Cullen: Fantasy Puck Mail: Fab Freshmen

Scott Cullen

10/1/2010 12:43:22 AM

Top rookies, keeper advice and a look back at last year's preseason Power Rankings in the first Fantasy Puck Mail of the season.

Hi Scott,
I'm just making preparations for my upcoming rookie draft and wanted to know who you think is the top 10 rookies for the upcoming season?

Here are my favourite rookies (some of whom I'd like more for fantasy if they were listed as wingers rather than centres) coming into this season:

Tyler Ennis, C/LW, Buffalo - AHL Rookie of the Year last year and added nine points in ten games with Buffalo.  As good a pick as any to lead the rookie scoring race.

Jamie McBain, D, Carolina - 10 points in 14 games with the 'Canes last year after a strong AHL season.

P.K. Subban, D, Montreal - Resumes playoff role as No. 1 defenceman with Andrei Markov sidelined.

Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton - Top pick has the pedigree and attitude to score right away.

Jonathan Bernier, G, Los Angeles - Dominated the AHL last season; could take Kings' No. 1 job in short order (as opposed to Quick-ly).

John Carlson, D, Washington - Awesome AHL season as a 19-year-old and showed he was NHL-ready in the playoffs last year.

Jordan Eberle, RW, Edmonton - Outstanding junior season and 23 points in 20 AHL games over the last two years.

Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto - Was about ready to drop him off the list until he put up three points against Senators.  Has high ceiling as a point producer.

Tyler Seguin, C, Boston - Starting on the wing, with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, and should be productive enough.

Logan Couture, C, San Jose - Would like him more if he could squeeze into San Jose's top six forwards.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Phoenix - Poised youngster excelled in Swedish Elite League last year and could make an immediate impact with Coyotes.

Lars Eller, C, Montreal - Playing on the wing in a top six role; plays hard and uses his size, so Habs should have lots of ice time for him.

Jeff Skinner, C, Carolina - Scored 70 goals for the Kitchener Rangers last year and the Hurricanes have openings up front. Word out of Carolina is that he's certainly strong enough on his skates to make an impact right away.

Derek Stepan, C, N.Y. Rangers - 54 points in 42 games as a sophomore at Wisconsin last year and impressive in camp.  Rangers need playmakers down the middle.

Eric Tangradi, RW, Pittsburgh - If he's going to stick in Pittsburgh, he should be in top-six forward role and the opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is too good to pass up.

Brayden Schenn, C, Los Angeles - Don't know if he'll land the second-line centre job in L.A., but if he does, well worth consideration.

Alexander Burmistrov, C, Atlanta - Not sure if he makes it in a prominent role, but the talk last year was about how he was too small and I don't think that's so much of a concern any more.  If he's playing in the top nine right away, he could be interesting.

Kyle Beach, Jeremy Morin, Jack Skille - wingers, Chicago - Any of these guys could end up in significant roles, which would mean playing with really talented players, or they could end up on the fourth line.

Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim - Getting a chance to stick on a thin Anaheim blueline; maybe too much to ask him to be productive right away.

(edit: Thomas from Barrie points out Mikael Backlund in Calgary as a good one too and I have to agree.  Kind of forgot he played just 23 games last year, but he'll need Stajan to be out for quite a while if he's going to stick in an offensive role.  I also forgot Panthers RW Michael Grabner; he deserves consideration.)

and a couple of "virtual rookies" that aren't eligible for the Calder:

Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis - Only three points in 17 games over the last two NHL seasons, but could be ready to play a more prominent power play role this year.

Nikita Filatov, LW, Columbus - Would still like some assurance that he'll be in a top six role with the Blue Jackets, but does have a hat trick among his six NHL goals in 21 career games.

Sorry, you said ten, right?

I particularly like some of the young defencemen who are safe because you know they are going to get top-four minutes and even if they aren't super-productive, the difference between them and a veteran in your fourth or fifth defense spot will be marginal, whereas some of the forwards might look good early and fade into obscurity as the season goes along.


