With increasing frequency outsiders take notice of the prospects the New York Islanders have assembled. No surprise, then, to see that appreciation extend to the serious fantasy hockey players, the ones who look long term and toil in keeper leagues.
The guys at Fantasy Hockey Scouts asked for some Islanders insight for their season previews -- my answers to their queries are here -- and they also gave me a peek at their services, which to be honest are nicely priced if you're into fantasy or hockey previews in general.
I'll go into what they think of individual Islanders below, and also explain my impression of what they have to offer with each product. I don't do much fantasy sports, but these manuals always interest me from a season preview perspective.
By the way, a few of you have mentioned in comments or FanPosts an interest in fantasy leagues with fellow Lighthouse Hockey members. If you've done that this summer, feel free to re-plug your league/gathering in comments below.
Breakout Candidate: Travis Hamonic
We didn't share notes beforehand, and I hadn't seen their 2011-12 Fantasy Scouting Report -- a team-by-team overview with a massive projected stat cheat sheet for $8 -- before I gave them my answers, but we apparently agree on Hamonic as the best breakout candidate on the Islanders. With only 62 games last season, generalist fantasy fans might not be aware of what Hamonic offers. Keep in mind in fantasy PIM and hits are also often important, so Hamonic's physical edge makes him a multi-category threat.
Of course, my expectation for a jump from his 26 points last season are tempered by my suspicion he won't be on the main powerplay unit. With Mark Streit coming back and Brian Rolston joining and hungry for minutes, the pecking order to man the point is even more crowded. That said, only four of Hamonic's points came on the powerplay last year. The kid can move the puck wisely in any situation.
They're of course also high on Michael Grabner after he finished last season with 39 points in his final 40 games.
Top Prospect: Ryan Strome
This is another category where we independently agreed.
People talk about Nino Niederreiter, who's been Isles property a year longer and is probably closer to making the NHL. But for long-term prospects, you have to think this summer's 5th overall pick is the one more likely to pile up fantasy points for years to come. Whereas the FHS guys rate the other top five Isles prospects as 3-star guys, Strome garners their only 4-star rating.
Other Breakouts: Andrew MacDonald, Al Montoya, Blake Comeau
In their Fantasy Hockey Bible, which is $6 on its own or $12 when combined with the Guide and SuperStats, they list their top 50 breakout candidates.
In addition to Hamonic, other Islanders on that list include Blake Comeau, Al Montoya and Andrew MacDonald, but there are reservations here. Comeau is admittedly "notoriously streaky." Meanwhile, Montoya and MacDonald also make their "10 Riskiest Breakout Candidates" list -- Montoya because of his much-discussed short track record and poor AHL numbers, and MacDonald because they're "not convinced."
Personally, I don't expect MacDonald to be a big point collector (he did have 27 in 60 games last year), not because I don't believe but rather because I think he'll take the tough assignments more and more. The FHS guys project him at just 30 points -- not much of an increase on a full season -- but that comes from a realistic view of his role. Still, if they don't believe he's for real as an above-average NHLer, well: They'll learn.
Just for reference, they're also wary of Frans Nielsen's chances of increasing his point totals at a "breakout" level. That too may be fair based on history, although the Islanders may have enough quality lines to share the defensive burden now. Which would free up FnGO to F'n go.
Busts and Breakdowns: Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau
The FHS guys have reservations about Moulson and Parenteau as long-term fixtures on the first line. That's a common concern about their future (I mentioned Parenteau's one-year contract in my answers to them), but I don't expect either of the two to be bumped from the top two lines this season. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, they admit it may be harsh but they have Josh Bailey on their "Top 10 Breakdown Candidates" list. Headed in the wrong direction is the main complaint, but of course this season will be a pivotal and telling year.
Superstar in Waiting: John Tavares
"It's only a matter of time" is what they say about Tavares, betraying their excitement after he put up 67 points his sophomore year. Who could argue?
So that's a sampling of what they have to say about various Islanders players. There's plenty more, but I don't want to give away the store for a paid product.
What I will say is Fantasy Hockey Scouts provides info like that on each team, usually in easy at-a-glance format for your fantasy draft.
The SuperStats database ($5 on its own, or available in an $8 combo with the Fantasy Hockey Guide) provides an immense level of quick-reference detail (age to the month, contract, stats) as it projects each player. Likewise, the 500-deep Fantasy Prospects Database ($5) provides an overwhelming amount of data that would have put my graph-paper-using father in heaven. (Sorry, dad, if you happen to already be in heaven.)
Both of those databases are available in easily manipulated Excel files, so you can take the raw data and run wild -- as my father surely would have for our fantasy table hockey league. (That's a story for another time.)
I don't mean to turn this into an outright plug (oh but by the way, all four of those products are available in a package for $16), but I thought the Islanders content was worth sharing, and I know fantasy is an area we sort of undercover here at Lighthouse Hockey. I'm happy to answer any specific questions, but so are the guys at FHS. So give them a shout if you're already suffering GM angst about your upcoming fantasy decisions.