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Cullen: Crosby gets boost in updated fantasy rankings

Scott Cullen
10/3/2011 5:10:12 PM
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With the NHL regular season starting this week, I've dipped back into my preseason projections to make some updates.

Check out the position-by-position rankings here.

The Top 300 projected scorers are here.

The Top 300 in projected overall fantasy rankings are here.

For the most part, there aren't dramatic changes, and I'm not going to make a big deal about preseason results, but circustances have changed for some players over the last three weeks, either increasing my confidence in some players or reducing my confidence in others.

The most notable improvement in the rankings is for Penguins superstar centre Sidney Crosby. Before camp began, there was much uncertainty about his status and while he's not yet cleared to play, it seems as though he's much, much closer. My initial guess of 55 games seems on the low side, so I've boosted him to 67 games (remaining cautious, given how long he's been sidelined), but an extra month's worth of games is a big deal for Crosby, who I'm now projecting to finish third in scoring with 96.

There's a sense of more confidence in Bruins' second-year forward Tyler Seguin and more support from the coaching staff makes it easier to expect a more significant role for Seguin this year. I'm still only projecting 44 points, but that would be double his total from last year.

With so many young players bidding for playing time, Carolina is a team that has seen some changes. Anthony Stewart and Zach Boychuk have lost some lustre, while Zac Dalpe might have a better shot at a top-six forward role. Although it isn't reflected in any rankings, yet, keep an eye on rookie defencemen Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy, who remain in Carolina.

Really, rookies are the ones getting the most benefit from these updates. Training camp has afforded many an opportunity to prove that they belong and while some may only last nine games (or fewer) before getting returned to junior hockey, there will be some upside with any of these youngsters.

Chicago's Brandon Saad, for example, has spent a lot of time skating on Jonathan Toews' wing in the presason and if Saad happens to stick there for the season, well, it's obviously a good place to be.

Gabriel Landeskog, considered a safe bet to make Colorado coming into camp, hasn't done anything to dispell that notion, even getting a turn on Paul Stastny's wing. The possibility of playing on a scoring line as soon as this season lifted my still modest projection for Landeskog to 36 points.

Fellow Avs rookie, defenceman Stefan Elliott, is a wild card. If he does stick in Colorado, it will be because he has offensive skills that stand out from the rest of the Avalanche's rather pedestrian blueline, so Elliott could put up points immediately (projected for 31), but he could find himself in the AHL too.

Toronto's Jake Gardiner may not be as offensively gifted as Elliott, but he's going to play a significant role for the Maple Leafs and if he plays well could be in that role all year. Gardiner's teammate, Matt Frattin, will also break camp with the team and while immediate expectations aren't high, he's worth keeping an eye on.

Columbus has several rookies breaking camp with the team and expectations have been raised for Ryan Johansen, the fourth overall pick in 2010, who may have a chance to play in a top-six role early. As a result, I've raised my points projection for Johansen to 48 (one behind Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who I've pegged for 49). For those in really deep leagues, defenceman David Savard and winger Cam Atkinson will have early chances to prove their worth.

At the other end of the Blue Jackets' spectrum, veteran Vinny Prospal appears healthy enough and might have a chance to play with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the number one line. As a result, I like him more than when he was first signed.

Devin Setoguchi is opening the season on Minnesota's number one line with Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu, which brings higher expectations and I've lifted Setoguchi up to 49 points.

The nature of the Achilles injury suffered by Devils centre Travis Zajac has seriously cut into his value this season, but that should increase the chances for second-year centre Jacob Josefson.

Ottawa is another team that had a lot of positions up for grabs coming into camp and the less-than-glowing reviews for Swedish defenceman David Rundblad has resulted in a preseason downgrade (and slightly better expectations for Sergei Gonchar as a result).

Forwards Nikita Filatov and Stephane Da Costa get more attention now, but let's not get carried away -- they're still low-end options for this season.

Opening the season healthy and on a strong line in Philadelphia increases my conservative Jaromir Jagr projections, up to 64 points.

Flyers rookie centre Sean Couturier has impressed with his ability to play in all situations, so I've inserted him into the mix, with a 40-point projection.

I was already going the conservative route with Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, as he's recovering from hip surgery, but if he's not returning until mid-November, which is a possibility, then my expectations have dropped even further, so I only have him for 50 points this year. The trade-off is that I'm expecting Alex Burrows to get more power play time and produce accordingly while Kesler is out.

Winnipeg rookie Mark Scheifele has also found his way onto the projections after a strong preseason, with the understanding that he could find himself back in the Ontario Hockey League (after an early-season taste of NHL action) if that's deemed best for his long-term development.

Now that you have the updated lists, check out TSN.ca's Fantasy Hockey League Manager here and come on by my chat on Wednesday, starting at noon ET.
 

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 on Facebook.

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