Commentary

Atlantic Division preview

Updated: September 15, 2011, 7:26 PM ET
By Tim Kavanagh | Special to ESPN.com

Philadelphia Flyers

Additions: Sean Couturier, C (draft); Jaromir Jagr, RW (KHL); Michael Nylander, C (Capitals); Brayden Schenn, C (Kings); Wayne Simmonds, RW (Kings); Jakub Voracek, RW (Blue Jackets); Maxime Talbot, C (Penguins); Andreas Lilja, D (Ducks); Ilya Bryzgalov, G (Coyotes)

Subtractions:: Mike Richards, C (Kings); Jeff Carter, C (Blue Jackets); Ville Leino, LW (Sabres); Kris Versteeg, RW (Panthers); Darroll Powe, LW (Wild); Daniel Carcillo, LW (Blackhawks); Sean O'Donnell, D (Blackhawks); Brian Boucher, G (Hurricanes)

Depth Chart

First line: James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr
Second line: Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, Jakub Voracek
Third line: Andreas Nodl, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds
Fourth line: Jody Shelley, Blair Betts, Maxime Talbot

First pairing: Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen
Second pairing: Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn
Third pairing: Andrej Meszaros, Andreas Lilja

Starting goalie: Ilya Bryzgalov
Backup: Sergei Bobrovsky

Just missed: Ian Laperriere, RW; Eric Wellwood, LW; Oskars Bartulis, D; Erik Gustafsson, D; Michael Leighton, G

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeJames van Riemsdyk
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesBig things are expected from James van Riemsdyk this season.

The trades sending Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to distant NHL outposts got the most publicity, but the loss of second-line winger Ville Leino may prove just as damaging to the Flyers' offensive production this season. As noted in this article from ESPN Insider Neil Greenberg, the Leino-Briere-Hartnell line was the Flyers' most consistently productive group in 2010-11, and finding a new addition with whom the other two have chemistry will be a tall task in the early going. … Much is expected out of James van Riemsdyk after the Flyers extended him for six additional seasons ($22.5 million over that stretch). JVR has just 75 points in 153 regular-season games but scored seven goals in the Flyers' 11-game run in the postseason. In pairing him with Claude Giroux -- who posted a 76-point season in 2010-11 -- and veteran Jaromir Jagr, the team has put van Riemsdyk in position to deliver on his vast potential. … The Flyers were fantasy gold in the plus/minus category in 2010-11, and though on paper this is a much weaker offensive unit, the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov in net, and the return of Chris Pronger to good health, should keep them in good shape in that regard.

Power Play

Richards and Carter accounted for about 27 percent -- 38 of 140 points -- of the Flyers' power-play production in 2010-11; thus, their loss is not a small one. The hope is that Jagr is still an effective playmaker with the man-advantage, bearing in mind that he hasn't played in an NHL game since 2008. … Back on the point, Pronger's return will pay huge dividends; he has tallied 40 power-play points in 132 games as a Flyer. This will trickle down to Kimmo Timonen as well. The 36-year-old Finn has been a power-play-assist machine throughout his career, but it has become an even more pivotal source of production in his four seasons in Philly.

Keep An Eye On

Brayden Schenn is the player on whom the Richards trade appeared to pivot (pun gleefully intended). Considered by many to be the best player not in the NHL during the 2010-11 season, Schenn tied a 34-year-old Canadian national record by registering 18 points in the 2011 World Junior Championship tournament, and he subsequently notched 53 points in 27 games following his move to the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. Talent-wise, Schenn has the ceiling of a top-line center at the NHL level, and his adjustment to the new system will determine how quickly he ascends to that lofty plateau. It wouldn't be surprising to see him get top-six minutes on this team in 2011-12.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Additions: Steve Sullivan, C (Predators); Jason Williams, RW (Kings); Steve MacIntyre, LW (Oilers)

Subtractions:: Mike Rupp, LW (Rangers); Maxime Talbot, C (Flyers); Mike Comrie, C (UFA); Alexei Kovalev, RW (KHL)

Depth Chart

First line: Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis
Second line: James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy
Third line: Steve Sullivan, Jordan Staal, Arron Asham
Fourth line: Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Mark Letestu

First pairing: Kris Letang, Paul Martin
Second pairing: Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik
Third pairing: Matt Niskanen, Ben Lovejoy

Starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Brent Johnson

Just missed: Nick Johnson, RW; Jason Williams, RW; Eric Tangradi, LW; Steve MacIntyre, LW; Deryk Engelland, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeSidney Crosby
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesFantasy owners are -- and should be -- tracking Sidney Crosby's health status closely.