Mr. Cullen,
I have the 5th pick overall in a 9-team traditional snake-type draft. I thought about trading down to the 9th slot, just due to getting the back-to-back picks every round, but after I did some close analysis of players I am thinking the 5 slot is NOT as bad as I originally thought.
Steve Gallagher

Steve, There's nothing wrong with fifth pick.  In a 9-team league, you probably don't need to go for a goaltender that early, so you can try for any one of the 100-point scorers (Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Malkin) and that's a fair way to start.  It's okay to get back-to-back picks, but sometimes it can feel like a long wait between those picks. - SC  

Is Nikolai Khabibulin worth a look at with this drunk driving and back issues. I have Tuukka Rask, Jonas Hiller and Brian Elliot as my tenders. Elliot looks like he's gonna start on the bench this year after coming in nicely last year. I don't know if i should ponder picking up the Bulin Wall.

As a third option, Khabibulin seems like a good addition.  You don't have much right to hold high expectations for your third goaltender, so anything he can provide is really a bonus and the Oilers obviously have some upside, particularly if they get some good goaltending.  The Senators' goaltending situation does seem unsettled to some degree, so Khabibulin may actually start more games, which isn't something I would have expected coming out of this summer. - SC

Hey Scott,
I am in a salary cap league this year where we have $20 to spend on 12 forwards, 6 defenseman and 2 goalies.  So we have to budget our players affectively in order to compete.  There is no player movement, so if one of your guys gets hurt, too bad. (No I will not be picking Marion Gaborik, even if he stayed healthy last year!)  Anyways, my question was about Kyle Turris. For some reason, the league manager neglected to put Kyle Turris in the player list, so he is a $.70 write in, which is the cheapest a forward can be.  I wanted to know how his training camp has started and what your thoughts are on how he will do this season. I do thank you for any input you can provide.

The Coyotes do seem bullish on Turris in the preseason and if he ends up playing with Scottie Upshall, as he has a bit in the preseason, that's a spot where he could put up some points.  I wouldn't go overboard in expectations, particularly in the Coyotes' defensive style, but a 40-point season seems possible.  Of course, given the rules of your league, it's a risk-reward pick for you since Turris could still end up in the AHL, whether out of camp or after a slow start. - SC

Hi Scott,
I'm in an 8-man snake style pool, with the 7th pick. Now assuming each person before me took a forward and I grabbed Steven Stamkos (or happened to have one of the Sedin's fall back to me)..who is the better choice with my next (2nd) pick (10th overall). Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton, or Ilya Kovalchuk.
My heart says St-Louis because TB will have no trouble scoring head says Joe Thornton is always good for close to 100 points, but at the same time Kovalchuk could potentially hit 100 as well with the more offensive approach likely to be used by John MacLean in NJ. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

If Stamkos is the one you get at seven, I might go with Kovalchuk in the second round, avoiding Thornton because he's a centre and you got one in Round One and unless you want to put all your eggs in the Tampa Bay basket, then it makes sense to go for Kovalchuk (or even Zach Parise) to diversify your investment. - SC

What do you think about Marc Savard? Do you think he's done for the year?

Impossible to know, Shane.  Savard has said he has no idea when he's going to be ready to return.  That could mean playing a month from now, or it could mean missing the season.  Anyone with a long-term concussion issue is someone I would avoid -- it's a desperation move to make only if you have no other options. - SC

Hey Scott In a 12-team H2H pool. The categories are G,A,PPP, S, +-, PIM and goalie categories are W, S and GA
I want to keep Michal Neuvirth until Semyon Varlamov can prove he's a starter and carry the workload and I do have Ryan Miller. I was thinking of dropping Tim Thomas and picking up Mikael Samuelsson. I think he could have a career year playing with the Sedin twins and be more of an asset to my team then the amount of time Tim T will play this year. Other players available that I like are Mason Raymond, maybe Jamie Langenbrunner...or also Jakub Voracek. Any thoughts on what I should possibly do about this or any suggestions on my roster I might want to address?

If you already have Ryan Miller and both Capitals goaltenders, you should be able to afford moving out Thomas.  Samuelsson is a good option, but I'd probably lean towards Voracek; he's one of my favourite breakout prospects for this season. - SC

I'm looking to draft a sleeper player in my pool.  I was thinking of Eric Tangradi.  Do you think he will make the Penguins' lineup this season and if he does will he play on the top two lines?

