Somebody has to play the point on the PP for the Devils... could be Taormina?
I have to say these BB's are just getting better and better. We hope you're not getting used to this high standard of writing as us scouts will have trouble living up to them. Today is no different as John Fischer from In Lou We Trust is here to talk fantasy hockey, and particularly the New Jersey Devils. John and the guys at ILWT are pumping out quality posts like nobody's business so you should give them a look.
If you're interested in FHS' breakout picks and fantasy take on the Devils check out our draft kit which includes The Breakout Bible, the Fantasy Scouting Report (with SuperStats included) and our Fantasy Prospect Database.
BY JOHN FISCHER FROM IN LOU WE TRUST
Q1) Devils Breakout of the Year?
The one Devil who could stand to have a breakout year will be Mattias Tedenby. Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk will bounce back from his 60 point performance, and Zach Parise definitely will just by playing a full season of hockey; but they're known quantities. That's not really in the spirit of the question. Tedenby, however, would be as he enters his second season of NHL hockey. With the injury to Zajac for the start of the season, I anticipate that the Devils' top two centers will be Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus. Shifting Zubrus to center will open up a right wing spot in the top 6 that's Tedenby's for the taking in training camp. If he gets it, then look for him to do what he can to keep it after Zajac returns to the lineup. Given his speed, quickness, swiftness, and his strong puck-handling skills, that will mean plenty of points that will benefit the Devils and fantasy owners alike. Personally, I'd be happier with continued development; but given a bigger role, he could very well breakout for the team and possibly double his point total from last season.
Q2) Darkhorse Breakout on Devils?
The big wildcard is Jacob Josefson. He's a year younger than Tedenby, but he's technically entering his second season in the NHL (no thanks to the Devils burning his ELC one year). He's a center with plenty of offensive and defensive potential. Normally for a young player, you don't want him to beat up on tough competition - he has to prove himself against relatively weaker NHL competition before moving up. With the injury to Zajac and a little experience underneath possible, it's entirely possible that he could be given the big responsibility of centering one of the top two lines early. If he could hold his own and remain somewhat positive when it comes to attempting shots and helping his line put up points, then that would be fantastic. While he could be bumped down, he can beat up on the easier competition more easily. That all said, he's only 20. I don't really expect him to take on so much and be productive in this season - he still has to develop into a NHL center as a whole. But if he can crack 35-40 points (requiring an improvement in PPG over 82 games), I'd be excited for his future. So would owners who have him keeper leagues.
Q3) League-Wide Breakout of the Year?
This is a tough one. I really do think Ian White is going to "break out." He's been a fairly good defender, at least from what I can tell, for years. The difference is that he's now going to be in a great spot to earn a lucrative role in Detroit: possibly playing behind the likes of Datsyuk and Zetterberg and earning big power play minutes. Both of which should pay off huge for the defenseman, and whichever fantasy team has him on their roster.
Q4) Player likely to Breakdown on the Devils?
Anton Volchenkov has the reputation for picking up injuries by way of his shot blocking. Though, the two he suffered last season had nothing to do with blocking shots. Still, I'm not holding my breath for a full 82 game season from Volchenkov. I don't know how many fantasy teams will have someone like Volchenkov on their roster, but he's the most likely.
Q5) Best Fantasy Prospect on the Devils?
Given the amount of injuries to veterans last season, many of the team's top prospects got NHL time last season and a few of them had their rookie season. I really can't call Tedenby, Josefson, or Mark Fayne prospects in that regard. That said, the best fantasy prospect is Matt Taormina. Unlike Adam Larsson (who I don't want to see in NJ for risk of burning his ELC) and Alexander Urbom (who may or may not have much offensive talent, which is necessary for fantasy), Taormina is a two-way defenseman with known offensive skills - something the Devils' blueline is short on. Before suffering a high ankle sprain, he was one of the few Devils who was somewhat productive and not horrible to watch regularly during the John MacLean Coaching Era. He should be healthy this season and has the experience to compete for a third-pairing spot this season. Should he get it, do not be surprised if he gets PP time and succeeds. No, he doesn't have the upside of Larsson or Urbom; but Taormina has a real shot at playing this season.
Q6) How do you see the Devils goalie situation playing out this year?
The Devils' goaltending situation has been pretty much the same for the last 15+ years: Martin Brodeur's the starter. If he's healthy, he'll play and he'll do well and those complaining that because he's X years old, he should only get Y games will be quiet until things go awry or they're bored. That said, Brodeur did suffer some out-of-the-ordinary injuries last season. A bruised elbow from a shot kept him out for a few games and that got re-aggravated when a player accidentally skated into that same spot on his arm. He sprained his right knee off a save which kept him out for a few games, and he was on the bench a little bit afterwards because the backup was hot at the time. For most goalies, these are minor injuries; but because Brodeur's 39 and some are just waiting for him to go, it must be a foreboding sign he must play less. Whatever. Should he be needed to play 10-20 games, the backup is the same as last season: Johan Hedberg. He had an awesome February and was serviceable for most of his backup work. He'll be fine whether he's playing his first game in weeks or whether he's needed for some other reason. Truth be told, I'm not concerned about the Devils' goaltending situation until Brodeur retires. When that will be, who knows.
Q7) Are we stupid for expecting Ilya Kovalchuk to get back to around 80 points? He killed a few fantasy teams last season.
No, I don't think you're stupid. Kovalchuk started off the season poorly when it came to shooting percentages, shooting below 10% in October and below 4% in November. Given that Kovalchuk's career low percentage is 12%, that had to bounce back - and he did in the rest season. If you figure that he doesn't get off to a poor start when it comes to shooting, then 40 goals isn't out of reach. What's going to bolster his numbers is the rest of the Devils. The team as a whole shot horribly, the worst in the league by far. It's hard to pick up assists if scoring is relatively sparse. The Devils' power play was equally punchless; last in opportunities and just about last in just converting on them. If you figure the Devils can't be so unlucky to shoot at 7.3% over the course of the season - that they have to be better - and the power play actually has some power, then everyone benefits. Kovalchuk will be a key figure in the Devils' offense, so if the offense as a whole improves, so will Kovalchuk. Should Peter DeBoer find a good line for Kovalchuk to play with on top of all of this, then 80 or more points is not an unrealistic projection. The big if is that the Devils perform better overall and for the whole season as opposed to one-half; if it doesn't, then Devils have more to worry about than their fantasy teams. I'm hopeful it won't, though.
Thanks to John. Great job. If you have any other Devils related questions pop them in the comments and we (or hopefully John) will give some answers.