FHL: Early Observations

Training camp has opened, and here are some early observations from a fantasy standpoint in the Eastern Conference. Note that not all teams are represented, only those with fantasy-worthy news:

In Atlanta, Ilya Kovalchuk was thrown on a line with Glen Metropolit and Jon Sim, whereas Marian Hossa played with prospect Jordan LaVallee. While I can't see Metropolit and Sim hanging onto those spots, LaVallee has certainly entered my radar screen. A power forward, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound LaVallee is likely several years away from a productive season, however, given chances such as these one never knows.

In Carolina, Jason Woolley has been invited to camp and Andrew Hutchinson may wind up the odd man out. The rearguards would be competing for the same spot (along with Anton Babchuk) left open by the injury to Frantisek Kaberle. Hutchinson is still recovering from hip surgery and could find himself behind the eight-ball. ... Coach Peter Laviolette is hoping for Trevor Letowski to fill the void left at center by Matt Cullen, who left for the Rangers as a free agent. Look for Letowski to tally in the high 30s this season.

In Florida, defenseman Mike Van Ryn has yet to make an appearance as he continues to recover from wrist surgery during the off-season. He will play come opening day, but just be aware of the injury and potential problems down the road.

In Montreal, coach Guy Carbonneau is leaning towards making set lines and sticking with them throughout camp. If that is the case, what they have right now is Saku Koivu centering Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder; Mike Ribeiro centering Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov; and Tomas Plekanec centering Alexander Perezhogin and Mike Johnson. If this situation remains it really helps the value of Perezhogin (who was on the bubble) and Ribeiro (who is under pressure to perform). Being on the third line hurts Johnson, but his production is steady year-to-year, so I would not be too concerned.

In New Jersey, Alexander Mogilny failed his physical (hip) and GM Lou Lamoriello is looking to place him on the long-term disabled list and get him off the cap. Don't expect Mogilny to be back this season.

On Long Island, coach Ted Nolan is trying Alexei Yashin on the left wing with Mike Sillinger at center and Robert Nilsson on the right. Nolan is apparently trying several pivots on the wing, so this arrangement is by no means in stone. What I read from it, though, is the fact Nilsson and Yashin had some chemistry to end last season and they are back together again for camp. A good sign for Nilsson, to say the least.

In Ottawa, the Sun is reporting Antoine Vermette is hungry for a more offensive role and coach Bryan Murray is trying him on the wing with Mike Fisher. This would be a third line role, but at 12 minutes of ice time last season it would mean more ice for Vermette. Look for a modest increase this season. ... Jason Spezza is still recovering from off-season back surgery. He'll be back soon, but this raises a flag for down the road - I have reduced my anticipated games played for him for this season by a couple of games.

In Philadelphia, we all know Peter Forsberg is centering Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne. Now we also know Jeff Carter is centering a second line with Mike Richards and Kyle Calder on the wing. This arrangement is a better one than I had anticipated for Richards. ... Petr Nedved is centering a third line with Geoff Sanderson and R.J. Umberger on the wings.

In Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin has so far been lining up with Mark Recchi and Ryan Malone. It is looking more and more as if Malone will be on the wing this year, which pushes Michel Ouellet back in the depth chart. As expected, Sidney Crosby played with Colby Armstrong on his right and Nils Ekman on his left. ... Ronald Petrovicky is out indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery.

In Tampa, the Lightning seem to be giving one second-line winger's job to Dmitry Afanasenkov. That being said, Nikita Alexeev made a monster camp debut offensively and Ruslan Fedotenko (hip) has yet to play. It may wind up being Fedotenko who misses out on the opportunity to start the year on Brad Richards' line.

In Toronto, Jeff O'Neill has fully recovered from shoulder surgery and is on a mission to erase the memories of last season. He will have first dibs as Mats Sundin's winger.

In Washington, Kris Beech has been penciled in as the second-line center. It is his job to lose as he is coming off a strong season in the American League. He has never had a bigger opportunity than this one, so look for him to stick this time.

Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Pool Look appears every Monday and Wednesday only on The Hockey News.com. Want to speak with Darryl about fantasy hockey?
E-mail him at dobber@dobberhockey.com.

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