Commentary

Northeast Division preview

Updated: September 15, 2011, 7:24 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Boston Bruins

Additions: Joe Corvo, D (Hurricanes); Benoit Pouliot, LW (Canadiens)

Subtractions:: Tomas Kaberle, D (Hurricanes); Mark Recchi, RW (retired); Michael Ryder, RW (Stars)

Depth Chart

First line: Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton
Second line: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin
Third line: Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley
Fourth line: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton

First pairing: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg
Second pairing: Joe Corvo, Johnny Boychuk
Third pairing: Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid

Starting goalie: Tim Thomas
Backup: Tuukka Rask

Just Missed: Marc Savard, C; Steve Kampfer, D; Zach Hamill, C; Josh Hennessey, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Tyler Seguin
John E. Sokolowski/US PresswireTyler Seguin quickly rose to prominence in the first two playoff games of his career, netting 6 points in the first two games of the Lightning series.

The Bruins will return to the ice with their Stanley Cup champion team mostly intact. Mark Recchi retired and Tomas Kaberle chose to sign elsewhere, but the rest of the team is ready to roll out the fantasy-friendly production it provided last season. … One key lineup decision to watch will be whether Joe Corvo finds a place alongside Zdeno Chara. Dennis Seidenberg was an adequate partner for Chara but found his fantasy value purely by drafting off the big man's production. Corvo possesses his own offensive skills from the point and could put up much more impressive numbers next to Chara than Seidenberg did. … Recchi's spot on the second line will also be up for grabs during training camp. Sophomore Tyler Seguin will get a crack at the spot, but so will goal-scorer Benoit Pouliot and all-around contributor Rich Peverley. … Tim Thomas shouldn't be challenged in goal too much after another Vezina Trophy-winning campaign, but remember that is what we said of him before the 2009-10 campaign as well.

Power Play

The Bruins didn't have an overpowering power play last season, finishing in the bottom half of the league for conversion percentage. Milan Lucic and David Krejci are the only two locks to be on the top unit on offense. While Nathan Horton is the easy choice for the third forward, Patrice Bergeron was more productive on the man-advantage last season. … Chara will man the point and Corvo is the best candidate the share the space with him. Corvo had more power-play points last season than any member of the Bruins.

Keep An Eye On

Seguin will have the opportunity to step up and start producing as a sophomore. His limited ice time as a rookie made it difficult to truly assess whether he can keep up with the NHL game, but it certainly didn't make him jump off the page either. If he wins the wing spot on the second line out of training camp he will be worth drafting late. … Pouliot scored fewer goals in 79 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season than he did in 39 games with the Habs in 2009-10. He has shown flashes of being a strong presence around the net and is another option for the second line that could prove interesting to fantasy owners.

Montreal Canadiens

Additions: Erik Cole, RW (Hurricanes); Peter Budaj, G (Avalanche)

Subtractions:: James Wisniewski, D (Blue Jackets); Benoit Pouliot, LW (Bruins); Jeff Halpern, C (Capitals); Alex Auld, G (Senators)

Depth Chart

First line: Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Erik Cole
Second line: Max Pacioretty, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta
Third line: Travis Moen, Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn
Fourth line: Mathieu Darche, David Desharnais, Ryan White

First pairing: P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov
Second pairing: Josh Gorges, Hal Gill
Third pairing: Jaroslav Spacek, Yannick Weber

Starting goalie: Carey Price
Backup: Peter Budaj

Just Missed: Michael Blunden, RW; Alexei Yemelin, D; Louis Leblanc, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeCammalleri
Don Wright/US PresswireMike Cammalleri has scored 29.25 goals for every 82 games played in his career.

The Canadiens are banking on the return to form of several players, a proposition that seems less and less likely with each passing year. To be a competitive team, the Habs need to have Mike Cammalleri threaten to score 35 goals, Scott Gomez pile up 50 assists and Andrei Markov make a run at 60 points. Unfortunately, none of those things has happened in the past two seasons. It will fall to newcomer Erik Cole and developing players like Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller to make things happen for this lineup. … While the top two lines above are one guess, a good training camp from Andrei Kostitsyn or Eller could throw things into disarray. Eller still has skills he hasn't displayed at the NHL level and Kostitsyn is always a threat for inspired play. … The team doesn't have the most stalwart defense, but Carey Price makes up for it in net. Most players should come out as a wash in the plus/minus department.