You might've noticed that the "Additions" section up above looks a little thin. That's certainly the case, but the Pens will be bolstered this season by the return of their top two centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin's prognosis is a little easier to project; he's returning from a knee injury and expects to be back in the swing of things for training camp. Crosby, on the other hand, is working his way back from a concussion, and his recovery has had its ups and downs. Prior to the season-ending malady in 2010-11, he was on pace for a career best in points, as he had already amassed 66 points in just 41 games. During a news conference on Sept. 7 concerning Crosby's status, Dr. Micky Collins indicated that Crosby would not play until he is 100 percent, and there is no timetable for when that will be. Though the uncertainty remains, it's hard to push Crosby too far away from the top tier of fantasy assets unless there's another setback. … Now, the other big question: Who will be playing alongside the Pens' two super-duper stars? Well, Crosby has had some chemistry with Chris Kunitz in the past, and thanks in part to this, Kunitz and James Neal appear to be near-locks to be among the top four wingers. After that, things get interesting. Newly signed veteran Steve Sullivan is not the point-per-game player he was years ago, but being on one of the Pens' top two lines could rejuvenate his career and put him in the 60-point range. … As a result of the scoring fury, the Penguins' top-six forwards are generally good bets for solid plus/minus numbers. The D-men haven't been elite in this regard, but the other numbers make up for it.

Power Play

The departure of Alex Goligoski via trade last season paves the way for Paul Martin to stake a bigger role on the Pens' power play. The 30-year-old had 10 points on the power play in 2010-11, and that number should get a nice bump with his increased opportunity and the return of Crosby and Malkin.

Keep An Eye On

A promising young power forward, Eric Tangradi managed just three points in 15 games in his rookie season before a concussion ended the campaign (though he did skate 15:12 in one playoff appearance). The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has a chance to earn one of the open winger spots on the top two lines, and fantasy glory could await, as he's capable of putting up numbers in both the offensive and penalty-minute categories.

New York Rangers

Additions: Brad Richards, C (Stars); Mike Rupp, LW (Penguins); Tim Erixon, D (Flames)

Subtractions:: Chris Drury, C (retirement); Vaclav Prospal, C (Blue Jackets); Todd White, C (UFA); Alexander Frolov, LW (UFA); Matt Gilroy, D (Lightning); Bryan McCabe, D (UFA)

Depth Chart

First line: Wojtek Wolski, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik
Second line: Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan
Third line: Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust
Fourth line: Mike Rupp, Artem Anisimov, Mats Zuccarello

First pairing: Marc Staal, Dan Girardi
Second pairing: Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer
Third pairing: Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist
Backup: Martin Biron

Just missed: Ruslan Fedotenko, LW; Erik Christensen, C; Christian Thomas, RW; Michael Del Zotto, D; Pavel Valentenko, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeMarian Gaborik
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMarian Gaborik, above, saw his production dip last season, but he should be helped by having Brad Richards on the ice.

It might be a bit jarring for some to see Wojtek Wolski on the top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, but if John Tortorella elects to keep Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan paired up, the Zabrize, Poland, native will be in the mix for the gig. Somewhere in there is the talent to keep up with Richards and Gaborik. Others to keep in mind for the role include Ruslan Fedotenko (who had the best season of his career in 2005-06 as a linemate of Richards'), speedy mite Mats Zuccarello and, of course, Dubinsky himself. … Rising second-year pro Derek Stepan had a promising rookie campaign, with 21 goals, 24 assists and a plus-8 rating, and he went on to skate more than 20 minutes per game during the team's short playoff run. As the No. 2 pivot, he will have room to produce, and seems to be a good candidate to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. … One might suppose, given the Rangers' plus-35 goal differential as a team in 2010-11, that there are some valuable plus/minus contributors on the roster. Well, that supposition is correct. Much of the roster, in fact, was on the positive side of things in that column last season, and that trend should continue for as long as Henrik Lundqvist -- and his 2.32 career goals-against average -- is patrolling the crease for the Blueshirts.

