Commentary

Northeast Division preview

Updated: September 21, 2010, 1:30 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Boston Bruins

Additions: Nathan Horton, RW (Panthers); Tyler Seguin, C (Draft); Gregory Campbell, LW (Panthers)

Subtractions: Dennis Wideman, D (Panthers)

Depth Chart

First line: Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton
Second line: Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, Michael Ryder
Third line: Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin
Fourth line: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton

First pairing: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg
Second pairing: Matt Hunwick, Andrew Ference
Third pairing: Johnny Boychuk, Mark Stuart

Top goalie: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Tim Thomas

Just missed: Zach Hamill, C; Trent Whitfield, C; Joe Colborne, C; Adam McQuaid, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Nathan Horton
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesNewly signed Nathan Horton scored 57 points in 65 games with the Florida Panthers last season.

It's hard to fathom that a team that looked so good on paper last season can look even better heading into this season. Although perhaps a little weaker on defense, the Bruins add several pieces to their offense who can do nothing but good. With a little health, the Bruins will take fantasy owners a long way. Although, based on last season, we know that health sometimes can be hard to come by for them. … Nathan Horton is a big piece of the puzzle. He offers the scoring edge on the wing that the team lacked last season next to playmaker Marc Savard and power forward Milan Lucic (when the two were healthy). All three players have a chance to be fantasy leaders this season, and all three should come with a discount. Savard's concussion injury was quite serious, Lucic's style of play seems to lend itself to injury and Horton will need both men to achieve his value.

Power Play

Zdeno Chara gets a clean slate of defensive partners, and it might well be that the Bruins opt for four forwards on the power play as a result. Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Hunwick don't profile as players who would thrive with power-play minutes. Even if they are the third line by definition, expect Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi to get worked into a healthy amount of power-play minutes.

Keep An Eye On

A lot can change over the course of an NHL season, so it's hard to imagine the line of David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder reuniting. Fantasy owners can only hope it happens. This is the combination that propelled all three players into the upper echelon of plus/minus leaders in 2008-09. It will be interesting to see whether there is any thought of reuniting them. … Tyler Seguin could be forced out of a top-six role by virtue of the numbers game, but should this rookie earn significant ice time on the top two lines, you will want to be paying attention. Like all recent draft graduates, he comes with a lot of risk, but as we have seen in recent seasons with Matt Duchene, John Tavares and others, rookies can have fantasy value. … Finally, can you draft Tuukka Rask as a top fantasy netminder? Absolutely, as long as you make darned sure to handcuff Tim Thomas to him. Remember that Thomas was the reigning Vezina Trophy winner when Rask stole his job last season. Unless he gets traded, he won't go away that easily.

Buffalo Sabres

Additions: Jordan Leopold, D (Penguins); Shaone Morrisonn, D (Capitals)

Subtractions: Henrik Tallinder, D (Devils); Toni Lydman, D (Ducks); Nathan Paetsch (Panthers)

Depth Chart

First line: Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Tyler Ennis
Second line: Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville
Third line: Nathan Gerbe, Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford
Fourth line: Cody McCormick, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier

First pairing: Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold
Second pairing: Andrej Sekera, Craig Rivet
Third pairing: Steve Montador, Shaone Morrisonn

Top goalie: Ryan Miller
Backup: Patrick Lalime

Just missed: Matt Ellis, LW; Patrick Kaleta, RW; Mark Mancari, RW; Zack Kassian, RW; Chris Butler, D; Mike Weber, D; Jhonas Enroth, G

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Ryan Miller
Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty ImagesLooks like Ryan Miller will have to "stand on his head" to win games again this season.

The Sabres have two pairs for two lines, and the rest will get sorted out from there. Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly play well together, while Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy are two peas in a pod. The biggest question is which pair benefits from having hotshot rookie Tyler Ennis placed next to them to make three of a kind. Ennis certainly could fit in with either pair as a high-scoring winger with shifty moves. He will be the deciding factor as to which line is the Sabres' No. 1. At the end of the day, the Sabres are better as a team if Jochen Hecht is lined up with Pominville and Connolly (there's some chemistry there), so expect Ennis to play with Vanek and Roy. … Drew Stafford no longer should be hyped as a sleeper. You can't keep taking one step forward and two steps backward and expect fantasy owners to keep waiting. Slow progress is fine, but a sine wave is usually an indicator of luck. … If Ryan Miller can keep performing miracles in the Sabres' net, the plus/minus of the top players should trend in the right direction. Pay attention to whoever becomes Tyler Myers' defense partner; the right player will achieve plus/minus success through osmosis.