Power Play

The Habs had a top-10 power play last season and should have no trouble repeating the success with the man-advantage this coming season. While James Wisniewski has moved on, a healthy Andrei Markov should replace him on the point with P.K. Subban. … Cole isn't a star power-play performer, and this is where Kostitsyn could earn some deep-league value. If he isn't in the top six forwards, he might be playing on the top power play as a specialist.

Keep An Eye On

The Canadiens' best line last season was Pacioretty, Gomez and Brian Gionta even though they played less than half the season together. Look to see what kind of chemistry still exists there. If Pacioretty is back from his injury and right as rain, this line could surprise. Gomez actually had 24 of his 38 points in the 37 games that Pacioretty played last season.

Buffalo Sabres

Additions: Ville Leino, C/LW (Flyers); Christian Ehrhoff, D (Canucks); Robyn Regehr, D (Flames); Ales Kotalik, RW (Flames)

Subtractions:: Tim Connolly, C (Maple Leafs); Chris Butler, D (Flames); Mark Mancari, RW (Canucks); Steve Montador, D (Blackhawks); Patrick Lalime, G (retired)

Depth Chart

First line: Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Second line: Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, Brad Boyes
Third line: Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville
Fourth line: Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta

First pairing: Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff
Second pairing: Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera
Third pairing: Jordan Leopold, Marc-Andre Gragnani

Starting goalie: Ryan Miller
Backup: Jhonas Enroth

Just Missed: Zack Kassian, RW; Paul Szczechura, C; Ales Kotalik, RW; Shaone Morrisonn, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeThomas Vanek and Derek Roy
Bill Wippert/Getty ImagesWhoever shares a line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy has a good chance to become a fantasy factor.
(change number based on sequence)

The Sabres' fantasy effect is looking solid through the top three lines and the top two defensive pairings. In fact, the offense is good enough on paper to give some fantasy owners headaches about how the lines will shake out. Is Ville Leino going to play wing or center? Does Brad Boyes factor into the top six? Does Jason Pominville get pushed out of the top six? There are many questions to be answered through training camp. … While some players have question marks, Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy can be considered as reliable as they come for production. Both should be mainstays in fantasy lineups. … Tyler Myers had a down season in his sophomore campaign, but the stalwart presence of Christian Ehrhoff should go a long way to helping Myers bounce back. … Overall, the Sabres should garner more plus than minus this season, with a solid offense and the steady presence of Ryan Miller in net.

Power Play

The dynamics of the Sabres' power play will be different this season with Tim Connolly out and Roy returning to the ice. While Roy and Vanek are once again locks for the top unit, nobody else is a shoo-in. Drew Stafford was a mainstay of the unit last season, but depending on how the lines sort out this season, he could end up with less power-play time. … The Sabres may also resort back to a two-defenseman power play after having Myers run the point with four forwards last season. Ehrhoff is a veteran of the man-advantage and should stand to gain some power-play points on the first unit.

Keep An Eye On

If Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe are given responsibility and ice time, both young rookies are slick with the puck and have scoring prowess. … Watch to see if Gragnani becomes a specialist on the power play. He is a gifted offensive defenseman but isn't always given lots of ice time because of his lax defensive-zone coverage.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Additions: Tim Connolly, C (Sabres); Matthew Lombardi, C (Predators); John-Michael Liles, D (Avalanche)

Subtractions:: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G (Avalanche); Tim Brent, C (Hurricanes)

Depth Chart

First line: Joffrey Lupul, Tim Connolly, Phil Kessel
Second line: Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin
Third line: Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Colby Armstrong
Fourth line: Mike Brown, Matthew Lombardi, Colton Orr

First pairing: Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles
Second pairing: Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson
Third pairing: Cody Franson, Mike Komisarek

Starting goalie: James Reimer
Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Just Missed: Luca Caputi, LW; Joe Colborne, C; Joey Crabb, RW; Keith Aulie, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

TBD
Len Redkoles/NHLI/Getty ImagesTim Connolly's greatest challenge will be to skate a full schedule. He's averaged 50 games per season since the lockout of 2004-05.

