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Shots on Goal: Early Look - Northeast Division

Peter Maingot

Peter has been covering fantasy sports for Rotowire for over 10 years. He's covered hockey, football and basketball over the past decade but now focuses strictly on the frozen game. From the Great White North, Peter is a strong proponent of physical, up tempo hockey.

Shots on Goal: Early Look - Northeast Division
by Peter Maingot,

The NHL landscape has changed drastically over the past nine weeks. This nine-week window has included the NHL Entry Draft, the start of free agency, and all 30 teams' prospect development camps. With that in mind we will begin a series of articles looking at each division on a team-by-team basis to discern the important alterations that affect fantasy hockey. We will look at departures, additions, as well as those rookies/prospects that are knocking on the proverbial door for roster spots.

This examination will not cover every player movement but rather those that are considered more pertinent for roto players. Thus don't be overly concerned if some fourth liners, backup goalies, and sixth and seventh defensemen are omitted.

Boston Bruins

Departures: Tim Thomas (sabbatical), Joe Corvo, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon
Arrivals: Chris Bourque
Knocking: Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Jamie Arniel, Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight

Projected Top Three Lines:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley

The first line features elite power forward Milan Lucic (26 goals/135 PIMs) and the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs scoring leader David Krejci at center with Nathan Horton penciled in as the No. 1 right wing. The caveat with Horton (17 goals in 46 games) is that he missed the Bruins' last 36 regular season games and seven playoff games last season with a "mild" concussion. He's supposed to be good to go for training camp but drafting him comes with a sizeable amount of risk, as he was also knocked out of the Stanley Cup Finals in June, 2011 with a concussion.

The second line has Patrice Bergeron (22 goals/64 points) centering Brad Marchand (28 goals/55 points) and last season's leading scorer Tyler Seguin (29 goals/67 points). Seguin would be the one brought up to the first line if Horton succumbs to injury again while third line right winger Rich Peverley (42 points in 57 games) would slide up to the second line. Opportunity knocks for a young Bruins prospect to become a top nine regular, as the Bruins did not sign a top nine forward in free agency and also did not elect to retain Benoit Pouliot nor Brian Rolston. Only center Chris Kelly and Peverley return to the third line. The leading contender is Jordan Caron, the Bruins' first round pick (25th overall) in 2009. Caron had 15 points in 48 games for the B's last season and 13 points in 17 games for their AHL team in Providence. The 21-year-old Caron will be challenged by prospects Ryan Spooner (2010 first-round) and Jared Knight (2010 second-round). Spooner scored 66 points in 57 OHL games last season then joined Providence for their last five games and scored four points. Spooner showed that he can put the puck in the net with 113 goals (259 points) in 230 OHL games but he'll need to add some muscle to his 5-10/172 frame. Knight is a little bigger than Spooner at 5-11/186 though not as prolific a scorer in junior (103 goals/209 points in 250 games) as him. Where Knight differentiates himself from Spooner is in postseason play. Knight scored 21 goals (34 points) in 47 playoff games during his OHL career while Spooner managed just five goals (11 points) in 18 games.

On the blueline the Bruins have an opening in their roster after the top five of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, and Adam McQuaid. Dougie Hamilton is expected to land the sixth spot. Hamilton, the B's first-round selection chosen ninth overall in 2011, is a smooth skating 19-year-old with size (6-5, 200). Hamilton was chosen the outstanding defenseman in all of Canadian junior hockey in 2011-12 and did he earn it: 17 goals and 72 points in 50 OHL games followed by eight goals and 23 points in 20 OHL playoff games. If you add in the six games that he played for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships, Hamilton scored 27 goals and 77 assists for 104 points in 76 games this past year with an amazing plus-59.

Next in line on the depth chart is Aaron Johnson, who will likely stick as the seventh defenseman. Johnson, who was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in July to a two-way contract, played in 56 games for Columbus last season. After Johnson on the depth chart it's Matt Bartkowski, a 24-year-old with two AHL seasons under his belt and 45 points in 118 games with 80 PIMs.

Tim Thomas is taking the year off and relaxing in Colorado so Tuukka Rask becomes the No. 1 goalie. The 25-year-old Finn has never played in more than 45 NHL games in one season with a professional high of 57 games played in the AHL back in 2008-09. However, his 102 NHL career starts come with heady peripherals: a 2.20 GAA, a .926 SV % and 11 shutouts. His backup is expected to be Anton Khudobin. Khdobin has appeared in just seven career NHL games (5-1 with a 1.32 GAA, .961 SV %, and one shutout) but he has played in 156 AHL games (2.53 GAA and .912 SV %).

