Commentary

2008-09 Pacific Division fantasy preview

Updated: October 3, 2008, 5:08 PM ET
By Jim Wilkie | Special to ESPN.com

Key additions: Brendan Morrison, C (free agency); Ken Klee, D (trade); Bobby Ryan, RW (rookie); Steve Montador, D (free agency); Joakim Lindstrom, LW (trade).

Key losses: Todd Bertuzzi, RW (buyout); Marc-Andre Bergeron, D (trade); Doug Weight, C (free agency).

Anaheim Ducks depth chart
Left wing Center Right wing
Line 1 Bobby Ryan* Ryan Getzlaf Corey Perry
Line 2 Chris Kunitz Brendan Morrison Teemu Selanne
Line 3 Travis Moen Samuel Pahlsson Rob Niedermayer
Line 4 Brad May Todd Marchant George Parros
Drew Miller Ryan Carter Joakim Lindstrom
Defenseman Defenseman
First Pairing Scott Niedermayer Chris Pronger
Second Pairing Francois Beauchemin Kent Huskins
Third Pairing Ken Klee Steve Montador
Brennan Evans Brett Festerling
First power-play unit
Forwards Teemu Selanne Ryan Getzlaf Corey Perry
Point men Scott Niedermayer Chris Pronger
Goalies
Starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Backup Jonas Hiller
Third string David LeNeveu
*(Editor's note: Ryan was sent down on Friday, but Jim Wilke comments: "It's just a salary cap move, so if he doesn't sulk and hit the doughnut shops he'll be back up as soon as the team can figure out a way to get him back on the roster." For that reason, we are not updating the depth chart. In the meantime, Chris Kunitz should see some time on the first line while Ryan Carter moves up to the second line.)

Sleeper: Bobby Ryan, LW/RW -- Ryan appears ready to prove he was the right choice with the second pick (after Sidney Crosby) in the 2005 draft. Ryan, 21, has lost 20 pounds and cut his body fat from 17 percent to 9 percent, allowing him to keep up with the speed of the NHL and likely stay with the Ducks instead of being sent down to the AHL. His devotion to offseason fitness and an impressive playoff run with Portland (eight goals, 12 assists in 16 games) earned him a top-six forward spot on a deep Ducks team that can use his scoring help.

Bust: Chris Kunitz, LW -- The Ducks are so deep even someone expected to be a bust still will be a good point producer. Kunitz's production slipped by 10 points last season to a respectable 21 goals and 29 assists, and he'll be pushed for quality ice time by youngsters Bobby Ryan and Ryan Carter, as well as newcomer Joakim Lindstrom.

Fantasy outlook:

Despite problems in trying to get under the salary cap, the Ducks are looking more like their 2007 Stanley Cup champion team because they'll have winger Teemu Selanne and defenseman Scott Niedermayer for a full season. Young stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are only getting better and will be worth high picks in fantasy drafts for their talents and toughness. Brendan Morrison will slide in nicely as the second-line center because of his speed and hard work, although he still is a concern coming off major knee surgery. Bobby Ryan's emergence also depends on making a smooth adjustment from right wing to left wing, but he should fit in fine if he continues his physical style.

On defense, no team has as good a 1-2 combination as Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. They'll eat up a ton of minutes and produce goals and assists. Francois Beauchemin will benefit from the trade of Mathieu Schneider by getting more minutes and power-play time, making him a worthwhile pick in the late rounds.

Preventing goals wasn't a problem for last season's Ducks, and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere deserves to be a high pick among goalies in any fantasy league. He's not a workhorse along the lines of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff, but Jiggy's goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.922) were in the top three last season. Jonas Hiller played in just 23 games last season, but his 10-7-1 record, 2.06 GAA and .927 save percentage can't be overlooked when you're looking for a third or fourth goaltender for your fantasy team.


Key additions: Sean Avery, LW (free agency); Fabian Brunnstrom, LW (rookie).

Key losses: Stu Barnes, C (retired); Niklas Hagman, RW (free agency); Mattias Norstrom, D (retired); Antti Miettinen, RW (free agency).

