Welcome back, hockey fans! With the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement finally all but finalized, preseason is reportedly starting this coming Sunday, January 13, and the regular season starting reportedly on Saturday, January 19. Suddenly, there is a lot of work to be done by anyone involved in NHL hockey, from the teams all the way to us, the writers.
This article will look at four major issues facing the Vancouver Canucks, including point projections, injury impacts on the team, and other information that affects picking Canucks players in your fantasy hockey pool, because (heck yeah!) hockey time is also hockey pool time! I have always used Dobber Hockey as a reference guide when scouting my hockey pool picks, so it gives me great pleasure to work with Dobber Hockey writer Jeff Angus on this piece.
What should Canucks fans expect from Zack Kassian from a production standpoint?
Jeff Angus: Kassian’s play in the AHL season in 2012-13 has ranged from average to excellent. He hasn’t been dominant for long periods of time, but he has shown why the Canucks aggressively pursued him at the trade deadline last season. Kassian is an intimidating presence on the ice, but most importantly from an offensive standpoint, he is a fantastic playmaker. He uses his size to create separation from defenders, and he has very soft hands. The Todd Bertuzzi comparisons are not off base, even if they seem too easy to make because of the Vancouver connection.
There have been some rumblings that Kassian may get a look with the Sedins to start the season. I’d expect him to move all over the lineup from line one to line four. Assuming he suits up for 40+ games, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect 8-10 goals, 15-25 points, and 40+ PIM. Nothing earth-shattering, but it would be a step in the right direction for the top young player in the organization.
Are the Sedins still elite point producers?
Jeff Angus: Probably not, but it will be interesting to see how they look in the first few weeks of the season. It has been almost 10 months since they played a meaningful hockey game – fitness isn’t a concern, as they are always in top condition, but rust may a factor for the initial stretch of games.
One reason I like the Sedins from a fantasy hockey perspective this season – more powerplay opportunities. The NHL is going to want to bring fans back, and to do that, they will want to increase the number of goals and scoring opportunities (just like the last lockout). And players are going to be rusty and out of game condition (for the most part), leading to lazy hooking and holding penalties. Daniel and Henrik will get a lot more man advantage opportunities (per game) than they did last season.
The DobberHockey Guide has both Sedins pegged to finish above the point-per-game mark in 2013.
What effect does the Kesler injury have on the rest of the lineup?
Sean Zandberg: The loss of Ryan Kesler has a huge impact on this team. You don’t easily replace a Selke Trophy winner / second line center of that calibre. Somebody needs to step in and play that Kesler shutdown / secondary scoring center role. In 2010-11, a healthy Kesler hit his stride and scored 41 goals and 73 points in 82 games. He scored 15 of those goals on the power play and 3 of them shorthanded. He finished the season a +24. Last season he suffered a shoulder injury, played through it, and did not come close to his output from the previous season (22 goals and 49 points in 73 games in 2011-12.)
Many hope Mike Gillis acquires a second line center in a Roberto Luongo trade. If he does not, then there are several options for coach Alain Vigneault. He may move Chris Higgins (who played center for Montreal in the past) from his usual winger position to the middle. He may opt to play Maxim Lapierre there, even though Lapierre has generally played a bottom six role for Vancouver. Perhaps Jordan Schroeder (9 goals and 19 points in 30 games with the Chicago Wolves this season) wows Canucks brass at camp and fills that spot. Ok, that’s most likely not going to happen.
Like I said, it’s almost impossible to fill Kesler’s shoes. The Canucks are going to have to fill his role "by committee". If Gillis does not find a number two center via trade, then I can see Higgins and / or Lapierre, both of whom become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, by the way, filling that spot. Both players can play well defensively, however neither are as good offensively as Kesler. I see both getting a chance because Vigneault loves to juggle the lines.
Are there any fantasy sleepers on the roster right now?
Sean Zandberg: Watch for Chris Higgins (43 points in 71 games last season) and Maxim Lapierre (19 points in 82 games) to boost their output in contract years and with greater roles given Ryan Kesler’s absence. Much more output is expected from David Booth (16 goals and 30 points in 62 games last season) but I guess I would not call Booth a sleeper pick. Aside from them, I really like Jeff’s pick.
Jeff Angus: As the current roster looks, there aren’t likely to be any offensive surprises. The only one I can potentially foresee is Jannik Hansen, if he somehow sticks in a top six role. He is a solid overall offensive player and has looked good when given more opportunities to produce (like over in Finland during the lockout). The Canucks have a number of players who will likely rotate around on lines two and three until Kesler returns from his injury.
The DobberHockey 2013 Fantasy Guide is fully updated – we have been working night and day on it since news of the lockout ending came down early Sunday morning. Unlike the other guides that were released last summer, the DobberHockey Guide is completely updated with everything that has occurred during the lockout. This is also the first year we included advanced statistics in some of our analysis, too.
All projections are based on a 48 game schedule. Injuries need to be considered, prospect performance in the AHL, older players playing better in a shortened year (or worse), etc. Dobber has spent the days leading up to ratification going through each player with a fine-tooth comb. All projections, sleeper notes, rookie charts, injuries will be based on the shortened season and the latest information. Almost every single page of the Guide that was released on August 1st has been changed.
Pick the Guide up here – you won’t be disappointed!