1) With Rick Nash gone, who will be the top offensive producer for the Jackets?
Columbus is a team without an identity right now, but that may not be such a bad thing. There will be a ton of internal competition at training camp for the top six spots up front, as well as a regular spot on the back end. There is no standout forward to point to as the top scorer, either. Veterans like Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, and RJ Umberger are all very good two-way players and hard to play against. Derrick Brassard finally looks to have rounded the corner as an NHL player. However, the player that we expect to lead Columbus in 2013 is....
2) What can we expect from Cam Atkinson from a fantasy perspective?
A perfect segue way from the previous question. Atkinson is arguably the most offensively gifted player on the Columbus roster, and he proved both last season in the NHL and this season in the AHL that he is ready for prime time minutes. He isn't very well-known around the league yet, but that won't last long. It is difficult to make projections in a lockout-shortened season, but Atkinson will benefit from a huge opportunity for ice time, as well as the fact that he has been playing competitive hockey all season.
We have him pegged for 15 goals and 30 points in 47 games.
3) By all accounts Ryan Johansen has bulked up and looked very good this season with AHL Springfield. What should we expect from him in this condensed NHL season?
Like most players, Johansen's production is going to depend on ice time. Will he see prime time minutes alongside the likes of Atkinson and Dubinsky, or will he be brought along more slowly, playing a depth role for Columbus? One thing is for certain - Johansen is a physical specimen, and his hard work in the gym last summer is paying off on the ice this season. We have him projected to score a conservative eight goals and 18 points, with the potential for more if he leapfrogs a few of the veteran forwards on the depth chart.
4) Goaltending is a big question mark with Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky fighting for the starter's job. Bob played very well in the KHL this year, but who do you think will be the go-to man in the cage for the Jackets?
Bobrovsky has to be the favorite - the team paid a premium to acquire him, and they will want to give their prized asset some time to prove that he can start in the NHL. I wouldn't completely write off Mason, though. His value will never be lower, and I treat hockey players like stocks - I love a good bargain. Here is what our Justin Goldman, our goaltending expert, things of Bobrovsky:
"When a team opens the door for two goalies to duel each other for the starting role, the
one that works the hardest usually reaps the rewards. Bobrovsky still has so much to learn about stopping the puck consistently, including his ability to play like a 6-2 goalie, economizing his movements, and reading plays in the high traffic areas. Even with the lack of support he'll likely receive on a goal-starved Blue Jackets team, that save percentage could be very solid, and the volume of shots he'll face in an estimated 35-to-45 starts could be worth the risk. A comparable to Bobrovsky's situation and fantasy value this season could be seen in Semyon Varlamov's experience last season with Colorado."
Wisniewski, in particular, has a lot of fantasy value. He has been a prolific scorer in recent years (whenever healthy). He is better defensively than Johnson, as well. Both should have fantasy value, though, as many of Johnson's deficiencies get glossed over in hockey pools (unless you have plus/minus as a statistic). The Jackets may be smart to split up their two offensive studs on the back end and pair one of them with Nikita Nikitin, and the other with Fedor Tyutin.
Johnson played his best hockey in Los Angeles before Drew Doughty arrived on the scene, and he was really good in Columbus after the trade last season, as well. Some think he thrives when he is "the man" on his team's defensive unit. If he can get some confidence built up early on in the season, I'd expect career numbers (at least in terms of a per game pace) across the board).
6) Derek Dorsett had a breakout season last year, is he fantasy-relevant given his ability to put up some points along with racking up penalty minutes?
Very fantasy relevant. Any player that is a threat for 10 goals and over 200 PIM is a very, very valuable fantasy asset. Dorsett is the new breed of fighter - he can play a regular shift and contribute with his offense and physical play in addition to his fists. The Jackets coaches trusted Dorsett last year - he started the fewest of his shifts in the offensive zone of any regular forward.
7) Give us a player on the Jackets who could surprise, fantasy-wise.
I really like Columbus as a team. You can see an identity with many of the players they have - speed, aggressiveness, and tenacity. Those words could describe any of Wisniewski, Johnson, Calvert, Dorsett, Umberger, Dubinsky, or Foligno. Foligno and Dubinsky, in particular, are very well-rounded players who both could have breakout seasons, given more ice time. Dubinsky has been buried in recent years on New York's depth chart, but he could emerge as a go-to guy in 2013 for the Jackets.
8) Which Columbus players should a fantasy GM avoid on their draft day?
I wouldn't advise to avoid any player in particular. I'd tread carefully when selecting a forward from Columbus, though, as any forward on the roster could be playing anywhere from line one to line three. Production depends so much on ice time (and power play ice time), and at this point there aren't any clearly defined units.
More from Jeff:
"The DobberHockey 2013 Fantasy Guide is fully updated - we have been working night and day on it since news of the lockout ending came down early Sunday morning. Unlike the other guides that were released last summer, the DobberHockey Guide is completely updated with everything that has occurred during the lockout. This is also the first year we included advanced statistics in some of our analysis, too.
All projections are based on a 48 game schedule. Injuries need to be considered, prospect performance in the AHL, older players playing better in a shortened year (or worse), etc. Dobber has spent the days leading up to ratification going through each player with a fine-tooth comb. All projections, sleeper notes, rookie charts, injuries will be based on the shortened season and the latest information. Almost every single page of the Guide that was released on August 1st has been changed.
I've participated in hockey pools for many, many years now. For the past few I've relied on the Dobber Fantasy Guide as my primary resource when preparing for the season. It's a wonderful guide, and don't forget to check Jeff's other endeavor, Angus Certified.