Corey Abbott

In The Crease

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Role Changes and Values

Friday, September 07, 2012


Players are currently preparing for training camps despite the ongoing labor negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA.  The start of camps, which are scheduled to begin on September 21st, could be delayed as a result of a lockout, but assuming players report, there will be some interesting developments to look out for.  A number of players have already had their roles changed during the off-season thanks to new additions, injuries and old teammates leaving for other franchises, while other stories are sure to develop prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.  Let's take a look at what these role changes will mean to the affected players’ fantasy values:    

  Tuukka Rask (BOS) - G - The Boston Bruins received shocking news over the summer when Tim Thomas announced his intention to take the upcoming year off.  Rask immediately shot up everyone's fantasy charts because he has handled the number one job before and has proven to be a steady backup for the past two seasons.  The Bruins are great defensively, which should help the 25-year-old Finn earn some victories even when he isn't at his best.  When Rask appeared in 45 games during the 2009-10 campaign, he posted 22 wins, a .931 save percentage, a 1.97 GAA and five shutouts.  Don't expect him to repeat those, as that is probably setting the bar too high.  Still, he should be good for a goal-against barely over 2.00 and a save percentage of around .915, to go with 30-plus wins.  When all that is added together it makes him one of the more attractive goalie options going into this season. 

  Brandon Dubinsky (CBJ) - C - Dubinsky was shipped from New York to Columbus as part of the package to land Rick Nash in the Big Apple.  The change of scenery should do him some good after he regressed considerably in 2011-12 with 10 markers and 34 points. He registered personal bests with 24 goals and 54 points the previous year.  It will be interesting to see where the Blue Jackets choose to line him up, as he could play at center or on the left side.  If he gets the nod at center he could supplant youngsters Derick Brassard and Ryan Johansen as the club's top pivot.  Either way it is likely that he will occupy a role in the team's top-six group.  His fantasy value also gets a boost in leagues that count hits and penalty minutes, as he doesn't shy away from the rough stuff.  Dubinsky surpassed the 100-minute mark in the sin bin in three of his past four seasons and he posted 207 hits last year.  Columbus has had good luck in the past with new players rising to the occasion after moves to their team, such as Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger, and Dubinsky has the tools to be a successful contributor as well.        

  Ales Hemsky (EDM) - RW - Hemsky skated in 69 games last season, which represents some progress after he played in 69 matches combined the previous two campaigns.  The difference last year was that he only managed to generate 10 goals and 26 assists, as opposed to his usual pace of being around a point-per-game player.  The rise of Edmonton's young guns has relegated Hemsky to more of a complementary role after he was considered the focal point of the team's offensive picture prior to injuries taking their toll.  He will probably enter the 2012-13 season as the third right winger on the team's depth chart behind Jordan Eberle and 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov, which will severely limit his fantasy value.  He is also still an injury risk so it's recommended that you cut ties with Hemsky, if you haven't already.  

  Tyler Bozak (TOR) - C - Bozak recorded career highs with 18 goals and 47 points last season, while seeing a fair amount of time between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.  The dynamic duo of the Leafs appeared to respond best with Bozak in the middle, but that could change in 2012-13 with the arrival of James van Riemsdyk.  The plan entering camp is for van Riemsdyk, who was acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for Luke Schenn, to try his hand at center on the top line.  If the experiment works out then Bozak would drop to Toronto's third unit behind Mikhail Grabovski.  However, it should be noted that this trial may not pan out, mostly due to JVR's lack of experience in the middle, so Bozak could be moved back up just as easily as he drops down.  He took the most draws on the Leafs last year at 1,198 and he won 52.7 percent of them, which was the second best result on the team, so he might be better served further up in the rotation.       

  Jared Spurgeon (MIN) - D - Coach Mike Yeo intends to start training camp with Spurgeon paired with big free agent signing Ryan Suter.  Spurgeon displayed flashes of offensive potential last season with 23 points in 70 games to lead all Wild defenders in scoring.  The 22-year-old blueliner will get a chance to play and learn from one of the best in the game next to Suter.  With Suter as his partner, Spurgeon should get an increase in the 21:35 of average ice time he played a year ago and his minus-4 rating should improve as well.  Since Spurgeon shoots right and Suter shoots left each should be adept and making crisp set-up passes to the other in the attacking zone. Spurgeon averaged 2:44 of ice time on the power play and scored 12 points, which led the team's defense corps in both categories.  It is shaping up to be a good year for Spurgeon’s development. He should register 30-35 points if he can remain with Suter for the entire year.   

  Colin Wilson (NSH) - LW - Wilson was forced to take a backseat in Nashville last season after the team added Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad and Alexander Radulov to its roster.  He received a reduced role after they were brought on board and scored just two points in nine contests following the trade deadline.  He also didn't get to play during the team's first-round playoff series against Detroit, but he played in four games against Phoenix in the semi-final round.   Wilson is expected to get more responsibility this campaign, with Kosititsyn and Radulov gone, and that should help him tap into his potential.  He had 15 goals and 35 points in 68 games last season, but he admits he didn't play well in the second half.  Wilson is confident that he will be more consistent  and a return to the top two lines of the Predators should help that.   

  David Clarkson (NJD)  - RW - Clarkson emerged as an offensive threat last season by reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.  He ended up with 46 points in 80 games while mostly playing as a third liner.  Now that the Devils have lost captain Zach Parise, the team will need someone to step into the top-six group and it's very probable that the position will go to Clarkson.  He has shown that he can score and he would add some toughness to New Jersey's second line.  Another 30-goal campaign may be too much to ask, but he should be able to net in the 20-25 range and account for 100-plus minutes in the penalty box, which would make him a versatile pick heading into 2012-13.   


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