In today’s NHL, every team’s blueprint for success includes a puck-moving defenseman. It’s no different in fantasy hockey. A mobile, offensive defenseman can add a whole new dimension to your team, bringing offense from a traditionally unexpected source.
You will find a noticeable lack of young defensemen among my top 20. Defensemen usually take more time to develop, and the present guard is lasting longer than ever (see Bourque, Ray) and contributing regularly in the offensive zone. The only rookie to make the list is Columbus wonder kid Rusty Klesla, and he’s pretty far down the list. Most players who are top offensive defensemen have honed their craft for several seasons.
Since there are so many defensemen available, I expanded my list to include the top 40. Enjoy.
1. Niklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Bar none, the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen. He’s the cog that gets the Wings’ transition game going, and with Scotty Bowman planning to adopt the attacking Torpedo style offensive scheme, his point totals could increase. As if he needs any more motivation, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this year.
2. Chris Pronger, St.Louis
His points per game have risen every year. An absolute workhorse who will log a ton of ice time again this season. Amazingly enough, he’s still one of the more underrated offensive defensemen in the game. The addition of Doug Weight, and Tkachuk’s PP ability will improve Prongers numbers even more. If he stays free of injury, he could lead all defensemen in scor Read more »
The Blackhawks met the Dallas Stars in Monday -Tuesday exhibition games and the fans were treated with some prospect views but little in immediate help. The first game gave first glimpses at the progress of Mark Bell, Mike Souza, and new pros Kent Huskins and Mike Leighton, and amateur Igor Radulov.
Of this group, the guy closest to making the roster is Mark Bell. Mark Bell will be an NHLer player – that seems decided. On Monday night he showed improved speed, positioning and continued aggressive play. He scored after carrying in down the left wing in traffic and scored on a sharp angle almost over the goal line with and hard snap shot.
Prior to this season, Bell seemed a step behind the action and tentative. Tonight he showed controlled aggression, and he came to play. Bell was still at Left wing. He looked disciplined on the wing and made few errors in coverage and on offense.
Mike Souza reminded me of the Mark Bell of a year ago. Souza played well on a 3rd line and played well along the wall displaying good balance and physical board work. He gets were he is going, but just didn’t display quick feet. He just seemed behind the speed of the game in many instances. It moved at bit faster than he anticipated.
Kent Huskins had trouble with the strength of the attacking forwards. He also was unable to compensate for the speed the pro game is played. He can the puck better than he showed. Often, in his effort to speed it up. he was inaccurate. He has good size, used it on occasion, but wasn’t able to handle the stronger NHLers.
Mike Leighton came in and Read more »
From the aftermath of a tumultuous season has emerged a leader in one of the most unlikely of candidates: Sheldon Keefe.
Resigned to the Lightning’s B Camp, filled with mostly young prospects, Keefe is taking his experience from last season and putting it to good use. “There are a lot of young guys. Not many have been through what I have,” Keefe said when asked of his leadership role. Then again, few players in the entire league have had to deal with the issues or make the decisions that Keefe has faced throughout his career. Nonetheless, Keefe is still working hard and returning to the leadership role, which he played through his junior career, especially while in Barrie. Keefe, who has more NHL experience than the entire B Camp combined, says he tries to lead by example.
“I talk to them a lot on the ice, try to keep them relaxed,” said Keefe, who has been noticeably vocal on the ice during camp. He has taken a special liking to Russian Evgeni Artukhin, who speaks little English. Keefe has shown a great deal of patience in working with Artukhin and helping him to understand the drills and exercises.
Some could view Keefe’s being assigned to Springfield as a demotion. And in a sense it is, though it does have its perks…like seeing him go head-to-head with former teammate and close friend Mike Jefferson. Keefe and Jefferson were the driving force behind the Barrie Colts’ Memorial Cup run two seasons back.
“Mike has a good chance of making the team in New Jersey,” Keefe explained. Should he not, he will be assigned to the Alban Read more »
On Tuesday, September, 11th, the puck dropped in 7 Czech arenas to start the regular season
of the Extraleague. Every team faces a 52-game schedule with the playoffs following. The
Extraleague consists of 14 teams and the teams fight for 8 playoff spots. The team which
finishes at the last place has to face the winner of the Div I league in the relegation
series. This year the teams face a more grueling schedule than in the other years. That’s due
to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. This year the teams have to play on Tuesdays, Fridays
and Sundays compared to the Friday-Sunday schedule used in the previous non-olympic years.
Pardubice and Ceske Budejovice have to start the season in other arenas than their home
buildings because their home arenas are rebuilded. Like every year, lots of stars including
Robert Reichel (Toronto) or Jiri Dopita (Philadelphia) left for the NHL, other European
leagues or lower North American leagues. The biggest addition should be Michal Sykora,
released by the Philadelphia Flyers, who boosts the Pardubice roster, but lots of promising
young players fight for the free spots and hope that they can impress enough to catch the
eye of NHL scouts as late-bloomers, like Karel Pilar, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s
have a look at the chances of every team!
The mighty Vsetin team (won seven of the last eight Extraleague seasons) faced serious trouble
during the offseason, it wasn’t even sure that Vsetin will play in the Extraleague, but they
soluted the problems in time. However, there is almos Read more »
The London Knights are currently in their second year of management by the Hunter family and the last year playing at the IceHouse. A number of excellent players have donned the Knights uniform in the old barn, and we may be seeing the best of the bunch this year in Rick Nash. Pretty strong statement considering Jason Allison and Brendan Shanahan among others are alumni.
