Bell will be the next Cheechoo

The other day, I opened my Excel file that listed all of my predictions for the 2006-07 NHL season, and scrolled down to Mark Bell. I downgraded his ice time and linemate quality from last year, and upgraded those same categories for this year – to the maximum that the formula would allow. His predicted points jumped from 53 to 72.

I think the formula may be understating the case.

I do not like to play with what the formula gives me, so I will leave him at 72 points, but please note that there is a giant asterisk beside it. You see, playing with Joe Thornton – and make no mistake, he will play every game with Thornton, barring an injury – does wonders for a player.

Just ask Jonathan Cheechoo.

Cheechoo tallied 78 points in 58 games after Thornton joined the team. That alone would have been good for 31st in scoring, ignoring all the points he picked up beforehand. He also scored 49 goals after the Sharks acquired their star center, which would have still been good for sixth in the NHL right there.

You can also ask Mike Knuble about it.

When plunked on Thornton’s line in Boston, ‘Big Joe’ lifted Knuble’s previous career-high of 35 points to a new mark (at the time) of 59.

The Sharks have been trying everything to get a suitable left winger on their top line. Each attempt has failed, and they always resorted to just putting Nils Ekman there in the end. It was clear that was not what coach Ron Wilson wanted, as he continued to try new wingers in that spot throughout the season and into the playoffs. Now they have a big, physical, skilled player in Bell whose points (and shots on goal) have increased with every year he has been in the league. He will clear the 70-point mark, and take a healthy run at 80. There is no player in the NHL that has been as positively impacted by a trade or signing this summer than Bell has with this move…

Meanwhile…

Taylor Pyatt was a guy that I had considered to be the next Todd Bertuzzi. Of course, this was three or four years ago, and opinions change as events happen. It’s ironic that Pyatt winds up in Vancouver. If the Canucks can get him to play on his off-wing, he is a dark horse for as much as 55 points. That being said, he has been hampered by one injury after another for the past three seasons, so my money is on him not reaching that mark…

The sudden arrival of Sergei Samsonov and Mike Johnson in Montreal has hurt Alexander Perezhogin’s fantasy value to the point where he is not worth picking up. At least for this year. An injury to two scoring-line forwards on the team would change things, but that’s what it would take. However, he signed for less this year than he made last year, which should guarantee that he’ll be on the NHL roster at least…

The Maple Leafs are so strapped for cash under the salary cap that you will see two of the following players in their regular lineup this year: Johnny Pohl, Aleksander Suglobov, Eric Westrum, Bates Battaglia, or Robbie Earl. My picks? Battaglia (a favorite of new head coach Paul Maurice) and Suglobov…

Trevor Lewis intrigues me. The Kings trip over themselves to get this guy (although getting Patrick O’Sullivan in the deal was the major reason), giving up Pavol Demitra for the right to draft him. They then waste no time at all in locking him up in a three-year entry-level contract. Teams don’t usually move that quickly unless they are extremely high on a guy. Having played last season in the USHL, it is difficult to gauge just how much offensive potential Lewis really has. It will be interesting to watch this season, as he will attend the University of Michigan (with Carolina’s Jack Johnson and Edmonton’s Andrew Cogliano)…

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