Fantasy Puck Preview: Ottawa Senators

Scott Cullen
10/1/2008 12:18:55 PM
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It may be tempting to think that they are finished as a fantasy powerhouse, and maybe they are, but there are still enough elite players on the Ottawa Senators and you should not get caught overlooking them.

Few players can match Dany Heatley's production as he's averaged 47 goals, 97 points, a plus-31 rating and 79 penalty minutes in three seasons with the Senators. His scoring numbers were off a little last season, though part of that can be attributed to his missing 11 games due to injury.

Heatley's running mate, Jason Spezza, put up a career-high 92 points with a plus-26 rating last season, making him a high-quality fantasy centre and, at 25, he's just entering his peak years.

The Sens insist that they are going to put Daniel Alfredsson on a different line this year, in an effort to improve scoring balance, and it's a situation that bears watching. If Alfie truly is moving to another line, it could cut into his scoring -- at a time when he's had the three most productive seasons of his career.

At the same time, Alfredsson could provide major help to a second scoring line.

With Alfredsson or not, it's hard to expect anything more than 50 points out of Mike Fisher; a hard-nosed, strong two-way player, who doesn't have enough finish to be valuable in fantasy. In deep leagues, Fisher can be useful, but only if his plus-minus is markedly better than last year's minus-10.

A player who should continue on the rise is Antoine Vermette, whose point totals have increased every year he's been in the league, up to last year's 53. Perhaps pairing with Alfredsson would provide the push for Vermette to carry his game to the next level, say 65 points or more.

Getting first look on the wing with Spezza and Heatley is rookie Jesse Winchester. The soon-to-be 25-year-old was a decent playmaker at Colgate University, but has no pro track record so don't put outrageous expectations on him. Remember, Brandon Bochenski was slated to start with Spezza and Heatley a few years back as well.

If a Senators forward is going to have a breakout season, it would probably be second-year winger Nick Foligno, who had just nine points in 45 games as a rookie. It may not be enough to generate fantasy interest, but he's worth watching, in case he ends up on a scoring line.

For leagues that count penalty minutes, keep tough guy Chris Neil in mind. Neil should be asked to play more of a policeman role with Brian McGrattan leaving and he has shown a passable knack in front of the net in past seasons.

The defence has been completely overhauled and the result is a shortage of puck-moving blueliners.

Coming over from Tampa Bay in the Andrej Meszaros trade, Filip Kuba is the most proven offensive defenceman, with 21 goals and 68 points over the last two seasons in Tampa Bay. He was also a combined minus-17 so tread carefully.

The other piece of that trade, Alexandre Picard, has proven to be a productive defenceman in the AHL and the 23-year-old may be able to earn some power play time in Ottawa this year too, but he still qualifies as a deep sleeper pick right now.

It may be worth picking up rookie Brian Lee, especially in leagues that require a rookie, as Lee did put up 25 points in 55 AHL games last year before impressing in a late-season audition. No high expectations right away, but he may get a chance to produce.

Goaltender Martin Gerber could provide great value on draft day, as he's likely to be left until the later rounds. His play in Ottawa has been inconsistent, but Gerber goes into this season knowing that he's the full-fledged number one guy and should start 60 games for the first time in his career.

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