Dallas Stars depth chart
Left wing Center Right wing
Line 1 Brenden Morrow Mike Ribeiro Jere Lehtinen
Line 2 Sean Avery Brad Richards Loui Eriksson
Line 3 Joel Lundqvist Mike Modano Steve Ott
Line 4 Fabian Brunnstrom Toby Petersen B.J. Crombeen
Krys Barch James Neal Chris Conner
Defenseman Defenseman
First Pairing Sergei Zubov Matt Niskanen
Second Pairing Stephane Robidas Philippe Boucher
Third Pairing Trevor Daley Niklas Grossman
Mark Fistric Garrett Stafford
First power-play unit
Forwards Brenden Morrow Mike Ribeiro Brad Richards
Point men Sergei Zubov Philippe Boucher
Goalies
Starter Marty Turco
Backup Tobias Stephan
Third string Brent Krahn

Sleeper: Stephane Robidas, D -- Robidas stepped up with a good year (nine goals, including seven on the power play, and 17 assists) after Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov went down with injuries and had an even more impressive postseason (three power-play goals and eight assists in 18 games). Robidas, 31, won't be a huge point producer, but last season's boost in confidence, combined with promise the Stars have, should raise Robidas' stock in fantasy drafts.

Bust: Fabian Brunnstrom, LW -- This late bloomer arrives with a lot of hype because he has good size and was never drafted, which caused a bidding war after last season. Brunnstrom, 23, might one day be a capable NHLer, but anyone expecting him to have a big effect as a rookie will be disappointed. He certainly didn't set the Swedish Elite League afire with nine goals and 28 assists in 54 games for Farjestads BK last season.

Fantasy outlook:

A run to the Western Conference finals combined with some key moves have raised expectations for the Stars this season. Marty Turco also shed the unfair label of playoff choker, and the 33-year-old should hit 30-40 victories and quite possibly improve upon his 2.31 GAA and .909 save percentage with a stronger lineup in front of him. And with unproven Tobias Stephan as his backup, Turco can expect more than the 60 starts he had last season.

Adding super-pest Sean Avery to a lineup that already had rugged Steve Ott and relentless Brenden Morrow will make the Stars fearsome. It also will create more room for skilled players such as Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Modano to work their magic. Morrow and Ribeiro were a potent combination last season, and they might see a revolving cast of right wingers, such as Fabian Brunnstrom, Jere Lehtinen and Loui Erikkson. Richards still is just 28 and should benefit from a full year on the Stars, or at least his plus-minus should improve after a minus-27 campaign with Tampa Bay and Dallas last season. He'll have Avery at his side, and possibly Modano at times.

On defense, the Stars have a solid top-six when they're healthy. Sergei Zubov is expected back from a hip injury in late October. After missing almost half of last season, the 38-year-old's fantasy stock is dropping, despite the fact he scored 35 points in 46 games. Philippe Boucher has recovered from the shoulder troubles that hampered him last season, but a toe injury has slowed him in the preseason. At 35, he's becoming a risky pick as well. Matt Niskanen, 21, had a solid rookie season (seven goals, 19 assists) and could get more than 20:29 minutes per game if Zubov and Boucher continue to have injury troubles.


Key additions: Jarret Stoll, C (trade); Brad Richardson, C (trade); Matt Greene, D (trade); Denis Gauthier, D (trade); Drew Doughty, D (rookie); Thomas Hickey, D (rookie).

Key losses: Lubomir Visnovsky, D (trade); Michael Cammalleri, LW (trade); Rob Blake, D (free agency); Scott Thornton, LW (retired).

Los Angeles Kings depth chart
Left wing Center Right wing
Line 1 Patrick O'Sullivan Anze Kopitar Dustin Brown
Line 2 Kyle Calder Jarret Stoll Alexander Frolov
Line 3 Brad Richardson Derek Armstrong Teddy Purcell
Line 4 Raitis Ivanans Michal Handzus John Zeiler
Matt Moulson Brian Boyle Oscar Moller
Defenseman Defenseman
First Pairing Jack Johnson Tom Preissing
Second Pairing Drew Doughty Sean O'Donnell
Third Pairing Peter Harrold Matt Greene
Thomas Hickey Denis Gauthier
First power-play unit
Forwards Patrick O'Sullivan Anze Kopitar Alexander Frolov
Point men Tom Preissing Thomas Hickey
Goalies
Starter Jason LaBarbera
Backup Erik Ersberg
Third string Jonathan Bernier

Sleeper: Teddy Purcell, RW -- Purcell, 23, has put up big numbers in the minor leagues and juniors and appears ready to assume a spot on one of the Kings' top two lines, especially with restricted free agent Patrick O'Sullivan unsigned. Purcell had a goal and two assists in 10 games with the Kings last season to go with 25 goals and 58 assists in 67 games with Manchester of the AHL.

