The Dog days are upon us and there is nothing interesting going on in the NHL so here is my breakdown of the 2015-2016 Roster, plus a couple of prospects who have a chance of making the team.
Sedins: The now 35 year olds have prove that their 2013-2014 season was not the start of the downward trend that we tend to see from players in their mid thirties. The Sedins finished top 10 in scoring with 73 and 76 points respectively and were in the small group of 5 or so players who showed up for the playoffs. I would expect the Sedins to get around the high sixties or low seventies in points this upcoming season because they have proved that they can still produce at an elite/very high level and they are still not being affected by the age bug.
My projections 65+ for each
Vrbata: Maybe one of the best UFA signings of the 2014 UFA crop, Vrbata showed that he is well worth the 2 years 10 million dollars that Benning give him last July. At 34 years old and fresh off a 31 goal, 60 point season (quite a few were empty net goals but it is still impressive non the less) I don't see him dropping off at all, infact I think he could improve sightly considering he is going to be playing with either Sutter (who I believe is a much better fit for Vrbata than Bonino was, and Baertschi who is a huge offensive upgrade on Higgins.
Projection 25-32 goals 60-65 points
Sutter: The newly aquired 26 year old is the talk of the town and my opinion could be the biggest surpise on next years team. Sutter is labelled as a defensive forward who some have said has Elite PK ability, But in my opinion his shot could very well fetch him a 25 goal season (providing he gets PP time). Sutter hasn't been given much to work with in Pittsburgh and Carolina, but as consisently put up 35ish points and 20ish goals. Playing with someone like Baertschi or even learning how to Cycle from some of the games best (Sedins) could help him become a Kesler light. Something tells me we see a 20+ goal season from Sutter and MAYBE even 40+ points (dependant on PP time)
Projection 20-25 goals 35-45 points. (2nd PP 2nd line)
Projection 18-22 goals 32-38 points (3rd line some PP time)
Baertschi: The biggest wild card on next year team, Baertschi is a high end offensive player who proved during Utica's Calder Cup run that he is NHL ready. With the lack of high-end offensive talent on the left side Baertschi is excepted by many to be given a legitment shot at the 2 line/2 PP LW spot. The interesting thing about Baertschi is that he has already gotten 30 points in 69 career game and has proved that when given the chance (15+ minutes) he could score at a .6+ PPG rate. So where does he fit? if he plays with Vrbata and Sutter I would think that Baertschi could easily get 25-30 Assist. The only variable in my opinion is how many goals will he score? Baertschi could very well become another Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman 50-60 points, but that is not realistic based on what we know as of now. Trainning camp will go a long ways to determining what he wil/couldl become
Projection (2nd line + 2PP time) 40-45 points
Projection (3rd line + 2PP time ) 30-38 points
Alex Burrows: Coming off a solid, but not spectular 18 goals 33 point season. I would like to see Burrows hit the 20 goal plateau next year. He has mostly been the RW for the Sedins and seems to thrive when he plays on their wing recording less than 45 points once in his career (when he plays a 75+ game season). Burrows could very well reach the 50 points mark next year, but with reduced PP time (Vrbata, Baertschi, Sutter, Horvat will be the 2nd PP forwards) I think 40 points is a more attainable goal.
Projection 20 goals 40 points
Bo Horvat: Coming off a season where he blow the door off everyones expections, Horvat is primed too take on more responsibilty this year. I would excepted Horvat and Sutter to be getting a lot of defensive zone face-offs and limited offensive zone starts, but as he showed last year, Horvat just seems to be that type of player who can thrive in any role he has been given. Looking at some of the opportunities Horvat got last year, I would except him to be getting about 14-16 minutes a night with 2nd PK duties and maybe some 2nd PP time as the season progresses.
