

 
The New York Islanders went out and acquired Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks, but Visnovsky is now filing a grievance against them because he believes the deal violated his no-trade clause.  Either way, Mark Streit should be regarded as the top offensive defenseman on the Islanders.  

  Goaltending  

 
Evgeni Nabokov seems set to be the team’s starter next season.  If he’s healthy, Rick DiPietro might give Nabokov a run for his money, but we wouldn’t bet on DiPietro.  He has played in just 47 games over the last four years and lately he hasn’t even been particularly good when he is healthy.

  Summer Roster Movement

 
Aside from the Visnovsky trade, which we mentioned above, the biggest Islanders’ news this summer was the departure of PA Parenteau, who signed with Colorado as a free agent.  The Islanders decided to take a chance on Boyes.  He had just 23 points with the Buffalo Sabres last season, but he agreed to a modest one-year/$1 million deal.

  Player To Watch  

  Nino Niederreiter averaged just 10:06 minutes per game in 2011-12.  He’s got a lot of potential and he might end up playing a much bigger role going forward.  He’s worth keeping an eye on during training camp, even if he had just one point in 55 games last season. 


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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