Commentary

Atlantic Division preview

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

New Jersey Devils

Additions: Anton Volchenkov, D (Senators); Henrik Tallinder, D (Sabres); Johan Hedberg, G (Thrashers); Jason Arnott, C (Predators)

Subtractions: Paul Martin, D (Penguins); Rob Niedermayer, C (Sabres); Ilkka Pikkarainen, RW (KHL); Matt Halischuk, RW, (Predators); Martin Skoula, D (KHL); Yann Danis, G (KHL); Dean McAmmond, C (FA); Mike Mottau, D (FA)

Depth chart

First line: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner
Second line: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias
Third line: Dainius Zubrus, Jacob Josefson, David Clarkson
Fourth line: Brian Rolston, Rod Pelley, Vladimir Zharkov

First pairing: Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene
Second pairing: Henrik Tallinder, Bryce Salvador
Third pairing: Colin White, Matt Corrente

Starting goalie: Martin Brodeur
Backup: Johan Hedberg

Just missed: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Mark Fraser, Anssi Salmela, Alexander Urbom, Tyler Eckford, Adam Henrique

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Ilya Kovalchuk
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIily Kovalchuk's point-per-game production dropped from 1.18 to 1.00 after his trade to the Devils last season.

With Ilya Kovalchuk's contract matter now in the rearview mirror, there are other problems ahead. The first is Devils team president/GM Lou Lamoriello's task, which is clearing some cap space with a trade or two. Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador and Brian Rolston have all been mentioned as possibilities. The other problem will be figuring out what to call the 1B line of Kovalchuk, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. The latter two with Petr Sykora were known as the A-line, although I've been hearing rumblings of the line being known as IKEA (Ilya Kovalchuk, Elias, Arnott). No matter what they're called, having Kovy involved gives a substantial bump to the value of Elias and Arnott. ... The 1A line -- already referred to as ZZPops -- should remain together, allowing new coach John MacLean to tinker with the third and fourth. David Clarkson is the epitome of a sparkplug, capable of producing in the points columns as well as hits and penalty minutes. Here's hoping getting married over the summer didn't soften him up. ... Andy Greene is the most offensive-minded of the D-men, although the Devils' system doesn't call for a big contribution up front. ... Speaking of that system, the team was second in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the league in goal differential in 2009-10, largely in part to a league-best 2.27 goals-against per game, winning Martin Brodeur the Jennings Trophy for the fifth time. Anton Volchenkov's addition adds more fuel to that fire. The players who can score will rack up solid plus/minus ratios this season.

Power Play

MacLean coached the Lowell Devils to the fourth-best power play rate in the AHL in 2009-10, and the firepower is there up front to improve on the NHL's 11th-best mark from last season. Andy Greene will likely man one point, with Kovalchuk joining the ZZPops (Jamie Langenbrunner will be at the other point). The second unit will be made up of Arnott, Elias and Clarkson up front, with some moving parts on the blue line. Rolston has played the triggerman on the power play in the past, and he could be up for the role again if he sticks around.

Keep An Eye On

After spending the past two seasons in the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien); Jacob Josefson is expected to challenge for a roster spot in camp. The Devils' 2009 first-rounder (No. 20 overall); scouts have compared him to Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, and John Madden (the current Wild center and former Blackhawk and Devil). There's obviously a wide gap in the statistical expectations there, but Josefson is a name to stash away for deep leaguers. ... In order to stay fresh for the playoffs, the team may have Brodeur face a lighter workload. Although he won't see as much ice time as a player in a straight time-share, Johan Hedberg will be one of the better options in the league on nights Brodeur has off. ... Lamoriello referred to Alexander Urbom as the franchise's top prospect in July, and he did put up some gaudy stats in the WHL last season (including a whopping plus-45). If he makes the team out of camp, he could be a column-filler across the board.

