Monday, September 27, 2010

50MC's 2010-2011 Fantastic Fantasy Forecast: Jakub Voracek

50MC's Fantastic Fantasy Forecast is a series of articles based on the season outlook of carefully handpicked NHL hockey players. To view a complete listing of 2010 forecasts, click here. For last season's "fearless" archive, click here.

Jakub Voracek is a stud. Not only did he help me win the first ever DobberHockey World Junior Championship pool in 2008; he has good speed, great skill and a gigantic set of curly blonde locks. Most importantly, he is entering his third full season in the NHL and if not poised for a breakout season, an improvement of his 50 point season is inevitable.

Last season, Voracek had a very good sophomore season scoring 16 goals and 50 points, which was an improvement of 38 points from the season prior. Although there were a few inconsistent points during the season, there was no major sophomore slump, which is impressive for any 21 year old player coming into the league. His most impressive period of the season was right after the Olympic break, where he scored 15 point in 13 games, showcasing what he is capable of.

His 50 point campaign was mainly completed playing tertiary minutes. He played most of the season with Derrick Brassard and RJ Umberger on Columbus' second line. Although there are early training camp reports that he is clicking well on the first line with Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette on the top line, he is likely to start the season on that same line with Brassard as his center. Brassard had a disappointing 36 points last season, but is still capable of distributing the puck and keeping up with Voracek's skillset.

What is more exciting for the Blue Jackets and fantasy owners is that on the other wing on the second line should be Nikita Filatov. It sounds like the 2008 1st round pick is finally ready to make the leap to the NHL and if so, it could mean a major boost for scoring depth in Columbus. No offense to RJ Umberger, but Filatov is more of a goal scorer and a dynamic skater who would compliment Voracek better.

There is no doubt that Voracek will see time with Rick Nash during point of the season. This fact alone boosts his point total by a few, and if he sticks on his line, then the sky is the limit for him. But for now, I will project him as a second line winger with occasional time on the top line.

Another factor that is surely to boost Voracek's and the rest of the Blue Jackets' numbers is a coaching change. For years, fantasy fanatics were in a rage at the defensive style of Ken Hitchcock. Well, Hitchcock is out and Scott Arniel is in. Arniel's first order of business is to open up the ice and let his skilled players go to work. This is not just music to fantasy owners' ears, it's like if ears can eat, they would be shoving cake in there. The Jackets have a solid set of 6 top forwards with a tremendous amount of skill, who have been somewhat hampered over the years by Hitchcock's defense-first style. With Hitchcock as a "special advisor" to the team, there will still be some defensive mindedness, but with Arniel at the helm, offensive push will become more of a priority.

Okay, so let's review: Great hair, unreal skill, top 6 forward on a team that includes Rick Nash that will focus more on offense. Taking all this into consideration, 50MC Fantastically Forecasts 23 goals, 36 assists for 59 points in another season of improvement for Voracek. The 60-point plateau is definitely attainable for Voracek, but do not draft him banking on it. His has an upside of 75+ points, but he is still young, learning a new system and still battling some depth issues on a talented team. The Hockey News believes Voracek will finish with 66 points this season, while Forecaster is on board with 69. I think that is a tad high, considering that he may not get topline minutes and Rick Nash led the team in scoring last season with 67 points.

Hope this helps.

Anyways, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more as the season is just around the corner. With the rest of the forecasts, click here for the archive.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

50MC's 2010-2011 Fantastic Fantasy Forecast: Nikolai Zherdev

When I Google searched "Zherdev+enigma" I conveniently received 15,900 results, which included a video.

The problem with Zherdev is that as many as there is positives to his game, there are as many negatives. He has great hands, but he is a lazy defender. No questioning his skill, but there are no answers for his attitude. He has decent facial features, but his haircut remains an issue. I can go on and on.

To his defense, he has not had a terrible NHL career. He has averaged 59.5 points in his last two full seasons with the Blue Jackets and Rangers. But with his talent, hockey scouts and fantasy owners know he is capable of so much more. He spent last season overseas playing for Mytishchi Atlant of the KHL, where he scored 39 points (in 59 games), which was good (or bad) for third on his team - four points behind Jan Bulis (JAN BULIS!?!?!? Jan Bulis outpointed YOU??).

