Fantasy Puck Preview: Phoenix Coyotes

Scott Cullen
9/3/2009 11:53:25 AM
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Coming off a summer of discontent, the Phoenix Coyotes have a roster full of young players, which gives them plenty of upside, yet at the same time makes it difficult to bank on them.

The safest of Coyotes is captain Shane Doan, who scored a career-high 31 goals in 2008-2009 and his 73 points was the second-best mark of his career (after 78 points in 2007-2008). Even with a young and largely unproven supporting cast, Doan is likely to put up solid numbers again this season.

One of the crucial young players for the Coyotes is Peter Mueller, the third-year forward who dropped from 54 points as a rookie to just 36 points last season. If Mueller can rebound and become a quality scoring forward, he'll get ample opportunity in this lineup.

After he was acquired from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline, Matthew Lombardi responded favourably to increased ice time, scoring 16 points in 19 games with the Coyotes, while getting nearly 21 minutes of ice time per game. The speedy Lombardi tied a career high with 46 points last season, but could be in line for more if he's getting first line ice time in 2009-2010.

The rest of the Coyotes forwards come with more significant question marks, so they may only have value in deeper leagues.

Scottie Upshall scored a career-best 34 points last season, including 13 in 19 games with the Coyotes, so he'll be counted on to provide secondary scoring.

20-year-old Kyle Turris was rushed to the NHL last season and managed just 20 points (and a minus-15 rating) in 63 games, but another year to grow and mature could give him an opportunity to produce more effectively in his second season.

If Turris isn't able to rise to the level of second-line scoring centre, then Martin Hanzal could be asked to move into a more offensive role, though he's put up just 19 goals in his first two NHL seasons.

Second-year winger Mikkel Boedker impressed by making the team in his first shot last year, but he faded down the stretch. He has potential, but may still be a year or two away from scoring enough to generate enough fantasy interest.

A fresh start may help Petr Prucha rejuvenate his career, but the biggest wildcard in the Coyotes lineup is Radim Vrbata, who put up 56 points with Phoenix in 2007-2008 before flopping in Tampa Bay last season. Vrbata was better in the Czech league (12 goals, 17 points in 18 games) late in the year, so he may have a shot at a bounceback season.

On the blueline, Ed Jovanovski has the most value, though his minus ratings (minus-28 over the last two seasons) make him risky for the many leagues that take that into account. The good news is that Jovo is generally productive in terms of points and penalty minutes when he stays healthy.

Sleeper value on the blueline could come from improving young puck-moving defenceman Keith Yandle, though he could lose some power play time to veteran Adrian Aucoin.

Ilya Bryzgalov's numbers slipped in his first full season with the Coyotes, following his impressive debut in 2007-2008. There's no doubt that Bryzgalov is the number one guy, so he should get another 60 starts this season, but with a young squad in front of him, the results aren't likely to be very good.

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