The Canucks in 2013-14: A Fantasy Hockey Preview

What was a common sight last season, is no more (Image via Jeff Vinnick)

The month of September is almost upon us. That means training camp, strained groins, players in the “best shape of their lives,” and of course, hockey pool drafts! Who doesn’t love a good fantasy?

It will be interesting to see how the Vigneault-for-Tortorella swap impacts the offensive production of the players on this team. Do the Sedins continue to see a close-to 70% offensive zone start rate? Do any of the depth forwards step up into the top-six? Which defensemen will play on the two power play units?

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The answers to these burning questions (as well as a few more) are available after the jump.

The Forwards

Are the Sedin twins done as point-per-game players?

Daniel and Henrik should age very well. They play a style of hockey that relies more on instincts, positioning, and awareness than on physical tools (speed, size, strength, all of which tend to break down a lot faster/earlier in a career). Look at some of the other players who play similar styles – Daniel Alfredsson is still going strong, as is/was Teemu Selanne.

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Where should the Sedins be ranked on draft day? The whole penalty killing kerfuffle from earlier this summer aside (Tortorella indicating they will spend some time playing there), they are still very good offensive players. 100+ point good? Probably not, as they benefitted tremendously from the Vigneault zone start strategy, and Christian Ehrhoff’s presence, too.

But the Sedins have one thing really working for them – consistency. As you approach your fantasy draft this fall,  you may be best suited to go after consistent and steady producers in the early rounds, and save your risks and gambles for later on in the draft. The Sedins will be 70-75-point players at the very least, and there aren’t many players in hockey who you can say that about.

Is there any chance of David Booth bouncing back? certainly thinks so. Booth hasn’t been the same player since suffering a concussion a few years ago in Florida. Since coming to Vancouver, he’s been pretty ineffective production-wise when healthy (which hasn’t been very often). Booth is a solid multi-category fantasy hockey player, or at least he has been in the past. He shoots the puck a ton and has posted solid goal totals before.

Where does he fit in with the Canucks? I’m still not sure him and Kesler work together, as they are very similar players. There’s only one puck out there to play with, after all. Could Booth thrive alongside a familiar face in Mike Santorelli? The two were very good together in Florida, and Santorelli was Booth’s primary center during a 23-goal campaign a few years ago.

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Frequency Strength Line Combination

Booth also received next-to-no time on the powerplay under Vigneault. That could change with a new coaching regime in charge. PP time is often the missing element for a player to break out (or in Booth’s case, re-emerge).

If Booth does get more of an opportunity under Tortorella, and he finds a way to stay healthy, he is a solid sleeper pick. Especially for leagues that count shots on goal.

Of the rookies, who has the best chance to be productive right away?

I think the answer is pretty obvious here – winger Nicklas Jensen. Jensen led the SEL in goal scoring among teenagers, and he finished in 11th among all SEL players in the category. He looked decent in a very limited sample size in Vancouver last year, and the experience of playing professional hockey in Sweden compared to another season of OHL hockey can only help is chances in not only making this team, but being productive right away.

The Canucks are serious when they say they are going to give the kids opportunities this year – it is a mandate that Mike Gillis has passed down to his coaching staff, and there is a reason the Canucks have left a few roster spots wide open as training camp approaches (although that could very easily change with a few late-summer UFA signings).

If he sticks in a top-nine role (Jensen will be on a scoring line, but it remains to be seen how Tortorella distributes the forward talent), Jensen could be a 15-goal, 30-35-point rookie this season. If he somehow plays the odd shift on line one, you could bump both of those numbers up.

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Are there any Canucks to stay away from?

Tom Sestito (no offense, Tom). In all seriousness, Alex Burrows. The team wants to give Zack Kassian a look on the 1st line with the Sedins, and Burrows on line two or three would help balance some of the scoring on the roster. But when push comes to shove, I’d expect him back with the twins. He is a solid player in his own right, but he goes from a 20-goal, 40-45-point guy to a potential 30+ goal scorer when playing with Daniel and Henrik. And that may not happen as often this season as it has in past years.

Conversely, are there any Canucks who may represent great value at the draft table this year?

Jannik Hansen is a player who has a lot more to give offensively.

Kassian is another. I wouldn’t expect more than 30-35 points, but in multi-category leagues, he will supply a solid number of hits and PIM (especially if his ice time is up around the 16 or 17-minute-a-night mark). Kassian is "in the best shape of his life" (actually this time, though), and it appears that he is hungry and motivated to step into a bigger role this season.

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The Defensemen

How many goals will Jason Garrison score this season?

I have him pegged for 15 goals, and there could be more if he is given the primary power play responsibilities. Garrison got off to a slow start in Vancouver (particularly offensively), but he scored at a 16-goal pace over the final few months of the season. He has one of the best one-timers in hockey, and if he finds himself on the receiving end of a few Henrik Sedin saucer passes, expect big numbers.

Will John Tortorella have a positive or negative impact on defensive production?

This is another question that I have seen asked more than a few times this summer. Tortorella’s defensive strategy in New York a lot of the time was to collapse around Henrik Lundqvist and block shots. Obviously it’s tough to generate offense when you are blocking shots the entire time, but I also think Tortorella will adjust his playing strategy to the players on the roster.

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Garrison, for whatever reason, didn’t see the PP minutes  that he probably should have under Vigneault. Edler was the primary offensive defenseman, and unless he can get his play consistently back on track, I could see him struggling under Tortorella. Edler is a player who continues to tease us with stretches of dominant play, but he has mental lapses that he needs to get rid of (or at least minimize) if he wants to be considered one of the game’s elite. I also see an offensive decline for both Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis – but nothing major.

If he can make the final roster, Yannick Weber could be valuable in fantasy leagues. The Canucks would very likely use him in a sheltered/offensively-oriented role with a heavy dosage of PP minutes.

The Goaltender(s)

How early should I draft Roberto Luongo?

In a standard one-year league, I’d feel comfortable taking Luongo after Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, and Pekka Rinne. He may not be a Canuck beyond this year, but he has plenty of motivation to play really well this year, and the Great Goaltending Debate of 2011/2012/2013 (trademark pending) is finally overl.

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For more fantasy hockey advice, I’d highly recommend picking up DobberHockey’s 2013-14 Fantasy Hockey Guide. I contributed advanced statistical analysis for each of the 30 NHL teams, and the Guide is updated daily/weekly right up until puck drop in October (our big advantage over the magazines, which were all written back in June and July).