28-Year-Old Center – Washington Capitals
Lars Eller Contract Information:
Re-signed with Montreal for four years, $14 million in July 2014.
Eller (illness) won't play Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press reports.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Eller spent six mostly stagnant seasons toiling away for the Canadiens, peculiarly posting his best performance (30 points) in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Heís landed with goal totals between 12 and 15 and point totals of 26 or 27 in each of the last three seasons, and itís tough to expect much more even though heís in a better offensive context now with Washington. The Caps peculiarly surrendered a pair of second-round picks for Eller Ė a high price to pay for a guy with such a poor track record Ė so he could center their third line, a role that should involve much more time on the penalty kill than the power play. Perhaps the big pivotís change of scenery will help him post a positive rating for the first time in four years, but he wonít see any sort of ice-time bump, so his value will likely be restricted to very deep fantasy formats.
The Canadiens have been waiting for Eller to live up to the potential that made him a first-round pick in 2007, but year after year passes by without him developing into much more than a third-line center. Eller nearly duplicated his 2013-14 offensive output last year, increasing his point total by one, but played a much less physical game, cutting his hits by nearly half and his PIM by a third. That said, much of that soft play came early in the year, and Eller picked his hit rate up a bit as the season went on, so he could bounce back in that category. Although he improved his plus/minus by nine ticks from the year before, he still finished tied for the second-worst rating on the team at minus-6. All in all, he offers fairly minimal appeal on draft day outside of very deep formats.
Eller has been teasing the Canadiens for a few years now. After a productive year during the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, Eller entered last season as a breakout candidate. When he scored five goals in the first five games, it looked like Eller was going to fulfill that promise. However, he scored just seven in the final 72 games and finished with a minus-15 rating. How did that regular season earn him a four-year contract in the offseason? It didn't -- the Canadiens committed to Eller based on the promise he hinted at during the playoffs, when he scored 13 points in 17 games. Montreal hopes they're getting more consistency for their commitment, and that the two-way playoff performer shows up in the regular season. He'll line up as the third line center again.
Eller scored a career-high 30 points in 46 games in 2012-13, which is somewhat remarkable given that he played himself into a healthy scratch in January. An injury to Max Pacioretty got him back into the lineup after two games off and he never left. He skated mostly on the third line, but was moved around between wing and center and was a fill-in when a top-six forward was hurt. His postseason ended early with a concussion, so we'll need to keep an eye on that during training camp.
Eller experienced some growth in his game last season and finished with career highs in goals and assists. After moving him around the season before, he primarily centered the Habs' third line, which is what he'll be doing to start the upcoming season. There isn't enouigh firepower on the Canadiens roster to maintain three offensive lines, so temper any breakout expecations for Eller, but we should see him continue to play major minutes with an opportunity to increase his offense.
Eller had offseason shoulder surgery and his availability for the start of training camp is in jeopardy because of it. If Eller is healthy, he'll likely center the third line where he developed a bit of chemistry with Andrei Kostitsyn, though overall he had a desultory 2010-11 season. He's got decent size, good hockey sense and is at his best setting up others. A little more experience ought to bring out his skills. Eller could emerge as a two-way forward with top-six potential, but needs to earn more trust from coach Jacques Martin.
Eller was recently acquired by the Canadiens from the St. Louis Blues for goalie Jaroslav Halak. Eller is a young prospect that looks to be taking similar steps as Brent Burns when Burns was coming up with Minnesota. He is currently aleft wing but the Habs are talking about transitioning him to defense, which is what Burns did by moving from RW to defense in his early career with the Wild. There are a few open spots for competition going into training camp this year with the Habs, so if Eller impresses enough he could make the NHL roster to start the season.
After drafting Eller, 20, 13th overall in 2007 Entry Draft, the Blues have allowed him to mature physically before bringing him to North America. That figures to be with Peoria in the AHL as the Blues have 12 forwards working on one-way contracts. He's been coached by a former NHLer, Ulf Dahlen, and shows very good hockey sense at both ends of the ice. He's coming off April shoulder surgery, but participated in the Blues' Pro Orientation camp this summer.
With four left-wingers almost assured rosters spots, Eller will have to have an outstanding training camp to break camp with the Blues this season. It's not likely that he has any impact at the NHL level this year but the long-term expectations are high for the 13th overall pick in the 2007 Draft.
Eller will return to the Swedish league this year, but will miss the first two months of the season after undergoing surgery in July to repair a fractured left wrist. Eller is at least a year away from the NHL but he has loads of star potential. Poolies in keeper leagues, take note.
Eller could be the steal of the draft. Ranked way down the list of prospects because of his birth country (really, how many great NHLers have come from Denmark), Eller is a project who is honing his talents in Sweden. But he owns a highlight-reel toolbox and unlike most other young players, he actually knows which tool fits which job. Some scouts worry he'll have a hard time adjusting to North American play; others think he could actually be in the NHL in a couple seasons. Risk/reward -- really, what do you have to lose?