The FHC (fantasyhockeycoach.com) Coaches examine and give their opinion on four questions:
Which player has raised his fantasy value the most during the playoffs, Braden Holtby, Erik Gustafsson, Brayden Schenn, Chris Kreider, or someone else?
Will the Nashville Predators be able to retain Ryan Suter and Shea Weber?
Which player in the upcoming draft will have the most fantasy impact the fastest, and why?
Which player has diminished his fantasy value the most during the playoffs, Alex Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Roberto Luongo, Ilya Bryzgalov, Brian Elliott, Patrick Marleau, or other?
Coach Brouwer: Braden Holtby has by far raised his value the most; he went from a minor league starter in Hershey, who played just seven games in the NHL to a clutch Stanley Cup playoff goalie. As a rookie he has already played more Stanley Cup playoff game then any other goalie in Washington Capitals franchise history. Holtby was a rock star in the playoffs and made many big saves. He played 14 games, won seven of them and posted a .935 save percentage and a very low 1.95 GAA. Of the 14 games, six went to overtime, including two that went multiple OT periods. Despite only winning two of these OT games, he proved he could handle the pressure of next goal wins the game. There is no doubt that he will be the starter next season. Expect Tomas Vokoun to sign somewhere else and Michal Neuvirth to be the back up, likely 60-40 for Holtby. Honorable mention for Chris Kreider who has shown tremendous speed and scoring ability, he is going to be a dominant fantasy player one day.
Coach Perry: I'll have to go with Braden Holtby. He was supposed to be the goalie of the future but has proven he is ready now. He has stolen games for the Capitals and allowed them to play as if they aren’t going to get scored on no matter how bad the turnover. The interesting thing is, despite increasing his fantasy value; I think that he could force a few mistakes from GMs expecting the world out of him next season. A few mistakes here or there will all be forgotten in September when people are reaching for him as a top 10 goalie in seasonal leagues. I think he has the stuff to be a solid fantasy option. However, I think people will also overvalue him next year. Young goalies get scouted in the off-season, they struggle in their second and third years. He will get goal support, but I think this amazing playoff run has unfairly inflated his value the most in seasonal leagues, but he is accurately valued in keeper leagues. I think Schenn will have the biggest fantasy impact next year, especially if Philadelphia moves James Van Riemsdyk or lose Jaromir Jagr to free agency
Coach Harling: Braden Holtby has raised his value the most. Schenn and Kreider are highly ranked prospects already had tremendous fantasy value in name alone. While Gustafsson has little to no name recognition and has raised his value by becoming known. He is a young defenseman with a bright future but not an elite fantasy producer. Holtby has had NHL auditions in the past and played well. As such he is relatively well known as the future in goal for Washington. When the playoffs began and both Tomas Voukun and Michael Neuvirth were sidelined with injuries many were writing off the Caps chances for success in the post season. But Holtby has stepped up and delivered a impressive performance taking them within one win of the Eastern Conference finals. With Voukun set to become an unrestricted free agent on July first, there is little doubt he will not be back and Holtby has won the starting role for the 2012/2013 season. A word of caution to fantasy owners thinking of investing in Holtby—remember James Reimer?
Coach Brouwer: This was supposed to be the Nashville Predators year to win it all, but unfortunately they couldn’t solve the Phoenix Coyotes. It is going to be an extremely busy offseason in Nashville as they have just eight forwards under contract going into next year. They need to sign an entire second line and another forward. They also need to either re-sign Andres Lindback or another backup goalie. Finally they only have three defensemen under contract, two of which were rookies (Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi) last season. This will be the most important off-season in their franchise history. Do they try to re-sign both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and have little cap space left over to sign the rest of the roster or let one go? Nashville is at their best when they have a strong goalie, elite defensemen and average forwards, so I can see them throwing enormous amounts money at Weber and Suter to get both to re-sign. I think if either leaves it won’t be for money but rather believing they have a better chance to win somewhere else. Nashville will find a way to have both back in the mustard yellow jerseys next season.
Coach Perry: I think they are able to retain both. They have the inside edge, they have committed to winning and they have the cap space to make it happen. I do believe both players enjoy playing in Nashville and know how close they are to reaching the next level. The team will have $32 million to spread over about 10 spots. Even if forced to offer “max deals” to both defensemen they would have $16-$18 million left for 8 players or $2.5 million per player. Despite not having a first rounder, they could make some noise on the trade front with options like Jon Blum, Ryan Ellis or Roman Josi to dangle as trade bait. The Predators could be in the running for Rick Nash or another big time forward if one hits the market. However, I think they would still be missing the true number one center that it takes to win a Stanley Cup. Unless they obtain one of via trade, I anticipate another playoff exit before this team reaches the Stanley Cup finals in 2013.
The other interesting thing could be if they decide to keep just one of these players. If they decide to go with just Suter, along with their prospects, Shea Weber could net them a fortune in a sign-and-trade before July 1. Would Edmonton give up number one overall this year, a second rounder next year, Magnus Paajarvi, and/or Ales Hemsky? Perhaps, and given his current stock that may not even be the best deal they get. However, I think it comes down to how much they like their prospects.
