It's looking like a rough season ahead for the Calgary Flames and, not surprisingly for a team in need of a full rebuild, there aren't a lot of great fantasy options on the roster.
Top Picks: LW Mike Cammalleri, D Dennis Wideman
Among the unprovens in Calgary, veteran LW Michael Cammalleri stands out, a two-time 80-point scorer, but 2008-2009 was the last time he finished with more than 50 points in a season. He's had trouble staying healthy, missing at least 15 games in three straight seasons, prior to playing 44 of 48 games in 2013. Those considerations, along with the potential for a minus playing big minutes in Calgary, makes Cammalleri a No. 4 fantasy left winger.
Since 2009-2010, Dennis Wideman is minus-50, tied for third-worst among defencemen, which tends to undermine the 138 points he's scored in that same time, ranking 20th. He played 25 minutes per game last season, so he'll get plenty of opportunities, but lots of ice time on a bad team only increases the risk of a minus rating. Factored together, that leaves Wideman as a No. 4, or even No. 5 fantasy defenceman in any formats that count plus-minus, whereas he's a viable No. 2 or No. 3 for straight points.
Value Plays: Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano
There are a few Flames players that have modest value in deep leagues, but lack the upside to be considered otherwise. Curtis Glencross, for example, has scored 65 goals over the last three seasons, tied with Loui Eriksson and Taylor Hall for 44th in the league, but his shooting percentage in that time (18.5%) is best among all players with at least 50 goals. Never mind improving on that rate, how much longer can he keep up that lofty percentage?
RW Lee Stempniak works the other end of the spectrum, generating lots of shots, but with a lower shooting percentage (9.5% over the last three seasons). Stempniak scored a career-best 0.68 points per game last season, but his limited upside most likely makes him a late-round or waiver wire selection.
Winger Jiri Hudler played a career-high 17:10 per game last season and is a two-time 20-goal scorer, but his lack of peripheral stats, and minus risk, makes him less appealing in fantasy circles.
For the last three seasons, D Mark Giordano has played more than 23 minutes per game, but his point production has fallen off after he scored 43 points in 2010-2011. If Giordano is going to be part of the long-term plan in Calgary, maybe he gets a little more time on the PP and boosts his scoring numbers, which would make him deserving of consideration in deep leagues.
Sleepers/Breakthrough: Karri Ramo, Mikael Backlund, T.J. Brodie
Banking on a 27-year-old goalie based on his KHL track record seems like a high-risk approach, but it could pay off for fantasy owners. If you're willing to take the plunge on Karri Ramo, and his .895 save percentage in 48 career NHL games, you could get a goaltender that starts 65 games and has a .926 save percentage over the last three seasons in the KHL. If he somehow managed to be an average starter, that would figure to be an opportunity to get significant value.
The centre crop is so thin in Calgary that Mikael Backlund, a 24-year-old who has never scored more than 25 points in an NHL season, is effectively their No. 1 option. He did have 13 points in his last 25 games last season, so there is some reasonable upside projecting that out over a full season, but really only for the deepest of leagues.
Same goes for D T.J. Brodie, a 23-year-old who has 28 points in 104 career games. For the final month last season, he played more than 23 minutes per game, contributing six points in 15 games. If he continues at that rate, he would have fantasy appeal because of upside due to a young player taking on a bigger role.
Rookies: Sven Baertschi
While sixth overall pick Sean Monahan will have some chance to contribute, he's not likely to have a fantasy impact at centre, a position deep enough to have many more proven options available.
On the other hand, LW Sven Baertschi has displayed the skill to be a scorer, putting up 13 points in 25 NHL games over the past two seasons, along with 26 points in 32 AHL games as a rookie pro last year. Baertschi finished last season with nine points in the last 10 games, playing 15:48 per game in April and if he's going to get quality ice time, his offensive potential will make him worthwhile in deep leagues.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.