Nash stands six foot four inches and weighs in at 180 pounds. He shoots left and plays left wing. He is a probable top 5 pick for the 2002 entry draft and will challenge for the top spot. He will face great scrutiny this year, as numerous scouts pick apart his game, looking for flaws real and imagined, comparing him to the other elite players around the globe. Toss in going to school, dealing with teen age problems, and oh yeah, being the go to guy on an OHL team for the second year in a row and there will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
Nash has a number of things going for him, and lets start with his size. He is already a big man and one can imagine what he may look like in a few years when he is done filling out. But the amazing part is that he is totally comfortable with his body and shows no signs of the awkwardness that other teenagers do when they have grown rapidly. He is a magician with the puck and uses his long reach to his total advantage. He can stickhandle laterally with ease, and loves to pull the puck back to his body, leaving opponents lunging futilely in search of the puck. With his size he can turn a corner and shield the puck with one arm off his stick Read more »
Just ask Henrik Bergfors, or anyone else in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s B Camp, for that matter. Nearly all of them have felt the effects of Aaron Lobb’s wrath.
It’s funny: The guy who was highly criticized for his lack of physical play at draft time is by far the most aggressive player in the Lightning’s B Camp. That knock—lack of physical play—was probably a considerable factor in his dropping to the forth round in the draft, though his consistency was also questioned. Whatever the reason, this kid appears to be the complete package, and he was a steal in the late fourth round.
Lobb opened camp with a bang, getting into a scrum with Swedish defenseman Bergfors just minutes into the first scrimmage. Though no punches were thrown before Lobb lost his balance and pulled Berfgors to the ice with him, it showed Lobb’s willingness and ability to handle the rougher side of the game.
Since then, he has thrown his body around at every opportunity—which at 6’4”, 198 is a lot of body to throw around. But, as Lobb says, “It’s just a part of the game.” When a ruckus arises, Lobb is one of the first ones on the scene. “I try to play the power forward role. By being that type of player, it comes with it.”
There is more to Lobb than his punishing hits. He has also impressed with his offensive skills and tremendous attitude, and he has been working hard while in Tampa Bay.
“We have really hard workouts, but the harder it is, the better it is,” he says. Hard does not even begin to describe the regimen that Brad Shaw, who will se Read more »
The New York Rangers assigned 37 players to Hartford of the AHL on Saturday. Brad Smyth, who netted 50 goals with the Wolf Pack, and P.J. Stock who split time with the Rangers and Philadelphia were among the 20 forwards sent down to Hartford. The Rangers also sent four goalies and 13 defencemen to Hartford. The first cuts trimmed the roster to 31 players, leading into the first pre-season game tonight in Detroit.
The Edmonton Oilers have assigned 15 players to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Assigned to the Bulldogs were goaltenders Alex Fomitchev, Eric Heffler and Jeff Salajko; defencemen Ryan Bast, Chad Hamilton and Darren Tiemstra; forwards Kevin Brown, Chad Hinz, J.J. Hunter, Sean McAslan, Kevin McDonald, Fernando Pisani, Sean Selmser, Jared Smyth and Max Spiridonov.
The Edmonton Oilers training camp roster now stands at 44, with the reassignment of 15 players to Hamilton.
The Bulldogs training camp begins Friday at 10 a.m. at the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster. Hamilton’s first exhibition game is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against the Syracuse Crunch at the Central Arena in Burlington.
The Toronto Maple Leafs assigned 10 players to the St. John’s Maple Leafs. The list includes: goaltenders Sebastien Centomo and Jamie Hodson, defencemen Christian Chartier, Tyler Harlton, Allan Rourke and Jonathan Zion, and forwards Bobby House, Don MacLean, Craig Mills and Michal Travnicek.
The estimated 2000 fans who showed up tonight expecting to get their first glimpses of Bure, Nilson and Kozlov might have been a little bit surprised to see some unexpected changes in the lineup. Instead of those proven talents weaving their magic and producing points, the trio of Marcus Nilson, Olli Jokinen and Kristian Huselius took their place instead, and didn’t dissapoint.
Tonight’s intra-squad scrimmage was set up with three referees, and the game was played with two periods of 30 minutes each. Teams were composed of 10 forwards and 5 5 defenseman, and the teams were “coached” by Panthers scouts Tim Murray and Joe Patterson. In the beginning, it looked like really talented shinny with no action for the first half of the 1st period, until bruising right winger opened up the scoring with a blast from the right circle that beat Wade Flaherty under the near side post.
Once the first goal was on the board, both teams started to up the ante a little bit with the physical play. Defenseman Lance Ward took Eric Godard into the open door at the bench and caused some emotion to rise. Soon after, Pete Worrell and John Jakopin started trading some shoves after the whistle. Jakopin’s little bout with Worrell served notice to the red team to get into the game, and they didn’t dissapoint.
The Scandinavian Connection of Jokinen, Hagman, and Huselius at this point started to take over the game. The reds were able to go up two goals when Jokinen found Huselius streaking in over the line on a two on one. With the defensive coverage not know Read more »
As I sit down at my computer trying to think of something to write about, I find it hard to think about hockey. On a normal weekend I would write about an Islanders prospect, training camp, or the status of the team. But this weekend is obviously not a normal one.
This weekend in New York no one cares about sports. Almost all sporting events in New York have been cancelled, from Major League Baseball to Little League. When some said grieving Americans might want some sports diversion this weekend, Coach Herman Edwards of the New York Jets said, “If they want diversion, go to church, go pray.”
I am sorry to the readers of Hockey’s Future that I can’t give an Islanders report this weekend. But, at times like this, people must realize that there are more important things than hockey.
Hockey’s Future once again sends out its condolences to everyone who has lost someone in this tragedy.