Bust: Kyle Calder, LW -- Calder needs to stop the decline his career has taken since he scored 26 goals and 33 points with the Blackhawks in 2005-06. Only on a rebuilding team such as the Kings could he still be considered a top-six player after notching seven goals, 13 assists and a minus-11 in 65 games last season. As soon as L.A. can get its payroll up to the salary floor and it falls out of the playoff race, which could be by December, Calder likely will be shipped out of town.

Fantasy outlook:

The Kings are moving ahead with a youth movement that won't get many wins but will be good for player development and help their chances in the "John Tavares sweepstakes" in next year's draft. For fantasy owners, steer clear of Kings goalies, even though Erik Ersberg had a pleasant audition late last season. He and Jason LaBarbera are only holding the net until Jonathan Bernier shows in the minors that he's ready for the No. 1 job.

Rookie blueliners Drew Doughty and Thomas Hickey will be thrown into the fire this season, and Jack Johnson will get a bigger role in his sophomore season after notching three goals, eight assists and a minus-19 in 74 games. Tom Preissing had just eight goals and 16 assists in 77 games last season, but he'll get quality power-play time unless the Kings bring in another veteran defenseman at the league minimum before the season starts. Matt Greene and veteran Denis Gauthier provide a physical, stay-at-home presence to cover for the rookies but have no fantasy value.

Up front, the Patrick O'Sullivan-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown unit was a dangerous and productive line, but the trio's progress will be hurt the longer O'Sullivan sits. Besides scoring 33 goals and 27 assists, Brown led the league with 311 hits. Jarret Stoll, 26, gets a chance to revive his career centering the second line, with the talented Alexander Frolov on his right wing.


Key additions: Olli Jokinen, C (trade); Brian McGrattan, RW (trade); Todd Fedoruk, LW (free agency); Kurt Sauer, D (free agency); David Hale, D (free agency); Kyle Turris, C (rookie); Viktor Tikhonov, LW (rookie); Mikkel Boedker, RW (rookie).

Key losses: Keith Ballard (trade); Nick Boynton, D (trade); Radim Vrbata, RW (free agency); Mike York, C (free agency).

Phoenix Coyotes depth chart
Left wing Center Right wing
Line 1 Shane Doan Olli Jokinen Peter Mueller
Line 2 Daniel Carcillo Kyle Turris Mikkel Boedker
Line 3 Todd Fedoruk Martin Hanzal Enver Lisin
Line 4 Viktor Tikhonov Steve Reinprecht Brian McGrattan
Daniel Winnik Joel Perrault Jeff Hoggan
Defenseman Defenseman
First Pairing Ed Jovanovski Derek Morris
Second Pairing Zbynek Michalek Matt Jones
Third Pairing Kurt Sauer David Hale
Keith Yandle Jonas Ahnelov
First power-play unit
Forwards Shane Doan Olli Jokinen Peter Mueller
Point men Ed Jovanovski Kyle Turris
Goalies
Starter Ilya Bryzgalov
Backup Mikael Tellqvist
Third string Al Montoya

Sleeper: Viktor Tikhonov, LW -- Other teams shied from drafting Tikhonov because of the lack of a transfer agreement with the Russian Hockey Federation, but the Coyotes took him with the 28th overall pick and surprised many by signing him to an entry-level deal. The 20-year-old had six goals and six assists in 43 games for Cherepovets Severstal of the Russian Elite League last season.

Bust: Martin Hanzal, C -- While many are anticipating big impacts from rookie forwards Kyle Turris, Tikhonov and perhaps Mikkel Boedker, it's Hanzal who has the advantage of a year of NHL experience under his belt. Hanzal, 21, had a solid rookie season with eight goals and 27 assists in 72 games, but offseason back surgery creates some doubt for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound forward, who is being brought along slowly in the preseason.

Fantasy outlook:

Adding tough guys Todd Fedoruk and Brian McGrattan to fearless Daniel Carcillo means the Coyotes are ready to go toe to toe with tough division rivals such as the Ducks and the Stars. The Coyotes better improve from seventh-worst in penalty killing if they want to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but at least skilled forwards Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, Viktor Tikhonov, Martin Hanzal and Olli Jokinen will have plenty of protection. New center Jokinen, who has a career-long playoff drought of his own he's hoping to snap, steps in between gritty captain Shane Doan and Mueller to form a strong top line. They all deserve to be taken high in fantasy drafts. After that, the Coyotes need their young stars to step up and have an immediate effect.

Phoenix gave up a lot of depth on defense (Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton) to get Jokinen, so they'll be giving a lot of time to the top four of Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris, Zbynek Michalek and Matt Jones. Only Jovo (12 goals, 39 assists, minus-13) and Morris (eight goals, 17 assists, plus-8) are legitimate fantasy options, though.

