- Sean Allen
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Part 2 of our look at the NHL preseason. This time, we focus on the Eastern Conference. Click here for Western Conference teams.
Boston Bruins: Rich Peverley is making a preseason case to be the second-line winger replacing the retired Mark Recchi. Peverley has three points in two preseason games alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. ... Tyler Seguin has a pair of power-play goals in three exhibition games. It's a positive for Seguin, but without a role in the top six it's hard to envision much value from him. ... Joe Corvo played in only one preseason game so far, but he had two points and spent power-play time on a unit with Zdeno Chara. Those are very good signs. ... Prospect Zach Hamill will once again start the year in the AHL. Anyone who has been sitting on him in keeper leagues should question the worth of continuing to do so. The eighth overall pick from 2007 seems to be stalled at that level.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have been experimenting with different combinations on offense through the preseason. It does appear as though Jason Pominville will get first crack at sticking on the top line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy. Pominville has three points and 12 shots in three preseason games with the line. ... The top line combination leaves Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford as the most likely second unit. That leaves Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe out of the top six, but Boyes is getting looks as a power-play specialist while Gerbe, Patrick Kaleta and Paul Gaustad have combined for eight points in three games as a line. ... Marc-Andre Gragnani is getting power-play time on the blue line next to both Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers. Gragnani's strength is his offense and if he is with the Sabres he should see plenty of man-advantage ice time. ... Power forward prospect Zack Kassian will begin the season as an AHL rookie. Watch and wait for a call-up. ... Both Jhonas Enroth and Ryan Miller are rocking the preseason with sub-2.00 goals-against averages. Enroth is ready to start more games and may sap more of Miller's value this season with more work.
Montreal Canadiens: The line of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty was dominant before Pacioretty's injury last season. The trio is together again in the preseason and is a shooting machine; Pacioretty has 17 shots, Gomez 13 and Gionta 10. Pacioretty is looking like a bigger sleeper than he is getting proper credit for. ... Andrei Kostitsyn, while outside the top six, is getting time on the power play as a fourth forward. He could have specialist value in deeper leagues. ... Andrei Markov is still not skating on his surgically repaired knee and looks to be missing the start of the season. In the meantime, Chris Campoli will have a chance to prove his worth as a potential top-four defensemen for the Habs. But P.K. Subban has been manning the point as the lone defenseman on the Canadiens' top power-play unit. ... Overall, looking at the shots on goal from the Canadiens as a whole, there appears to be a focus on run-and-gun offense in the preseason. It will be interesting to see if the trend translates to the regular season. If it does, it could mean more production for all involved in the offense. But it could also mean bad news for Carey Price owners.
Ottawa Senators: Both Mika Zibanejad and Nikita Filatov are not only making cases to be on the team, but to be in the Sens' top six. In six preseason games, Zibanejad has three goals and 15 shots while Filatov, playing mostly next to Jason Spezza, has three points and 14 shots. The Sens appear to be settling on a Filatov-Spezza-Colin Greening top line and have been trying out a Daniel Alfredsson-Milan Michalek-Zibanejad combination for the second unit. That would be good news for all. ... On defense, puck-moving prospect David Rundblad has looked solid alongside Sergei Gonchar on the top power-play unit. He and fellow rookie Jared Cowan appear locks to make the team, but where they fall on the depth chart will determine how much value they have. Cowan could be a source of points and penalty minutes while Rundblad will be a power-play machine if both are given appropriate amounts of ice time.
Toronto Maple Leafs: It's not a good harbinger that Tim Connolly will possibly begin the season out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. Connolly's health will go a long way to determining what kind of fantasy season Phil Kessel is in store for. But the impact goes beyond Kessel. As we saw last season, the line of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin is quite productive when it is the top line for the Leafs. If Connolly is out, it means Grabovski's line is the top scoring unit until he is back. ... Speaking of which, Grabovski has six preseason points. ... Nazem Kadri injured his knee in the preseason as well, meaning collegiate grad Matt Frattin is in position to possibly make the roster for the start of the season next week. Frattin had a huge last season for North Dakota, and has five points in five preseason games. ... John-Michael Liles appears to be paired with Luke Schenn at even strength while Dion Phaneuf plays with Keith Aulie. Liles and Phaneuf have been together on the top power-play unit though.