New York Islanders

Additions: James Wisniewski, D (Ducks); Mark Eaton, D (Penguins); Milan Jurcina, D (Capitals); P.A. Parenteau, C (Rangers); Andy Hilbert, C (Wild)

Subtractions: Martin Biron, G (Rangers); Sean Bergenheim, LW (Lightning); Tim Jackman, RW (Flames)

Depth chart

First line: Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo
Second line: Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau
Third line: Rob Schremp, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter
Fourth line: Matt Martin, Zenon Konopka, P.A. Parenteu

First pairing: Mark Streit, James Wisniewski
Second pairing: Mark Eaton, Jack Hillen
Third pairing: Bruno Gervais, Milan Jurcina

Starting goalie: Dwayne Roloson
Backup: Rick DiPietro

Just missed: Nino Niederreiter, Jon Sim, Radek Martinek, Nathan Lawson

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

John Tavares
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesJohn Tavares scored 24 goals and added 30 assists in his rookie campaign, both totals better than Steven Stamkos posted in his rookie season.

Matt Moulson's 30-goal campaign in 2009-10 may wind up as a blip on the radar, as his career history doesn't suggest that we should expect a repeat; of course, anyone playing with John Tavares can fill up the score sheet, given the 2009 first-rounder's playmaking abilities. Tavares and Kyle Okposo are the primary players to remember on draft day, although in leagues that use position specificity, the fact that Tavares is a center drops his value significantly. ... In spite of looking like he was on the cusp of breaking out in preseasons past, 2009-10 was Rob Schremp's first real taste of NHL action. 25 points in 44 games wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but depending on how the lines shake out, the former first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers could have some value. Bear in mind that 10 of his points last season came on the power play. ... Among the D-men, the one known commodity is Mark Streit. He'll be on the first pairing, likely with trade acquisition James Wisniewski, a slick passer who picked up 27 assists for Anaheim last season. ... As you can see from the additions chart, GM Garth Snow focused on bolstering the defense, and both Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina will be a big plus in the defensive zone. Don't expect anything spectacular in the plus/minus department this season, but it won't be as bad as last season, when Tavares and Okposo were well in the red.

Power Play

Streit is the man to target here, as he'll provide some power play scoring even if the team isn't doing so well overall (they finished in the coveted No. 27 spot in the league last season, converting 16.0 percent of their PP opportunities). ... The Isles went with four forwards and Streit down the stretch in 2009-10, with the top line of Moulson, Tavares and Okposo joined by Frans Nielsen. Nielsen is a very cheap source of power-play points if that trend sticks for 2010-11. Generally, though, this is not a group that will fill those extra columns.

Keep An Eye On

Nino Niederreiter is looking to become the third straight first-round pick by the Isles to go straight to the NHL, following in the skate-strides of Tavares and Josh Bailey. He's 18 years old as of Sept. 8; however, at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he's already got an NHL body, and was quite impressive for the fourth-place Swiss team at the World Junior Championships, scoring six goals and adding four helpers in 10 games. If he makes the roster, it's because he's going to get major ice time. If the team doesn't think he's ready, they'll send him back to juniors for more seasoning. ... In goal, it's hard to imagine the team leans as heavily on Dwayne Roloson as it did last season (he had 49 starts); but it's going to come down to how much it can get out of Rick DiPietro as he recovers from his myriad of maladies. When healthy, DiPietro has the talent to be a fantasy stud. It's just that the premise of that previous sentence hasn't been consistently true for some time now.

New York Rangers

Additions: Martin Biron, G (Islanders); Alexander Frolov, LW (Kings); Derek Boogaard, LW (Wild); Mats Zuccarello Aasen, RW (SEL)

Subtractions: Alex Auld, G (Canadiens); Olli Jokinen, C (Flames); Jody Shelley, LW (Flyers)

Depth chart First line: Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen, Marian Gaborik
Second line: Alexander Frolov, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Prust
Third line: Sean Avery, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan
Fourth line: Vaclav Prospal, Todd White, Mats Zuccarello Aasen

First pairing: Marc Staal, Michal Rozsival
Second pairing: Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi
Third pairing: Matthew Gilroy, Wade Redden

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist
Backup: Martin Biron

Just missed: Derek Boogaard, Jeremy Williams, Dale Weise, Anders Eriksson, Steve Eminger

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Marian Gaborik
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesMarian Gaborik scored a career high 86 points last season while playing 76 games.

