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Pacific Division Preview

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Wednesday's Dose hopes that great performances by Anton Khudobin and Roberto Luongo won't translate …

This installment of In the Crease will preview another division, post-realignment.  The new Pacific Division won't have the Dallas Stars in 2013-14 as they left for the Central Division.  Instead it will add three Canadian-based teams from the old Northwest Division to form an interesting collection of west coast clubs. 
 

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards


The Ducks lost a key member of their offense when they traded Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators at the start of free agency.  The team may lose another if unrestricted free agent Teemu Selanne decides to retire or sign elsewhere.  They are hoping their younger players can step up to fill those holes and provide secondary scoring behind star players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  Jakob Silfverberg, who was acquired in the Ryan deal, could get a shot at playing on the team's top line.  However, coach Bruce Boudreau likes to shuffle his combinations, so Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Dustin Penner, who is back in Anaheim after leaving Los Angeles as a free agent, could end up on the first unit as well over the course of the season.  Nick Bonino should also get an increased role, which began last year, as the team's second-line center. 


Defensemen

Anaheim received great performances from veteran defenders Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray last year.  However, they have some young blueliners who are worthy of looking into in 2013-14.  Sami Vatanen enjoyed a 45-point season in the AHL last campaign and could be in line for regular duty at the NHL level, where he might see some power-play time.  Hampus Lindholm is another young Anaheim defenseman to watch closely going into the season.  He was limited by concussion issues last year, but has very good all-around potential. 


Goaltenders

Jonas Hiller reclaimed his number one status down the stretch and in the playoffs following a rocky start to the 2013 campaign.  He will probably share the Anaheim crease with 31-year-old sophomore Viktor Fasth this upcoming season.  Fasth was excellent when called upon last year and his presence will help lighten Hiller's workload and keep both netminders fresh. 


Player to Watch

Sami Vatanen is very intriguing as a potential future power-play quarterback, but Jakob Silfverberg is a player I will be watching closely.  He was a key part of the Bobby Ryan deal and earning a coveted spot alongside Getzlaf and Perry could do wonders for his fantasy value.  Silfverberg had 10 goals and 19 points in 48 games with Ottawa last season, but as a top-six forward on Anaheim, he might become a 20-goal scorer this year. 


Calgary Flames


Forwards

Calgary's forward group will be missing Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, who were both traded as part of the team's rebuilding process.  Their departures will open up top-six spots to younger players and Sven Baertschi should be one of them.  He has tantalized fantasy owners with some productive play during his 25 appearances at the NHL level in his previous two campaigns.  Baertschi possesses great offensive instincts and he'll be a key member of the Flames from this season onward.  The Flames lack of center depth could also open up top-two spots for Mikael Backlund and 2013 sixth overall pick Sean Monahan.  If their youngsters can't remain consistent, most of the team's scoring will come from Michael Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak.  Newcomers David Jones and T.J. Galiardi will probably occupy depth roles with Calgary, but they could move up the depth chart as well.    


Defensemen

The Flames traded veteran rearguard Jay Bouwmeester last year, which opened up more ice time for T.J. Brodie.  He should continue to get more playing time in 2013-14 and skate on the power play as well.  Dennis Wideman is another solid option for fantasy owners because he can record points while racking up shots and blocks.  Kris Russell may help the Flames' transition game as a bottom-pairing defender, while Shane O'Brien will add some grit. 


Goaltenders

Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to retire at some point, which will create a number one goalie vacancy in Calgary's cage.  Karri Ramo is back in North America after four strong seasons in the KHL and should be considered the favorite to earn the team's starting job.  However, he will have to earn the position from last year's backup Joey MacDonald.  Swiss League keeper Reto Berra may insert himself into the mix as well, but it's probably Ramo's job to lose if Kiprusoff doesn't come back. 


Player to Watch

The Flames are still waiting for Mikael Backlund to take the next step at the NHL level.  He has 23 goals and 62 points in 170 contests.  Backlund has been slowed down by injuries, but he does have the skill to be successful.  He might also be the team's number one center this campaign, so he'll be presented with plenty of opportunities to finally break out.  Backlund made some positive strides last year and the team needs him to show more.  Take a wait-and-see approach with him this campaign. 


