Here is the Oct. 1, 2014 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Let's get to it:
Will Jiri Sekac make the Montreal Canadiens roster, and if so is he worth picking up? -- @swandad
All indications are that he will make the roster and be in the opening night lineup Oct. 8 at Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sekac appears targeted to play with Rene Bourque and Lars Eller to start the season. If he can make it work with those two, that should be a good line for the Canadiens. And I'm very high on the Canadiens this season.
As for the fantasy part of your question, it's a risky pick. I'm not an expert in this, though I am playing fantasy hockey this season for the first time in a long time. Sekac never has played a real game against NHL competition and it's unlikely that he'll receive time on the power play. If he's available in the later rounds and you like your team and are willing to take a risk then go for it.
What are the chances that the Dallas Stars will finish as the top seed in the Central? -- @Blake94Miller
I'll say slim, but that still leaves open the possibility. I'd be surprised if the Stars win the Central Division. I expect them to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I'm not quite sure they are strong enough defensively to hold up over 82 games as the best team in the best division in the NHL.
I like what Dallas did in the offseason, acquiring Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, but I think the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are deeper. The Stars actually might have better goaltending than both, but I still believe in the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford and I'm very curious to see if Brian Elliott can be the No. 1 in St. Louis or if Jake Allen will take that job from him. Unless the Colorado Avalanche hold onto the puck more and limit shots-against I don't see them repeating a 112-point season. The Minnesota Wild will be as good, if not better, provided they get their goaltending figure out.
I also wouldn't sell the Nashville Predators short because they will try to play at a much higher tempo this season. They have one of the top scorers in the division in James Neal, one of the best defenseman in the League in Shea Weber and one of the top goalies in Pekka Rinne, who if healthy last season might have gotten the Predators into the playoffs ahead of the Stars.
What can we expect from the Pittsburgh Penguins with a new coach and lots of changes? -- @RobOstrom
I would expect the Penguins to carry the puck in more than they have in the past and try to rely as much on being physical deep in the offensive zone as they will their skill. This is why they wanted Patric Hornqvist instead of Neal. Hornqvist goes to the front of the net and battles in the corner; Neal is a shooter off the wing. They want to keep the puck more, as do all teams, and players like Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, the two forwards they acquired from Nashville in the Neal trade, are expected to help them do that.
Will Wayne Simmonds ignite Sean Couturier's offense this season and make him a true two-way threat? -- @KylePineda2
It has to be the other way around for this to work. Couturier has to become a true two-way threat for Simmonds to be as good as he was last season. Simmonds will help by creating room, but Couturier has to look to create more plays in the offensive zone. He also has to look to shoot more. He averaged two shots on goal per game last season. If he gets it up to three per game and he plays 82 games again he'll be in the top 30 in shots on goal this season, and ideally he will score more. He could score up to 20 goals and have as many as 55 points. The numbers could even be higher, but those are good offensive numbers for a second-line center, especially one who plays behind Claude Giroux.
Who will be on the New York Islanders top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo? -- @ChrisF3105
Even though Islanders coach Jack Capuano has liked what he has seen from Brock Nelson as a center with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, I think Nelson will become the left wing with Tavares and Okposo. That creates room for Ryan Strome, who has not had a good training camp, to become the Islanders' second-line center, and for Frans Nielsen to be their third-line center, which I think is a perfect spot for him.
I can see the Islanders top-three lines shaping out like this: Nelson - Tavares - Okposo; Grabovski - Strome - Kulemin; Josh Bailey - Nielsen- Michael Grabner.
I'm also against the notion that it doesn't matter who plays left wing with Tavares and Okposo as long as Tavares and Okposo are playing well. I've heard people say that and I think it's wrong. They say that the left wing will score no matter what because of Tavares and Okposo. Whoever it is has to play off those two, get to the right areas, get open, be available. That's easier to do when the defense is focused on Tavares, but it's not a given it will happen.
What are you projecting for Ryan Strome statistically? Will he get any burn on the top two lines with the big club? -- @DLo3434
I answered the second part of your question above. Strome is not guaranteed a spot, but I think he'll get one if Capuano shifts Nelson to the first line. I also think Strome has nothing left to prove in the American Hockey League -- he had 49 points in 37 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season -- so he should start the season with the Islanders. He is best served playing in a top-six role. That fits his skillset.
As for projecting his points, I'm terrible at that guessing game. But I'll toss out a number anyway: 45.
What are your thoughts on the Blackhawks salary cap and roster situation? -- @DrewMMitchell
The good news is the Blackhawks are deep enough to withstand a trade days before playing their first regular-season game Oct. 9 against the Stars. The bad news is I don't see how they avoid trading a player who as of now would be in that opening night lineup.
The hot name in the rumors is defenseman Nick Leddy. He'd make sense since his contract carries a $2.7 million salary-cap charge this season and the Blackhawks need to clear approximately $2.2 million to be cap compliant, according to CapGeek.com. They also can clear approximately $900,000 by sending Teuvo Teravainen to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, but that alone obviously won't be enough.
The plans may already be in motion to trade Leddy. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recently put Brad Richards on the point of the second power-play unit; Leddy previously occupied that spot. The Blackhawks also have talked up defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk. If they like van Riemsdyk enough, it may ease the blow of trading Leddy, a regular in Chicago's top-six defense group.