Buffalo Sabres

Departures: Derek Roy, Brad Boyes
Arrivals: Steve Ott, Adam Pardy
Youngster knocking: Luke Adam, Corey Tropp

Projected Top Three Lines:

Thomas Vanek - Tyler Ennis - Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Ville Leino - Steve Ott - Nathan Gerbe/Corey Tropp

The Sabres felt other teams took liberties with them too often last season (remember when Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller and he subsequently missed eight games with a concussion?) and management was determined to address the issue during the summer. Mission accomplished. They added left wing/center Steve Ott to play in their top nine and John Scott to add size and pugilistic skill to the fourth line. The cost, however, was high - they traded away former No.1 center Derek Roy to acquire Ott and depth defenseman Adam Pardy. Tyler Ennis, 23 in October, becomes the new No. 1 center with holdovers Tomas Vanek (26 goals/61 points) and Jason Pominville (30 goals/73 points) at their customary first line wing positions. Ennis' production last season, with 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games, projects to 26 goals and 58 points over an 82-game season.

The second line center will likely be Cody Hodgson, with Steve Ott his main competition. Hodgson didn't set the world on fire after his Feb. 27 trade from Vancouver. The 22-year-old had three goals and eight points in 20 games for Buffalo, with his combined totals a more impressive 19 goals and 41 points in 83 games. The second line wingers should be Drew Stafford (20 goals/50 points) and Marcus Foligno (six goals/13 points in 14 games). Stafford has averaged 26 goals and 51 points over the past two seasons while Foligno, who turned 21 in August, was a late-season call up and made an immediate impact. Both wingers have good size - Stafford at 6-1, 216 and Foligno at 6-3, 222. Ott may not be the biggest player, at 6-0, 194, but he plays a tough "in-your-face" tenacious brand of hockey. Ott also drops the gloves, with a total of 27 fights over the past three seasons combined. Last year Otter only fought six times, as Dallas was short of top six forwards for much of the season and had Krys Barch available for pugilistic activity. Ott has averaged 15 goals and 36 points with 164 PIMs over his last three seasons. Ott's wingers will include Ville Leino, who is coming off a brutal eight-goal/25-point first season in Buffalo after racking up 19 goals and 53 points the year before for Philadelphia. The third line right wing will be one of Nathan Gerbe or Corey Tropp. Gerbe had 25 points last season in 62 games for Buffalo while Tropp had eight points in 34 games for Buffalo. Tropp spent the rest of the year playing for their farm team in Rochester potting nine goals and 22 points in 27 AHL games. Another Sabres prospect who could crack the top nine is Luke Adam. The 22-year-old Adam played 52 games for Buffalo last season, scoring 10 goals and 20 points. Adam has size (6-2, 210), can play left wing or center, and has scored both in junior (49 goals in 56 games in 2009-10) and also at the AHL level (29 goals in 57 games in 2010-11).

Before moving on to the defense, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Sabres' first round pick this past June, Mikhail Grigorenko. Grigorenko was a top-3 talent heading into the draft but his stock fell over KHL flight risk concerns. Grigorenko, drafted 12th overall, could make the Sabres out of training camp. He has the skill and the size, at 6-3/200, to play in the NHL now. Grigorenko played in the Quebec junior league as a 17-year-old last season and scored 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games. If he makes the team he'll probably center the third line with Ott on his left wing, watching his back.

Defensively, the Sabres have a nice group of puck moving defensemen, led by Christian Ehrhoff (32 points in 66 games), Tyler Myers (23 points in 55 games), and Jordan Leopold (24 points in 79 games). The ice time of this trio was very similar: Ehrhoff played 23:03 with 2:58 on the PP, Myers played 22:29 with 2:25 on the PP, and Leopold played 22:22 with 2:00 on the PP. The production and power play time drops off significantly after them with Andrej Sekera (19:36 of ice time, with 0:52 on the PP).

Robyn Regehr and Mike Weber round out the top six, with two others vying for Weber's spot, Alexander Sulzer and Adam Pardy. The Sabres have two good prospects on their farm team in Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan. They will likely try to unload one of their depth defensemen after training camps open and the exhibition season starts.

