Fantasy Forecast: Northwest Division Player Predictions
Photo courtesy of "BridgetDS" via Flickr.
By Todd Cordell
1. Dany Heatley will benefit from change of scenery
I really feel Heatley will benefit from moving from the San Jose Sharks to the Wild. He will obviously have less talent to work with, but in Minnesota he will be the ‘go-to-guy’. He’s motivated to prove he can still be that guy and that will help him elevate his game. Look for Heatley to show signs of his old self, and put up 35+ goals again.
2. Guillaume Latendresse will hit the 50 point plateau
Since being traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Wild, Latendresse has been a much different player. He’s been given an opportunity to be a top-six forward, and to this point he has run away with it. With that said, Latendresse had an off year due to the fact that he missed 71 games last season with an injury. If he can stay healthy and play 75+ games this season, I think he will hit the 50 point plateau for the first time in his young career.
1. Ryan Kesler will not score 40+ goals again this year
Ryan Kesler will not score 40 this season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan Kesler, I just don’t think he will score 40 or more goals this season. Opposing teams now know what he is capable of and they will zero in on him more to make sure he doesn’t get the chances he had last season. It’s worth noting that he is coming off hip surgery, so he will likely take some time before returning to his old self. I still think Kesler will have a productive season, but I think expecting another 40+ goal season is unrealistic.
2. Jannik Hansen will have breakout season
Last season Hansen proved that he is capable of producing when given top-six minutes – especially in the playoffs. With Mason Raymond struggling to find his game, Hansen could find himself with a permanent spot in the Vancouver Canucks top-six. If that is the case, that means that he will be playing with one of Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin at all times. Add it all up and you have yourself a 40+ point player.
1. Mikael Backlund will finally breakout, hit 45 points
This is it. This is what Backlund fantasy owners have been waiting for. He will finally have the opportunity and priviledge of centering Jarome Iginla, who proved last year he still has a few good seasons left, and Alex Tanguay night-in night-out. What does this mean for fantasy owners? How about a fair chunk of points. The Flames appear to be serious about letting Backlund take this role and run with it, and I think he will do just that. Despite his career high in points being 25 up to this point, I think he will hit 45 points this season.
2. Lee Stempniak will score 20 goals
I think that Lee Stempniak will score 20 goals for the first time since since the 06/07 season. In Calgary he will have ample opportunity to prove he can produce. He’s motivated to bounce back from an off year last season with the Coyotes, and he is in a contract year. It’s also worth noting that he’ll quite possibly be playing on a line with Matt Stajan, who was roommates with Stempniak back on the Toronto Maple Leafs a few seasons ago. If you’re in a deep fantasy league and you have a chance to pick him up, I’d seriously consider doing so.
1. Matt Duchene will have a huge year
Matt Duchene is heading into his third NHL season, which in the modern day NHL is usually the year that young guns break out. I saw Duchene earlier this summer at a charity game – several other NHLers played as well – and he was outstanding. He appears to be in great shape, and I think he is going to have a massive season. The fact that Peter Mueller will be returning from a concussion will only help his cause. If he stays healthy, I think you can pencil Duchene in for 80-85 points this season.
2. Peter Mueller will hit 60 points
Like with Duchene, I really feel Peter Mueller will have a massive year. Word is that Mueller is 100 percent healthy and ready for the upcoming season. If that’s true, you better look out. After being traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Avalanche, Mueller put up an impressive total of 20 points in just 15 games. I’m not saying you should expect those numberss this year, but if healthy I think you can pencil Mueller in for 60+ points.
1. Sam Gagner will tally 50 points for the first time
I really think that Sam Gagner will take off this season. He’s is now undoubtedly the number one center in Edmonton, which means he will see a ton of ice time. Not only will he see a ton of ice time, but he’ll do so while playing on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. If Gagner can stay healthy, I see no reason why he can’t produce a 50+ point season.
2. Taylor Hall will pot 30 goals
This is by no means a bold prediction, but it’s a prediction. Taylor Hall will be better this year than last. Sam Gagner will be better this year than last, and the same goes for Jordan Eberle. The Oilers number one offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney will surely play more than 35 games this season, which will only help Hall’s cause. Add all these things up, and you have yourself a 30 goal scorer.
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