The Hurricanes had arguably one of the best offseasons in the NHL this year with the signing of free agent stars Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Although the family reunion of Jordan and Eric Staal may lead to a return to the playoffs for the Canes, it doesn't particularly equate to big fantasy numbers for your team.
Carolina may have too much of a good thing when it comes to fantasy production. Sure, you can expect some good numbers from stalwarts like the Staal brothers, Semin and Joel Skinner. However, there is only one puck to go around and with so much similar talent at forward, the points may get spread around pretty evenly. It's hard to say which one of these players might separate himself from the others.
Head coach Kirk Muller has indicated that he's tinkering around with the idea of playing the Staal brothers on a line together. That has worked out pretty well in Vancouver (see the Sedins). That experiment could be a shot in the arm for a declining Jussi Jokinen, who is rumored to be the left wing on that Staal line. However, it also means Jordan Staal could find himself playing out of position, which could lead to a slow start for him.
This new influx of talent may cause an up-and-comer like Jiri Tlusty or a player like Tuomo Ruutu, who is trying to regain his scoring touch, to get bumped down a line or two. If that happens, those players may see their production remain marginal or maybe even fall off just a bit.
If you are looking for fantasy production from the blue line, you may want to look elsewhere. Jamie McBain lead the defense with just 27 points which was good for 48th overall in the league. Stick with the "big guns" in Carolina and it could serve you well.
Eric Staal (C): Having posted at least 70 points in each of his last seven seasons, the oldest of the Staal brothers proved in 2011-2012 that even in a "down" year, he can still be relied upon for strong fantasy production. Staal surged in the second half of the season after a disappointing start, recording 45 points in the final 42 games. If head coach Kirk Muller likes what he sees when experimenting with placing big brother Eric on the same line with Jordan in the pre-season, the Ontario native could be in for a big improvement off of last year's numbers. Staal is one of the most consistent centers in the NHL, essentially a lock for 30 goals and 70-plus points each season.
Jordan Staal (C): When Staal turned down a lucrative, 10-year offer from the Penguins in June, essentially forcing a trade to Carolina, it became apparent that he wanted to skate alongside his brother, Eric. Jordan posted a career-high 50 points, needing just 62 games to do so while the 25 goals were the highest mark since the 29 he tallied as a rookie six seasons earlier. He's long been in the shadow of two of the leagues top centers in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and many have wondered what Jordan Staal could do when given a top-six role. During his career, Staal has certainly been one of the top third-line centers in the league, and has filled in nicely when Crosby and Malkin were injured. Staal gets his chance at top forward minutes this season in Carolina and could be in for a strong season and there can be no doubt that Jordan would stake a huge portion of his career on the chances to develop some serious chemistry with Eric. If the Thunder Bay natives are that confident in the situation, shouldn't you be as well?
On the Rise
Joel Skinner (LW): Fantasy owners who drafted Skinner for 2011-2012 expecting a repeat performance of the 20-year old's sensational rookie campaign were left a little disappointed last year, as multiple factors contributed to 20-goal, 44-point total in 65 games. However, when factoring in the time the Ontario native missed due to concussion symptoms and a short suspension, Skinner's points-per-game did not drop off significantly at all in 2012. Given that year three is often the breakout season for high draft picks, Skinner could reward fantasy owners who display some confidence in him come draft day.
Jiri Tlusty (C): After a few lost years in Toronto and several difficult injuries, many GM's around the league had probably written off Tlusty coming into 2011-2012. Yet last year was the 24 year-old's best season by far, producing 36 points, 136 shots on net, and missing only three games in total. He enters 2012-2013 with all the right kinds of momentum, and could prove to be a steal in the later rounds.
Two to Watch
Jussi Jokinen (LW): Now two full years removed from his sensational, 65-point campaign in 2009-2010, Jokinen has steadily regressed in goals production while maintaining his assist rate; he finished last season with 12 goals and 34 assists. A likely candidate to play left wing on a line with the Staal brothers in 2012-2013, look for Jokinen to benefit from an uptake in scoring chances this season.
Tuomo Ruutu (RW): Though Ruutu's fantasy owners may have been disappointed by the 29 year-old's production in 2011-2012 relative to what he was able to accomplish the year previous, it is important to keep an eye on his shots on goal; tallying 156 last year, the Finnish veteran got to the net more often than he did during that more impressive 2010-2011 campaign. His production dropped 23 points from 57 to 34 and his hits total fell nearly by 150. Though Ruutu's ice-time will almost assuredly take a hit with Jordan Staal coming to town, he still makes for a decent sleeper pick in the later rounds, especially pools that reward secondary statistics such as hits.
Alexander Semin (LW): One of the league's most complex enigmas, Alexander Semin will no longer be Washington's headache, as the immensely skilled and occasionally flighty winger heads south to divisional rival Carolina after inking a one-year, seven million contract with the Hurricanes in July. Semin disappointed owners often last season, as his 21 goals were the lowest of his career since his rookie season in 2003-04. It's not that his numbers were down, it's that he disappeared for several games at a time. Semin has produced two point-per-game or better seasons in his career, only to follow up the last one with back-to-back 54-point campaigns. (It's worth noting that in his 54-point season in 2010-11, he played 12 fewer games than last year). The smart money has him playing alongside one of the Staal brothers where 30 goals and 70 points certainly are not out of the question, but is still questionable given Semin's tendencies. One certainty is that Semin will play well in the six games Carolina plays against Washington. Draft Semin accordingly, just know what you're getting into.
Hot (or not?) Prospects
Evgenii Dadonov (RW): When Dadonov was traded to Carolina mid-season last year, it was assumed that the 'Canes would try to work him into the mix at the big-league level in hopes that he could develop into an everyday NHL player. As Dadonov still awaits a shot with Carolina, it might be safe to say the Hurricanes brass have seen some things in the minors they don't like about the 23 year-old Russian. Even in dynasty formats, players like that are always a risk. Dadonov notched 28 points in 55 AHL contests last season and remains one of the more talented prospects in the Carolina system.
Zach Boychuk (C): Boychuk's 44 points in 64 AHL games last season was enough to land him a one-year, two-way extension with the Hurricanes organization in July. Nonetheless, the former first-round selection from 2008 would have to have to see a jump in offensive production in 2012-2013 to reach garner attention in most leagues. Turning 22 shortly after the season starts, Boychuk has a combined nine points over 39 NHL contests the last two seasons.