Edmonton Oilers


Forwards      

Edmonton's young guns weren't as potent as they were projected to be last season.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dealt with a lingering shoulder injury, while Jordan Eberle battled through some minor ailments as well.  Taylor Hall remained relatively consistent throughout the year and he appears to be ready to break out in 2013-14 if he can remain healthy.  If Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle stay away from injury, they should be able to rebound.  The Oilers will also get some good offensive support from a second line which could feature Sam Gagner centering sophomore goal scorer Nail Yakupov and new arrival David Perron, who was acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Magnus Paajarvi.  Boyd Gordon was signed as a free agent and he should help the team's penalty kill with his superb faceoff skills.  If Nugent-Hopkins isn't fully recovered by the start of the season, Mark Arcobello is a player that you should keep an eye on during training camp. 


Defensemen

Justin Schultz nearly reached 30 points in his rookie season with Edmonton, but he struggled defensively with a minus-17 rating.  The Oilers signed rugged defenseman Andrew Ference and he could be a solid stay-at-home partner for Schultz.  Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid can provide support in several categories, while attempting to shut down the opposition's best players.  They may not have much value in most standard leagues, though.     


Goaltenders

Devan Dubnyk is expected to serve as Edmonton's top goaltender in 2013-14.  He performed well for stretches last year, but had some issues with consistency.  As the Oilers improve, which is likely under coach Dallas Eakins, Dubnyk will gain value in fantasy leagues.  Nikolai Khabibulin was allowed to leave via free agency and Edmonton signed potential backups Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman to take his place.  Neither should be considered as much of a threat to Dubnyk, though.      


Player to Watch

A change of scenery for David Perron could be just what he needs to live up to his offensive potential.  He registered underwhelming totals of 10 goals and 25 points in 48 matches with the Blues last season.  With Edmonton he will be free to jump into the attack more and that could be beneficial to his strengths as a creative playmaker. 


Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have a dependable and versatile group that includes offensive catalysts Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike RichardsTyler Toffoli and Matt Frattin might be the leading contenders to play on the team's second line with Carter and Richards.  Toffoli looked good when he played top-six minutes for the Kings in the playoffs, while Frattin was acquired from Toronto as part of the package that sent backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to the Leafs. 


Defensemen

Drew Doughty has both frustrated and delighted fantasy owners during his five seasons of NHL play.  He can provide support in several categories and should be able to get back on track in 2013-14.  When Doughty was struggling, Slava Voynov and rookie defender Jacob Muzzin stepped up for the Kings.  They were great at both ends of the ice, but their offensive contributions should have landed them on everyone's fantasy radars.  The three of them should provide Los Angeles with plenty of offense from the back end this campaign, while Robyn Regehr, Matt Greene and a hopefully healthy Willie Mitchell will help punish and shut down the opposition.              


Goaltenders

Jonathan Quick will be one of the first goalies selected in fantasy drafts this year and for good reason.  He is an elite netminder who is capable of carrying his teammates and stealing games when they aren't at their best.  He didn't have a consistent regular season, but he re-established himself as a big-time goaltender during the playoffs.  Jonathan Bernier wanted out of Los Angeles because he wasn't getting any playing time behind Quick.  He was traded to Toronto in the off-season for new backup Ben Scrivens, Frattin and a second-round pick.  Scrivens likely won't have fantasy value in 2013-14, but he is capable of playing well when called upon. 


Player to Watch   

If Tyler Toffoli can adjust to playing on the left side, he should be an excellent offensive addition to Los Angeles' second line alongside Richards and Carter.  He has an excellent shot and has enjoyed success at every level.  Toffoli was a stud scorer in both OHL and AHL.  In 10 appearances with the Kings last year, he had five points while averaging just 11:58 of ice time per contest.  The Kings want him to bulk up and if he can stick at the NHL level on a scoring line, he should be in store for a strong year.   


Phoenix Coyotes


Forwards

Phoenix's much-maligned offense should get a boost from the signing of center Mike Ribeiro.  He will likely end up leading the team in assists and points this year.  His presence on the roster adds depth down the middle with Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette slated to serve as the team's second- and third-line centers, respectively.  Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Mikkel Boedker are the Coyotes' top wingers, but beyond them there isn't much in the way of offense.  Phoenix may want to give prospects Max Domi, Brendan Shinnimin or Henrik Samuelsson a shot at a roster spot to help in that regard. 


Defensemen

Phoenix's defense corps probably won't change much from what it featured a year ago.  With Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the fold, the Coyotes have two excellent offensive blueliners.  Yandle led the team in scoring last season and he has established himself as a reliable point producer.  Ekman-Larsson is an emerging talent who isn't far from being a household fantasy name. 


