Posts Tagged ‘New York Islanders’

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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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From a very young age, John Tavares was widely regarded as a hockey player with enormous upside.  He was the first person ever to be granted “exceptional player” status by the OHL, becoming eligible for the draft at age 14.  The Oshawa Generals selected Tavares first overall in the 2005 entry draft and that was where he’d stay for the majority of his OHL career.  He was later traded with Michael Del Zotto to the London Knights, a trade that would help solidify him in the OHL history books.  Not only was Tavares the youngest player ever to be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League, he is also the league’s top goal scorer with 215 over four seasons.

His dominance at the major junior level led to talks with the NHL and NHLPA about early NHL draft eligibility (similar to the OHL exception).  After all, John Tavares missed the 2008 NHL draft cutoff by only 5 days and was more than ready for the challenge.  However, the notion was rejected and Tavares was taken first overall the following year in 2009 by the New York Islanders.  His draft class also included other skilled players like Matt Duchene, Victor Hedman, Brayden Schenn, and London teammate Nazem Kadri.  The decision to draft the highly touted Tavares with the top pick was New York’s smartest move in recent memory.

From day one, Tavares was a mainstay in the Islanders lineup and came second in rookie scoring in his first year (24 G, 30 A, 54 Pts).  He continued to improve in his second year with the big club, tallying another 67 points in 79 games.  The Islanders brass had seen enough of the young superstar, his entry-level contract was near up, and it was top priority to get him signed long-term.  Most people thought Tavares would skip town as soon as his contract expired, but he signed an extension a year before he would reach RFA status.  On September 14, 2011, the New York Islanders and Tavares agreed to terms on a 6-year deal worth $33 million (or $5.5 million annually).  This may be the best “bang for your buck” in the NHL, a franchise centreman locked up for his most productive years at a friendly cap hit.

In 2007, Ryan Getzlaf signed a comparable contract for $5.3 million per season, but even his early career stats do not quite match those of John Tavares.  In fact, most of the young players designated as “franchise centres” (i.e. Stamkos, Crosby, Kopitar, Backstrom, etc.) have received much higher pay days after their entry level deals had run their course.  Based on his track record in major junior and his first two seasons in the NHL, I think Tavares and his agent could have demanded a higher salary.  A more accurate figure would be somewhere between Anze Kopitar ($6.8 million per) and Steven Stamkos ($7.5 million per) at around $7 million a season over the same term.  In his final year at entry-level, right after the extension was signed, Tavares scored 31 goals and 50 assists without missing a game.  This season, the first year of the $33 million dollar contract, he is on an absolute tear with 25 points in 20 games.

In the end, it appears that John Tavares wanted to remain an Islander even at a discount.  Once this contract has been served and a new contract is necessary, I expect the superstar to be in the Sydney Crosby neighbourhood.  But for now, the New York Islanders have one of the best players in the league at the same price that former Leafs GM Brian Burke signed Mikhail Grabovski.  I rest my case!

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer