Commentary

Pacific Division preview

Updated: September 15, 2011, 7:21 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

San Jose Sharks

Additions: Brent Burns, D (Wild); Michal Handzus, C (Kings); Martin Havlat, RW (Wild); Andrew Murray, C (Blue Jackets); Jim Vandermeer, D (Oilers); Colin White, D (Devils)

Subtractions: Ben Eager, LW (Oilers); Dany Heatley, RW (Wild); Kent Huskins, D (Blues); Jamal Mayers. RW (Blackhawks); Scott Nichol, C (Blues); Devin Setoguchi, RW (Wild); Niclas Wallin, D (SEL); Kyle Wellwood, C (Jets); Ian White, D (Red Wings)

Depth Chart

First line: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat
Second line: Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture
Third line: Torrey Mitchell, Michal Handzus, Benn Ferriero
Fourth line: James Sheppard, Andrew Murray, Jamie McGinn

First pairing: Brent Burns, Dan Boyle
Second pairing: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Douglas Murray
Third pairing: Colin White, Jason Demers

Starting goalie: Antti Niemi
Backup: Antero Niittymaki

Just Missed: Justin Braun, D; Andrew Desjardins, C; Nick Petrecki, D; Jim Vandermeer, D; Tommy Wingels, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargePatrick Marleau
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesFor the first time since Joe Thornton arrived in San Jose, Patrick Marleau surpassed Thornton and claimed the team scoring lead in 2010-11.

Following some heavy-duty offseason swapping with the Minnesota Wild, the San Jose Sharks find themselves with a top-line winger and top-notch offensive-defenseman in Martin Havlat and Brent Burns. Havlat is expected to slip into Dany Heatley's old spot on the Sharks' No.1 scoring line, unless Logan Couture ends up being the better fit. Either way, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau should benefit from having a fresh face around -- a return to totals above and beyond the 80-point mark is a modest supposition for both. Of those outside the collection of top-six forwards, Torrey Mitchell wears the "Most-Likely-To-Breakout" crown. … The addition of veteran defenseman Colin White will aid in the goals-against category.

Power Play

If there's good chemistry between the two, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns should complement each other nicely as partners at even-strength and with the man-advantage. Burns really established himself as an above-average fantasy asset with the Wild this past season. We expect the 26-year-old to improve even further as a member of the Sharks. If Justin Braun is in the lineup, he'll skate -- and contribute -- with the man-advantage. And the 24-year-old is just on the cusp of being a full-time NHL regular. As far as super-sleepers go, Braun has a heckuva lot of upside.

Keep An Eye On

Antti Niemi is forecast as the Sharks' No.1 ahead of the 2011-12 season, but make no mistake: Coach Todd McLellan won't spare a second thought in deciding to throw Antero Niittymaki out there if Niemi struggles for any length of time. … Center Tommy Wingels (super name, yes?) has better than an outside shot at earning a roster spot with the Sharks in 2011-12. And, if he does, the 23-year-old may make an immediate impact. The young lad can score.

Anaheim Ducks

Additions: Andrew Cogliano, C (Oilers); Jeff Deslauriers, G (Oilers); Andrew Gordon, RW (Capitals); Jean-Francois Jacques, LW (Oilers); Kurtis Foster, D (Oilers); Matt Smaby, D (Lightning)

Subtractions: Kyle Chipchura, C (Coyotes); Ray Emery, G (UFA); Andreas Lilja, D (Flyers); Todd Marchant, C (retired); Jarkko Ruutu, RW (SM-Liiga); Andy Sutton, D (Oilers)

Depth Chart

First line: Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry
Second line: Jason Blake, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne
Third line: Matt Beleskey, Andrew Cogliano, Dan Sexton
Fourth line: Brandon McMillan, Nick Bonino, George Parros

First pairing: Francois Beauchemin, Lubomir Visnovsky
Second pairing: Toni Lydman, Can Fowler
Third pairing: Kurtis Foster, Luca Sbisa

Starting goalie: Jonas Hiller
Backup: Dan Ellis

Just Missed: Sheldon Brookbank, D; Emerson Etem, RW; Jean-Francois Jacques, LW; Peter Holland, C; Kyle Palmieri, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Teemu Selanne
Debora Robinson/NHLI/ Getty ImagesTeemu Selanne showed he still had plenty in the tank in his 18th NHL season, scoring 31 times and pilling up 80 points in 73 games.

Here's the deal: We're assuming Teemu Selanne is coming back for one last season. Knee-willing, he appears (at the time of this writing) to be leaning in that direction. If not, look for young Kyle Palmieri to vault into a spot on the second scoring line. … Andrew Cogliano is also a threat to take over for the aging Saku Koivu as the second-line center, especially if Selanne decides to hang 'em up for good. In fact, Cogliano is versatile enough to play on the wing as well and could run Jason Blake out of his projected position. In regards to the top line, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf are sturdy first-, second- and third-round fantasy draft options, respectively.

