2009-10 Draft Prep: Scouting the Southeast

Editor's Note: We evaluate each of the NHL's six divisions to find talent worthy of being on your 2009-10 Fantasy Hockey team(s).

Atlanta Thrashers

Must-haves: Ilya Kovalchuk , Pavel Kubina
Contributors: Slava Kozlov , Nik Antropov , Bryan Little , Todd White , Ron Hainsey , Kari Lehtonen , Rich Peverley , Colby Armstrong , Johan Hedberg
Sleepers: Tobias Enstrom , Zach Bogosian , Angelo Esposito , Evander Kane , Ondrej Pavelec , Anssi Salmela
Specialists: Boris Valabik , Eric Boulton , Brett Sterling , Chris Thorburn , Marty Reasoner , Jim Slater , Joey Crabb , Tim Stapleton , Anthony Stewart
Offseason analysis: The Thrashers front office knows its No. 1 priority is to keep star forward Kovalchuk happy, and they made a couple of key moves this offseason that might help their cause. In from a short spell with the Rangers comes former Maple Leafs center Antropov, who had 15 goals in 34 games after the All-Star break last season and is certainly capable of putting up 60 points or more alongside Kovalchuk. The Antropov move could affect Peverley the most, as he might drop from the Kovalchuk line where he was so successful last season, although they might end moving Antropov to wing if they don't want to mess with chemistry. The other move also involved a former Toronto player, as Kubina was obtained in a trade for defenseman Garnet Exelby and forward Colin Stuart . Kubina tied his career-high with 40 points in 2008-09 and is certainly worth a look as a No. 2 or No. 3 Fantasy defenseman. Kubina will likely pair up with one of the young blue-liners like Bogosian or Enstrom. The latter of those two might lose some power play time with the arrival of Kubina, although Enstrom did finish strong last year with 14 points in March. For those of you seeking a hidden gem on this year's Thrashers squad, you might want to look to Pavelec, who could end up sneaking up on Lehtonen and Hedberg and stealing the No. 1 job away from the both of their grasps.

Carolina Hurricanes

Must-haves: Eric Staal , Joe Corvo , Ray Whitney , Cam Ward
Contributors: Joni Pitkanen , Erik Cole , Rod Brind'Amour , Tuomo Ruutu , Sergei Samsonov , Matt Cullen
Sleepers: Jussi Jokinen , Zach Boychuk
Specialists: Michael Leighton , Chad LaRose , Brandon Sutter , Scott Walker , Niclas Wallin , Tim Gleason , Tom Kostopoulos , Aaron Ward , Stephane Yelle , Andrew Alberts , Tim Conboy , Jay Harrison , Patrick Dwyer
Offseason analysis: The Hurricanes made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals last year as a six seed, and management apparently felt that wasn't a fluke, as they made very few tweaks to the squad this offseason. Underachieving forward Patrick Eaves was shipped off to Boston and then signed by Detroit, while the team re-signed a number of their role players including Cole, Jokinen, LaRose and Ruutu. Ward and Leighton will be back in their 1-2 spots between the pipes, and Ward will be looking to put up stellar numbers again just like he did last season. On the blue line, Corvo and Pitkanen lead the way Fantasy-wise with their 40-point ability, but there isn't much to worry about after those two. Up front, Staal and Whitney are solid starters in all formats, but Whitney isn't getting any younger at 37. If he can stay healthy though, there is the potential for a 75-point campaign again, no problem. Staal hit the 40-goal mark for a second straight season in 2008-09 and was on fire towards the end of the season. Could he hit triple digits again like he did in 2005-06? You never know.

