Connect with us

Fantasy Hockey

Fantasy Hockey: Training Camp Battles With Fantasy Significance

Michael Clifford looks at the NHL training camp position battles every fantasy hockey owner should keep an eye on.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Training camps can be a little bit tedious. The “he looks great” or “he looks a step slow” comments come out of individual training camps at a faster and more furious rate than a Mazda in a Vin Diesel movie. For the most part, these observations are useless. Guys should look great in camp as it’s the healthiest they’ll be all season. Conversely, the “step slow” comments are typically projected to veterans who aren’t really in a training camp battle, so why should they exert maximum energy at this point of the season?

With that said, training camp battles are important to understand heading into fantasy hockey drafts. Reports can have a wild impact on drafts, so it’s important to stay level-headed and not go crazy. Here are some battles/developments that deserve having a close eye kept on them.

Pittsburgh’s Top Four Wingers

It’s pretty safe to say that Chris Kunitz will return as Sidney Crosby’s left winger. I am also assuming that Patric Hornqvist will be placed on Evgeni Malkin’s right wing. That leaves two prime wing positions that could carry significant fantasy value into the season. First, one reality check:

Whoever plays on Crosby’s right wing and Malkin’s left wing are unlikely to play on the first unit power play. With Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, and Letang locks for the top unit, it leaves one spot maybe for a second defenseman, or Hornqvist. That has to be kept in mind.

Even without the power play time, there’s still a lot of value to a winger on those two lines. Heck, from 2011-2013 (130 games), Pascal Dupuis managed 45 goals, or a 28 goal pace in 82 games. Combined with a solid plus/minus, it makes for a good season.

This is why the top four winger situation in Pittsburgh requires monitoring. It could be Dupuis and Beau Bennett, or Blake Comeau and Jayson Megna, or even Dan Carcillo and Steve Downie (ok that last one is unlikely). Whatever happens, these positions are valuable and worth keeping an eye on.

Edmonton’s Second Line

For those in leagues that don’t count plus/minus, this is especially important. But even if plus/minus is a category, whoever ends up as Edmonton’s second line center could potentially have a decent amount of value.

With the trade of Sam Gagner, the second line center position is wide open. There are veterans like Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks, but I think it’s safe to say they aren’t true second line centers. No one else was brought in, so it would seem that rookie Leon Draisaitl might have a decent shot at locking it up.

Normally, I wouldn’t put that kind of faith in a rookie, but Draisaitl is 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds, so he already has a frame ready for the NHL. They might not give it to him immediately, but if he can end up with wingers like Benoit Pouliot and David Perron, he would have the right mix of skill and toughness to make it an easier transition.

Nashville’s First Line

Patric Hornqvist was shipped out of town, but the Predators got James Neal in return. Whatever the thoughts on him as a player – he plays the game with an edge, to say the least – he was a point per game player over the last three years and is one of the more pure goal scorers in the league. This is something the Predators were desperately lacking.

On top of Neal, the Predators also signed Mike Ribeiro, who until last year, could be counted on for anywhere from 60-80 points. With this seemingly his last kick at the can, I imagine this will be Ribeiro’s top Try Hard year in recent memory. I am assuming he will center Neal on the top line, but as of right now, nothing is a given.

If those two are indeed on the top line, that leaves a spot open on the left wing. Is it going to be Craig Smith on his off-wing? Will it be Colin Wilson? How about the veteran Matt Cullen? Whoever it is, they will have some pretty good fantasy value.

Montreal’s Centers

A couple of days ago, this tweet came out:

Whatever Mr. McKenzie says can be taken with a lot of certainty, so I would bank on Galchenyuk getting the chance to establish himself as a center. He could have a lot of success there, and his potential was outlined in a good article by Scott Hartnett here at XNSports.

This does bring up some questions, though. Does that move David Desharnais to the wing? If it doesn’t, does that move Lars Eller to fourth line center? Will it mean Desharnais will be demoted to third line center duties if he doesn’t move to the wing? Whatever happens, players are going to be shuffled around, and that changes fantasy values for everyone.

Whoever ends up as the top line center wins the jackpot, getting to play alongside Max Pacioretty (and presumably on the first power play unit). This will be a situation to keep a close eye on, not only for the top line, but for how it affects everyone else.

Brandon Saad

To put it simply, Saad and Jonathan Toews have absolutely destroyed the competition when they’ve played together. Over the last two seasons, the duo is over 60% CorsiFor and over 66% GoalsFor. That means they control three out of five shot attempts at 5-on-5, and two out of three goals. That’s absolutely dominant.

The question is will Saad start on the left wing of Toews this year? If not, his fantasy value is diminished significantly. If he does, he could be a top-15 left winger in fantasy.

*Stats taken from Hockey Analysis

Click to comment

More in Fantasy Hockey