Power Play

Power-play specialist Kurtis Foster is seeking a fresh start after a disastrous single-season run with the Edmonton Oilers. As a steady presence with the man-advantage when fellow blue-liners Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler aren't on the ice, Foster could near the 42-point mark he hit in 71 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2009-10. And most of that scoring will take place with the extra skater. … Cogliano and Palmieri should see regular action on the Ducks' second power-play unit.

Keep An Eye On

When it comes to Jonas Hiller, prepare for "Vertigo Watch 2011." One of the best netminders in the NHL before this past season's All-Star game, Hiller was only a ghost of his former self once he suffered a serious bout of the affliction. But according to the goalie himself, he's 100 percent symptom-free and feels like a million bucks. And the organization is fully on board with that assessment. Great. But the more cautious fantasy player still might like to see the 29-year-old back in game action, even preseason, first. If Hiller truly is recovered, he should enjoy a fabulous campaign. If not, Dan Ellis is going to have his hands full -- until the Ducks sign or deal for another potential No.1.

Phoenix Coyotes

Additions: Alexandre Bolduc, C (Canucks); Kyle Chipchura, C (Ducks); Boyd Gordon, C (Capitals); Daymond Langkow, C (Flames); Curtis McElhinney, G (Senators); Patrick O'Sullivan, C (Wild); Justin Pogge, G (Hurricanes), Mike Smith, G (Lightning); Raffi Torres, LW (Canucks)

Subtractions: Eric Belanger, C (Oilers); Ilya Bryzgalov, G (Flyers); Andrew Ebbett, C (Canucks); Ed Jovanovski, D (Panthers); Lee Stempniak, RW (Flames)

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Depth Chart

First line: Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan
Second line: Taylor Pyatt, Daymond Langkow, Radim Vrbata
Third line: Lauri Korpikoski, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker
Fourth line: Raffi Torres, Petteri Nokelainen, Brett MacLean

First pairing: Rostislav Klesla, Keith Yandle
Second pairing: Derek Morris, Adrian Aucoin
Third pairing: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michal Rozsival

Starting goalie: Mike Smith
Backup: Jason LaBarbera

Just Missed: Paul Bissonnette, LW; Kyle Chipchura, C; Boyd Gordon, C; Andy Miele, C; Marc-Antoine Pouliot, C; Kurt Sauer, D; David Schlemko, D; Viktor Tikhonov, RW

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeShane Doan
Norm Hall/NHLI/Getty ImagesShane Doan has been the Coyotes' top points scorer every season since 2003-04.

The Coyotes have several question marks down the middle heading into the 2011-12 season. Cleared to play, new acquisition Daymond Langkow is far from a sure bet following his long recovery from a broken bone in his neck. Even if he's perfectly fit, the (nearly) 35-year-old has only played in four games in well more than a year. Plus, at the time of this writing, Kyle Turris fancies himself worth much more than the organization is willing to cough up. Ergo, the restricted free agent is without a new contract. If that situation doesn't resolve itself pleasantly, current Hobey Baker winner, and top-notch prospect, Andy Miele may end up centering the second line. On the flipside, if both Langkow and Turris are charged and ready, Martin Hanzal could drop down to the third line. All in all, it's a wonky situation to be wary of -- at present, anyway.

Power Play

Although Derek Morris and David Schlemko will get a sniff of power-play action, elite fantasy defenseman Keith Yandle is in an entirely different league. Only winger Ray Whitney managed to equal Yandle's total of 26 power-play points in 2010-11. Armed with a new (well-deserved) $26.25 million/five-year contract, the 25-year-old is a top-five choice as far as fantasy blue-liners go. … Along with Shane Doan and Whitney, Radim Vrbata has a talent for finding the back of the net with the man-advantage. Vrbata might serve well as a mid- to later-round, under-the-radar option in most leagues.

Keep An Eye On

Not to be intentionally unkind, but the post-Ilya Bryzgalov era isn't lookin' too promising for the Coyotes between the pipes. Maybe Mike Smith has a career year and finally lives up to the promise shown in his rookie season with the Dallas Stars (2006-07). Perhaps Jason LaBarbera recaptures the magic displayed -- at times -- with the Los Angeles Kings a few years back. Who knows, even Curtis McElhinney might. … Oh, never mind. Overall, we're not terribly optimistic. Whoever eventually emerges as the Coyotes' No. 1 (the smart money's on Smith) might be a decent candidate as your No. 2 netminder. Otherwise, best to steer clear of this questionable goaltending gaggle altogether.