On July 9th 2010, Zherdev signed a 1 year, $2 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, marking a return to the NHL. It is a fair price to pay for a highly skilled player with flaws. It seems to be a monetary risk for the Flyers to take on Zherdev. He is a nice piece to have for scoring depth, but the Flyers are not relying on him to lead the team in scoring, as they already have Richards, Carter, Briere, Giroux, Leino, Hartnell and van Riemsdyk for that. The Flyers' scoring depth also makes it easy for them to scratch Zherdev or send him to the 4th line if there are any attitude issues.

As the Flyers do not rely on him to be any sort of scoring leader- neither should you. At your draft, you should keep Zherdev as a 45 point player for this season with a ceiling of 70 points. Which means if he falters early, he can be easily replaced with someone from the waiver wire; but if he excels, he can be a difference maker for you in the standings. This is exactly how the Flyers look at him, and this is how you should as well.

In terms of linemates in Philly, does it matter? No matter where he plays, he is most likely going to be on a scoring line. Early indications have him on the top line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. This makes the most sense because both Carter and Richards can make for whatever Zherdev lacks in the defensive zone. Richards and Carter also provide enough skill to keep up with Zherdev's.

I believe Coach Peter Laviolette will keep Daniel Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino because they clicked so well together in the playoffs. This leaves a third line of Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Dan Carcillo. I imagine line combinations will be moved around throughout the season, but as you can see, there will be more than enough scoring capability on every line for Zherdev to reap the rewards.

For the 2010-2011 season, 50MC fantastically fearlessly forecasts 25 goals, 27 assists for 52 points in 82 games for Nikolai Zherdev who will earn himself another contract in the NHL next season. (McKeen's pegs him for 42 points).

The Flyers have given Zherdev and opportunity to redeem himself in North America. He has a chip on his shoulder and finds himself on a team of winners. For the first time in his career, he is playing on a Stanley Cup contender and has NHL veteran leaders around him to tell him to get a grip, when he gets out of line.

2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast Review

Hey guys. Remember me? The leaves are starting to turn, which means hockey is back and surely I too have to make a return to the blogosphere. Last season was the first ever season of 50MC's Fearless Fantasy Forecast. I hope it helped some of you out with your pools because it didn't do me much good (finished in 9th place, but earned me 3rd pick in this years keeper league re-draft, which allowed me to get Jonathan Toews).

Before I get started with this year's predictions, let's break down last year's forecasts.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 23/39/62

2009-2010 Season - 16/31/47

My very first forecast centered around one of the most talked about fantasy players around. Most experts (THN, Dobber, McKeens) were convinced that Giroux was poised for a breakout season after a very good 2009 playoffs. I drank the kool-aid. I (we) were way off. There is no doubting Giroux's talent, but the depth of the Flyers' offense, was/is the main conflict with fantasy owners. He had another very good playoffs last year (21 points in 23 games), and is surely to improve on a somewhat disappointing 47 point campaign.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 31/39/70

2009-2010 Season - 20/26/47

Wow. My deepest apologies for this one. Not only did he finish under 50 points, he only had 69 PIM's. There was only one consistent line in Dallas last season and Morrow wasn't on it. James Neal and Loui Eriksson have taken over as top-line wingers alongside Brad Richards in Big D.