Ryan Miller won 31 games last season, his lowest win total since the 2005-06 season. His other numbers were good: 2.54 GAA, .916 SV % and six shutouts. Backup goalie Jhonas Enroth was a disappointing 8-11-4 last year, after going 9-2-2 the year before. His 2.70 GAA was almost identical to the year before (2.73 GAA) while his save percentage improved nine points to .916.

Montreal Canadiens

Departures: Mathieu Darche, Chris Campoli
Arrivals: Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon
Knocking: Louis Leblanc, Alex Galchenyuk

Projected Top Three Lines:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Alex Galchenyuk/Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Brandon Prust/Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc/Colby Armstrong

Over the last two offseasons the Habs' forward ranks have been transformed from a smaller, more European dominated group to a larger, more North American unit. The first line features American power forwards Erik Cole (35 goals/61 points) and Max Pacioretty (33 goals/65 points) centered by French-Canadian David Desharnais (16 goals/60 points) while the second line also features two North American wingers, Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque, centered by Czech native Tomas Plekanec (17 goals/52 points). Gionta and Bourque are both looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons last year. Gionta missed 51 games due to injury and scored just 15 points in 31 games. Bourque had 18 goals and 34 points combined playing for both Calgary and Montreal last season, after scoring 27 goals and 50 points for Calgary in 2010-11. Bourque needs to be more physically engaged and use his big body (6-2, 212) more to create turnovers and opportunities in the enemy zone. Bourque recently underwent abdominal surgery (late August) and is expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks. Bourque's second line spot could be taken by rookie Alex Galchenyuk to start the season. Galchenyuk, the third player chosen in the 2012 NHL draft, is a natural center but he shoots left and could play left wing. Moreover, the Milwaukee-born son of former Belarus national team member George Galchenyuk has the size at 6-1, 200, to play in the NHL as an 18-year-old. Like any rookie he'll have to prove himself in training camp and exhibition play, especially since an injury kept him out for all but two games of the OHL season last year. Other second line left wing options could include Scott Gomez (yeesh) or temporarily converting third line center Lars Eller to the wing until Bourque returns, as the young Dane shoots left.

Newcomer Brandon Prust could energize the third line either at left wing, if he beats out Travis Moen, or at right wing, if they choose him over young prospect Louis Leblanc and/or fellow newcomer Colby Armstrong. Armstrong has missed a lot of hockey over the past two seasons with an assortment of injuries but he's still just 29. Armstrong has also shown some offensive ability previously - he's scored 15 goals or more in three of seven NHL seasons, which amounts to three times in the five seasons that he's played at least 47 games. One thing we can say with a fair amount of certainty is that the third line center will be Lars Eller (16 goals), if he's not moved to the second line as Bourque's fill-in.

On defense the Habs expect to have Andrei Markov and PK Subban (36 points in 81 games) anchor the points on their first PP unit. Markov only played 13 games last year and represents a huge injury risk. The second unit's QB spots should go to Tomas Kaberle (22 points in 43 games for Montreal after his trade from Carolina) and Yannick Weber (18 points in 60 games). Kaberle is first in line to replace Markov when his next injury hits. Josh Gorges is a top pairing defenseman while Alexei Emelin quickly made a positive impact last year in his rookie season displaying a physicality rarely seen on the Habs' blueline of late. The Habs also brought back Francis Bouillon from Nashville as a free agent. Cube has played nine of his 12 seasons in the league for Montreal and, like Emelin, brings a physical dimension. The Habs also have depth in Rafael Diaz. Diaz, like Weber a Swiss native, saw his first NHL action last season when the Habs' defense was ravaged by injury. Diaz had 16 points with 30 PIMs and was a minus-7 in 69 games. Frederic St. Denis also played 17 games and provides further depth on the farm.

Carey Price had 12 less wins last season than he did in 2011-12, going 26-28-11, yet his goals against only went up eight points and his save percentage only dropped seven points. The difference was the team in front of him. The defense was riddled with injuries last season and the offense basically had one scoring line because of injuries to their captain Gionta and the ineffectiveness of Bourque after his arrival from Calgary. Both the defense and offense look to be a little better heading into the new season. Peter Budaj will once again be the No. 2 goalie. Last season Budaj started 17 games, going 5-7-5 with a solid 2.55 GAA and .913 SV %.