Carolina Hurricanes: It's tough to tell exactly what is happening with the Hurricanes' top six with Tuomo Ruutu nursing a minor injury, but there are a couple of things to be gleaned. Alexei Ponikarovsky, not Anthony Stewart, is in line to pull top-line duties with Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen when the season begins. Ponikarovsky has three preseason points in two games while Stewart has one point in three games. ... Zac Dalpe is looking like a sure thing for the top six, rarely separated from Jeff Skinner in the preseason. Ruutu is expected to complete the second line when healthy. This is exactly the situation that was expected to have Dalpe in the running for the Calder Trophy. ... Good news for rookie Jamie McBain, as he appears to be paired with puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle at even strength. The Canes have rotated McBain and Joni Pitkanen around Kaberle as a constant on the power play. All three defensemen have a chance to earn decent value, but McBain and Kaberle would appear to be the top pairing on paper over Pitkanen and Tim Gleason. ... Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti have all been sent to the AHL to start the season.
Florida Panthers: As expected, Tomas Fleischmann is pacing the offense in the preseason with four points in three games. He has played with a mix of linemates including Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Tim Kennedy. There is no real way to nail down what the top line will be, but Fleischmann, Versteeg and Weiss are the most potent of the combinations used so far. If that is the combination that starts the season, give Versteeg a boost in your rankings. ... Jonathan Huberdeau isn't going to make it easy for the Panthers to send him back to junior. The third overall pick from the 2011 draft has four points in four games in the preseason. All four of his points have come on the power play. ... Dmitri Kulikov has four points in four preseason games and has been skating regularly on the power play both with four forwards and with Brian Campbell alongside him on the point. ... Jose Theodore has looked poor in the preseason with a 6.15 goals-against average in two starts. Scott Clemmensen didn't look that hot in his one start. Even goaltender of the future Jacob Markstrom struggled in two opportunities. That could be a bad sign overall for both the goalie situation and the team's plus/minus, though none of this is entirely unexpected.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Brett Connolly is getting every opportunity to display his scoring talent, playing with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos in the preseason. Connolly has five points in four preseason games and has certainly done enough to deserve to start the year in the NHL. Whether he will maintain that spot on the top line will make a big difference to whether or not he can produce as a rookie. But you better believe he is worth stashing if he starts the year in that spot. Connolly's presence at the top would also diminish the potential return on Steve Downie. ... The Bolts have been toying with a power-play unit consisting of St. Louis, Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Ryan Malone. The five-forward combination would take away a lot of value from Marc-Andre Bergeron, whose ticket to usefulness will be punched by his power-play time. ... While Malone is the natural choice for the second line with Lecavalier and Purcell, Mattias Ritola has played himself into consideration as well. Ritola, who showed he is dominant in the AHL with 27 points in 17 games last season, has four preseason points in three contests.
Washington Capitals: Very good news for Troy Brouwer as a potential sleeper. Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have been his linemates in the preseason. Brouwer has a power-forward frame and would be an ideal fit with the superstars. The sky is the limit for Brouwer if he can stick in the role. Though, to be fair, the Caps have been toying around with several different combinations and both Joel Ward and Marcus Johanssen are also in the mix for the coveted role beside Ovechkin. ... Roman Hamrlik and Dennis Wideman have been working together both on and off the power play in the preseason. They make for an interesting combination given Hamrlik's penchant for defensive play and Wideman's offensive abilities. It is still likely to be Mike Green earning most of the power-play time with four forwards. ... While Michal Neuvirth (1.51 goals-against average) has the better preseason numbers than Tomas Vokoun (3.53 GAA), it doesn't change the fact that Vokoun will have a distinct advantage in starts to begin the season.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets first-round pick from the 2011 draft, Mark Scheifele, is making it impossible for the team not to consider him for a start in the NHL. The 18-year-old is second in preseason scoring in the NHL and leads all Jets with seven points. The team will have to make a decision in the coming days whether to sign him to an entry-level contract and give him at least a nine-game tryout. If it does, his preseason statistics alone are enough reason to stash him on your roster. ... Paul Postma has been given an opportunity to show the scoring touch he has displayed in the AHL in his career. The 6-foot-3 22-year-old has been given some time beside Dustin Byfuglien on the power play and has managed five preseason points in three games. ... As expected, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler will be together again to start the season. Remember, these three finished strong last season and could be surprising. ... With Eric Fehr still on the sidelines from a shoulder injury and Scheifele's final landing place up in the air, there aren't too many sure things with the Jets' second line. Evander Kane, Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov are also in the mix, but aside from Scheifele, only Kane has made an impact in the preseason with four points and 19 shots in four games.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils appear to only have eyes for Adam Larsson on the point for the power play. He has played, by far, the lion's share of time there in the preseason and is tied for the team lead with three points, two of them on the man advantage. If you haven't considered him for your team already, have a look. ... Petr Sykora (yes, that Petr Sykora) is making a case to be signed by the Devils, skating with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias in the preseason. The trio has five points in three games. With Travis Zajac hurting to start the season, Sykora has a decent shot and could be an interesting gamble given the quality of his likely linemates. ... Adam Henrique only has one preseason point in two games, but he has been on the ice for three of the Devils' eight preseason goals. He still has a path to potential top-six time.