Los Angeles Kings

Additions: Colin Fraser, C (Oilers); Simon Gagne, LW (Lightning); Ethan Moreau, LW (Blue Jackets); Mike Richards, C (Flyers)

Subtractions: Michal Handzus, C (Sharks); Peter Harrold, D (Devils); Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW (Hurricanes); Brayden Schenn, C (Flyers); Ryan Smyth, LW (Oilers); Wayne Simmonds, RW (Flyers)

Depth Chart

First line: Simon Gagne, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown
Second line: Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Justin Williams
Third line: Kyle Clifford, Jarret Stoll, Kevin Westgarth
Fourth line: Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Ethan Moreau

First pairing: Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty
Second pairing: Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell
Third pairing: Alec Martinez, Rob Scuderi

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick
Backup: Jonathan Bernier

Just Missed: Colin Fraser (injured), C; Thomas Hickey, D; Andrei Loktionov, C; Jake Muzzin, D; Scott Parse, RW; Vyacheslav Voinov, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeAnze Kopitar
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesAnze Kopitar tied for 15th in the league in scoring with 73 points last season.

With the addition of Mike Richards, the Los Angeles Kings have one of the finest top-six assemblies in the entire league. While Anze Kopitar is a solid first-round fantasy pick, Richards should be considered an excellent second-round choice. And the remaining four could all serve nicely as solid mid-round selections -- presuming, naturally, that Justin Williams manages to stay reasonably healthy. Kopitar is going to ring up 90 points at some stage of his NHL career, and this coming season is a good as any. … Reliable goaltending, compliments of the "Jonathan time-share," will keep most fantasy-relevant players in the black, plus/minus-wise. Although we have our reservations about recommending either as a No. 1 netminder, even though Quick is poised to carry the heavier load.

Power Play

Relegated to the third line at even-strength, center Jarret Stoll maintains some fantasy value as a steady component on the Kings' power play. … Blueliners Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are your two fantasy heavyweights with the extra skater. Johnson isn't likely to equal his 28(!)-power-play-point output from 2010-11, but we anticipate a rebound-season all around from Doughty. And that should translate into an increase in power-play goals and assists. Alec Martinez will also be a factor with the man-advantage.

Keep An Eye On

If center Andrei Loktionov can manage to claw his way into a third- or second-line position, look out. Although it would require a serious injury to one of the lineup regulars for the 21-year-old to get his chance to contribute with any regularity.

Dallas Stars

Additions: Jake Dowell, C (Blackhawks); Radek Dvorak, RW (Thrashers); Vernon Fiddler, C/LW (Coyotes); Eric Godard, RW (Penguins); Adam Pardy, D (Flames); Michael Ryder, RW (Bruins); Sheldon Souray, D (Oilers)

Subtractions: Jamie Langenbrunner, RW (Blues); Brad Richards, C (Rangers); Karlis Skrastins, D (KHL  deceased); Jason Williams, C (Penguins); Jeff Woywitka, D (Canadiens)

Depth Chart

First line: Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson
Second line: Jamie Benn, Steve Ott, Michael Ryder
Third line: Toby Peterson, Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak
Fourth line: Adam Burish, Jake Dowell, Krystofer Barch

First pairing: Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas
Second pairing: Niklas Grossman, Trevor Daley
Third pairing: Adam Pardy, Sheldon Souray

Starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen
Backup: Andrew Raycroft

Just Missed: Mark Fistric, D; Scott Glennie, RW; Philip Larsen, D; Brad Lukowich, D; Tomas Vincour, C; Tom Wandell, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

[+] EnlargeJamie Benn
Bob Frid/Icon SMI22-year-old Jamie Benn scored 56 points in 69 games in his sophomore season.

The loss of Brad Richards will have a mildly negative impact on both Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow in the goals department. Mike Ribeiro should do an adequate job as a top-line play-maker, but he isn't of the same calibre as Richards (few are). Jamie Benn is in position to enjoy a solid campaign from start to finish as linemate to Steve Ott and Michael Ryder. Entering his third NHL season, the 22-year-old seems to be feeling more and more comfortable all the time. A 70-point season isn't too unreasonable an expectation. As for Ott, he makes a pleasant points/PIM fantasy package. You can look forward to 30-40 points and a minimum of 150 penalty minutes from the 29-year-old. … To the pleasant surprise of many, Kari Lehtonen was able to stay reasonably healthy through 2010-11. The Finnish netminder credits an offseason of intense conditioning for his improved constitution. Hopefully Lehtonen has prescribed to the same workout formula again this summer. Otherwise Andrew Raycroft could be a fairly busy man.

Power Play

Defenseman Alex Goligoski is expected to anchor the Stars' top power-play unit, while Sheldon Souray should man the point on the second. If Souray is able to regain top physical form -- he was accused of being slow and out of shape last winter -- that shot of his could do a fair bit of damage. Fun fact: Souray spent part of the summer working out with former NHLer, and fitness beast, Chris Chelios. That shouldn't hurt. The 35-year-old has the potential to be one of the nicest fantasy surprises of the season.

Keep An Eye On

A scoring monster with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings, Scott Glennie could be a fantasy asset if given the chance to compete in the NHL. We wouldn't be the least bit shocked to see the 20-year-old winger skating with the big boys around Christmas. ... Young defenseman Philip Larsen is one blue-line injury away from playing a regular role with the Stars. If so, he could be a fantasy consideration.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com.