Ottawa Senators

Departures: Nick Foligno, Filip Kuba, Zenon Konopka, Matt Carkner, Bobby Butler
Additions: Guillaume Latendresse, Marc Methot, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad
Knocking: Mika Zibanejad, Robin Lehner

Projected Top Three Lines:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Jakob Silfverberg
Guillaume Latendresse - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Peter Regin/S. Da Costa/ Mika Zibanejad - Erik Condra/Mark Stone

The Senators top line is led by center Jason Spezza (34 goals/84 points) and Milan Michalek (35 goals/60 points). Their right wing is expected to be Swedish rookie Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg absolutely owned the Swedish Elite League (SEL) last season, winning both the regular season and postseason outstanding player awards. Of course, that means nothing if he doesn't have at least a half decent training camp. If Silfverberg falters the Sens could move up team captain Daniel Alfredsson from the second line or try either rookie Mika Zibanejad (chosen 6th overall in 2011) or fellow rookie Mark Stone. Zibanejad started last season with Ottawa as an 18-year-old but after nine games they decided to send him back to Sweden for another year of seasoning in the SEL. Zibanejad scored a modest 13 points in 26 games for Djurgarden IF. He acquitted himself exceedingly well, however, in the 2012 World Junior Championships for Sweden scoring the overtime winner in the gold medal game and leading his country to their first title in 31 years. Stone, a year older than Zibanejad, had a very productive final year of junior hockey scoring 40 goals and 123 points in 66 WHL games. Stone also scored seven goals and 10 points in six games for Team Canada at the World Juniors.

The second line left wing should start out as Guillaume Latendresse, a skilled forward who can't seem to stay healthy. The two-time 20-goal scorer has only played a total of 27 games over the past two seasons. It was a low cost signing for Ottawa that could pay off. Still just 25, Latendresse is a big body, at 6-2/230, who can finish - 33 goals in his last 82 games. Second line center Kyle Turris had 29 points in 49 games for Ottawa after his trade from Phoenix and is on the verge of a breakout, especially if he can play all year with skilled wingers like Alfredsson and Latendresse. If Latendresse gets hurt again, Colin Greening would get moved up. Greening, who has similar size to Latendresse, scored 17 goals and 37 points in his first full NHL season after splitting his first pro season between Ottawa and Binghamton of the AHL in 2010-11. Greening, a late bloomer at 26, has some upside - he scored 46 goals and 101 points in 106 games over his last three seasons at Cornell.

You may need a crystal ball to figure who the third line center will be before camp opens. There is oft-injured Peter Regin, the previously mentioned top prospect Zibanejad, and France native Stephane Da Costa. Regin has missed 99 games over the past two seasons due to shoulder injuries/surgeries. Regin, who finished the 2009-10 season strong with Ottawa then went on to post seven points in seven games for Denmark at the 2010 World Championships, may have to start the year in Binghamton as he only saw action in 10 games last year. Da Costa, a highly-touted free agent signing after two prolific seasons of college hockey, struggled for Ottawa (five points in 22 games) in his rookie pro season but then went on to produce for AHL Binghamton (36 points in 46 games) as well as for his country at the 2012 World Championships (six points in seven games). Erik Condra will need a strong training camp to hold off young right wings Silfverberg and Stone. Condra had a bad year last season with just eight goals and 25 points in 81 games after bagging six goals and 11 points in 26 games the year before.

Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (78 points in 81 games!) and four-time All-Star Sergei Gonchar (37 points in 74 games) will QB the first PP unit. That's a no-brainer. What is less obvious is which defensemen play on the second power play unit. Filip Kuba was not re-signed. Chris Phillips no longer sees power play time and newcomer Marc Methot is not known as a power play point man. That leaves youngster Jared Cowan, 17 points in 82 games, as one possible point man on the second PP unit. Cowan was a fairly proficient defenseman in junior (48 points in 58 games in 2010-11). The other point spot on the second unit could be taken by whoever makes the team as the sixth defenseman. With Kuba history and Matt Carkner also gone there are spots open at No. 6 and No. 7. Mike Lundin, Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki, and Cody Ceci are the combatants for the sixth and seventh spots. Lundin, 28 in September, has just 35 points in 241 career NHL games. Lundin saw only 17 games of NHL action last year for Minnesota due to a back injury and lower body injury. Lundin played 69 games for Tampa Bay in 2010-11 scoring only 12 points. The 6-4 Wiercioch played his first two pro seasons for Binghamton (20 points in 57 games last season) after an outstanding college career at the University of Denver where he amassed 18 goals and 62 points in 75 games. Borowiecki, 23, had 22 points in 73 games last year for Binghamton. Ceci is more of a long shot to make the team as an 18-year-old despite his first-round pedigree (taken 15th overall in 2012 NHL draft). Ceci could be a power-play specialist (60 points in 64 OHL games last year) if he has an impressive camp, as he certainly has pro size already (6-3/207).

