Here's a quick quote about Dylan Strome's training camp from new head coach Rick Tocchet,
"I don't' want him to come in and think we're going to stick him on the checking line and play three minutes a game," Tocchet said. "If he's going to make our team, we've got to play him and let him be creative with the puck … I want him to be able to hang on the puck and make plays. I don't want him to all of sudden try to be a checker or a guy who just keeps dumping the puck in because he's nervous or whatever. I want him to make plays."
We can now expect to see the rookie centering two scorers throughout training camp, which will give him every opportunity to break camp as a top-two pivot.
Using Strome as an example, one fantasy analysis process I use in all sports when preparing for draft season is the drumbeat analogy. Strome has already discussed and acknowledged his shortcomings during his first training camp, and now Tocchet is laying out a foundation for him to succeed. Those are two nice thumps. Next we're looking for news on his weight gain and reports of a strong camp. If he follows that up with solid preseason play, then the drum beat has been steady leading into the season.
Mitch Marner comes to mind from last season. There were serious doubts that he was going to be able to stick with Toronto, and while Strome's situation isn't identical, there are similarities. Marner's drum never stopped beating, there were consistently solid reports and signs right up until Opening Night.
Of particular note, Derick Brassard might not be ready to begin the year following offseason shoulder surgery. That potentially opens up a center spot for White immediately, and then there is always the possibility he clicks and never looks back. A top-nine role is almost guaranteed at this stage, and moving to the wing to ensure meaningful minutes is also discussed in the linked article.
It's also worth highlighting the praise White receives in both the prospect and draft guides.
A few more deep dives.
Gaborik has played just 110 games and tallied only 22 gaols and 43 points through the past two seasons. The 35-year-old winger has battled injuries throughout his career, and he's now suited up for an average of just 55 contests per season since the lockout-shortened campaign in 2012-13. Counting on him to stay healthy is ill-advised, and he's also well past his offensive prime. However, he's still owns the speed, scoring and playmaking ability and offensive vision to be a streaky scorer. Despite all the red flags, Gaborik can probably still be counted on for a few fleeting stretches of solid fantasy production.
Signing with the Panthers should prove to be an excellent fit for Vrbata. The 36-year-old veteran recorded 20 goals and 55 points in a bounce-back showing with Arizona last season, and he's probably now in an even better fantasy setup with Florida. Vrbata should slot into a top-six role at even-strength and land on the No. 1 power-play unit. His shooting arsenal should also prove to be a welcomed addition to Florida's bevy of playmakers. Still, it's probably a stretch to bank on significant statistical growth from Vrbata in his age-36 campaign. Another run at 25 goals and 55 points is a more realistic projection.
A model of consistency for Chicago and gamers, Crawford has started at least 55 games in each of the past four seasons and posted 32 wins or more each year with an overall .921 save percentage and 2.36 GGA during that stretch. The ratios dropped in 2016-17, though, and the Blackhawks could be icing their worst team in years this fall. Additionally, Crawford cooled down the stretch and into the playoffs last year with a .916 save percentage and 2.60 GAA through his final 26 games. With massive personnel turnover leading into 2017-18, there are a lot of unknowns for the Blackhawks, and this current defensive corps could be the worst Chicago has iced in Crawford's tenure. Barring injury, the fantasy floor is still high, but Crawford could struggle to post another high-end showing.
Giroux failed to score 20 goals and top 65 points for the first time since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign last year, and his 0.94 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five was the second-lowest mark in the league among all forwards with at least 1,000 minutes. His 31 power-play points salvaged his season, but without a significant rebound in even-strength production, the veteran pivot will be hard pressed to return to being a go-to scorer. After all, his goals and points totals have now declined in three consecutive seasons. Still, Giroux registered a career-low 7.0 shooting percentage, and he projects to remain the No. 1 offensive center. Modest statistical correction to his shooting percentage (especially his 5.3 five-on-five shooting percentage), so counting on a bounce-back campaign from the veteran is probably wise.
After turning in a monster cross-category campaign with career-high totals in goals, points and PIM, avoiding statistical decline could be difficult for Kadri. His ability to tilt the scales across so many categories will ensure he's still a strong fantasy asset, as he was one of just six players to notch 25 goals, 40 points, 75 PIM an 150 shots last season. It's still not an ideal fantasy setup with Auston Matthews in line to take on a larger offensive role, and Kadri projecting to match up against the opposition's top players again. As long as expectations are kept in check for his goals and points totals, Kadri will remain a strong fantasy asset in the majority of settings.
Thanks for checking in, Dobberheads.
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