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Fantasy Puck Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

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Scott Cullen
9/9/2010 11:01:16 AM
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There have been a number of additions to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup in recent seasons, a few of which are quality fantasy options, many of which are more suited to depth roles.

In his first four seasons in the NHL, Dion Phaneuf was an elite fantasy defenceman, producing points and penalty minutes at a rare level. In 2009-2010, though, Phaneuf got off to a slow start in Calgary then his production dipped even further after he arrived in Toronto, scoring just two goals and ten points in 26 games.

There is an element of risk in taking him, but if Phaneuf's production gets back to customary levels, he's worthy of holding a No. 1 spot on a fantasy defense.

Seemingly against all odds, Tomas Kaberle remains with the Maple Leafs and he should be motivated to produce in a contract year. Kaberle is still a quality power play quarterback, but is also a cumulative minus-32 over the last three seasons. Combined with low penalty minute totals, that hurts his fantasy value. He's worth taking, just not as high as his point totals might suggest.

Up front, there aren't a lot of gamebreakers, but Phil Kessel is the one potential 40-goal scorer. He's scored at least 30 goals in back-to-back seasons, while playing just 70 games each year, but until he has stronger linemates, it's difficult to forecast his production going to the next level.

Coming from Chicago this summer, Kris Versteeg is certainly likely to have a more prominent role in Toronto than he did in Chicago, but he won't have the same calibre of supporting cast, so it could be difficult to match his production over his first two seasons.

The Leafs have some talent down the middle, but it's definitely of the unproven variety. Tyler Bozak put up 21 points in his last 26 games, while playing more than 20 minutes per game, so he could be a useful playmaking centre if he can carry that production over a full season.

Rookie pivot Nazem Kadri scored 120 points in 68 combined regular season and playoff games in the OHL last season, and put up points last year in the preseason, so perhaps he'll fit into a role as a scoring centre right away. If he does, 50 points isn't out of the question.

After that, the Leafs have forwards that are of the sleeper or waiver wire variety. Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Colby Armstrong and Clarke MacArthur have all had their moments, however fleeting, and could be fringe fantasy performers for those in deep leagues.

Generally, goaltending should be a strength for Toronto, as Jean-Sebastien Giguere elevated his play after arriving from Anaheim and Jonas Gustavsson had some good stretches as a rookie, particularly late in the season when he went 7-2-1 in March and April.

For fantasy purposes, though, a strong goaltending tandem means less individual value for both goaltenders, at least until one establishes a consistent starting pattern.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

Phil Kessel (Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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