Craig Anderson has three years left on his contract then the reigns will be handed over to either Ben Bishop or Robin Lehner. Anderson went 33-22-6 last season with a 2.84 GAA and .914 SV % along with three shutouts. With Kuba gone and Gonchar dodgy in his own end, the defense will need big seasons from Phillips, Methot and Cowan. Bishop is expected to be the backup. He appeared in 10 games for Ottawa last season posting a 3-3-2 record with an impressive 2.48 GAA along with a .909 SV %. Lehner will start the year in Binghamton but showed promise in his brief five-game spell in Ottawa last year - 3 wins, two losses, a 2.01 GAA, a .935 SV % and one shutout.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Departures: Luke Schenn, Colby Armstrong
Additions: James van Riemsdyk
Knocking: Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton

Projected Top Three Lines:

Joffrey Lupul - James van Riemsdyk - Phil Kessel
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Clarke MacArthur
Nazem Kadri/Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Tyler Bozak/Matt Frattin

The Leafs bring back most of their top nine forwards from last year but hope to have an upgrade at center in former Flyer James van Riemsdyk. JVR, who played left wing for Philadelphia but center for the University of New Hampshire, will start camp as the center for top scorers Joffrey Lupul (25 goals/67 points in 66 games) and Phil Kessel (37 goals/82 points in 82 games). Toronto's second line has been together for a while now. In fact, they were the Leafs' first line just two seasons ago. All three of them saw a drop in production year over year, especially Nikolai Kulemin, who plummeted to seven goals and 28 points in 70 games from 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games in 2010-11. Grabovski's drop wasn't so severe, going from 29 goals and 58 points in 2010-11, including 15 power-play points, to 23 goals and 51 points in 2011-12, with just 10 PP points. MacArthur dropped from 62 points to 43 points, but remained a 20-goal scorer.

The third line could be an all-center line, as both natural centers Matthew Lombardi and Nazim Kadri can also play left wing and will compete for the third-line left wing spot while Tim Connolly (13 goals/36 points in 70 games) will likely be the actual center on the line. Kadri, Toronto's first-round pick (7th overall) in 2009, spent most of last season in the AHL scoring 40 points in 48 games and scored five goals and seven points in 21 games for the Leafs. The third line right wing will be either another converted center in Tyler Bozek (18 goals/47 points) or intriguing prospect Matt Frattin. Frattin is still recovering from off-season knee surgery and won't be skating until mid September. He scored 14 goals and 18 points in 23 AHL games last year, his first as a pro, as well as eight goals and 15 points in 56 games for the Leafs. Frattin scored 47 goals and 79 points in his last 68 games for the University of North Dakota. Joe Colborne (16 goals/39 points in 65 AHL games last year) will need an injury to crack the top nine but he should get an opportunity at some point this fall.

Last year Dion Phaneuf enjoyed his best season since 2008-09 scoring 44 points in 82 games with 92 PIMs. John-Michael Liles, however, was a disappointment with only 27 points in 66 games and a minus-14 defensive rating. Liles' poor play resulted in him being usurped on the first power-play unit by fellow American Jake Gardiner (30 points in 75 games with a minus-2 rating). Cody Franson (21 points in 57 games) will probably play opposite Liles on the point on the Buds' second PP unit. Carl Gunnarsson had 19 points in 75 games and can also fill in on the second unit when the need arises. Mike Komisarek rounds out the top six while Mark Fraser should serve as the seventh D-man. German native Korbinian Holzer will be the first defenseman called up from their AHL farm team when injuries strike.

James Reimer regressed last season and he's expected to be challenged by prospect Ben Scrivens during training camp. Reimer went from 20-10-5 with a 2.60 GAA and a .921 SV % in 2010-11 to just 14-14-2 with a 3.10 GAA and a .900 SV % last season while Scrivens went 4-5-2 a 3.13 GAA and .903 SV %. Neither will amount to anything more than a No. 3 fantasy goalie in 2012-13.