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30 in 30: Florida Panthers fantasy outlook

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

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: Aleksander Barkov, C; Jaromir Jagr, RW

The Florida Panthers have seven players among NHL.com's fantasy top 100, with Barkov the highest at 46th. The No. 2 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft turns 21 on Sept. 2 and is coming off an impressive season on Florida's top line with Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau. Barkov had 59 points, 16 power-play points, a plus-18 rating and 171 shots on goal in 66 games. If Barkov finally stays healthy -- he has played 191 of a possible 246 games in his first three NHL seasons - he should have at least 70 points. Expect Barkov, Huberdeau and Jagr, who usually skate together on the Panthers' first power-play unit as well, to pad their PPP totals with puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle in the fold. Barkov should be available in the sixth round or later of a 12-team draft and could finish among the top 40, making him a middle-round bargain.

Jagr, who finished 55th in Yahoo, is the oldest player in the NHL (44) but has had at least 66 points in two of the past three seasons. That said, he did not have strong PPP (11) or SOG (143) totals by his standards in 79 games last season. Outside of Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, Jagr was as big of a veteran steal as there was League-wide (Yahoo ADP: 168.7), but likely will be taken inside the top 60. Jagr shot an extremely high percentage (18.9, fourth among skaters with minimum 75 games), his highest since 1996-97 (20.1 with the Pittsburgh Penguins). With regression possible, start considering Jagr in the seventh round of a 12-team draft, a much safer spot for a player who continues to amaze but also brings concern.

Undervalued: Vincent Trocheck, C/RW

The components of Florida's second line (Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith) each had at least 50 points last season. Trocheck, who had 53 in 76 games, missed the tail end of the regular season and four of Florida's six Stanley Cup Playoff games against the New York Islanders because of an ankle injury, but was still one of the most valuable players based on fantasy draft position. The 23-year-old, who finished 77th in Yahoo after going undrafted in standard formats, was one of 13 players with at least 25 goals, 25 assists and a plus-15 rating; three of his teammates (Jagr, Barkov, Smith) joined him in that company. Trocheck centered Jagr and Huberdeau during Barkov's injury absence in February and clearly earned the trust of coach Gerard Gallant. Trocheck is still viewed behind Jagr, Barkov and Huberdeau in terms of fantasy perception and could fall into the eighth round of a 12-team draft.

Sleeper: James Reimer, G

Roberto Luongo is Florida's starting goalie, but the signing of Reimer is an interesting one in the short and long term. Reimer, who spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sharks, was the only goalie better than Luongo (.937) in even-strength save percentage (.938; minimum 40 games). Luongo had offseason hip surgery and may not be 100 percent by training camp. That could open the door for Reimer, 28, who's nearly nine years younger, to seize playing time and possibly make this a time-share situation once Luongo returns. If Reimer starts 30-40 games, he could take pressure off Luongo, keep each fresh for the playoffs, and produce well enough to finish among the top 20 fantasy goalies for the second straight season (19th; 107th in Yahoo).

Bounce-back: Keith Yandle, D

The Panthers finished 23rd in power-play percentage (16.9) and were one of two teams without a defenseman with at least 10 PPP (other: Vancouver Canucks). But Yandle comes to the rescue after being traded to the Panthers from the New York Rangers on June 20 and later signing a seven-year contract. Since 2010-11, Yandle has the second-most PPP (129) among defensemen behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (140). His points (47), PPP (22) and SOG (160) totals were strong last season with the Rangers, but do not compare to his NHL career highs (59 points, 31 PPP, 241 SOG). He moves to a younger, more talented team and has a chance to return to the top 10 realm at his position. He's a potential steal in drafts if available in the sixth round or later in a 12-team league, and is one of two Panthers defensemen (Aaron Ekblad) among NHL.com's top 100 assets.

Impact prospect: Lawson Crouse, LW

One reason to be concerned about Jokinen's long-term spot on the second line is Crouse. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound forward had 62 points in 49 regular-season games and 11 in nine playoff games for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League last season. The Panthers, extremely deep at forward, need to decide if they want to send Crouse back to juniors, because it may be tough for him to earn an NHL spot out of training camp. Crouse may need a top-six forward to sustain an injury before the season to carve out such a role, but he would bring size and skill to a roster that is already one of the most complete in the League. Don't draft Crouse unless it's a deep, keeper league, but he should be monitored if he makes the opening night roster out of camp.

Goalie outlook

Luongo, 13th among fantasy goalies by NHL.com, and Reimer, 24th, are one of the most attractive tandems to target together in a draft outside of Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray of the Penguins. Luongo finished 64th (12th among goalies) with quality numbers in each of the four standard categories: 35 wins, 2.35 goals-against average, .922 SV% and four shutouts. But with the 37-year-old recovering from hip surgery, Reimer is a strong handcuff for Luongo's fantasy owners and is worth targeting as a third or fourth goalie in the 13th round of a 12-team league. Luongo likely will be off the board by the fifth or sixth round.

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