As sleepers go, Tangradi is a decent one to try late in your draft.  He's been getting time with Mike Comrie and Evgeni Malkin recently, and if he's going to stick in Pittsburgh, he really should be in a scoring role.  Not sure if he's ready to put up big numbers after 39 points in the AHL last year, but I like his long-term potential quite a bit. - SC

Hello, I was wondering what you think of Kyle Beach making the Blackhawks this year? I'm in a keeper roto pool with the stats of G,A,PPG,PPA,HITS,SHOTS,PIMS. I Think he will be a big player in my league just wondering if I should dish out the cash for him if he isn't playing this year.

There are several young forwards vying for time with the Blackhawks and Beach should be one of them, but who knows whether he's going to sneak into a second-line spot or if he's going to be agitating on the fourth line?  Great long-term upside for fantasy because he should be a 20-goal scorer who is going to pile up penalty minutes, but he's such a wildcard that it's hard to say he'll provide enough as a rookie. - SC

Hi Scott,
I have a tough decision to make - to keep 2 of the following 3 players - Johan Franzen (RW), Jonathan Toews (C) and Jeff Carter (C).
Due to the great depth of Center in fantasy leagues, I'm keeping Franzen but not sure where to go with Carter/Toews.  Carter has more goal and shot potential over Toews, but Toews is the safer pick, and based on our rules I can keep Toews 2 years longer than Carter (would have to give up Carter after this year).  I also have Niemi/Heatley as my other keepers and have the #1 pick (Ovechkin). 
Any thoughts on this dilemma I have?
Thanks, and look forward to your response!
Tim in Chicago

If you can keep Toews two years longer, then it's a no-brainer to keep him ahead of Carter.  Being from Chicago, that shouldn't be too much of a problem for you!  Given Franzen's injury history, I might be inclined to keep both young centres, but I understand/support the idea of getting quality wingers. - SC

Last year Nashville scored 217 goals and was 18th in the NHL but with Matthew Lombardi replacing Jason Arnott, Colin Wilson playing at least 70 games, and Sergei Kostitsyn to be the much needed playmaker; can and DOES Nashville score 230 goals?

Can't say I expect an offensive upgrade for the Predators right now.  If Lombardi can make up for Arnott's production (even if he is declining, Arnott had 46 points in 63 games) and Wilson plays a full year, and David Legwand scores more than 11 goals...maybe the Predators get to 230 goals, but I'd be inclined to take the under on that total right now. - SC

Hey Scott!
Was wondering if you have fine tuned your hard work and methodology by comparing preseason predictions with end of season finishes, or play off teams with series and cup winners.  I fully appreciate that no system can ever be perfect but since like the game itself, the goal is to constantly improve I would like to hear what has come from self checking and fine tuning.  I'm sure it could also be a great pat on the back to see your methodology statistically validated on the ice.
Steve Pollock

Yes, each year I'll look at the preseason rankings to see what happens and which teams either surprised or disappointed.  Over the years, the most common reasons for big variations are injuries, goaltending and young players either regressing or achieving at levels which they've previously not achieved and those are awfully difficult to predict.

Looking back at least year, for example, here are the rankings that were off most dramatically:

Phoenix and Colorado were 30th and 29th in the preseason rankings, but both teams got such amazing production from players that had never achieved at that level in the NHL.

In Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov had an amazing season, Keith Yandle broke through, Radim Vrbata bounced back, and they didn't fade late thanks to a combined 36 points in the last 18 games from Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski.  They also managed to post a winning record despite ranking 24th in the league in goals scored (211), so Bryzgalov had to be great or the results wouldn't have been so good.

For Colorado, I expected Craig Anderson to be a good starter, but not to the level that he was.  18-year-old rookies Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly handled the No. 2 and No. 3 centre spots all year, Brandon Yip, David Jones and Peter Mueller combined to score 30 goals in 70 games with the Avs.  Add in T.J. Galiardi having a strong rookie year and Chris Stewart with a breakout season and it wasn't easy before the season to project the Avalanche to be a playoff team.

Ottawa, which I had 24th, got average goaltending from Brian Elliott, but that was better than expectations, and they were still a team that gave up 13 more goals than they scored, so a subpar ranking wouldn't be too far out of order based on that.

Los Angeles, ranked 23rd in the preseason, got a surprisingly good season from Jonathan Quick; both Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson developed as frontline defencemen and Wayne Simmonds made a sizeable jump in production from Year One to Year Two.