Coach Harling: Yes. The Predators have the green light from ownership to spend to the cap and compete financially with the likes of Detroit and Chicago. The management has shown quite clearly they are committed to winning by signing Pekka Rinne to a seven year $49 million deal, and acquiring players such as Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill and Alex Radulov to load up for a Cup run. While the team failed to achieve significant success in the playoffs I believe the team has demonstrated to both Suter and Weber they are serious about winning now. Money will not be a problem, so I expect Nashville to be able to sign both players to similar contracts as Rinne received.
Coach Brouwer: Ryan Murray is NHL ready. He is playing like a vet over in Europe for Team Canada at the IHF World Hockey Championship. Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe who is also Team Canada GM is extremely smart. He knows the Oilers need to add a young defenseman to their young core so why not bring their potential pick to play against men and see how he does. Lowe gets several weeks to scout and really get to know this kid during the tournament. The Oilers need to trade down at the draft so they can add a few more pieces to their organization and draft Murray. Murray may never be an elite offensive defenseman but he will be a solid number two guy who can score goals, run a power play and still take care of his own end. He is the perfect fit for the Oilers and will instantly make them better. Get him on the roster now so that all these young players can bond and grow as a unit. He will likely finish somewhere between Jay Bouwmeester and Ryan Suter.
Coach Perry: If Nail Yakupov is drafted by the Oilers I think that Alex Galchenyuk will have the most fantasy value next season. Nail will play in the NHL next year. However, in Edmonton he’ll have a hard time cracking the top line and top PP. Galchenyuk should be drafted by the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs and forced into action very quickly. If he centers either Phil Kessel or Max Pacioretty there is potential for some very dynamic chemistry right out of the gate. The problem is that Galchenyuk is a perfect fit for either of the Canadian franchises, both of whom are known for making the wrong decision. If the Oilers take Dumba or Murray over Yakupov (unlikely) or trade out the first pick (more likely) he will be the player to beat. If he is in Columbus, Montreal, Toronto or any franchise where he gets a sniff at decent even strength and power play minutes he will earn the most fantasy points. I haven’t been sold on him yet, but his numbers are close to that of Hall as a winger and even respectable when held against Tavares and Stamkos. I’d wait until the draft, but I think Nail goes to Edmonton and Galchenyuk scores the most points in seasonal leagues next year. In the short-term, three to four years, I think Yakupov is the easy choice to outperform the rest.
Coach Harling: Filip Forsberg. Yakupov has been a disappointment for me this year in his final junior campaign. He was a third team All-Star, was eliminated early in the OHL playoffs and was only “good” not “great” in the World Juniors. In Edmonton (assuming that’s where he goes) if he makes the team, he will not see prime time immediately behind Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ales Hemsky. Assuming Columbus selects a defenseman (Ryan Murray, or Matt Dumba) Forsberg could fall to the Canadiens, Islanders, or Leafs. Any of those teams desperately need a number one center and Forsberg fits the bill. Playing on a line with John Tavares or Phil Kessel could make him fantasy relevant immediately!
Coach Brouwer: Patrick Marleau was a huge disappointment in the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks were expecting to make a long playoff run and only won one playoff game. He went pointless in five games, finished with a minus one rating and only had nine shots on net. It’s time for a complete overhaul in San Jose; time to turn the reigns over to Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture. Unfortunately for the Sharks Marleau’s value is dropping; his goal and point totals have dropped in each of the last two seasons. He is 32 and on the downside of his career so 80+ point seasons are in the past but he should be able to return to the 70 point range. A change of scenery may be the best thing for Marleau, the Sharks and fantasy owners of Marleau.
Coach Perry: This one is easy—Patrick Marleau. There were some signs of life last season and even during spurts of this season. However, I think most fantasy GMs see his production is dropping. A change of scenery could fix that, but not for long. In my opinion Semin didn’t have much value in anyone’s eyes for the last two years and Ovechkin’s fantasy value should never be doubted if you believe he is staying in the NHL. Bryzgalov had an up-and-down regular season with a mostly “up” playoff performance (outside of the last two games) and is stuck on a team that has been developed into what should be a perennial contender. Lots of value there. Brian Elliott really shouldn’t have much value as he is stuck in a two-headed monster in St. Louis and is not the guy making the most money. The most interesting case is that of Roberto Luongo. He was pretty awful in the playoffs and should have seen his value drop the most. However, he was so bad he likely played himself out of the Canuck’s net and should land somewhere with no competition for starts. A fresh start, being a true number one and having a chip on his shoulder the size of Vancouver will mean a huge bounce-back for a goalie still in his prime.
Coach Harling: Roberto Luongo. While Patrick Marleau is a tempting choice, his most recent playoff failure is nothing new! He consistently produces regular season 70 point range seasons and consistently fails to match that production in the postseason.
Luongo however, had tremendous fantasy value by virtue of playing on the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks. Luongo played 60 games a season winning 30+ games with the two time Presidents Trophy winners. His most recent playoff failure has cost him his job in Vancouver as he has been surpassed by Corey Schneider. Now Luongo may find himself on the Toronto Maple Leafs, or worse, the Columbus Blue Jackets next season!
Aaron Brouwer is the co-creator of www.fantasyhockeycoach.com. FHC is a free fantasy hockey service that developed a ranking system combining post-lockout statistics, current factors and hockey knowledge. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.