Head coach John Tortorella is notorious for the fluidity with which he treats his offensive lines. However, the top trio of Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik got a little something going in 2009-10, and should start the season together again. Christensen obviously has the most to gain from this situation, although the center position is very deep in fantasy. ... Alexander Frolov has been wildly inconsistent in recent seasons, but does have 35- and 32-goal seasons to his name. If he can stage a bounce-back campaign, the Rangers may be able to skate two efficient scoring lines. Tough to see it happening in reality, but nothing's impossible. ... The Rangers have been unable to find a taker for Wade Redden (and his contract). If they are somehow able to move him, that will open up a spot for Anders Eriksson or Steve Eminger. ... Having Henrik Lundqvist backstopping the team has provided a nice support system for plus/minus purposes. The bad news for Lundqvist's fantasy owners is that the Martin Biron signing might signal a slight decrease in starts for King Henrik. However, the ceiling for Biron's starts is likely 20 to 25.

Power Play

The Rangers managed to avoid finding a true power play quarterback again this offseason, although Michael Del Zotto does have some puck-moving prowess, and led the team with 18 power play assists last season. Michal Rozsival will likely man the other point, although it's certainly reasonable to expect Tortorella to go with a four-forward unit at times. Sean Avery and Ryan Callahan will both see some time with the man advantage for their work down low, but the main engine of power-play scoring will continue to be Gaborik.

Keep An Eye On

After an injury-plagued swan song in Minnesota, Marian Gaborik stayed reasonably healthy in 2009-10, playing in 76 games. The rub on Gaborik is that when he's in the lineup, he's one of the most dynamic players in the league, but he often spends good chunks of time on the shelf. He'll either wind up as one of the top RW options in fantasy, or as an oft-injured fantasy bust. There will be no in-between. ... A mighty mite in the on-ice mold of Theo Fleury or Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello Aasen is a nice sleeper pick if he makes the team out of camp. The pint-sized dynamo led the Swedish Elite League in scoring in 2009-10, and he's not afraid to operate in traffic. That's a good thing considering the relative size of North American rinks.

Philadelphia Flyers

Additions: Nikolai Zherdev, RW (KHL); Andrej Meszaros, D (Lightning); Sean O'Donnell, D (Kings); Jody Shelley, LW (Rangers)

Subtractions: Ray Emery, G (FA); Simon Gagne, LW (Lightning); Ryan Parent, D (Predators); Aaron Asham, RW (Penguins)

Depth chart

First line: James van Riemsdyk, Jeff Carter, Nikolai Zherdev
Second line: Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Ville Leino
Third line: Dan Carcillo, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux
Fourth line: Darroll Powe, Blair Betts, Ian Laperriere

First pairing: Chris Pronger, Matt Carle
Second pairing: Kimmo Timmonen, Braydon Coburn
Third pairing: Sean O'Donnell, Andrej Meszaros

Starting goalie: Michael Leighton
Backup: Brian Boucher

Just missed: Matt Walker, Oskars Bartulis, Jody Shelley, Johan Backlund

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Danny Briere
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIn three season with the Flyers, Danny Briere has 150 points in 183 games.

In 2009-10, the Philadelphia hockey club took a flier on goaltender Ray Emery, who had spent a season in the KHL. The gamble paid off for a while, as Emery was one of fantasy's top goaltenders prior to his season-ending injury. Similarly, Nikolai Zherdev is being brought in this season, and he's seen as a risk because there've been personality issues in past situations. Even so, Zherdev's talent can't be denied, and if Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and the organization can get the talented Russian's head straight, the top line might be one of the most dangerous in the league, with Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk. Of course, this line is subject to change, depending on what happens in the preseason. ... The second line of Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Ville Leino was dynamite in the playoffs, and it's the only secure one as the team prepares for camp. A healthy Briere led the team in scoring, with 30 points in 23 playoff contests. He'll be available to be drafted as a No. 3 center, but could wind up as a solid No. 2. ... When it comes to plus/minus production, the top defensive pairing is about all she wrote. ... Michael Leighton will get the larger part of the time-share in goal, but any more than 55 starts would be surprising.

