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Fantasy Puck Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

Scott Cullen
9/11/2008 11:42:27 AM
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will hope that a combination of off-season acquisitions and addition of top prospects will inject enough talent into their lineup.

The top Blue Jacket from a fantasy perspective could well be goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who was sensational last year (24-17-6, 2.25 GAA, .919 SVPCT), but he needs to see more action if he's going to be considered a fantasy starter.

Columbus' top skater is power forward Rick Nash, a gifted scorer, who is still waiting for the right complementary pieces to take his game to the next level. Even so, the 24-year-old tied for 11th in the league with 38 goals last year, so he's well worth an early-round selection.

Perhaps the biggest off-season acquisition was that of centre R.J. Umberger, who has the combination of size and skill to skate along with Nash and surpass the 50 points he scored with the Flyers last season.

Few players have the pure skills of left winger Kristian Huselius and he could be a solid contributor for Columbus, though he could be a risky selection since his inconsistent play may not be a quirk that head coach Ken Hitchcock finds so endearing.

Injuries sabotaged Fredrik Modin's 2007-2008 season but, when healthy, he remains a useful fantasy contributor in deeper leagues because he's a winger capable of scoring 25 goals.

The young guns are led by a string of first-round picks who have more value for keeper leagues.

In 2006, the Blue Jackets took playmaking centre Derick Brassard with the sixth overall pick. While he only mustered two points in 17 games with Columbus last season, Brassard ripped up the AHL with 51 points in 42 games. He may not be a ready contributor for fantasy purposes just yet.

2007 first-rounder Jakub Voracek was picked seventh overall and, while he has yet to play a pro game, Voracek has scored 187 points in 112 games in the QMJHL. Like Brassard, Voracek may contribute this season, but maybe not enough to warrant fantasy consideration.

This year's first-round pick, Nikita Filatov, was taken sixth overall and may be the most talented of the bunch, but the 18-year-old would have to make a major jump to be an immediate contibutor in the NHL. Wait on him for a year or two before he becomes a scoring sensation.

Columbus' defence corps is abysmal for fantasy purposes, with newcomer Fedor Tyutin (who scored 20 points for the Rangers) the top scorer from last year.

Kris Russell may have some long-term value, but he only scored ten points as a rookie and the bolstered defence corps in Columbus could make it tough for him to put up a lot of points this season.

For league's that reward penalty minutes, keep Jared Boll in mind. However, Boll is in recovery mode from a broken finger suffered this summer, so he may not be ready for full-fledged fighting duty early in the year. Even so, 200 penalty minutes seems like a safe projection.

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