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Fantasy Puck Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

Scott Cullen
9/8/2008 12:33:56 PM
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The Carolina Hurricanes have stumbled since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, but still have a roster full of talented players that will garner interest for fantasy purposes.

Eric Staal is the face of the franchise and, even if he's not going to match his 100-point season of 2005-2006, he's as durable as they come, missing just one game in his four-year NHL career. Coming off a point-per-game season last year, Staal is a solid pick, who will be even better when he finds his way to the right side of the plus-minus ledger.

Though Staal is durable, some of the Hurricanes' best players are looking to rebound after missing significant time with injuries.

Scoring winger Justin Williams was limited to 37 games last season, but has put up 191 points in 233 games over three-plus seasons with Carolina, topping 30 goals in a season twice. He should be healthy and ready to resume his 30-goal scoring pace.

Like Williams, 38-year-old Rod Brind'Amour is coming off a knee injury and only played 59 games last season. While it's difficult to get on board with a player in his late thirties having a bounceback season, Brind'Amour has put up 203 points in 215 games over the last three seasons, so he's well worth a look later in the draft when others may still be reluctant to pull the trigger.

36-year-old winger Ray Whitney isn't the most durable either, having missed at least 15 games in three of the last four seasons, but Whitney is a power play terror who has surpassed 30 points with the man advantage in four of the last five seasons.

There are a few other Hurricanes forwards of interest, but they come with warning labels.

Matt Cullen has enjoyed his greatest success in Carolina, and last year's 49 points in 59 games was the most productive pace of his career, but the team's depth up front (and even on the blueline) could eat into his power play time. Keep him in mind for the later rounds.

Salvage job Sergei Samsonov scored 32 points in 38 games with the Hurricanes last season, after flaming out in Chicago and Montreal, but it's tough to invest too much hope in a soft winger that hasn't scored more than 55 points in a season since 2001-2002.

It's also possible that Tuomo Ruutu will draw some interest in the late rounds or on the waiver wire because he adds some penalty minutes (186 over the last two seasons), but he needs to keep improving his scoring production if he's going to be worth more than waiver wire consideration.

The Hurricanes blueline was, at one point, a black hole for fantasy defencemen, but now there are a couple of solid candidates.

Joe Corvo may not be able to match his 2007-2008 Carolina production (21 points in 23 games) over a full season, but he can skate, has a heavy shot and should challenge his career-high of 48 points.

Enigmatic Joni Pitkanen is coming off a poor season in Edmonton (26 points, minus-5 in 63 games), but for all his inconsistency, Pitkanen has talent and could climb back into the 40-point range; a mark that he has surpassed twice in his four seasons.

24-year-old goaltender Cam Ward improved in his third NHL season, but his play still runs a little too hot and cold to generate interest as anything more than a fantasy backup. With his upside, Ward could provide excellent value in that range.




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