After the season from hell in 2015-16, the Columbus Blue Jackets took the NHL by storm to begin last season and never looked back. Their goalie won the Vezina Trophy, their rookie defenseman was a Calder finalist and a bunch of their forwards broke through in a big way. Now, they have some more young forwards on the way and made another blockbuster trade bringing in Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad. Let’s take a look at what Torts is working with:
Elite Talent – Panarin proved in his second season that his rookie year wasn’t a fluke scoring 74 points (31+43) with a +18 rating. However, the penalty minutes were low, his shots were average and his STP were below average for an elite talent. So why am I optimistic despite Panarin leaving Chicago for Columbus? He should become the focal point of their power play. That should, at the least, cancel out with the downside of being off Chicago’s first line. I put Panarin at 28th overall in my Top 50 and while he has more downside than others in his tier because of the lack of PIM, his upside makes him a viable 3rd round pick.
I’m intrigued by the thought of Cam Atkinson getting to play with Panarin. Atkinson took the jump from solid top six player to elite fantasy player scoring 35 goals and 27 assists last season. He was also +13 and averaged almost three shots per game. While I don’t expect a repeat of 35 goals, 30 goals with elite shots and potentially a career high in assists wouldn’t surprise me. He came in at 45th in my rankings and should remain a solid target towards the end of round 4.
Must Draft – I really liked Alexander Wennberg going into last season and he somewhat delivered. Wennberg had 13+46, including 23 PPP, which exceeded my expectations. The problem is that he averaged under 1.5 shots per game and the penalty minutes aren’t there. He’s a player type that I don’t really like but if he plays with Panarin and Atkinson, Wennberg could definitely crack 50 assists. If you need assists in the middle to late rounds and can stomach low shots, Wennberg should be your target, even over the usual assist only suspects like Henrik Sedin.
Nick Foligno settled in right between his outstanding 2014-15 and horrific 2015-16 scoring 26 goals and 25 assists last season. That came with 55 PIM and solid power play points which is enough to make him a hold. I can definitely see scenarios where Foligno gets dropped in standard 12’ers but for now, draft him as a bottom-end player who hits all of the categories at an average or better rate.
Streamers With Upside – One of the biggest disappointments last season was Boone Jenner. Despite Columbus bouncing back, Jenner fell off from his 30 goal, 77 PIM season to 18 goals and 52 PIM. I don’t mind taking a flier on him at the end of drafts hoping he gets back to form. At the least, keep him on your streaming radar.
I’ve been a huge fan of Oliver Bjorkstrand going back to his time in Portland in the WHL. He finally received extended action last season scoring 6 goals and 7 assists in 26 games. That was all at even strength which is a very good rate. Over 82 games, that would be 19+22 at even strength. Therefore, if he receives power play time, Bjorkstrand could be a 60 point player. I’m a big fan in dynasties and think he can make an impact in redrafts as soon as this season.
If Torts decides to balance out his lines, then Josh Anderson could do some damage. Anderson scored 17 goals last season and like Bjorkstrand, it was all at even strength playing only 12 minutes a game. Now he should get second PP time, should see more total ice time, and he also had 89 PIM last season. I’m a huge fan of Anderson in deep leagues and could turn into a guy I take late in 12’ers once I see his role in preseason. Even without much change, Anderson could be a 20 goal, 100 PIM guy which is a great streamer. The only hesitation I have is his shot rate.
We Know Who You Are – Like the previous five words say, we know who Brandon Dubinsky is. If you need penalty minutes at the end of the week with decent points, Dubi is a solid option.
Must Draft – Zach Werenski‘s rookie season went better than expected scoring 47 points as a 19 year old. The shot rate was above average for a defenseman and the +17 is extremely rare for a player his age. Sure, the PIM weren’t great, but there’s plenty of room for improvement just from his age curve. Draft Werenski as a #2 in redrafts.
From a fantasy perspective, Werenski’s partner Seth Jones is very similar. Jones set career highs with 12 goals and 30 assists with good shots and poor penalty minutes. The difference is that Werenski has additional power play upside. Jones should be owned as a #4 but don’t expect much from him.
GOALIES – After being a dumpster fire in 2015-16, Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy for the second time in his career. Bob posted a 2.06 GAA and absurd .931 save percentage. Bob is in my second tier of goalies that I would consider around the 2nd and 3rd round turn. The only reason I have him as my #4 goalie instead of 2 at the front of his tier is that we’ve seen the downside Bob possesses. I think he’s closer to last season’s goalie instead of 2015-16 but that risk is there.
Joonas Korpisalo will be the backup for Bob this season. Unlike his teammate, Korpisalo was much better in 2015-16 than last season. Korpisalo had a 2.88/.905 line last season which is completely unplayable. That said, the season before he was at 2.60/.920 in 31 games. I’m going to give him a couple starts at the beginning of the season before I stream him but I could see Korpisalo becoming a must-stream when he plays.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
While Atkinson takes a step back, a ton of Blue Jackets get a boost. Dubinsky moves to a must-own since he’s a major plus in all three categories, Jenner is a clear hold, Foligno moves up into the middle rounds and Anderson becomes an even better streamer. David Savard should be drafted in these formats in 12’ers.
Werenski becomes a #1 defenseman while Jones moves up to a solid #3. I’m all in on Bjorkstrand in dynasties despite the poor PIM. I’m more likely to draft Jenner since he’s still only 24. Again, Anderson becomes a great option for penalty minutes and goals. Man, I’m going to own Anderson in a ton of places, heh.
Blue Chip – Pierre-Luc Dubois has the upside to be an elite fantasy asset. After being the 3rd round pick, Dubois spent time injured last season but scored 55 points in 48 games with 78 PIM. Dubois has the chance to be a two-way power forward who has elite skating. It’s no guarantee but Dubois’ upside is arguably the highest of anybody not in the NHL. I wouldn’t be shocked if Dubois made their team opening night and if he does, he should be drafted everywhere in case he pans out. Otherwise, he’ll go back to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL and almost certainly tear the league to pieces, metaphorically of course. In dynasties, I’m all in on Dubois.
I already covered Bjorkstrand above but he technically still counts as a prospect.
High Upside – Vitaly Abramov was a monster for Gatineau last season scoring 46 goals and 58 assists with 76 PIM. The 19 year old is only 5’9 but his offensive potential is quite high. I’m also more intrigued by Abramov since he was willing to come over and play juniors in the USA before being drafted. The third round pick has a chance to be a big time scorer in the long run but there’s also a decent chance he never pans out into anything more than a replacement level forward.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow looking at the revamped New York Rangers. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!