Coaches Fantasy Lockout Clinic
During the NHL lock-out fantasy hockey leagues are also in lock-out mode. But the diehard of us out there are seizing this time to follow NHL players and prospects playing in other leagues to gain a leg up on our less devoted peers who are simply still in off season mode.
So what is it were looking at? Prospects who are perhaps quietly making significant progress, or others who have perhaps had their stock drop.
In this edition of Coaches Clinic we will share our lock-out scouting advice since the hockey pool magazines hit news-stands way back in September, and our own prospect guide and fantasy playbook were released.
1. When the NHL returns, who is now the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year?
Coach Harling: There was a lot of hype this summer over Anaheim prospect Justin Schultz, who ended up becoming an unrestricted free agent signing with the Edmonton Oilers. Schultz is perhaps the single largest benefactor of the lock-out. It has allowed him to transition nicely from U.S. College hockey to the pro level in the AHL, where all he is doing is dominating as a rookie and leading the entire AHL in scoring. When the NHL returns, he will be an Oiler playing top minutes and running a potent powerplay.
Coach Perry: I believe this could come down to when it comes back. If it comes back this season I think I would have to agree with Peter and Dave and vote for Justin Schultz. However, if it comes back next year and for a full season it will be hard for Schultz to maintain long term success as the main man on the Edmonton blueline.
If it is a full season my guess would be that Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers would have the best shot. Since the last lockout there was only one defenseman to win the Calder and only three since 1990. So with the edge going to a forward I think Huberdeau is in the best situation to succeed. He should take the job as 2nd line centre out of training camp. He will also find power play time. This will give him a better chance of putting up points right away. Combine that with the fact his defensive skills seem to be as important to his success as his offensive skills there is a chance he overproduces out of the gate.
Coach Brouwer: Yes what Schultz is doing over in the AHL is pretty impressive but he is not playing against the best of the best. Going into the season Chris Kreider has to be the favorite to win the Calder. Just look at what he did last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs! Jumping right from NCAA he scored five goals and seven points in 18 NHL playoff games. Despite struggling in the AHL this season with just four goals and 10 points in 25 games he looks ready to be a dominant force in the NHL. He has goal scoring power forward written all over him and will lead all rookies in scoring once the NHL returns.
Coach Dickinson: I chose Justin Schultz previously since he was in a position to jump into a strong situation immediately to put up stats, which is largely how the Calder Trophy is awarded each season. Heíd be playing on the powerplay with the likes of offensive young stars such as Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and possibly Nail Yakupov, so itís likely his offensive stats would put him in a very good position for the award. Heís also a year or two older than some who may be the other contenders, which meanís his physical maturity to deal with the daily grind of the game is likely stand the test.
Assuming the NHL does not return until next year, a dark horse for me would be Nathan MacKinnon. Itís tough to call the likely first overall pick a dark horse, but next to Schultz and his ideal situation it would be hard to compete. If MacKinnon ends up in an ideal situation via the draft itís likely heís in the conversation as well.
2. Which young starting goalie has the biggest fantasy value, Braden Holtby Washington, James Reimer Toronto, Anders Lindback Tampa Bay, or Devin Dubnyk Edmonton?
Coach Harling: For this question I looked at two important factors; opportunity, and competition. While all these young goalies are all expected to be the starting goalie, how many wins is their team expected to have, and what are the chances of them losing the spot to a veteran or young prospect are factors that make Devin Dubnyk my choice. While I am not convinced Dubnyk is the long term answer in Edmonton, he should see plenty of starts ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin who turns 40 in a month. With the fire power the Oilers possess, he should see plenty of wins. His save percentage and goals against average may not be pretty, but the wins will be there. For the immediate future, Dubnyk is my choice. Holtby may have a brighter long term future, but is contending with Neuvirth. Reimer may be supplanted by a trade (Roberto Luongo), Lindback is a close second, but Tampa may struggle to win more games than they lose with aging stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis slowing down.
Coach Perry: Goaltenders are always hard to predict, unless they wear the number 30 and name Brodeur on their back. If I were to hitch my horse to a specific wagon I would be hard-pressed to ignore Andres Lindback. Despite picking him up at a great price Yzerman still traded for him and it will take a great deal of consecutive failures to unseat him as the starter. He will also have an improved blueline in Tampa as well as better goal support than any other team on the list besides perhaps Edmonton. Depending on the worth of shutouts in your league I think Lindback is the choice for today and the future.
Coach Brouwer: Going into this season it has to be Lindback, hands down. Of all the goalies listed in this question only Lindback is the undisputed starting, number one goalie. He put up decent numbers with the Nashville Predators in a back-up role, posting a 2.42 GAA and 0.912 SV%. He signed with Ilves Tampere in the SM-liiga league where his record isnít the greatest, however all three of his wins have been shutouts. GM Steve Yzerman has put his faith in that Lindback can be a NHL starter and so should you. Not only is Lindback huge in stature but his potential is off the charts.
Coach Dickinson: Quite frankly Iím an Edmonton Oilers fan, but Iím also my teamís harshest critic as well and I donít think Dubnyk is the answer for the Oilers. Heíd be a solid stop gap in the meantime, but an upgrade will be needed before the team goes anywhere. That being said Iím thinking itís a toss-up between Lindback and Holtby. Both are going into good situations. Washington and Tampa Bay will both give the goal support needed to collect wins, but I think the Guy Boucher quasi-trap style would lend better to better statistics for Lindback in net. Steve Yzerman has upgraded his defence immensely and the team is moving in the right direction. So with the right players in place thereís no reason to believe Anders Lindback wouldnít have a breakout season statistically.