Power Play

Richards will provide an instant improvement to the Rangers' top power-play unit, an area that was a shortcoming both in the regular season (converting at the NHL's 18th-best rate of 16.9 percent) and five playoff contests (1-for-20 against the Capitals). He can work his playmaking magic either from the point or the half-boards, and his slick passing ability will be a huge boost to Gaborik, who had just seven power-play tallies after 14 a season prior. … The flip side of Richards possibly manning one of the points is that it would bump either Marc Staal or Dan Girardi off the top unit, a slight downgrade for one of the otherwise moderately valuable pair.

Keep An Eye On

Zuccarello is the name to keep front and center in the emerging prospect realm for three reasons: (1) It's possible the 5-foot-7 Norwegian import could earn a spot on the top line; (2) He scored nine of his 23 points in 2010-11 on the power play; and (3) Let's face facts, it's just a fun name to say aloud. "Zuccarello!" … 2010 second-rounder Christian Thomas had a monster campaign in the OHL in 2010-11, with 99 points (including 54 goals) in 66 games. Though he's the son of long-time NHL vet Dave Thomas, the younger Thomas might not have a great chance of making the Rangers this season due to a logjam of forwards, but there is at least a chance.

New Jersey Devils

Additions: Adam Larsson, D (draft); Cam Janssen, RW (Blues); Eric Boulton, LW (Jets)

Subtractions:: Brian Rolston, LW (Islanders); Colin White, D (Sharks); Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, LW (Flames); Anssi Salmela, D (KHL); Mike McKenna, G (Senators)

Depth Chart

First line: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Mattias Tedenby
Second line: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus
Third line: Jacob Josefson, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson
Fourth line: Cam Janssen, David Steckel, Nick Palmieri

First pairing: Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder
Second pairing: Anton Volchenkov, Adam Larsson
Third pairing: Matt Taormina, Mark Fayne

Starting goalie: Martin Brodeur
Backup: Johan Hedberg

Just missed: Rod Pelley, C; Vladimir Zharkov, RW; Alexander Urbom, D; Mark Fraser, D; Bryce Salvador, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeZach Parise
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesZach Parise played just 13 games for the Devils in 2010-11.

To be frank, the line combinations you see in the depth chart above are merely educated guesses at this point. New head coach Peter DeBoer has indicated that he plans to keep both Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise at left wing, which means, of course, that they can't both play on the top line. Beyond that, clues have been sparse. In addition, while Parise is back in, Travis Zajac is out until November (at the earliest) after tearing an Achilles tendon. All of this is to say that there's going to be some shuffling among the scoring lines, and young players such as Mattias Tedenby, Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson will have an opportunity to earn top-six minutes at the season's outset. … In seasons past, the Devils could be counted on for quality marks in the plus/minus category thanks to their defensive system (a big part of which is having Martin Brodeur in the crease). Yet, over the first half of the 2010-11 season, the Devs put up disastrous plus/minus marks; Kovalchuk, for instance, was a whopping minus-28 in the 48 games prior to the All-Star break. Once the motor got running in the second half, however, several Devils provided nice boosts in this department, notably D-men Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne, who were plus-14 and plus-12, respectively, after the break.

Power Play

The Devils' power play was one of the NHL's least effective in 2010-11, converting on just 14.4 percent of its opportunities, a mark that ranked the unit No. 28 in the league. The return of Parise, who notched nine goals with the man-advantage in 2009-10, should help a bit. Kovalchuk has gotten some work at the point in the past, and this trend could continue, which would enable the Devils to put both Kovalchuk and Parise on the top unit together. … Aside from Kovalchuk, the Devils have some options who have proved steady, if unspectacular, at quarterbacking the power play in Andy Greene, Tallinder and Fayne. Adam Larsson might be an option here as well, though it's unclear whether DeBoer is willing to saddle his star rookie with tons of ice time from the get-go.

