Highlanders 2013

The Highlanders

L: St Louis-TBay FP, Hall-Edm, Marchand-Bos, Fleischmann-Fla RFA, Perron-StL P2, Kreider-NYR P2

Rating: 4

StLouis may be nearing the end-game, but despite his age he continues to put up FP worthy stats. Hall is definitely not the sharpest crayon in the box (fun fact: he failed an open-book boating exam, 3 times! And then told everybody on Twitter), but his physical tools are top of the line. He's primed for a breakout season, but, but, but, his style of play (which is always hell bent for leather), leads to him getting rocked and hammered with appalling frequency. He might score at a 40 goal pace and then plow head first into the boards at top speed. Needless to say, I love the guy. Marchand is Ken Linesman redux. An undersized nasty rat of a forward with enough skill to play a 2nd line scoring role, while causing enough havok to be worthy of a TG slot. Pat Verbeek would be proud. Fleischmann rebuilt his career into that of a replacement level forward in Florida, but I have to believe he is a place holder for Perron, whose return from concussion issues bodes well as he is a talented enough sniper that he could move easily into the space behind Hall, or take over for Hall when the latter train-wrecks. Kreider is an intriguing blend of size, speed and skill, but his breakout year is likely still a season away. Lots of upside on this wing, with only a few concerns (StLouis' age, Hall's durability, the length of the suspension Marchand will get for spearing the opposing team's mascot in the 'nads, etc.).

C: Crosby-Pit FP, H.Sedin-Vcr, M.Koivu-Min, Zajac-NJ RFA, Mueller-Col P3, Barkov-FIN P1

Rating: 5

Steep and deep. Word is Crosby has looked FANTASTIC in camp and appears completely over the devastating concussions - if so, he's inarguably the best player in the world. Sedin is capable of an MVP season in his own right, and would be the #1 guy on most FUNHL teams. Indeed, looking over other FUNHL rosters Koivu could conceivably be the #1 center for a couple, and would likely be the #2 pivot for a large majority. Zajac is a very capable pivot who could move up in a pinch (like say when Crosby goes down after a game one headshot by Claude Giroux). Mueller's career has stalled out thanks to his own concussion issues, but the strapping centerman flashed all the tools of a legit top 6 forward when he was healthy, it's just been years since that was the case. Barkov is the future, a likely top 5 pick in next years draft he's got prototypical size, speed, hands and hockey sense to a be top end guy. And he's Finnish (albeit by way of Russia) so you know Doug's wife is happy. Arguably the best set of pivots in the league, they also have more risk than most other teams as only Hank Sedin is noted for his durability.

R: Eberle-Edm RFA, Burrows-Vcr, Selanne-Ana, Hudler-Cgy RFA

Rating: 3.5

Eberle instantly slots in as the top starboard gunner based on his offense. A cerebral puck possession monster he is the straw that stirs the Oilers drink (ok, so that metaphor was both trite and gross, I'm tired). Burrows is the right side equivalent of Marchand, only slightly bigger, slightly less filthy, and a tad more talented offensively. Selanne is God. But he is also well into his 40's, and at some point the time is going to run out. Hudler left Flames camp to return home for the death of his father, and who knows how that will affect his first season in Calgary. He's a runty 2nd liner with above average skill, but unless Father Time finally notices Selanne, Hudler will be outside looking in for ice-time.

D: Yandle-Phx, Carlson-Wsh RFA, Gardiner-Tor RFA, Hamonic-NYI RFA, McDonagh-NYR RFA, Nikitin-Clb RFA, Sbisa-ana RFA, McBain-Car RFA, Larrson-NJ P3, Orlov-Wsh P2, Rundblad-Phx P2

Rating: 2

Yandle is an acceptable #1, but I have to admit I'm not sold on him being a top-end producer in Phoenix. Carlson likely slots into the #2 spot, but I have grave concerns that Washington will continue to turn him into a shutdown specialist (next to Karl Alzner), though maybe Adam Oates will take the chains off. Gardiner might be poised for a breakout year on the weak Leaf's blue-line, or he could be dealt to a deep Vancouver squad for Bobby-Lou. Hamonic is a meat and potatoes guy, whose greatest utility might lie in the role of 2nd enforcer - something the team already has. McDonagh blossomed on the Rangers, and still needs to take another step to be among the high end guys. Nikitin was outright stolen by the BlueJackets from the Blues, and is already the teams steadiest and most reliable defender - but he isn't a powerplay guy, and his offensive ceiling is limited. Sbisa should form the nucleus of the Duck's D-corp moving forward (along with Cam Fowler), but so far the Swiss kid hasn't tallied significant offense. McBain (which should ALWAYS be pronounced with a thick Austrian accent), is another up-and-comer on the Hurricane's blue, but he is in tough competition for powerplay and ice-time. Larrson is a future stud who could well rocket past many of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Orlov is probably better cast as a #3 or #4 D-man as his game is more all-round than offensive. Rundblad has all the tools to be a top offensive defenseman, but he is still shakey in his own end, and he plays in Phoenix where talent goes to die (and where Ekman-Larrson and Yandle gobble up the PP time).

G:  Rinne-Nsh, Lindback-TBay RFA, Schneider-Vcr P2

Rating: 4.5

Rinne has been a top five guy for several years running, and outside of the departure of Suter to Minnesota there isn't any reason to think he won't be again. Lindback is his former backup now taking over in TBay - and he could well earn the starter role and never look back. Schneider appears to be the annointed one in Vancouver, but there is that small matter of Bobby-Lou's continued presence to deal with before he is an unquestioned starter.

Overall: 19

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