Fantasy Puck Preview: Ottawa Senators

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Scott Cullen
9/7/2009 7:33:11 AM
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Uncertainty is the order of the day when it comes to evaluating the Ottawa Senators' fantasy prospects for 2009-2010, but as long as Dany Heatley is part of the team, the Sens should be relatively appealing.

While last year's 39-goal, 72-point season (to say nothing of his minus-11 rating) represented Heatley's lowest level of production in four seasons with Ottawa, there are only two other players -- Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk -- who have more than Heatley's 180 goals over the last four seasons. Given his dissatisfaction with the franchise, there is an obvious element of risk in taking Heatley, but it's difficult to fathom him being completely unproductive.

Heatley's slide last year coincided with a decline in production from centre Jason Spezza. However, like Heatley, Spezza has been tremendously productive, ranking fifth in the NHL with 223 assists over the last four years. It's not unreasonable to think that Spezza and Heatley can return to scoring better than a point-per-game.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson also saw his production dip to 74 points in 2008-2009, his lowest total since 2001-2002, but the 36-year-old has been a consistent scorer, topping 70 points for eight straight seasons and recording a plus rating in a dozen straight seasons.

Newcomer Alex Kovalev adds much-needed scoring depth, potentially elevating the production of the second line. Talent is never a question for Kovalev, but consistency is. Even so, last year's 65-point season in Montreal was the seventh time in the last nine seasons that he's finished with at least 65 points and Kovalev has surpassed 30 power play points five times in those nine years.

Centre Mike Fisher is a strong two-way player, but he finished with only 32 points last season and has never managed more than 48 points in a season, limiting his fantasy appeal to the deepest leagues.

For leagues that include penalty minutes, enforcer Chris Neil holds some appeal even as he comes off a season in which he accumulated a career-low 146 penalty minutes. However, Neil only played in 60 games, so it's still fair to expect him to push 200 penalty minutes if he plays a full season.

A possible sleeper, or breakthrough candidate, among the Senators forward ranks would be 21-year-old left winger Nick Foligno, who put up seven goals and 14 points in the final 21 games last season. If he secures second-line duty, Foligno will benefit from the improved talent level in Ottawa.

The Senators don't have any blue-chip defencemen, but there could be some later round value from the likes of Filip Kuba or Chris Campoli.

Kuba set career marks last season with 40 total points and 26 power play points, though he scored just three goals and his 28 penalty minutes tied a career low, so he's best for fantasy depth.

Campoli, who scored 13 points in 25 games after the Senators acquired him from the Islanders last season, may have untapped potential. The 25-year-old has yet to match the 34 points he tallied as a rookie in 2005-2006, but his initial stint in Ottawa would seem to indicate that he can do better in his new environment.

Ottawa's new starting goaltender, Pascal Leclaire, may be of the home run or strikeout variety. In 2007-2008, Leclaire put up nine shutouts with a 2.25 goals against average and .919 save percentage in what appeared to be a breakthrough campaign. Hampered by an ankle injury last season, though, Leclaire was limited to just a dozen games and struggled when he did play, posting a 3.83 goals against average and .867 save percentage.

If he's healthy and on his game, Leclaire could provide great value, but his injury history suggests that he shouldn't be drafted too early.

Heatley and Alfredsson  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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