New York Islanders: The Isles have been mixing in a lot of young talent on tryouts, so the players who will be fantasy worthy haven't seen a lot of ice time in the preseason. ... In the one game that John Tavares played in, he, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Travis Haminic and Mark Streit deposited three power-play goals. That is a good indication of how dangerous that unit would be in the regular season. ... Nino Niederreiter has been given only one game to make an impact, which is actually a good sign. If he isn't being put through the wringer in the preseason, he is probably a lock to make the team. In the one game he did play, he played at even strength with Tavares and Moulson. ... First-round pick Ryan Strome hasn't managed any points in two games. Of course, he was playing in games where the Isles sat out all of their top talent, so there really isn't any indication of where he might land. ... Steve Staios, of all people, has been Mark Streit's defensive partner in the preseason. However, since much of Streit's value comes from the power play, Staios might not be able to draft any value from the situation.
New York Rangers: Dust off your sleeper list and move Wojtek Wolski up it. Wolski appears to be the choice to saddle up next to Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. In one preseason game, they generated three goals on the ice together. ... In lieu of adding an offensive defenseman to quarterback the power play, the Rangers appear to have simply decided they don't need one. Gaborik, Richards, Wolski, Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan were the main power-play unit in the one preseason game they played together. ... There isn't much indication to how the second line would shape up because Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky haven't played a game together yet. Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Artem Anisimov are the likely candidates to join the pair on the second line, but it's hard to glean the plan from the preseason so far.
Philadelphia Flyers: So, Jaromir Jagr is going to be just fine. In three preseason games, Jagr has four goals and six points. Playing mostly with Claude Giroux, expect the duo to remain together in the regular season and have some confidence in Jagr in your draft. ... Matt Read, playing with Jagr and Giroux much of the time, is getting some attention in camp. He has six points in five games and appears ready to make the team. The biggest problem is he would need to supplant some quality players for time in the top six. Keep an eye on him, though. ... 2011 first-round pick Sean Couturier is in a similar boat to Read. His preseason points (four in five games) suggest he should get a chance with the team, but who exactly would he take over for in the top six? Jagr, Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere are all locks. Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek are in the mix. So what of Read and Couturier? Don't forget Scott Hartnell will be healthy soon, too. The numbers just don't add up for enough ice time for Read or Couturier. Read will go to the AHL, but Couturier might be in for another year of junior. ... Overall, the Flyers have been an offensive force in the preseason and they have the talent to translate that in the regular season. Be confident in the Flyers you selected. ... It's hard to imagine the Flyers balking at starting Ilya Bryzgalov with extreme regularity, but Sergei Bobrovsky is doing all he can to get some extra time. Bobrovsky's preseason goals-against average is 0.40 in three appearances.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby has been practicing hard with the Penguins, but hasn't been cleared for contact. News that he will accompany the Penguins on their season-opening road trip is very encouraging for a sooner-than-later timetable. But that timetable is still not even written in pencil. ... Set your faces to stunned: Steve Sullivan has been missing the preseason with a pulled groin muscle. Sullivan will have a chance at a top-six role if healthy, but his current injury is indicative of the drawback associated with selecting him for your fantasy team. ... James Neal and Chris Kunitz will flank Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins' top line to start the season sans Crosby. Malkin has notched six points in three preseason games, so look for Neal and Kunitz to draft value off him. ... With few other offensive-defensemen in the mix, Joe Morrow has been playing next to Kris Letang on and off the power play in the preseason. The 2011 first-round pick has four points in three preseason games. If he starts the season with the Penguins, he has a serious chance of earning a role that will come with fantasy relevance.
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.