Goaltenders

Mike Smith will continue to benefit from coach Dave Tippett's defense-first system in 2013-14 after the two of them  agreed to contract extensions with the Coyotes.  Smith had an inconsistent year during the lockout-shortened season.  When he wasn't posting one of his five shutouts, he was allowing his fair share of shots to get behind him, which partially explains why he had a 2.58 GAA.  Still, he should be a solid starter this campaign.  Former San Jose number two goalie Thomas Greiss will serve as Smith's understudy after Jason LaBarbera left the team as a free agent. 


Player to Watch  

Mikkel Boedker had a great start to the season, but he fizzled out rather quickly as the year progressed.  If he lands a spot alongside Mike Ribeiro, he should be able to remain much more consistent.  Boedker owns plenty of offensive upside and a player like Ribeiro can help bring that out of him. 


San Jose Sharks


Forwards

It's shocking to think San Jose averaged just 2.42 goals per game last season and finished 24th in the NHL when they can roll out players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.  They all had great starts to the season but went through their share of slumps before rediscovering their touch down the stretch.  Moves like switching Brent Burns from defense to the wing and acquiring Raffi Torres from Phoenix helped shore up their forward group as well.  Tyler Kennedy was landed in a deal from Pittsburgh to provide some bottom-six offense, but he could move up the depth chart if he's needed.  Prospect Tomas Hertl may be ready for a look in the NHL as well.  Either one of them could be in line to replace Martin Havlat, who underwent a procedure on his pelvic area in the off-season and could start the 2013-14 campaign on injured reserve, as a top-six forward.    


Defensemen

When Burns was successfully converted to a forward, the Sharks got solid support from Matt Irwin and Justin Braun.  Irwin was paired with Dan Boyle and Braun worked well with Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the team's shutdown tandem.  Scott Hannan and Brad Stuart rounded out the group.  Jason Demers may get back onto the active roster this campaign after missing some of the 2013 season due to injury. 


Goaltenders

Antti Niemi posted Vezina Trophy caliber numbers in 2013 and finished as a finalist for the award.  He helped the Sharks stay in playoff contention despite their troubles and was excellent in the postseason as well.  He has been reliable for the Sharks for three straight years, so he can be counted on again this campaign.  Niemi should also see plenty of action with inexperienced keeper Alex Stalock slated to be his backup. 


Player to Watch

Brent Burns could attract plenty of fantasy interest this year if he gets dual eligibility as a forward and a defenseman, but I'm more interested to see if Tomas Hertl will get a roster spot with the Sharks this year.   The Sharks could use some organization depth beyond their top-two lines and Hertl could help out there.  He has the potential to play third-line center or as a scoring winger if the team decides to play him higher up.  He has been productive overseas in the Czech Republic, but he may need a season or two to get used to the North American game.   


Vancouver Canucks


Forwards

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be playing the final years of their respective contracts in 2013-14.  That should give them plenty of motivation to have strong seasons.  Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen might get opportunities to play with the twins again this year, so look for them to benefit from that.  If Ryan Kesler can keep himself out of the team's infirmary, then he will provide some much-needed secondary scoring for the Canucks.  David Booth is another player who needs to stay healthy if he stands any chance of rebounding.  He might have been bought out by the Canucks this summer if he wasn't sidelined with an ankle injury.  Vancouver lost Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre to St. Louis in free agency, so they signed Brad Richardson and Mike Santorelli as replacements.  The Canucks signed first-round picks Bo Horvat (ninth overall) and Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall) to entry-level deals recently, but they may be better suited to get more seasoning in junior hockey rather than make the jump to the NHL in 2013-14.


Defensemen  

Vancouver's top-four defense group has plenty of fantasy value for perspective fantasy owners.   Alexander Edler, Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa can help your squad in several categories.  Frank Corrado may get a longer look this season as well after appearing in seven games with the Canucks last year, including four in the playoffs.


Goaltenders

The Canucks pulled off a jaw-dropping trade at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft when they traded Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick.  They used the selection to take Horvat.  Schneider was tabbed as the club's starter of the present and future, so it was strange that they dealt him away and for seemingly so little.  Roberto Luongo's hefty contract proved to be too hard to move, so he'll remain on as Vancouver's number one.  Luongo just wanted to play in 2013 and he'll get his wish this campaign, especially since his projected backup, Eddie Lack, has never played in an NHL contest before. 


Player to Watch

The stories behind Roberto Luongo and Bo Horvat are without a doubt interesting, but I want to see how Ryan Kesler performs this year.  Prior to getting bitten by the injury bug, Kesler was an incredibly valuable fantasy performer.  He topped 70 points twice while contributing power-play goals, penalty minutes and faceoff wins.  If he stays healthy then he could be an impact center again, whom fantasy owners shouldn't forget about on draft day. 

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