After a surprising run to the playoffs in 2014-15 that included a playoff series win (thanks to the horrible playoff system the NHL has), the Calgary Flames quickly regressed last season finishing completely out of the playoff picture. So which team are they? While two seasons ago was a clear fluke, I think this team is much closer to that team now, with two years of growth for their young core. They finally have a goaltender that they should be able to count on as well. They don’t have a lot of players that should be drafted in 12’ers but they’re all studs or carry plenty of upside. Let’s take a look!

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Yikes. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of the Vancouver Canucks. After years of making the playoffs and being one game away from a Stanley Cup, the Canucks are starting a rebuild. Granted, they still have a very good first line but otherwise the roster is full of young guys and players who aren’t fantasy relevant. My early pick to finish last in the NHL, there are no teams in the league with fewer fantasy assets than the Canucks. That said, there are still some guys worthy of being drafted in standard leagues so let’s take a look at what they’re working with:

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It took the Oilers getting incredibly lucky to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes to give the franchise a sign of life for the first time in at least half a decade. While their 2015-16 was a failure, the young studs all looked great, especially McDavid who had over a point per game in his 45 games. Then in a draft with three studs, they ended up getting one of the three picking fourth (well done Columbus). I don’t want to say they erased it all with one move because McDavid is well on his way to being the best player in the league but then Peter Chiarelli traded Taylor Hall, an elite left winger, for a second pair defenseman. At least the defense will be better! After McDavid, there are a few fantasy assets and a lot of question marks; let’s take a look!

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The Dallas Stars surprised a lot of people last season winning the Central Division with 109 points. They made it to the second round of the playoffs losing in 7 to the Blues without superstar Tyler Seguin. Now, there’s hope that last season was just the beginning. While the forwards remain loaded, there are additional question marks on defense now and they still have the goaltending duo that led to their demise. Let’s take a look at what they’re working with:

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After years of playoff struggles, the St. Louis Blues finally made a deep run into the playoffs in 2015-16, losing to the San Jose Sharks in the Conference Finals. This offseason, they lost their captain in free agency and traded one of their goaltenders while making only one minor signing. Health and true breakouts for the young cores will largely determine their fate this season. Let’s take a look at the Blues roster along with their top prospects:

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Eichel v Matthews.

Matthews v Eichel.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why the hell is this even an article? And is this going to be a Zack Snyder movie coming to theaters in 2017?”

The answer is pretty simple. I’m a sucker for blistering hot takes. The bravado that goes into them just revs my engines. And no, this won’t be a movie coming out next year.

So what hot take am I referring to? Well it came from an anonymous Canadian team scout in a National Post article earlier this year:

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For the first time since 2007-08, the Chicago Blackhawks were quite mediocre. Yes, they finished with 103 points but they had a negative goal differential at even strength. That’s simply not going to get it done and at this point, the Blackhawks are out of the first tier of teams in the NHL. It sounds crazy to say with the stars they have but man, the roster is incredibly thin after the top few guys. For fantasy, there’s not much in terms of value plays but if you’re willing to spend a high pick, you’ll have your choice of some studs. Let’s take a look at what Chicago is working with:

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Last season, the Nashville Predators won a playoff series for the first time since 2012 beating the division champion Ducks before losing to the Sharks in 7 games. The first blockbuster trade for Ryan Johansen gave the Preds a bonafide #1 center while still maintaining a strong defensive core. Then in the offseason, David Piole pulled off one of the most lopsided trades ever acquiring P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Now, the Predators are absolutely loaded and if Pekka Rinne has one of his good years, they’re among the favorites to win the Cup. Let’s take a look at what Peter Laviolette has to work with:

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The Minnesota Wild are one of the most interesting teams to watch this coming season. They have a strong older core that is supplemented by an up and coming young group ready to make a consistent impact. Their defense is among the best in the league and they have a goaltender who has settled in as a true #1 goalie since his arrival. Add in the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, one of the best coaches in the league, and you have a team that could surprise in the best division in hockey (and it’s not even close). Let’s take a look at what the Wild are working with from top to bottom:

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As far as top heavy teams go, the Colorado Avalanche may be at the top of the pack. They have their three young studs at forward leading the way offensively but then a bunch of question marks behind them. Same goes with the defense where they have a few strong players, some aging guys and more question marks. As I’ve talked about in this space multiple times, Patrick Roy was clueless behind the bench and he abruptly quit his job in the summer. He’s been replaced by Jared Bednar who won the AHL championship with the Lake Erie Monsters (Columbus affiliate) last season. Bednar rose through the ranks and was a winning coach every season in the AHL and ECHL making me think the Avs made a fairly big coaching upgrade. The help of a system can only help the players so let’s take a look at the players Bednar are working with:

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