Dobber checks in every Monday to force-feed you the latest fantasy hockey trends. The founder of DobberHockey.com and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this rollercoaster world and is unable to escape.
Here are some quick thoughts on the top scorers in the 2011 NHL preseason. Numbers taken after Saturday's games …
Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars — 10 points in four games — As always, the preseason numbers mean very little. But you can read things behind the numbers and behind the events and get a little insight. The insight here is that Ribeiro, a former 83-point player, could make you forget all about Brad Richards.=
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets — seven points in four games — This is on the strength of four points in his first game. He sure knows how to get noticed. He's closer to being NHL ready than many thought.
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild — seven points in four games — Do you think he likes his new linemates?
Fedor Tyutin, Columbus Blue Jackets — seven points in four games — A lot of this is from subbing in for the suspended James Wisniewski. But with a fat contract better cast around him now he should get back up to flirting with 35 points.
Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers — seven points in six games — He won't get 90 points. He won't even get 45. But he looks good for a third-line scoring role at this point. And long term he is a sure-fire top sixer.
Patrick O'Sullivan, Phoenix Coyotes — seven points in six games — He went to camp last year without a contract and promptly earned one with his play. This time he already has a contract, but wants to earn a roster spot in the NHL. He's getting more opportunities than expected. On an unrelated topic, who keeps sending Kyle Turris all those "Thank You" cards and flowers?
Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto Maple Leafs — seven points in six games — He took a step forward last season and he is primed to take another one this campaign. The only question mark with this guy is his temper at bars health. But he plays through many of his injuries, so it looks promising.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers — six points in three games — No longer in anyone's shadow, Giroux is poised to make Jaromir Jagr GM Paul Holmgren look very, very good.
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins — six points in three games — I've been marching to the beat of this guy's drum for the last month.
Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers — six points in three games — Jagr will be good for 55 to 60 points this season … unless he continues to play with Giroux. Then, hell, 70 is within reach.
Devin Setoguchi, Minnesota Wild — six points in four games — Does this line have a nickname yet? Setoguchi-Heatley-Koivu…suggestions? How about the SHOCK line?
Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild — six points in four games — Well, 83 points would mark his best season in five years. I wouldn't bet against it, not the way this line is flying.
Michael Ryder, Dallas Stars — six points in four games — I guess if Ribeiro can get 10 points in four games, Ryder can get six as his linemate. Ribeiro is his ticket to "legitimate top six" status.
This guy, instead of that guy
We're now at the point in training camp where some prospects and depth players surprise us by making their respective club thanks to all the suspensions being handed out hard work and timely scoring. In some cases, these surprising developments impact our newly-drafted roster, as it could mean one of those guys you took a flyer on in the latter rounds was cut. Let's take a look.
Some key decisions made by the coach give you insight about the player gone, as well as the player still around …
Roman Horak over Paul Byron, Calgary Flames — The 20-year-old Horak was the other nice forward acquisition this summer, but being two years Byron's junior it was a safe bet to put him lower on the depth chart. I don't take either guy in a one-year league and I still prefer the more seasoned Byron in a keeper. On a side note, how's this for irony — Horak outlasted Tim Erixon on an NHL roster! Horak was part of the return for Erixon when the latter didn't want to sign with Calgary having decided that he wanted a better chance of making the NHL right away.
Brian Elliott over Ben Bishop, St. Louis Blues — The winner of this match-up is … still undraftable. But there is a chance he'll log some starts if Jaroslav Halak gets hurt. And it's not as though Halak would make my Top 10 durable goalies' list. Then again, he's not Rick DiPietro in the Bottom 10 either. As for Bishop, he's still only 24 and by no means would I write off his future in the NHL.
Jacob Markstrom over Tyler Plante, Florida Panthers — The Panthers chose Markstrom to backup Jose Theodore over giving him more starts in the AHL. Generally, teams go the development route rather than make a prized prospect ride the pine. So this indicates to me that Markstrom will see more starts than you'd think.
Craig Smith over … other guys, Nashville Predators — This guy burst onto the scene faster than Jim Carey, Net Detective. Let's hope he doesn't fade just as quickly. The smart money is, he won't. Although this could mean that Cal O'Reilly and/or Blake Geoffrion are casualties. Of the three, I would draft Smith in both one-year (late) and keeper leagues.
Evgeni Grachev over … other guys, St. Louis Blues — Still not draftable in most one-year leagues, he has regained his "coveted" status in keeper leagues.
Michael Del Zotto over Tim Erixon, New York Rangers — For each of the last two seasons, Del Zotto stormed out of the gate as one of the better puckmoving rearguards on the Rangers. But each time, he tapered off by the 20-game mark. I thought for sure he would start the year in the AHL. But at least if it happens a third time we could coin a new phrase. "That guy was looking great, but he really Del Zotto'd by the quarter pole."
Andrew Gordon over Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks — Palmieri is a fantastic prospect and all this does is postpone the inevitable. But Gordon is on his last legs. He's standing on the line that divides "promising prospect" and "career AHLer". He's really made the most of it, but isn't draftable in any format until he proves that he can stick around for the entire season. He could just as easily be the next Donald MacLean, Tony Hrkac, Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, Brett Sterling…
Riley Nash over Zach Boychuk, Carolina Hurricanes — After making such a splash after he was drafted, nearly making the team, keeper leaguers pounced. Those same keeper leaguers are frustrated now, as he gets cut from his third training camp — the last two of which were relatively weak. So do you drop him? No. But unless you are rebuilding, move him to a team that is. Nash, meanwhile, fits a checking-center mould and is not draftable at this time.
Patrick O'Sullivan over Andy Miele, Phoenix Coyotes — Miele looks great and is following the same development path taken by Teddy Purcell. All the same, the fact that O'Sullivan has outplayed him leaves a glimmer of hope that there may be one more chance left for him. I would have no problem owning Miele in a keeper league, and I would be quick with the trigger finger when it comes to the waiver wire and O'Sullivan after Week 1.
Trent Hunter over Andrei Loktionov, Los Angeles Kings — This decision was more about "fit" as opposed to "he's better." Loktionov needs, at worst, a third-line center role. That's not available right now. But a depth role on the wing is open and that's where Hunter fits nicely. The problem for keeper leaguers is the fact that Loktionov is Russian. With good young Russian players, there is always that KHL threat. How patient are they? How long can they wait for an opportunity when there is good money waiting for them back home?
Matt Frattin over Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs — This apparent camp victory was helped out by Kadri's knee injury. But it's also showing exactly why Kadri needs to wait one more season before becoming a full-timer. He still needs to add strength. Another injury this season would really hamper his development. Frattin lacks Kadri's upside, but is still draftable in keeper leagues. There are better options in one-year formats.