A look at what to expect from prospects on Canadian teams as playoff hopes dwindle in this Sunday's Ramblings…
The trades have been made, the resulting call-ups have happened, and teams are settling in for the last legs of (for Canadian teams) disappointing seasons. The upside to this (other than favorable lottery positions) – oster spots opening for the next wave of talent to prove they're ready to improve their team's outcome next year. Here's a look at prospects of note on each of Canada's squads:
Trading away Hudler, Jones, and Granlund means that Michael Ferland (now off IR), Lance Bouma, and Josh Jooris are likely to spend less time in the press box from here on in. Ferland is already notable in fantasy leagues counting hits (166 on the year – 21st in the league despite limited games and ice-time), but Bouma and Jooris are unlikely to be fantasy relevant. Tyler Wotherspoon's NHL look was short-lived with the arrival of Jykri Jokipakka, who should also see consistent playing time for the Flames. He wont be a major point-producer, but his youth and size will surely force Calgary to test his limit, hopefully resulting in a second-paring position for the new addition. The latest call-up is AHL alternative captain Garnet Hathaway, who now has two points in four NHL games after producing 17 in 35 in Stockton. Jakub Nakladal is up to 11 games with the big club, but suffered an eye injury yesterday (no major damage reported). Another piece that may turn into a dependable defenceman for the Flames, but wont be picked up in any fantasy leagues until he puts up some points to go along with his not-bad SOG and hit totals.
It's still the Connor McDavid show in Edmonton, everyone knows that, and the lack of deadline movement and inevitable terrible finish means that not much has changed over the last few weeks. In fact, acquiring Maroon took away a potential audition spot, but right now I think the team is more concerned with their top prospects already in the NHL. Youngsters Anton Lander and Leon Draisaitl led the team in faceoffs won in their latest contest with 10 each (10/14 and 10/15 respectively), and McDavid was slightly over 50%, yet Columbus still had the puck enough to score six times…issues galore. On a much more positive note – freshly extended Brandon Davidson continues to provide all-around value with decent hits, blocks, and SOG numbers while pitching in 11 points in 50 games so far. His value to the Oilers is higher than it is to fantasy GMs, as he has excelled after returning from an undisclosed injury sustained in December (video below). He's playing second-paring minutes and a small amount of powerplay time; if the Oilers decide to give him a bigger chance on the man-advantage with Schultz now out of the picture, this kid could become a serious depth fantasy option in multi-category leagues. .Oh, and back to McDavid – five points in three March games so far, and only one of those come on the powerplay. He is a man-advantage all the time.
The most notable call-up of late was supposed to be Michael McCarron, but the power forward has put up a disappointing single point in seven NHL games so far. He is however shooting at a rate close to 3 SOG/game, indicating that he is in fact giving himself chances even if he fails to capitalize. Newcomer Stefan Matteau has been playing alongside McCarron, and gven his prepostorously low shooting percentage of 2.2% at 5-on-5, the pair are definitely due for some puck luck down the line. Jacob De La Rose has had a less promising time in 13 games since his recall, also providing only a single point but averaging less than one SOG/game. Limited ice time (12:49) is obviously a factor, but the youngster is failing to have the impact on the game that he showed us he be capable of at the end of last year. Montreal also has to make a decision between staying as competitve as possible to raise hopes for next season, or giving the kids more slack to learn since the season is already a bust…the remainder of 2015-16 is foggy but if there's one positive, it's that the team has motive to let anyone, including McCarron or De La Rose, earn a role as a difference-maker next season if they are capable…and I think they are.
Surprisingly fitting into the "buyers" category between the acquisition of Phaneuf and signing of Gomez, the Sens are hoping to make another (very) miraculous playoff push. Nick Paul has been a good fit alongside Curtis Lazar, passing the eye test but not yet producing real fantasy value. His play is promising for owners down the road however, as he could become a bottom- to middle- six mainstay as soon as next season, especially if he continues to gain chemistry with Lazar. Goaltender Chris Driedger has been manning the bench of late with Anderson out with an injury, but the chances of him stealing starts from last-season's savior Hammond are incredibly slim. Matt Puempel was recalled by the team nearly a week ago but only played in one game with 7:35 of ice-time…not a promising sign that he will obtain a real look this year down the stretch. Ryan Dzingel is up to 16 games played with the Sens and has five points to show for it. He has been moved up and down the lineup, so for fantasy owners' sake lets hope he spends more time with Ryan-Zibanejad than Gomez-Chiasson.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Achieving possibly the perfect tank of late, the youngsters are making games fun to watch and competitive, while still losing games in regulation. With multiple players returning from injury soon, Brendan Liepsic and Kasperi Kapanen have been reassigned to the Marlies, ending their promising NHL tryouts. Nikita Soshnikov (two points, 12 SOG, and 16 hits in four games), William Nylander (one point, 11 SOG in four games), and Zach Hyman (zero ponts, 5 SOG, seven hits in four games) remain with the team and will likely continue to do so for the rest of the year. Probably the biggest surprise of the youth movement, Soshnikov has been a revelation for the Leafs, managing to play an agressive and physical game while still creating great chances for himself – a tough thing to do when transitioning from the AHL to NHL. No doubt his experience in the KHL helped him in this regard, and his wicked shot make him a threat as soon as he's in the offensive zone.
The Canucks have made just a single call-up this month – Brendan Gaunce, who has played minimal minutes, but as a winger alongside the cooling-off Bo Horvat and Linden Vey. With Sutter on IR and Sedin sustaining an upper-body injury last night, Gaunce will likely stick with the team until further notice. Five points in seven games for Vey and only three in the same span for Horvat who were hot up until mid-February…points for both on Saturday though so perhaps another streak is in the works. Both have certainly earned permanent spots despite any cold streaks, so fantasy-owners shouldn't worry (not that Horvat owners were ever in doubt). The team controversially traded their next-most-likely call-up candidate Hunter Shinkaruk to Calgary, meaning that if there is a roster spot to fill, Mike Zalewski or Alexandre Grenier are probable choices, though neither are offensive spark-plugs.
Here are some truly interesting recalls – top prospects Josh Morrissey and JC Lipon will be making some NHL appearances. Lipon tallied his first NHL point (an assist) to go along with three hits and one shot in only 8:00 last night, while Morrissey recorded one shot, one hit, and two blocks in 15:54 – fourth among Jets d-men. Below is a clip of the two running a smooth powerplay in the AHL just earlier this week. Both are going to extremely fantasy relevant once earning full-time NHL jobs, but dont expect Winnipeg to rush anything. There's a fair chance Lipon stays for the rest of the season and earns a spot for 2016-17 (in which case he may become worthy of a pickup in deep league valuing PIM), but the gifted Morrissey will need to really impress to convince the organization that he's ready after a single AHL campaign. Both these players are former Team Canada U20 alumni however so absolutely have the potential to push the matter and become key pieces sooner rather than later.
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in any fantasy pools I'm not a part of!