On paper, the Maple Leafs' new top line should be a scoring machine. It has the physical winger (Joffrey Lupul), the dynamic scorer (Phil Kessel) and the wily playmaker (Tim Connolly). If these pieces fit together like the instructions suggest they do, look for a strong showing from the trio. … That will mean less offense is required of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin, so don't look for a repeat of last season by this second unit. … Dion Phaneuf found his groove toward the end of last season and should start off on a high note this fall. He is still the fast-skating, hard-hitting, offensively gifted D-man he was with the Calgary Flames. Phaneuf is only 26 years old still.

Power Play

Once again, on paper, the Leafs have built the perfect power-play unit by adding John-Michael Liles. While Dion Phaneuf is the prototypical booming shot from the point, Liles is the deft-passing quarterback. If the pair works out together it should help improve the Maple Leafs' low-ranking power play (21st in the league).

Keep An Eye On

Nazem Kadri has developed beyond the AHL and will need to be challenged by the NHL this season. Surely a talent as good as Kadri doesn't want to be on the third line. He will be trying to play his way up to a position to be relied upon offensively. If he can manage it, there will be some fantasy value to be had. … Although the numbers say otherwise, it's difficult to completely discount Jonas Gustavsson as a threat to James Reimer between the pipes. It was in 2008-09 that Gustavsson had one of the best seasons on record in the Swedish Elitserien, which features some pretty serious hockey. If he can recapture even some of that magic, he could be a fantasy-relevant netminder.

Ottawa Senators

Additions: Nikita Filatov, LW (Blue Jackets); Mika Zibanejad, C (draft); Zenon Konopka, C (Islanders); Alex Auld, G (Canadiens)

Subtractions:: Ryan Shannon, RW (Lightning)

Depth Chart

First line: Nikita Filatov, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson
Second line: Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad, Bobby Butler
Third line: Nick Foligno, Zack Smith, Chris Neil
Fourth line: Colin Greening, Peter Regin, Erik Condra

First pairing: Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar
Second pairing: Filip Kuba, Chris Phillips
Third pairing: Brian Lee, Jared Cowan

Starting goalie: Craig Anderson
Backup: Alex Auld

Just Missed: Robin Lehner, G; Jesse Winchester, C; Mark Parrish, RW

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeDaniel Alfredsson
Christopher Pasatieri/US PresswireDaniel Alfredsson enters his 16th season with the Ottawa Senators having missed the final 28 games of 2010-11 with a back injury.

Don't look for a supportive plus/minus from the team in Canada's capital city. While the defense is solid, the goaltending and offense have a lot to answer for. … Outside of Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, the Sens have no star power on the offense at all. There will be a lineup a mile long in training camp to win the other wing spot on the team's top line. That is the only position battle to watch. Whoever wins it will have some value; whoever loses will have no value. … Craig Anderson improved his play dramatically after a midseason trade to the Senators last season, but let's not forget he was brutal before the trade. The defense will be strong in front of Anderson, but without the goals to support him on offense, wins may be hard to come by. … When the team's second-highest scorer has a minus-30 like Erik Karlsson did last season, obviously, there are plus/minus issues.

Power Play

If Alfredsson and Spezza can stay healthy, it will go a long way to healing the Sens' power-play woes from a season ago. Only Sergei Gonchar and Karlsson managed to get 20 power-play points. … Gonchar couldn't score off the power play last season so watch his role closely. He had 20 power-play points and only seven points at even strength.

Keep An Eye On

Nikita Filatov gets a fresh start on a new team. The highly touted prospect has all-world offense, but a lack of defense (according to the Columbus Blue Jackets, at least). Luckily, the Sens don't need him to play defensive hockey, they need Filatov to score and score some more. He should be afforded every opportunity to play high up on the depth chart (read: with Spezza and Alfie) and any defensive miscues should be overlooked by the team. That won't make his plus/minus pretty, but if Filatov can find his groove, he might be worth using in fantasy despite it.

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.

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.