Power Play

The Sabres don't pack the biggest punch on the man advantage, but they shouldn't be taken lightly, either. Myers stepped in and filled a void as the power-play quarterback, and will continue to dish the puck this season. Just who is on the line with him is another question. Chris Butler might not even make the roster because of defensive liabilities, while Craig Rivet, Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera are better known for their defensive awareness. The Sabres could end up opting for a fourth forward on the power play, given their lack of other options.

Keep An Eye On

Miller will have to be a world-beater again if he intends to repeat his numbers. The team in front of him is still not a winner on paper. … Connolly's health is another big key. If you take away the secondary attack, the Sabres become pretty thin on offense. All players will suffer if Connolly can't stay on the ice this season. Keep your fingers crossed, though, because he has had better health in recent years.

Montreal Canadiens

Additions: Lars Eller, C (Blues); Dustin Boyd, C (Predators); Alex Auld, G (Stars)

Subtractions: Sergei Kostitsyn, RW (Predators); Dominic Moore, C (Panthers); Marc-Andre Bergeron, D (Free agent); Jaroslav Halak, G (Blues)

Depth Chart

First line: Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn
Second line: Benoit Pouliot, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta
Third line: Dustin Boyd, Lars Eller, Maxim Lapierre
Fourth line: Travis Moen, Ben Maxwell, Ryan White

First pairing: P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges
Second pairing: Hal Gill, Roman Hamrlik
Third pairing: Ryan O'Byrne, Jaroslav Spacek

Top goalie: Carey Price
Backup: Alex Auld

Just missed: Andrei Markov, D (injured); Max Pacioretty, LW; Alexandre Picard, D; Curtis Sanford, G

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Mike Cammalleri
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWill we see 2010 playoffs Mike Cammalleri, or the 2009-10 regular-season Mike Cammalleri?

Higher expectations often spell trouble for the Canadiens, but we are talking fantasy hockey here, so we can spare the harbingers. The bottom line is that three of the key players for the Habs' 2009-10 playoff run are gone (Jaroslav Halak, Dominic Moore and Marc-Andre Bergeron), and Andrei Markov will miss the start of the season. Fortunately, the team has some new talent coming in, a handful of players with a chance to step up, and a goaltender who needs to prove himself. … Right out of the gates, Mike Cammalleri will have to perform a lot more like his playoff self than the one we saw during the 2009-10 regular season. On a line with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, Cammalleri scored 13 goals in 19 playoff games. That pace, or something close to it, needs to carry over. … Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta both seemed to find their groove toward the end of the season, and both players appear comfortable in a Canadiens jersey now. Benoit Pouliot will get a chance to continue his career turnaround as the final member of the top six, but there will be some contention for his spot. Dustin Boyd is also looking for a career turnaround; he has not been able to live up to his billing after parlaying a great junior career into a high draft slot back in 2004. Lars Eller is also lurking. The young Danish star did better than expected as an AHL rookie, and Canadiens fans surely will want to see the player the team got in exchange for Halak.

Power Play

Only the Washington Capitals had a better power-play percentage than the Canadiens last season, thanks to Jacques Martin's ever-strong presence in that department. Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez each anchor a unit, just as they do at even strength, and both units performed admirably. Martin goes with a traditional two-defenseman blue line, although just who those defensemen will be remains undecided. P.K. Subban definitely will get the chance to continue his strong performance from the playoffs. Markov will join him when he finally heals. Also look for Roman Hamrlik and Josh Gorges to score a decent number of power-play points thanks to the distribution.

Keep An Eye On

Carey Price has a lot of explaining to do. The organization clearly chose him over Jaroslav Halak as the goalie of the future, and now he must prove himself one season after Halak took his job and almost took the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. It's a lot of pressure, but Price has shown he has the skills. The question is whether you want to spend a high draft pick on a player you're not sure has the mental fortitude for the job.

Ottawa Senators

Additions: Sergei Gonchar, D (Penguins); Roman Wick, RW (Europe)

Subtractions: Jonathan Cheechoo, RW (bought out)

Depth Chart

First line: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson
Second line: Peter Regin, Mike Fisher, Alexei Kovalev
Third line: Nick Foligno, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil
Fourth line: Jarkko Ruutu, Jesse Winchester, Roman Wick

First pairing: Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson
Second pairing: Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba
Third pairing: Chris Campoli, Matt Carkner

Top goalie: Pascal Leclaire
Backup: Brian Elliott

Just missed: Brian Lee, D; Ryan Shannon, RW; Corey Locke, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Alexei Kovalev
Jeanine Leech/Icon SMIAlexei Kovalev's point production went down significantly for the second straight season in 2009-10.