Sorry again.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 21/43/64

2009-2010 Season - 10/27/37

I would say sorry for this one again, but I think Tanguay is more to blame than me. I thought 64 would be a moderate forecast for Tanguay. He was surrounded with talent in Tampa, and was an utter incredible disappointment. Not too sure what to expect from Tanguay in Calgary, but he seems enthused.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 35/40/75

2009-2010 Season - 44/39/83

In my defense, this forecast was made pre-Heatley trade. Obviously, if I had a shot at it again, I would put him over 80 points. Whether he is playing with Thornton or Pavelski, expect the same out of Marleau this season.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 21/50/71

2009-2010 Season - 12/47/59

I guess I was only 11 points off. He only scored 12 goals, but only took 180 SOG. Perhaps the Markov injury took away a few points from Gomez.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 13/33/46

2009-2010 Season - 17/35/52

Oh yeah. Not exactly bang on, but close enough. The point of this forecast was not to emphasize numbers, but to emphasize that he would not have a season like he did in 2008-2009 when he tallied 73 points. Expect around 50-60 points this season.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 25/48/73 in 76 games

2009-2010 Season - 7/15/22 in 22 games

Obviously this prediction is a little flawed because of Hemsky's injury, but I think my forecast was reasonable. I called for an average of 0.328 goals per game, while his season average in 22 games was 0.318. Hemsky is one of my fav's and I am pulling for him to play 80 games this season.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 22/36/58

2009-2010 Season - 18/30/48

Not too far off. As expected from a young player, he started off slow, but picked it up in the second half. I was also drunk from the St. Louis Blues' kool-aid last year, which influenced me in boosting Oshie's numbers. A 58 point campaign would not be far off this season.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 17/39/58

2009-2010 Season - 11/24/35

Ouch. Obviously I thought Filppula was a shoe-in to improve on his numbers from the season prior. With Jiri Hudler AND Johan Franzen gone, Filppula did not step up offensively. Maybe with them back this season, he will have some scorers to play with. I wouldn't reach for Filppula this season, but I would for Hudler.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 25/49/74 in 82 games (0.91 PPG)

2009-2010 Season - 22/49/71 in 80 games (0.89 PPG)

Bang on!! Put another notch on the bedpost for 50MC. Who knows, if Koivu played those extra 2 games, he may have scored 3 points. This season, I would temper expectations keeping in mind that he had shoulder surgery on BOTH of his wings this off-season.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 52/39/91

2009-2010 Season - 39/43/82

A little of the disappointment of a season, especially in the goal scoring department; but can you really complain about a point per game?


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 20/35/55

2009-2010 Season - 20/24/44

At least I was bang on with goals. Assists are subjective anyways (kidding!). He did not click as well with Marian Gaborik as I thought he would. Can Derek Stepan be Gaborik's guy this year? A lot think he is. One thing is for sure - I will definitely be forecasting him this year.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 25/39/64

2009-2010 Season - 24/30/54

Again, not too far off. Obviously, I thought he would get a few more assists, but I guess there is nobody to pass to on the Island. I would expect 60+ points this season, as he gains more chemistry with Kyle Okposo.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 24/25/49

2009-2010 Season - 2/0/2 in 13 games

So there wasn't a positive thing that can be said about this prediction. Even with Filatov back in North America this season, 49 points seems high - even with the positive reports out of training camp. I would peg him for about 35 points, if he plays regularly with the BJ's.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 20/28/48

2009-2010 Season - 0/0/0 in 6 games

Ouch. He would have been a late round flier anyways, so he should not have broken your team, but still. Ouch. This was under the assumption that he would play wit the Sedins. Obviously he did not hack it with the big boys, but early reports out of Canucks' camp is that he is getting another shot this year. I'll keep you posted.


Fearless Fantasy Forecast - 23/42/65

2009-2010 Season - 24/43/67

Good way to end of the 2009-2010 review. Almost bang on. If someone was to argue my prediction, they would bring up Antro's 67 points was done in only 76 games. But if you drafted him with my analysis, you would have been rewarded anyway.

So I didn't do quite badly. There were a few bad ones, but not bad for my first attempt. I think the analysis of each player is more valuable than the actual numbers anyways. The analysis provides you with something concrete to think about and used to justify your pick. I hope I didn't hurt too many of your teams and I look forward to helping you out this season with more forecasts.

Now that the preseason has started, I will try and bang out a forecast everyday until the season starts. This year, I will try and focus on players with some BUZZ (i.e. Derek Stepan) so I will read the forums to see who everyone is talking about, but in the meantime, post some players in the comments you want me to analyze and I will do my best to fantastically forecast them.