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Fantasy Grapevine

10/2/2013
Drafted Steve Mason as a starter for your fantasy team? Time to consider alternatives. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

It may be a while before the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers commits to either Ray Emery or Steve Mason as his No. 1 goaltender. As it stands, Peter Laviolette insists we’ll “see a lot of both goaltenders” in the early going.

For fantasy purposes, this means that neither Mason nor Emery merits a slot above the No. 3 goaltender spot in most standard fantasy leagues. Now, once one of them emerges as a regular starter -- and with a look to recent history, our money is on Emery -- it’s a whole new ballgame.

Remember, Emery finished in the No. 9 spot on ESPN's fantasy hockey player rater last season, despite playing in a timeshare with Corey Crawford in Chicago. And if this cap-strapped Philly team can play up to the level expected by that financial investment, there's certainly an opportunity for these netminders to do quite well for themselves in the win category.

Quick hits from around the NHL

• In other Flyers news, Scott Hartnell is believed to be in outstanding physical shape to start the 2013-14 campaign. Feel free to anticipate a big rebound season from the 31-year-old winger, as he competes on a top line with center Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. The top line for Philly will be particularly captivating this season, since opposing teams will also have to concentrate on shutting down a dangerous secondary scoring line made up of new arrival Vincent Lecavalier, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.

• With Grant Clitsome on the injured shelf, Tobias Enstrom has reclaimed his position of old alongside blue-line buddy Dustin Byfuglien. To celebrate, the two combined for five assists in the Winnipeg Jets' opener, a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers. However, young Jacob Trouba is attracting the most attention following the Jets’ first game of the season. Filling in as a top-four D-man alongside Zach Bogosian, Trouba scored a goal and an assist, while leading his team in ice-time (25 minutes). Not too shabby for a 19-year-old rookie in his NHL debut. Even once Clitsome is all healed up, coach Claude Noel may be tempted to leave his top blue-line quartet alone. In any case, it’s a situation worth monitoring.

• A recent addition to the St. Louis Blues, veteran Brenden Morrow may have more fantasy value than initially anticipated. Pegged to skate on a forward line with center Derek Roy and fellow winger Chris Stewart, Morrow takes on a sleeper tag in most standard leagues. Remember, Stewart led the Blues in points (36) in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

• The Vancouver Canucks intend to use Jason Garrison on their top power-play unit, alongside fellow defenseman Alexander Edler. Look for Garrison to shoot the puck -- a lot -- and near the 20-goal plateau, as he did with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12.

• As anticipated, a healthy Jakob Silfverberg will make his debut for the Anaheim Ducks on the second scoring line with Teemu Selanne. It’s a pretty plum position, to be sure. After a solid rookie campaign (19 points in 48 games) with the Ottawa Senators, the 22-year-old winger appears poised to break out in his sophomore season.

Shifted to the wing under new head coach Alain Vigneault, natural center Brad Richards becomes a fantasy wild card with the New York Rangers. If Richards can adapt to his new gig on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan, he may be in store for a massive bounce-back campaign. If not, a much less prominent role lies in wait for the 33-year-old. As a fantasy owner, gamble as you see fit.

• Those in keeper leagues will be interested to know that center Aleksander Barkov stands a good chance of launching his NHL career on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes. Even if Coach Kevin Dineen decides to go in a different direction this week, the Panthers’ long-term plan is to skate Barkov -- this year’s second overall draft selection -- alongside the 2011 third overall draft pick. While Huberdeau demonstrated his scoring prowess as a rookie last season (31 points in 48 games), Dineen suggests Barkov has “unlimited potential.”

• If we’re to believe Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, defenseman Kris Letang isn't in as bad of shape as initially anticipated. This serves as promising news for those who drafted the elite, offensive defenseman early before he fell victim to a lower body injury. In fact, there’s a case for cautious optimism that Letang could return within a couple of weeks. Until then, Paul Martin ascends to the position of No. 1 offensive defenseman with the Penguins.