Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Wild’

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If you are Canadian, I do not think anything in the sporting world tops the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. My friends and I do not say Merry Christmas to each other in December; we say it when the first puck is dropped in the round of 16. This first round had it all: a laughable sweep, line brawls, fat walrus accusations, Alex Ovechkin immediately flying overseas to play for Russia after another early exit (again), and of course, game sevens.

For most of us, our hockey teams run for Lord Stanley is over and we must accept, move on and pray that next year will be the year. There is another thing that you should be focusing on for the start of the 2013-14 season, and that is the future of your fantasy hockey teams. Chances are that you will not remember the second half Mats Zuccarello performances, but for your future fantasy purposes, you should. If you have been a fantasy GM for a while now, you know that it is the late round picks that will win you championships and even more importantly, ultimate chirping rights.

Eight teams were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s take a look at what players could serve as a potential fantasy break out for the 2013-14 NHL season.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals: Johansson saw his productivity increase this year in the shortened season, posting 22 points in 34 games and +3 rating. He was essentially invisible for the first two months of the season, but let’s be serious, so were the Washington Capitals. Take a look at his March and April; the kid recorded 21 points in 25 games. He is only 22 years old and will now head into the prime years of his career.  He should be considered as a late round add to your roster for next year.

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild:  Before the season began, I highly doubt anyone could name the starting six defensemen for the Wild. I do not even think Mike Yeo could. There was nothing sexy about Brodins stat line this year (11 points in 45 GP), but there are fantasy implications that need to be considered going forward for the 10th overall pick in the 2011 entry draft. For starters, he is only nineteen. Secondly, look at the box scores in the first round. If we forget about Ryan Suter for a moment, Brodin led the way in ice time and on the man advantage showing how much trust the Wild have in the youngster. If an NHL organization can trust the kid with that much workload, so should you.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: I make this pick because everyone has already heard of Vladimir Tarasenko and know that he is going to be a force. Schwartz posted 13 points in 45 GP this year, but really found his stride in the second half (10 pts in 29 GP). I am not expecting Schwartz to break out to begin the season next year, but once the annual injuries of Andy McDonald and Alex Steen occur, Schwartz could spring into a top six role and shine. Go check out Hockey’s Future, he’s got game.

Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks: He did not really play in January and had a lackluster March, but his February and April have me intrigued. When you are playing under Bruce Boudreau’s system, you are going to have chances to put up points in bundles. His fantasy status for next year will depend on whether or not he can crack the top six. If he can, draft him late in deep leagues and enjoy the return.

Raphael Diaz, Montreal Canadiens: Chances are you picked Diaz to start the season as he and Andrei Markov tore it up on the man advantage. I laughed when I saw him 100% owned in ESPN leagues, but hey, production is production. If he did not suffer a concussion, then I do not think we would be having this discussion. Diaz will head the 2nd unit for the Canadiens going forward, who seemed to re-kindle their power play success after last season. Diaz’s upside here will depend on whether or not Markov can stay healthy, which is always in question. Diaz should be a fifth or sixth d-man on your team next year with upside to be a potential top four.

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders: If we learned anything from the Penguins and Islanders series,  it is that the Isles might actually be for real for the first time since… Alexei Yashin? Was he relevant? Who knows. They will not be worth noting for long, as they have too many vital pieces that are just too old (Streit, Visnovsky, Nabokov). Bailey has always had the talent but has been known to have attitude issues. He is now 23 and headed into the prime of his career. The isles looked good this season, I expect that to continue for a season or two with Bailey providing the secondary scoring they so desperately need.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: Kassian was a nice surprise to start the season, racking up five goals in seven games in January. As for the rest of the season, well, you would probably rather have Scott Gomez over him. The 13th overall pick in the 2009 entry draft has everything that the Canucks need: size, grit, skill and scoring potential. The Sedins need a player like Kassian to protect them, as we all know Jannik Hansen does not fit that profile. With Alex Burrows seemingly on the second line for good, a lackluster pool of prospects, and the need to get stronger, I see Kassian getting every possible chance to break out, which I believe he will. Draft him late and laugh at those who didn’t.

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs: I should not have to tell this to any Maple Leafs fan, but for the rest of you I will be blunt: this guy is legit. He is patient, smart with the puck, breaks into the offensive zone with ease and finally won over Randy Carlyle. Wherever he is projected to go next year in the fantasy rankings will more than likely be low, and thus a gift for those who wait on him to take him late. For keeper leagues especially, get him.

That is it for now, enjoy the second round and always be alert for possible fantasy surprises, it is what makes all the difference.

By: Alex Rodgers – Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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It was a bold move when the Minnesota Wild signed the two biggest unrestricted free agents of the 2012 off-season.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were courted by a number of contending teams, but the pair decided to bring their talents to a small market.  They signed identical deals for 13 years at $98 million a piece, and will essentially be “the franchise” for the foreseeable future.

Everyone in the hockey world was caught by surprise when the news hit, because small market teams just don’t have the funds or stability to hand out such contracts.  It was expected that a Detroit or Chicago would step in to bolster their lineup and make a run for the Stanley Cup.  This situation is much different and an intriguing choice for the superstars to make.  Obviously the money was a main factor when it was time to put pen to paper, but it cannot be the whole story when making a 13-year commitment.  Parise was born during his father’s tenure as assistant coach for the Minnesota North Stars (later relocated to Dallas).  On the other hand, Suter came from the nearby state of Wisconsin.  It is clear that their own heritage played an integral part in the decision making process.

Parise has had early success with centreman Mikko Koivu, the younger brother of Saku Koivu on the Anaheim Ducks.  In the first 7 games they have a combined 17 points, leading the team in that respect.  This is the type of chemistry that management envisioned, as Koivu is one of the most underrated playmakers in the game.  The addition of Parise also opens up space for sniper Dany Heatley to regain form.  The former-Shark has already 4 goals and 2 assists after struggling last season post-trade.  I like the look of this offence through the opening frame, striking the right balance between the top two lines.  Devin Setoguchi is another player acquired from the Sharks that will need to bounce back and super rookie Mikael Granlund has finally made the jump to the big team.

Ryan Suter has not had quite the same success as Parise thus far.  He used to be part of the best d-pairing in the league in Nashville with Shea Weber.  Now we will see how Suter fairs on his own with a different coach and defensive system.  He is still averaging huge minutes (27:38) each game with 4 assists, but his plus/minus needs drastic improvement.  It will take time for the big defenceman to adjust to life in Minnesota, but his track record speaks for itself and he’ll be just fine.

The Minnesota Wild have a solid goalie tandem in Backstrom and Harding, with a stockpile of talented prospects.  This 13-year commitment gives Parise and Suter the opportunity to set their own path and develop a new Western dynasty.  The Vancouver Canucks are the powerhouse of the division, but the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche have established a young core.  The signing of #11 and #20 should definitely make the Northwest division a must-watch for years to come.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer