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Cullen: Yandle aside, dig deep to unearth value on Coyotes

Scott Cullen
9/20/2011 11:32:49 AM
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The Phoenix Coyotes aren't exactly a source of fantasy gold, but do some nibbling around the edges and you just might find some value.

If there is one marquee performer on the Coyotes roster, it's defenceman Keith Yandle, the 25-year-old blueliner who has increased his point total every year he's been in the league and could be a contender to be the top-scoring defenceman in the league this season. Over the last two seasons, Yandle has 100 points and is plus-28, making him one of two defencemen in the league to have 100 points and at least a plus-25 total over the last two years (Washington's Mike Green is the other).

Shane Doan's goal-scoring has dipped the last couple of years, but he remains a productive winger, scoring at least 55 points in nine of the last ten seasons. He would feel safer with a bona fide playmaking centre, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards at the moment.

Similarly, 39-year-old Ray Whitney continues to defy his age, scoring at least 55 points in eight of the last nine seasons. Where Whitney really shines is on the power play, scoring at least 19 points with the man advantage in eight of the last nine seasons.

Radim Vrbata hasn't been able to get back to the 27-goal, 56-point form he showed in 2007-2008, but last season's 48 points was the second-best total of his career. Low penalty minute totals mean that he's not likely to have much value outside of deeper leagues, but he's an interesting late rounder with some offensive upside.

With the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia, Mike Smith has the lead in the bid for the starting goaltender's job and we'll find out if Bryzgalov was a product of the Coyotes' defensive system or if the Coyotes' strong defensive record was due to Bryzgalov's sterling play. There is a possibility that Smith could put up decent numbers in Phoenix and that chance makes him worth a late-round flier.

Likewise, Jason LaBarbera is an intriguing play in deep leagues because Smith is one of the most precarious starters in the league and it wouldn't figure to take a lot to overtake Smith if he got off to a slow start.

The rest of the Coyotes are really only of interest in deep leagues. Martin Hanzal plays the big minutes at centre for the Coyotes, but has never scored more than 35 points in a season. Even with decent penalty minutes, in most cases it's not enough at centre.

As he awaits a new contract, Kyle Turris doesn't seem to have a great deal of leverage, scoring a career-high 25 points in 65 games last season. He has never played significant minutes, either, so there probably is some offensive upside waiting to be let loose if he played 17-18 minutes a night for a full season, but there are no guarantees that's what is in store for the 22-year-old this year.

One reason that Turris may not be guaranteed a prime scoring role is that new acquisition Daymond Langkow, while coming back from a serious neck injury, at least has a track record of producing points in the NHL, scoring at least 49 points for nine straight seasons (through 2008-2009). It's a reach to think that 35-year-old Langkow is going to put up big numbers, but it would be an interesting prop bet to see whether Turris or Langkow finished with more points in the 2011-2012 season.

Following a breakthrough season, during which he scored 40 points and was plus-17, Lauri Korpikoski could have value if he can duplicate that performance.

There are prospects that might figure into prominent roles at some point this season, but they're prospects, so uncertainty is higher than it is for other players. Mikkel Boedker has 45 points in 126 career NHL games, but tallied 34 points in 36 AHL games last season, possibly an indication that the 21-year-old is ready to play in a scoring role in the NHL.

Defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had 11 points in 48 games as a rookie last season and may still be hard-pressed to secure significant minutes this year, but he is a skilled puck-mover and figures to be productive once he does earn full-time employment.

Last year's Hobey Baker Award winner, Andy Miele, is undersized and might need some time in the AHL to get acclimated to the pro grind, but he put up 71 points in 39 games at Miami-Ohio, so he's worth keeping on your radar.

Given this cast, it's easy enough to forecast a subpar season for the Coyotes, and that could be what happens, but head coach Dave Tippett has been able to extract very good results from mediocre rosters in the past, so there is the possibility that the Coyotes could overachieve once again.

Depth Chart - Phoenix Coyotes

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.




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