Jan, 19 2015 (Austin Wallace)

Austin Wallace

2015-01-20

Exploiting the undrafted prospect in your pool, Top Prospect games, Anton Slepyshev and more…

 

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The USHL/NHL top prospects game was last Tuesday, the CHL version is coming up on Thursday, and before you know it draft season will be in full swing. NHL teams are the ones who choose which prospects will  play in the game.

Undrafted prospects are Brendan’s forte, but it is definitely worth watching the CHL game if you haven’t been paying attention. It is a good way to begin the 2015 Draft immersion process, and get a leg up on your competition.

 

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There is a subtle niche in a lot of deep-farm leagues that rarely gets exploited: The passed over prospect. In many leagues, players who were passed over in the draft become fair game, and there are usually a couple of prospects worth nabbing before they are redrafted. Tanner Pearson would have been a great one for those with a quick trigger finger. Last year in one of my leagues I picked up Ville Husso as a FA before someone tried to draft him in the early rounds.

 

This year, the pickings seem to be relatively slim, but now is the time to keep your eyes out. Take a look for older players on the NHL Central Scouting rankings (which will be released tomorrow on NHL.com), and see if you can pick them up.

 

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It is probably too late to add Joe Hicketts, undersized and underdrafted both, given that Detroit has already signed him and that he played in the World Juniors. That being said, it is certainly worth looking to see if the 5’8 offensive dynamo is available. He is very good on both sides of the ice, and while it will be a long time before he sees NHL ice, I think he has a better shot at making it than most defensive prospects his size.

 

Another one is Vladamir Tkachev, who was undrafted and infamously ruled ineligible to sign with the Oilers. It hasn’t been a great season for the undersized Russian, as he is putting up less than a point per game in the Q, and was cut from Russia’s WJC. He could certainly turn it around, but if he wasn’t added at the peak of his controversy, it is probably not worth adding him now.

 

I’ve seen some references to Jiri Fronk, an undrafted Czech player who is third in the USHL in points and played well in the USHL top prospects game. This is his first year in North America, and it seems that this success is unexpected even by his own team. He has 22 goals and 39 points in 34 games, and could be worth a speculative add in the deepest of deep farm leagues.

 

Richard Bukarts is the only notable undrafted prospect I can find, and other than an awesome name he also has 40 points in 35 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and is second on that team in points per game. At this point, he isn’t even worth a speculative add, but just keep his name in case he starts raising his profile.

I’ve probably missed a couple others, so please let me know in the comments below.

 

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If you have any interest in analytics or Cap Geek, it is worth listening to TSN Analytics here.

The guest from War On Ice makes a few really important points, especially when he talks about what analytics really means, and whether it is distinct from advanced stats.

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ESPN has put out their top 50 NHL prospects. While I trust Dobber’s rankings much more in terms of fantasy value, Pronman is someone I respect a lot. If you are an insider, you can see the rankings for yourself here.

 

 

As far as relative unknowns, Ville Pokka still isn’t talked about much. He was traded into Chicago’s system and is clipping along at a half point per game pace in the AHL as a 20 year old. That is better than a lot of rookie NHL forwards, let alone defensemen. The 34th overall pick in 2012 landed 24th on Pronman’s list, and is worth owning in leagues with any sort of farm depth.

 

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Someone else that Pronman tipped me off to recently is Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton’s third rounder in 2013; he scored 8 points in 36 games in the KHL last year as a 19 year old and only had 9 in his first 34 this year. He now has 10 in his last 14 games, with six of them being goals. Obviously the first thing you look at is shooting percentage when someone has a Cy Young points distribution (12 goals, 7 assists). Yes it is high at 13.6 but in the KHL, a shooting percentage of 13 is not out of the ordinary; 18 of the top 20 KHL points leaders have shooting percentages of at least 13.

 

 

What more explains the uptick is a TOI increase from 10 minutes a game during multiple stretches from September-November to 17 minutes in three of his past four games. Also, he has been shooting roughly three times a game since the start of December. That is top-thirty level shooting volume in the KHL.

 

 

He is doing that seemingly without seeing much PP ice time. Slepyshev has scored exactly zero of his 12 goals on the powerplay on a Salavat team that is clicking at a 20%+ rate and has scored a powerplay goal a game this season.

 

Given his even-strength production, TOI increase and recent shooting level, I think Slepyshev is the real deal at the KHL level. If you can snag him for relatively cheap, or even pick him up as a free agent, it could pay dividends in the next year or two. Usually, I would be worried about a hot streak like this overhyping a player, but that doesn’t seem to be as much of a factor for KHLers.

 

A couple of recent Slepyshev goals (with assistance from a former Edmonton prospect):

 

 

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TSN’s Craig Button also released a top-prospect list here.

 

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Josh Weissbock says that the NHL, and probably guys like Button and Pronman, have a scouting problem.

 

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A weekly reminder that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are both stars.

 

 

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Warning, football-related ramblings ahead with only a weak tie-in to hockey/prospects. Feel free to skip them!

 

 

Stats said that late in the fourth quarter that there was a better than 95% chance that the Packers would beat the Seahawks on Sunday. That didn’t happen, and it was crazy. It is interesting to consider whether there is any extra “clutch-ness” or heart in that Seahawks locker room, or whether things happened to break just right. For me, it is more that the Seahawks’ abilities (incredible defense, good quarterback, great running back) and intangibles (team been together for a long time, top-quality coaching, self-belief, Russell Wilson is a robot, etc.) put them in a position to capitalize on the opportunity. Maybe seven percent of the time, enough things go right (penalties, onside kicks, Canadian ginger throwing a touchdown to an offensive lineman while making this face, Patriots not covering well, etc.) that a team could possibly win in that situation. But only teams with a certain level of ability could capitalize.

 

Translating that to hockey, I don’t think that clutch-ness is a significant factor in coming back from crazy three games to none deficits, but in the low-probability scenario that enough things are going to break right enough, teams need some baseline level of mental resilience to take advantage of it.

 

In professional sports, I don’t think there is much variation in those intangible qualities. If someone says that a prospect is a big-time performer, or clutch, or has ice in his veins, don’t take that into account too much. Even if it is true, that doesn’t mean he will ever have an opportunity to show it. The times where clutch even potentially matters are so rare in the greater scheme of things that fantasy GM’s shouldn’t care at all.

 

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A good read for MLK day, or any day really, passed along by forum member Pengwin7.

 

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Supposedly they will be announcing the new incarnation of the World Cup of hockey. It could include an All-Star team made up of the middling hockey powers, probably to keep the number of non-NHLers down to a minimum. I personally enjoy seeing players I am less familiar with playing the tournament of their lives against all-world players, but it is a business and the NHL is quite good at that business. 

 

The World Cup may also include a prospects game, because why not? I can see why they would want that, and I won’t complain, but I am not entirely confident in the NHL’s ability to keep the whole thing a world-class event.

 

 

Teuvo Teravainen scoring his first NHL point in goal (one point in six NHL games and 23 points in 33 AHL games):

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You can follow me @austeane

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