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Fantasy Outlook: Blue Jackets

by Pete Jensen / Columbus Blue Jackets

As part of NHL.com's 30 in 30 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.

Starting at the top: Brandon Saad, LW/RW

We're still waiting on Saad's full-fledged breakout, but he did have a career season in goals (31), points (53) and shots on goal (233) in 2015-16, and is the lone Blue Jackets player among NHL.com's fantasy top 100 (No. 93). He has never had 60 points in a single NHL season but is 23 years old, meaning keeper-league owners should have patience. Saad was limited to eight power-play points despite 2:07 per game with the man-advantage, and an improvement in that category is the only thing between him and the top 50-75 (2015-16 performance-based rank: 126th). Saad is worth drafting as early as the ninth round, but it would be much more ideal to land him a round or two later.

Undervalued: Seth Jones, D

Jones signed a six-year contract with the Blue Jackets this offseason and could finally put it all together with consistent usage. In 41 games with Columbus following a trade from the Nashville Predators, Jones was a productive fantasy defenseman in points (20, T-26th), PPP (nine, T-22nd) and SOG (83, T-24th). Had Jones played a full season with Columbus, he would have been one of 17 defensemen with at least 40 points, 18 PPP and 166 SOG. Jones, 125th in NHL.com's latest fantasy rankings (27th among defensemen) is a breakout candidate with clear top 20 potential at his position.

Overvalued: Sergei Bobrovsky, G

Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in the 2012-13 shortened season and followed it with a top 10 finish among goalies in Yahoo's 2013-14 rankings (eighth at position; 53rd overall). He has fallen off fantasy-wise in the past two seasons with the fourth-worst goals-against average (2.71) among the 30 goalies to play at least 80 games. If Bobrovsky, who will be 28 on Sept. 20, plummets in a draft, his bounce-back appeal becomes more likable, but the fact he'll start at least 50 games if healthy is no longer a good enough reason to draft him among the top 25 goalies. Chances are he will go higher than that on average.

Sleeper: Alexander Wennberg, C

This 21-year-old was outstanding from Dec. 5 to the end of last season, scoring 39 points (12 on power play) in 54 games, an 82-game pace of almost 60 points (59.2). He benefited from Ryan Johansen being traded to the Predators by latching onto a top-six forward role, frequently played on a line with Saad at even strength, and was on Columbus' first power-play unit. He's mostly a distributor (32 of 40 points last season were assists) but is young enough that his low goal total (eight) and SOG (97) could improve over time. He likely will go undrafted in many formats, but deep-league owners should take his sleeper potential seriously considering his strong production sample from last season.

Bounce-back: Scott Hartnell, LW

Hartnell, 34, is another year older and has been the subject of trade speculation but remains with the Blue Jackets and is a viable category cog for standard or hits leagues. Hartnell took a step back in five of the six standard categories last season yet was one of three players with at least 49 points and 100 penalty minutes (Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers; Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets). If Hartnell rebounds this season with 55-60 points, 200 SOG and at least 15 PPP, he likely would finish among the top 75 fantasy players. Owners should make a list of category coverage assets to target, and Hartnell needs to be on your buy-low radar in late rounds. His hits league coverage also remains strong; he has at least 130 in each of the six full seasons since the category became tracked.

Impact prospect: Zach Werenski, D

The Blue Jackets have promising young forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sonny Milano in their system, but Werenski may be their best prospect. Werenski was a point-per-game defenseman in 36 games for the University of Michigan last season and had 14 points in 17 playoff games during a championship run for Lake Erie of the American Hockey League. Jones is Columbus' top defenseman in the short and long term, but Werenski's ceiling is high, especially when fantasy owners saw the immediate impact of Union College product Shayne Gostisbehere for the Flyers last season. If you're digging for high-upside defensemen late in a draft, there are many reasons to take a chance on this 19-year-old in the hope he makes the opening night roster.

Goalie outlook

Bobrovsky should get the bulk of the starts if healthy, even if the Blue Jackets struggle out of the gate. Columbus has backup Curtis McElhinney, 33, signed for one more season but was happy to introduce Joonas Korpisalo to the NHL last season. Korpisalo, 22, is a high-upside sleeper goalie for deep formats considering he had more wins (16) than Bobrovsky (15) despite fewer games with a much better save percentage (Korpisalo: .920; Bobrovsky: .908). If Bobrovsky misses time with injury again, Columbus could make a full-time switch to the youngest of its three goalies. If you have Bobrovsky as the third goalie on your fantasy roster and room for a fourth, Korpisalo is worth handcuffing.

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