Power Play

The Flyers had one of the top PP units in the league in 2009-10, trailing only those of the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens. The loss of Simon Gagne is huge, but if he can play nice, Zherdev should also play a key role on the Flyers' power play in addition to his work at even strength. Mike Richards will likely join Carter and Zherdev, although van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux should retain roles in some form. ... The second unit will likely feature the second scoring line, and they have no problems finding the net, either. ... Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timmonen form the blue line tandem on the first power play unit, but Matt Carle will get some time as well.

Keep An Eye On

There have been rumors that the Flyers are going after veteran winger Bill Guerin, with a report that the free agent skated at the team's training complex recently. If Guerin is added, that could bump Zherdev off the Carter line and onto the Richards line. On that line, Guerin could easily hit the 20-goal mark again, and would be a boon to the power play as well (11 of his 21 goals in 2009-10 came with the man advantage). ... In spite of backstopping the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals, Leighton is still a relative unknown. To wit, his 2.48 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 26 regular season starts for the Flyers in 2009-10 are significantly better than his career averages (2.94 and .902, respectively). Product of a strong defense in front of him, or a blip on the career radar? Leighton's a moderate risk going into 2010-11.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Additions: Paul Martin, D (Devils); Zbynek Michalek, D (Coyotes); Mike Comrie, C (Oilers); Aaron Asham, RW (Flyers)

Subtractions: Sergei Gonchar, D (Senators); Bill Guerin, RW (FA); Mark Eaton, D (Islanders); Jordan Leopold, D (Sabres); Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (Kings); Ruslan Fedotenko, LW (FA)

Depth chart

First line: Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis
Second line: Eric Tangradi, Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin
Third line: Matt Cooke, Mike Comrie, Tyler Kennedy
Fourth line: Mike Rupp, Maxime Talbot, Craig Adams

First pairing: Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang
Second pairing: Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek
Third pairing: Alex Goligoski, Deryk Engelland

Starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Brent Johnson

Just missed: Arron Asham, Eric Godard, Ben Lovejoy

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Gregg Forwerck/Getty ImagesAny skater who lines up on Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin's wing is worth fantasy consideration.

There are two massively important situations that bear watching for the 2010-11 Penguins as they enter training camp. First, Evgeni Malkin's move to the wing, in order to consolidate some power on the second line. This could yield great benefits, as the combo of Jordan Staal and Malkin were quite effective in the Stanley Cup title run in the spring of 2009. The left wing slot on that trio appears to be wide open, with rookie Eric Tangradi, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke and Maxime Talbot all in the running. ... Similarly, the right wing slot with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby is up for grabs, although Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may give Pascal Dupuis another shot to start off. Anyone that winds up on that line will be a cheap source of points late in drafts. ... Whether it was directly his fault or not, Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a lot of goals in 2009-10, so while Crosby was busy racking up 109 points last season, he was only a plus-15 when all was said and done. On the other hand, Malkin will greatly benefit by having two-way forward Staal centering his line. Staal was the team leader in plus/minus last season, and one would expect this will increase when buttressed by Malkin's firepower.

Power Play

The intentional loss of Sergei Gonchar to free agency is a massive blow to the power play, as Gonchar is arguably the best in the biz when it comes to manning the point with the man advantage. The Pens will hope that Kris Letang is ready to step into the role. ... With assistant coach Mike Yeo off to coach the AHL's Houston Aeros, Bylsma is expected to put more of his stamp on the technical aspects of the power play. One possibility is to move Crosby behind the goal (where Wayne Gretzky forged much of his greatness) to make better use of his playmaking abilities. Expect improvement over the 17.2 percent conversion rate of a season ago.

Keep An Eye On

His famous wife aside, Mike Comrie became one of the biggest X-factors in the league (at least for fantasy purposes) upon his signing with the Pens on Sept. 3. He could wind up as a top-six forward, and he's got the game to back that up, or he could wind up as the pivot on one of the bottom two lines. As you can imagine, his statistical projection is wildly divergent in the two scenarios, as playing alongside Crosby or Malkin is a little different than being with Kennedy, Talbot, Adams or their ilk. He's worth the risk just in case.

Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com

Tim Kavanagh

Fantasy and Insider
Tim Kavanagh is an associate editor for ESPN Fantasy and Insider, with specific responsibility for NHL and fantasy hockey coverage in addition to other sports.

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