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Fantasy Preview: Ottawa Senators

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Scott Cullen
9/17/2013 1:43:19 PM
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The Ottawa Senators had trouble scoring in 2013, but with D Erik Karlsson and C Jason Spezza healthy, there is a good chance that they will be able to score more often in 2013-2014.

Top Picks: While some players coming an injury-marred season might have shaky value, that won't be the case for D Erik Karlsson, who only played 17 games because of an Achilles injury, but he's such a ridiculous offensive performer that he has an argument for being a first-round pick because he has 92 points in 98 games over the past two seasons. His 0.94 is best among defenceman; Pittsburgh's Kris Letang (0.93) is the only other defenceman over 0.75 points per game in the last two years.

Karlsson also registered 4.65 shots on goal per game last season. It's obviously a small sample, but the only defencemen to ever average more in a season (min. 10 GP) are Bobby Orr and Raymond Bourque.

On the heels of losing Daniel Alfredsson as a free agent, the Senators made a deal for RW Bobby Ryan, a net upgrade in talent. Last season, Ryan had 11 goals in 46 games (a career-low 0.24 gpg), yet he ranks 14th with 142 goals since 2008-2009, tied for sixth with 106 goals at even strength. In Anaheim, Ryan didn't always get first unit power play time, something that should change in Ottawa, where his goal-scoring will be welcome, making Ryan a low-end No. 1 and high level No. 2 right winger.

Understand, coming into the season, that G Craig Anderson is going to see his numbers regress -- he will not have a .941 save percentage over a full season, for example -- but his .919 save percentage since 2007-2008 ranks seventh and he's the starter for what appears to be a strong team so, even with regression, he's a decent No. 1 fantasy goaltender.

Value Plays: Since 2005-2006, C Jason Spezza has scored 545 points in 500 games, his 1.09 points per game ranking fifth (minimum 200 games played) in that span. Trouble is, Spezza has missed at least 20 games in three of the last four seasons, including last year when back woes cost him 43 of 48 games.

Obviously, Spezza is quite valuable when he's in the lineup, but it becomes a risk-reward pick for fantasy owners when you go into the season expecting a player to miss a significant amount of time.

As much as C Kyle Turris has improved and seen his role increase in Ottawa, scoring 58 points in 97 games, he has yet to score even 30 points in an NHL season. As a late-round pick, playing on the potential of a 23-year-old, sure, he's worth a look, but keep expectations in check.

LW Clarke MacArthur had back-to-back 20-goal seasons in Toronto before his role was reduced in 2013. If he lands a top-six role with the Senators, another 20-goal season could be within reach.

Sleepers/Breakthrough: It's not secret that LW Milan Michalek can score, and a spot on Jason Spezza's wing is a nice place to work but, like Spezza, Michalek comes with an injury risk, having missed at least 15 games in three of the last four seasons. He's a five-time 20-goal scorer, topping out at 35 in 2011-2012, but any pick of Michalek has to be done with expectations that he'll miss some time.

It took some time for C/LW Mika Zibanejad to adjust to North America, managing a modest 11 points in 23 AHL games before adding 20 points in 42 NHL games. He's already established that he's an NHLer, but Zibanejad may not play in enough of an offensive role to generate fantasy interest so soon.

Now that Sergei Gonchar is toiling in Dallas, D Patrick Wiercioch is looking at a favourable opportunity to handle more minutes in his second NHL season.

G Robin Lehner has given every indication that he's going to be a very good starting goaltender in the league, posting a .936 save percentage in 17 NHL games over the last two seasons. He doesn't have great value as long as he sits behind Anderson on the depth chart but, as backups go, Lehner is one of the best so long as he continues his career on this path.

Rookies: The Senators might have a few rookies challenging for spots in the lineup, but they don't initially appear to be relevant for fantasy purposes. C Jean-Gabriel Pageau had 10 points in 19 (regular season plus playoff) games for Ottawa last season, but after 29 points in 69 AHL games, he can't be expected to take a scoring role.

RW Mark Stone is another candidate for a spot on a scoring line, after scoring 38 points in 54 AHL games as a rookie pro last season. If Stone lands a regular spot, then he might have value but, right now, it's too soon to make that projection.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Erik Karlsson (Photo: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle/Getty Images)
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