The Senators are going with virtually the same top six forwards they did last season, so they'll need certain key players to step up. But Sergei Gonchar will make a really big difference. Gonchar adds an element to the Sens' attack that has been missing since Zdeno Chara left town for the Boston Bruins: proven offensive ability from the blue line. For all that Filip Kuba did for the team, at the end of the day he is just a really good passer, and that's it. Gonchar brings the total package, which will allow players such as Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson to get creative and involve more people in the play than just themselves. … Milan Michalek and Alexei Kovalev both need to play up to previous standards. Another down year from both of these players will mean trouble for not only the Senators, but many of the fantasy owners who took Spezza and/or Alfredsson. Michalek needs to go fetch the puck in the corner and fight for possession to help balance the top line. Kovalev needs to add his unparalleled creativity to pace the offense on the second line.

Power Play

Again, Gonchar makes a world of difference in how the Sens' power play will perform. As a true power-play quarterback (not just a good passer), Gonchar will make anyone on the ice with him dangerous on the man advantage. A good passer such as Kuba or a budding defenseman like Erik Karlsson will make a good fit next to Gonchar and allow the Sens to load up the power play with Spezza, Alfredsson and Kovalev if need be. Expect a much-improved unit.

Keep An Eye On

Roman Wick was drafted by the Sens in 2004, came to play for a couple of seasons in the WHL, then returned home to Switzerland to play hockey. After he dominated the Swiss league, the Sens have inked him to a one-year deal. It's a two-way contract, so he could be up or down, but Wick definitely has some offensive creativity and could work his way into the top six. Also worth noting: His numbers show him to have been a defensive liability when he was in the WHL. … Peter Regin could make the jump to truly respectable scorer this season, assuming Kovalev can find his way as a Senator. Kovalev really is the key to the second line having any punch. … Unfortunately for Brian Elliott, Pascal Leclaire is likely to get starts if he is healthy. Whether this means a time-share will be in the works or whether the more experienced Leclaire gets a chance to run with the team, we won't know until later. As far as speculative goaltender situations go, the Sens are one of the more difficult teams to glean.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Additions: Kris Versteeg, RW (Blackhawks); Clarke MacArthur, LW (Sabres); Colby Armstrong, RW (Thrashers)

Subtractions: No notable subtractions

Depth Chart

First line: Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel
Second line: Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri, Kris Versteeg
Third line: Luca Caputi, Mikhail Grabovski, Colby Armstrong
Fourth line: Mike Brown, Christian Hanson, Colton Orr

First pairing: Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle
Second pairing: Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek
Third pairing: Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson

Top goalie: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Just missed: Jay Rosehill, LW; Mike Zigomanis, C; Fredrik Sjostrom, LW; Brett Lebda, D; Matt Lashoff, D; Jeff Finger, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Phil Kessel
AP Photo/Chris YoungPhil Kessel should maintain his production regardless of who's playing next to him.

As they already showed over the finals months of 2009-10, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak can keep up with Phil Kessel just fine. All three players put up dominant numbers after they were thrown together as a unit; no doubt they will begin this season in the same fashion. Kessel will have his value no matter what, and both Kulemin and Bozak are well worth the gamble based on them being drafted late. … After the top line, the Maple Leafs are a mess. Is Nazem Kadri going to become the second-line center? Who do they choose as his wingers from Kris Versteeg, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Luca Caputi and Mikhail Grabovski? If Kadri can't hack it, would Grabovski, MacArthur and Versteeg be the worst second line in the NHL? Too many questions, and the only big payoff would come from Kadri. Draft him if your league is deep enough, and avoid everyone else.

Power Play

The Leafs had the worst power play in the league last season. Even adding Dion Phaneuf for a whole season can't help this squad. Tomas Kaberle and Phaneuf might sound like an imposing pair on the blue line, but until it translates directly into production, there is no need to speculate. There are 29 other teams that have a better power play from which to choose players.

Keep An Eye On

Hopefully you have more interesting things to worry about than whether Jean-Sebastien Giguere is getting more starts than Jonas Gustavsson. If that is the biggest question facing your fantasy team, you have bigger problems. Still, Giguere is intriguing as a late selection given his history of lifting a team on his shoulders. … As much as it is a mess, the Leafs' second line could provide some value if it has stability. If a trio emerges as the likely final members of the team's top six, don't hesitate to use a late gamble pick on them.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here

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Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.