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L: Sedin D., Sturm, Malone, Dupuis, Torres-P3
Not a first liner in the bunch, and all of the starters would be weak as second liners. Daniel Sedin has taken his time to emerge as a solid scoring threat, and the jury is still out whether he will ever develop the instincts necessary to take his game to the next level. Sturm is a speedy stealth winger, but he hasn’t put up monster numbers ever in the past, and we are past the point where it can reasonably be expected to happen in the future – he reminds me a lot of Niklas Sundstrom. Malone has a power-forward frame, but is still raw in his development. One day he could well become an excellent bang n’ crash winger, but not this year. Dupuis plays in Minnesota, ‘nuff said. Torres has been slow to mature, but his sniping ability and speed can’t be ignored. He could end up as one of the top guys if the people ahead continue to falter.
C: Lang, Nedved, Arnott, Horcoff, Stefan-P3, Kopitar-P1, Wheeler-P1, Brule-P1
Lang is legit as a starting pivot, but there have always been questions about how explosive he’ll be. Most likely is a steady ppg over the course of the year. Nedved is now staring at the downside of his offensive years as he no longer possesses the extra gear to escape checkers. His wrist shot still sings though, but he’s now best suited to be a third liner. Arnott is capable of 50+ points, but relying on him for PIM is now a fantasy. Stefan has never lived up to expectations is going to wear a ‘bust’ tag barring a sudden exchange of DNA with Kovalchuk. Kopitar is a longer term project, but one worth the investment based on his obvious skills and youth. Wheeler is a huge (6’5”) and still growing monster, but it remains to be seen what his hockey skills will translate into in the big league. He could be the next Lindros, or (more likely) the next Holik. Brule is the player who could end up being another Michael Peca, or better. He’s got scoring skills, grit and loads of hockey smarts. He’s already hurt, but it won’t be long before he returns to the NHL and gets to demonstrate how close he is to earning a promotion – says here that it is very close.
R: Iginla, Murray, Satan, Vyborny, Kobasew-P1
Iggy is the man, but these slow starts are killers. He could turn it on at any point to threaten for the Richard, and is worth the wait. Murray gives the Wolves a first line calibre winger for the 2nd line, and he’s a threat to post 40+. Satan looks re-energized playing on the Island (which says just how bad playing in Buffalo must be), and he should return to the 30+ goal mark, giving the Wolves two #1s and a #2 for their top three spots on the Starboard. Vyborny is an injury replacement at best, while Kobasew is a talented winger in the Cory Stillman mold capable of serious damage but not likely to ever lead a team in scoring. He’s still a year away from active duty.
D: Niedermayer, Blake, Fischer, Salo, Kuba, Skoula, Hill, Hulse, Suter-P2, Colaiacovo-P2
Niedermayer and Blake make for an excellent top pair, one of the best in the league. However the rest of the D corps are largely interchangeable parts, any of which could be flogged at the WD without much care. Suter and Colaicovo give the Wolves a pair of D-men who should warrant promotions as soon as this season, but almost certainly next. Suter in particular has the skill-set to be a pp quarterback and his game already has enough edge to it that he can be considered reliable in his own end.
G: Kiprusoff, Esche
Either goalie could be the #1, but both have small question marks. Kipper has never played a full season in top form, but he certainly looks to be capable of it. Esche hasn’t ever played a full year as the undisputed #1 for his team either, but he also looks to be ready to assume the workload. All in all as safe a goaltending duo as there is in our league.