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Neutral Zone Wrap: Going Negative

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he’s not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evan’s work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).

The NHL, the NHLPA, and you. Sounds like a match made in marketing heaven. But with all the rhetoric and nonsense happening between the two bargaining parties, the fans feel helpless. You know the outlook appears muddled when neither side can consistently arrange a time or place to meet and negotiate, and then when they do get together, it's obviously forced. How much more do we have to endure before we ultimately give up and jump ship to another sport? Ever wanted to learn how cricket matches are scored or the finer points of competitive darts? Pull up a chair and let me tell you about...on second thought, never mind.

I know I said we shouldn't deal in negatives because the entire situation surrounding the lockout has been operating with the same mood. Well, to heck with that. This column needs filler and, to be honest, there's not a lot remaining to discuss fantasy-wise when there is a lack of product on the ice. So, to contrast last week's list of rookies set to make the jump, here are a few who look as if they will endure the dreaded sophomore jinx. Maybe they weren't the greatest in Year One but the stats placed them somewhere in the top half:

(DISCLAIMER: As the following information may be totally wrong, please use it wisely. Try to temper your expectations on these predictions. And don't go making any stupid bets you know you'll regret down the road.)

Colin Greening, F, Ottawa

The Cornell product proved he was worth the wait after having been selected in 2005 at the #204 spot. After shining during an abbreviated debut (13 in 24), Greening continued his run (17 goals, 20 assists) and became only one of three Senators to appear in all 89 games (including playoffs). But as the campaign progressed, his participation – including power-play minutes – decreased to normal first-year levels. Unfortunately for Greening, too many other forwards sit ahead of him on the Ottawa depth chart.

Cody Hodgson, F, Buffalo

Injuries and inactivity killed his career in Vancouver, but some of the damage was salvaged by surviving a full schedule. And even though Hodgson executed rather well out West (33 in 63, including 10 PPPs), he was traded to Buffalo for what could be perceived as a ‘tougher' commodity (i.e. Zack Kassian). His brief resume in Sabreland is not spectacular (eight in 20) but the chances will come. The downside comes from a lack of durability, which could easily knock Hodgson off the radar and into the press box.

Dwight King, F, Los Angeles

King is another late draftee (4th round in 2007) who paid his dues in lower leagues before earning the grand opportunity. Not exactly memorable after his February call-up (although 14 in 27 looks good on paper), most will recall King during LA's Cup demolition, mucking it up and contributing (eight in 20) from the third and fourth lines. And that last part is where his problem lies: with the current Kings lineup, he just won't be receiving the prime minutes necessary to improve.

Matt Read, F, Philadelphia

You may be excused for being unaware as to Read's existence before last season, what with him being undrafted and just signing a pro contract months earlier. But the kid stormed into Philly and worked his way deep into the lineup, finishing fourth in freshman figures (at 47 points, including 14 on special teams). While you gotta admire Read's effort, you can't expect him to duplicate these numbers especially with other youngsters (like Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier) in the mix.

Craig Smith, F, Nashville

After setting the fantasy world on fire out of the gate (14 in 15), the former fourth-round pick cooled off considerably (five in his last 22) and only suited up for two postseason contests. He's only 23 and has already dealt with being benched, so you hope he's learned his lesson. But with Nashville stacked down the middle, Smith might get better odds finding ice time in a local supermarket freezer section.


Guess what? We're back to soliciting reader suggestions for future topics. Based on what the Wrap has covered so far, find one good idea* and post it in the comments section. In other words, do my work. But, you know, without all the extra words and such.

*Nothing lockout-related and no Top-xx lists. And for sanity's sake, please don't bring up any subject that concerns government, religion, weather, or cooking. Well, OK, mention the latter only if you have a really good nacho or paella recipe.