The Coyotes greatly improved their goaltending last season by picking Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers from the Ducks, and he finished with a 28-25-6 record, 2.44 GAA and .920 save percentage. He should get at least 30 wins, but his GAA won't improve greatly behind that defense. Backup Mikael Tellqvist (9-8-2, 2.74 GAA, .908 save percentage) isn't a fantasy option unless Bryzgalov suffers a long-term injury.


Key additions: Dan Boyle, D (trade); Rob Blake, D (free agency); Brad Lukowich, D (trade).

Key losses: Brian Campbell, D (free agency); Craig Rivet, D (trade); Matt Carle, D (trade); Curtis Brown, C (free agency).

San Jose Sharks depth chart
Left wing Center Right wing
Line 1 Patrick Marleau Joe Thornton Ryane Clowe
Line 2 Milan Michalek Joe Pavelski Jonathan Cheechoo
Line 3 Marcel Goc Torrey Mitchell Mike Grier
Line 4 Tomas Plihal Jeremy Roenick Devin Setoguchi
Jody Shelley Logan Couture Jeff Friesen
Defenseman Defenseman
First Pairing Dan Boyle Christian Ehrhoff
Second Pairing Rob Blake Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Third Pairing Brad Lukowich Douglas Murray
Kyle McLaren Alexei Semenov
First power-play unit
Forwards Milan Michalak Joe Thornton Jonathan Cheechoo
Point men Dan Boyle Patrick Marleau
Goalies
Starter Evgeni Nabokov
Backup Brian Boucher
Third string Thomas Greiss

Sleeper: Ryane Clowe, RW -- The big Newfoundlander tore up his knee Oct. 27 last season and played in just 15 games. His low output (three goals, five assists, minus-1) will allow him to go under the radar in most drafts, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder's bruising style will put him on the top line with captain Patrick Marleau and center Joe Thornton. The Sharks expect Clowe, 25, to deliver on the promise he showed in 2006-07, when he had 16 goals and 18 assists in 58 games.

Bust: Jonathan Cheechoo, RW -- Cheechoo's production has slipped two consecutive seasons since his breakout year in 2005-06, when he led the league with 56 goals and added 37 assists. With just 23 goals and 14 assists in 69 games last season, he was too unreliable for fantasy owners, and Cheechoo, 28, won't have the benefit of Thornton's slick passing, not to start the season anyway. If Cheechoo can't up his output to the 30-goal range, he'll likely hear his name in trade rumors, since the Sharks again are in a Stanley Cup-or-bust mode.

Fantasy outlook:

Rookie coach Todd McClellan is changing the Sharks' system into more of a puck possession game akin to that of his former employer, the Red Wings. Veteran defensemen Dan Boyle and Rob Blake figure to be key players because of their ability to carry the puck instead of dumping it out of their own zone. Although Blake, 38, is getting long in the tooth, he should put up better numbers now that he's on a better team (after putting up 65 points and a minus-45 in two seasons with the Kings). Boyle, 32, will be energized by his trade from the Lightning and a desire to erase an injury-plagued 2007-08 season from his memory. The presence of Boyle and Blake should help Marc-Edouard Vlasic, 21, and Christian Ehrhoff, 26, continue to improve and boost their scoring.

Up front, Joe Thornton will adjust well to the new system and be a top-10 scorer and fantasy star. His wingers, Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe, are hoping to rebound after disappointing years. Marleau's was purely poor performance, which resulted in a minus-19 and his lowest point total (48) since 2001-02, and which helped stir trade rumors. A new coach should help him get back around the point-per-game level he'd averaged the previous two seasons. Joe Pavelski takes over the No. 2 center job with expectations of building on the 40 points he registered last season and helping Jonathan Cheechoo regain his scoring touch. The other second-line winger, Milan Michalak, probably is a more reliable fantasy option, however. Torrey Mitchell's broken leg has opened the door for 2007 first-round pick Logan Couture and possibly Jeff Friesen, who was invited to camp on a tryout basis, to earn roster spots.

Vezina finalist Evgeni Nabokov should again get 40-plus wins and produce a nice GAA and save percentage for fantasy owners, but he likely will see less action than the 77 games he played last season. Brian Boucher, 31, arrived late last season and went 3-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA and .932 save percentage, so even with few starts, he's worth considering as a bench goalie in fantasy.

Jim Wilkie is a former NHL editor/writer for ESPN.com.