Monday, October 6, 2008

Islanders Fantasy Report: Season Preview

I realize that many of you may have already drafted, but surely there are many more drafts to go and there's plenty of time to tweak rosters. The structure of these reports will evolve over time, but figure on seeing reports like this one, as well as regular awarding of Islanders fantasy stars of the game, a running leaderboard of fantasy stars, and recaps of line combinations for even strength, power play, and shorthanded situations.

It is impossible to evaluate the fantasy value of players in a way that will satisfy every scoring system available. So, players will be evaluated as follows:

Player: These players provide enough value across the board to be in play in almost any league. Someone in your league will draft them. Will it be you?

: These players have the potential to reward you based on their performance, expectations, and circumstances. They're not no-brainers but could provide decent value given ice time, the right linemates, and/or stepping up their play. Drafting them will come with some risk. Not drafting them could cause you to miss out on a good depth player.

: These are players who offer high value in one or two scoring categories. If your roster can absorb a one- or two-dimensional player, look here to bolster a weakness.

Okay, let's see what the Islanders have to offer...

Rick DiPietro—Unless you are in a particularly shallow league, someone in your league is going to draft DiPietro. If you focused on skaters early and were left with DiPietro as your No. 1 netminder, you're probably going to be in trouble in the goaltending categories. His career .905 save percentage and 2.78 GAA aren't going to win you anything. As a No. 2, he could be adequate if he stays healthy and approaches his career highs—a .919 SV% in 2006-07 and a 2.36 GAA in 2003-04. Those stats are particularly important because you can't expect superior numbers from him in wins or shutouts. I don't think anyone thinks we've seen the best out of DiPietro yet, so he's your classic high risk, high reward pick. You just have to decide—is this the year?

Mark Streit—Don't fall under the spell of last year's numbers and draft Streit as your No. 1 defenseman. But don't forget about him either. Despite the transition from Montreal's high-octane power play to the Islanders' pedal-powered version, Streit has shown signs in training camp that he is capable of being the difference with the man advantage for his new club. No, he won't have the same depth and caliber of playmakers and finishers around him, but don't expect him to completely fall off the charts. Slot him in somewhere in the middle of your defensive corps.

And that's it—for now. I can't put anyone else on the roster in the Players category at this moment. Now, that can change easily if you're in a league with 15+ teams. But based on a 10-12 team league with basic scoring categories, that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Bill Guerin—The captain has the potential to put up 50-60 points, with a bunch on the power play, and in excess of 230 shots on goal. Even in a shallow league, that could merit a late, speculative pick.

Mike Comrie
—Comrie has never fired as many as 200 shots on goal in a season, as Guerin has. He has hit the 60-point mark in a season twice, including at least 30 goals on both of those occasions. To warrant being drafted, you have to assume that he'll at least match his career highs in goals and assists and perform well with the man advantage. Otherwise, Comrie may be useful only as an injury fill-in or as an extra forward during a week when your roster has a light schedule. One plus (if your league goes that way) for Comrie is that he led the Islanders in penalty minutes last year with 87 (which is perfect fodder for opponents of PIMs as a good thing in fantasy). An extra minus? He was tied for 8th worst in the league last season with a -21.

Jeff Tambellini
—In the AHL, Tambellini is a fantasy stud. Last season, he went 38-38-76 with 237 shots on goal in 56 games for the Sound Tigers. Want to take a chance on an Islander with a late-round pick? You might as well go with Tambellini. If he comes out of the gate hot, you'll look like a genius. If he plays like an AHL stud still lost in the big-time, you can move on and replace him with an Antoine Vermette, Chris Clark, Dan Cleary, or, heaven forbid, Nikita Filatov. There's always someone out there in the free agent pool just waiting for a tryout.

Doug Weight—Weight is a borderline prospect here. If first-line, first-power-play-unit icetime and clicking with Guerin can get him back to being a 15 goal, 45 assist guy, then you may find a place for him as a depth forward. But the truth is, you probably don't need to use a draft pick to get him.

Trent Hunter
Hunter is a hitting machine. Some people don't buy into the quality of his hits, but in fantasy hockey, it's only the quantity that matters. Last season, Hunter racked up 256 hits, good for 4th best in the NHL. Hunter also delivered 222 shots on goal in 2007-08, and set a career high in assists with 29. If he can regain his scoring touch, Hunter is an excellent candidate to break through as an overall fantasy asset.

What, no Kyle Okposo? Okposo projects as a good all-around player, possibly even in this, his rookie season. Power forwards can be fantasy gold. However, I question whether any of his totals will be high enough for fantasy significance, even if he is solid across the board. It's probable that he'll be drafted more often than Tambellini based on name recognition, potential, and expectations. But his best fantasy contributions probably lie beyond this year.


HitsAside from Hunter, Brendan Witt and Sean Bergenheim will throw their weight around.

Blocked ShotsRadek Martinek and Witt are your big players here. Without an injury, Witt would have cracked the top 20 in the league last year.

PIMs—As stated earlier, Mike Comrie spent more time in the bin than anyone else. Andy Sutton likely would have held that honor if he had stayed healthy. Keep an eye on the roster to see if Mitch Fritz is around often enough to make a difference here.

Time on Ice—Witt and Martinek take the prize here as well. Their totals aren't likely to touch the league leaders, however.

(+/-)—Of returning Islanders who played a decent number of games, Freddy Meyer and Andy Hilbert came out on top at +2. Blake Comeau was next at +1. That should tell you everything you need to know. Unless Scott Gordon sparks an amazing turnaround, look elsewhere for help in +/-.

FaceoffsMike Sillinger is the cream of the crop. In his injury-shortened season, Sillinger tied for 12th best in the league in faceoff winning percentage at 56.3%. He also finished 8th overall by taking 34.6% of his team's faceoffs. Expect similar numbers anytime Sillinger is healthy.

ShotsGuerin, Hunter, and Comrie, as mentioned. Bergenheim managed 155 shots in limited minutes last year. If he can manage to get off the 4th line, he'll be right up there, too. And, of course, don't forget the potential of Tambellini, who fired off 237 shots in his 56 games at Bridgeport. As a point of reference, Alex Ovechkin unleashed 446 shots last year.

Well, we managed to work a lot names in there despite the slim pickings. We'll see if there are any new angles to consider once the roster and lines are set, and how names like Campoli, Sim, Pock, Fritz, and Hillen might enter the picture in one category or more.

And, yes, it was a lot easier to avoid Fantasy Island puns with Allan Roarke out of the picture.

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