Keep An Eye On

As mentioned above, Zajac's injury provides an opening among the top six. Henrique -- he of the 50-point campaign as an AHL rookie last season -- will have a shot to win the gig in training camp and retain some semblance of a role, even after Zajac's return. Playing alongside either Kovalchuk or Parise will do very nice things to his point total if the chemistry is there.

New York Islanders

Additions: Brian Rolston, LW (Devils); Marty Reasoner, C (Panthers)

Subtractions:: Doug Weight, C (retirement); Trent Hunter, RW (UFA); Zenon Konopka, C (Senators); Radek Martinek, D (Blue Jackets); Bruno Gervais, D (Lightning); Jack Hillen, D (Predators); Nathan Lawson, G (Canadiens)

Depth Chart

First line: Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo
Second line: Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Nino Niederreiter
Third line: Brian Rolston, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau
Fourth line: Matt Martin, Marty Reasoner, P.A. Parenteau

First pairing: Mark Streit, Mark Eaton
Second pairing: Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hamonic
Third pairing: Milan Jurcina, Calvin de Haan

Starting goalie: Rick DiPietro
Backups: Al Montoya, Evgeni Nabokov

Just missed: Trevor Gillies, LW; Justin DiBenedetto, C; Casey Cizikas, C; Michael Haley, C; Rhett Rakhshani, RW; Ty Wishart, D; Mike Mottau, D; Mark Katic, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeMark Streit
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireMark Streit missed all of the 2010-11 season with injuries but still has the potential to be a top-scoring defenseman.

Though the Islanders' only "splash" addition this offseason was veteran Brian Rolston, remember that they're also making the de facto "additions" of top-line power forward Kyle Okposo and stud defenseman Mark Streit, who missed either significant time (in Okposo's case) or the whole season (in Streit's) in 2010-11. … The top line would appear to be set, as Matt Moulson has benefited greatly by skating with franchise center John Tavares, notching two straight 30-goal campaigns. … The situation in goal is kind of a mess, to be frank. DiPietro has been the franchise netminder in name (and salary) only the past few seasons; his 26 starts in 2010-11 were the most he has made in one campaign since 2007-08. Evgeni Nabokov, who refused to report to the team after being claimed on waivers last season, has pledged to show up for training camp, but it's uncertain what kind of production they'll get out of him. He's 36 years old and coming off a poor showing in the KHL (which was cut short after he negotiated his release midseason). Al Montoya might have the most potential of the three goaltenders, and he backstopped the team's promising run late last season while posting impressive ratios of 2.39 in goals-against average and .921 in save percentage, but will he be blocked on the depth chart by the two vets? … For a team with a negative goal differential in 2010-11, some of the Isles weren't as bad as one might expect from a plus/minus standpoint. Calder Trophy candidate Michael Grabner and second-line center Frans Nielsen both posted a plus-13 for the season, which works for our purposes. Also worth noting: Most everyone's plus/minus seemed to improve with the addition of Montoya down the stretch.

Power Play

Though Streit's return will boost the team considerably at even-strength, it's the power play where his renewed presence will be felt most. The Swiss-born defenseman has put up exactly half of his career points with his team on the man-advantage (107 out of 214), and that includes 51 in his two healthy seasons with the Isles. … P.A. Parenteau is an intriguing player thanks to his contribution on special teams; he netted nine of his 20 goals on the power play in 2010-11.

Keep An Eye On

The unresolved situation on the island -- aside from the whole arena boondoggle -- is whether 2010 first-round pick Nino Niederreiter is ready to contribute at the NHL level. He had a cup of coffee with the Isles last season before being sent down to his junior team, and it's clear that he has advanced beyond that level of competition: In 55 games for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, he amassed 70 points, 68 penalty minutes and a plus-28 rating. He could be the next multi-category stud.

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.