Calgary, which I ranked lower than anyone last year, at 17, didn't make the playoffs despite decent health and Miikka Kiprusoff's best season since 2005-2006.  My expectation that they would have trouble replacing Cammalleri's offense eventually proved to be true (only two Flames had more than 40 points), but Kipper's outstanding play kept them in playoff position longer than I had expected.

Edmonton, ranked 16th, was practically a write-off because of injuries to Ales Hemsky, Nikolai Khabibulin and Sheldon Souray, but espectially so while their young guys all stagnated, or worse.  Dustin Penner had a breakthrough season, but he was about the only Oiler to overachieve. 

Since my rankings are based on the players currently in the lineup, injuries can make a dramatic difference and the Oilers losing their goaltender (who was already underperforming), leading scorer and top pair defenceman was way too much for them to handle.

Similarly, Florida, 15th in the preseason, didn't have depth to deal with injuries to David Booth and Nathan Horton, particularly when they overlapped. 

Minnesota, at 14th, got subpar years from Martin Havlat and Niklas Backstrom, dramatically down from their levels in previous years, and then concussions knocked out Pierre-Marc Bouchard all year and Brent Burns for half the year.

It's a lot to put on young guys, but Columbus, ranked 13th, was undone by sophomore slumps.  Steve Mason and Derick Brassard were two of the best rookies in the league the year before and weren't anywhere near that level last season.

Anaheim, at 11, were probably close to that level when they had a healthy lineup, but Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf each missing significant periods of time was enough to keep them outside the playoffs.

Chicago, ranked 10th, was somewhat artificially lowered because of Marian Hossa being out of the lineup at the start of the year as he recovered from shoulder surgery.  With a healthy Hossa, the Blackhawks would have been a Top Five team in the preseason.

Carolina, ranked seventh, lost Cam Ward for a good part of the year.  Rod Brind'Amour was further gone than I thought and Joe Corvo, Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu all missed at least 25 games. 

Boston, ranked second, couldn't score goals (206 on the year) a year after ranking second in the league in goals (274).  Marc Savard's injuries, David Krejci coming back from hip surgery, Milan Lucic hurt, Phil Kessel leaving and not effectively replaced turned out to make the Bruins substantially worse than they were the year before.

Part of the reason I rank teams the way I do is so that I have the flexibility to change as circumstances (trades, injuries etc.) change, so when I rank teams in the preseason, the only way to expect that will be the final rankings is if there are no changes throughout the year and that's obviously never going to happen. - SC

Hi Scott,
I am the second year of a 5-year keeper league.  A guy in my league was asking about getting Pavel Datsyuk and I was looking at grabbing Corey Perry.  Should I make this trade offer for Perry?

For a five-year keeper league, Perry is good value for Datsyuk.  Perry's already an elite right winger and Datsyuk is 32 now, so over the next five years, Perry figures to have even better value as he should just be hitting his peak while Datsyuk should slow down at some point. - SC

Hello from the Yukon.  Hockey Pool junkie.  I have John Tavares in my keeper league and that was the one player that made me scratch my head a bit out of all of the rankings?  I dont personally expect Stamkos-like improvement, but I like him for more than 57 points.  My question I guess is what made you feel he would only improve by three pts. My argument:  18 pts in last 13 games (horrible slump midseason, I know).  7 goals in 7 World Championships games.
Working out with Gary Roberts I believe (can't hurt).  Better prepared physically and mentally for the upcoming season.
I realize linemates arent that great but the bulk of PP etc. should go to him.  Anyways, just thought I would get your reasoning if you had the time.  Thanks,

I don't know that Tavares won't have another midseason slump as a sophomore.  As a player who needs others to create for him -- he doesn't have the speed to create chances like Stamkos -- Tavares' supporting cast on the Islanders just doesn't excite me, and that was before Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit got hurt, so I'm cautious in my projections for most Islanders, Tavares included. - SC

Hi Scott,
I'm in a keeper pool and have to let go a few players.  If you could keep just three guys out of these, who would you keep between: Scott Gomez, Shane Doan, Danny Brière, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Drew Doughty.
Thanks Scott.
Danyel Benoit

Danyel, In a keeper league, I like the young guys there - Doughty is a top keeper in any format, Giroux has good potential and, as I mentioned, I'm pretty high on Voracek this year. - SC

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