50MC’s 2010-2011 Fantastic Fantasy Forecast: Nikolai Zherdev
The problem with Zherdev is that as many as there is positives to his game, there are as many negatives. He has great hands, but he is a lazy defender. No questioning his skill, but there are no answers for his attitude. He has decent facial features, but his haircut remains an issue. I can go on and on.
To his defense, he has not had a terrible NHL career. He has averaged 59.5 points in his last two full seasons with the Blue Jackets and Rangers. But with his talent, hockey scouts and fantasy owners know he is capable of so much more. He spent last season overseas playing for Mytishchi Atlant of the KHL, where he scored 39 points (in 59 games), which was good (or bad) for third on his team – four points behind Jan Bulis (JAN BULIS!?!?!? Jan Bulis outpointed YOU??).
On July 9th 2010, Zherdev signed a 1 year, $2 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, marking a return to the NHL. It is a fair price to pay for a highly skilled player with flaws. It seems to be a monetary risk for the Flyers to take on Zherdev. He is a nice piece to have for scoring depth, but the Flyers are not relying on him to lead the team in scoring, as they already have Richards, Carter, Briere, Giroux, Leino, Hartnell and van Riemsdyk for that. The Flyers’ scoring depth also makes it easy for them to scratch Zherdev or send him to the 4th line if there are any attitude issues.
As the Flyers do not rely on him to be any sort of scoring leader- neither should you. At your draft, you should keep Zherdev as a 45 point player for this season with a ceiling of 70 points. Which means if he falters early, he can be easily replaced with someone from the waiver wire; but if he excels, he can be a difference maker for you in the standings. This is exactly how the Flyers look at him, and this is how you should as well.
In terms of linemates in Philly, does it matter? No matter where he plays, he is most likely going to be on a scoring line. Early indications have him on the top line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. This makes the most sense because both Carter and Richards can make for whatever Zherdev lacks in the defensive zone. Richards and Carter also provide enough skill to keep up with Zherdev’s.
I believe Coach Peter Laviolette will keep Daniel Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino because they clicked so well together in the playoffs. This leaves a third line of Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Dan Carcillo. I imagine line combinations will be moved around throughout the season, but as you can see, there will be more than enough scoring capability on every line for Zherdev to reap the rewards.
For the 2010-2011 season, 50MC fantastically fearlessly forecasts 25 goals, 27 assists for 52 points in 82 games for Nikolai Zherdev who will earn himself another contract in the NHL next season. (THN does not have a prediction, while McKeen’s pegs him for 42 points).
The Flyers have given Zherdev and opportunity to redeem himself in North America. He has a chip on his shoulder and finds himself on a team of winners. For the first time in his career, he is playing on a Stanley Cup contender and has NHL veteran leaders around him to tell him to get a grip, when he gets out of line.