Projection 15-20 goals 30-35 Points (3rd line limited PP time)
Projection 15-20 goals 35-45 Point (2nd line 2nd PP time)
Chris "The Lumberjack" Higgins: As even Higgins himself has said, he is much more comfortable playing a 3rd line role and chipping in offensively every now and then, than playing a 2nd line and 2nd PP role. Higgins seems to be a solid bet to get between 35-38 points during a full 82 game season and I believe this will be the case next year because he will on a 3rd line that MAY have as much offensive ability as our 2nd line. (Baertschi may be on our 3rd liner, same with Horvat).
Projection 12-15 goals 34-38 points (3rd line)
Jannik Hansen: Coming off a better than excepted season which saw Hansen score 16 goals and 33 points, I would except to see his goal total drop and maybe even his point total drop. 16 goals ties his career high and he is more likely to score between 10-12 than 12-16. Hansen is still a dependable PKer and will get PK time next season
Projection: 10-12 goals 25-28 points (3rd line/4th line)
Derek Dorsett: Having the third most penatly minutes in the NHL last year Dorsett still found a way to put up 7 goals and 25 points last year. I would expect to see his offensive number take a bit of a hit next year, 20ish points but am sure he will be just as effective physically as he was last year.
Projection: 5-7 goals 20 points (4th line)
Brendan Prust: Coming over from the less physically Eastern Conference and into the highly physical Western conference may benefit a player like Prust who is known to stick up for his teammates, play the PK and has the ability to step up his game in the playoffs. I would assume he will thrive physically in the Western Conference and will become a Dorsett 2.0 for this team
Projection: 5 goals 15 points (4th line some PK time)
Linden Vey: The Canucks whipping boy from last year, Vey is apparently putting in the time this offseason to get stronger and in better physical condition. Being gifted an offensive role last year after a hot start, Vey went into a long drought which saw him become the 13th forward during the Calgary Series. His 26 points as a rookie, which is OK but with the opportunities he was given and his lack of defensive ability his season was overwhelming to say the least. Vey did show marginal improvement in his defensive ability near the end of the season which gives me hope that he could turn into a 2/3 tweener one day. That being said I see his future as a RW NOT a C, In my opinion the only way he becomes a centre is if he is dealt to the Eastern Conference.
Projection 12-15 goals 30 Points (4th line center)
Projection 15-18 goals 35 points (3rd line winger with some PP time)
Ronald Kenins: After a really fast start to his NHL career, we saw the real Kenins in the last 15 or so games. Kenins is a 3rd/4th liner that is in a similar build as a Prust and Dorsett. Although I think he could have a bit more offensive ability than either Prust or Dorsett, but I highly doubt he reaches 35+ points in his Career.
8-12 goals 25-28 Points (4th line winger)
Alex Grenier: 6'5 Wingers are always intriguing to teams, combine that with his skating ability and we may have ourselves a solid 3rd line RW in the making with Grenier. Grenier was considered one of the most improved player this year in Utica this season and finally started to show the consistence needed to become an regular NHLer.
Jake Virtanen: Everything Benning and Linden has said and done this offseason has pointed to Virtanen getting a long look for this up coming season. Some have stated that he is not ready and needs another year in Utica (people still don't get he can't go to Utica next year), but when you looked at how he played in Utica, it is obvious that he has physically outgrown the Junior game and will need to learn against man in order to show the greatest improvement. When he played in Utica it was obvious that he has the ability to impact a game without getting on the scoresheet and that he was working hard on improving his defensive and cycle game. But the one thing I noticed in both his highlight package and during his time in Utica is that he isn't being used effectively. Coming out of the draft Virtanen was billed as one of the most profilic goal scorers in the draft, but through multiple viewing it seem that he is often used as the high forward and down in the corner, this is not what he was known for. IMO he should have been planted inbetween the face-off dot where he could use his shot more often and the way the Hitmen made him the first guy back really didn't help his offensive game grow at all. He was also used as a defenceman on the PP which again may have helped his defensive game but that is not how you effectively use a Powerforward/Sniper.