Florida Panthers

Must-haves: Bryan McCabe , David Booth
Contributors: Tomas Vokoun , Nathan Horton , Stephen Weiss , Cory Stillman , Jordan Leopold , Steve Reinprecht
Sleepers: Keith Ballard , Michael Frolik , Rostislav Olesz , Scott Clemmensen , Shawn Matthias , Ville Koistinen , Michal Repik
Specialists: Dennis Seidenberg , Radek Dvorak , Bryan Allen , Graham Mink , Nick Tarnasky , Gregory Campbell , Kamil Kreps , Keaton Ellerby , Jason Garrison
Offseason analysis: The big news out of Sunrise this summer was the departure of Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary in exchange for Leopold and a pick in this year's draft. Bouwmeester was probably the most reliable Fantasy option on Florida's roster and it's unclear who will take that role in 2009-10. A couple of seasons ago, Vokoun would have been the favorite for that honor, but he lost a ton of starts to the now-departed Craig Andersson last season, and new addition Clemmensen could prove to be a spoiler again this year. Koistenen is an interesting newcomer from Nashville who has yet to play a full NHL season, but has shown some flashes of offensive capability. On the blue line, Ballard could benefit from Bouwmeester's absence on the power play, while McCabe has a chance to bounce back from a disappointing first campaign in Florida. Up front, Booth will look to build on a breakout season and should be starting in the majority of Fantasy leagues. Youngsters Frolik, Matthias and Repik are certainly worth keeping an eye on, but will be just bench options to begin the season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Must-haves: Martin St. Louis , Vincent Lecavalier , Alex Tanguay
Contributors: Mattias Ohlund , Ryan Malone , Paul Ranger
Sleepers: Steven Stamkos , Victor Hedman , Mike Smith , Andrej Meszaros , Antero Niittymaki , Matt Lashoff , Kurtis Foster , Carter Ashton , Martins Karsums
Specialists: Steve Downie , Lukas Krajicek , Matt Walker , Ty Wishart , Drew Miller , Jeff Halpern , Stephane Veilleux , Todd Fedoruk , Adam Hall
Offseason analysis: After another disappointing season, Lightning management brought in veterans Tanguay and Ohlund this offseason and spent the second pick in the draft on big Swedish defenseman Hedman. Tanguay comes in after an injury-riddled season with the Canadiens, during which he was limited to just 50 games mostly by a shoulder problem. If he can fit in alongside elite Fantasy options St. Louis and Lecavalier, Tanguay could be in for a nice rebound campaign, but he comes with a slight injury risk, although he has been pretty healthy most of his career. Ohlund will jump straight into the top defensive pairing, but isn't a huge offensive contributor. He should be able to put up numbers worthy of a No. 4 or No. 5 Fantasy defenseman, however. In his first NHL season, Hedman should fit in at the back end of the blue-line rotation, and will only be worth worrying about in long-term keeper leagues and super-deep formats to begin the season. Stamkos and Malone are the only other real Fantasy-viable players on the Lightning, although Smith and Niittymaki could see their value rise if Tampa Bay wins a few more games than expected.

Washington Capitals

Must-haves: Alex Ovechkin , Mike Green , Alexander Semin , Niklas Backstrom
Contributors: Jose Theodore , Brooks Laich , Michael Nylander , Tomas Fleischmann
Sleepers: Semyon Varlamov , Brendan Morrison , Tom Poti , Chris Bourque , Karl Alzner , Brian Pothier , Francois Bouchard , John Carlson
Specialists: Mike Knuble , Shaone Morrisonn , Chris Clark , Eric Fehr , Jeff Schultz , Milan Jurcina , John Erskine , Quintin Lang, Matt Bradley
Offseason analysis: The Capitals battled eventual Stanley Cup champs Pittsburgh all the way to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, and Washington made just one real pickup this summer as they look to go even deeper in the playoffs this time around. Knuble comes over after three seasons with the Flyers, and has averaged 54.3 points over his last six NHL seasons. He's also proven to be very durable, having failed to play 82 games just once in his last five campaigns. Knuble should be thought of as a super-sleeper heading into this season, as his numbers should undoubtedly go up playing alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom. The main subtractions were veterans Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov , who both went back to their home country to play in the KHL. Ovechkin and Green should continue to be thought of as top-three options at their positions, if not the top option, while Semin and Backstrom are certainly top-10 choices at wing and center respectively. Theodore comes in as the starting goaltender, but will be pushed immediately by Varlamov, who has some decent sleeper value.

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