Prospect Ramblings: Off-season Preview, Gems from the 2015 Draft and More

Peter Harling

2016-06-13

2016 nhl draft Buffalo

Welcome to the Fantasy Hockey off season. The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the Stanley Cup Sunday night in San Jose, officially kicking off the off season in all the keeper leagues. For all of you who have long been waiting for your trade deadlines to lift and to begin researching your draft, todays prospect ramblings is for you.

First let’s look at what the NHL off season schedule looks like.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Buyouts start Wednesday, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/2016NHLDraft?src=hash">#2016NHLDraft</a> on June 24/25, FA negotiations start June 25, the 2016 off-season calendar: <a href="https://t.co/8wtPwmZ0L0">pic.twitter.com/8wtPwmZ0L0</a></p>&mdash; General Fanager (@generalfanager) <a href="https://twitter.com/generalfanager/status/742191221469241344">June 13, 2016</a></blockquote>

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The first order of business is the buyout window. With the NHL expansion expected for the following summer this should be a relatively inactive buyout year for two reasons. First being teams my hope to expose potential buyout candidates in an expansion draft and wash their hands of said contract for free. Second the NHL and NHLPA have been negotiating the rules for an expansion draft. This will be the first expansion since the introduction of the salary cap and as such is uncharted territory for an expansion draft. The NHLPA will not want to allow teams to expose players with no trade or no movement clauses built into their contracts, and force the teams to protect them. This could cause some problems for certain teams with a surplus of contracts with such clauses. One potential solution is to allow teams another amnesty buyout for players with a no move clause to provide the freedom to protect players they do not want to expose to the expansion draft. Some players you can expect to see receive a buyout include

Jared Cowen, Toronto Maple Leafs, one year, $4.5 million.

Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild, one year, $7.5 million.

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, one year, $4.5 million

***

PR16-cover-1-768x994The next date to look forward to is the June 25-25 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. There are plenty of great quality draft guides available that you can buy. Here are some of my favorites, which I highly recommend. First, the Dobber Prospects guide has 188 pages including 100 draft eligible profiles, mock draft, over ten charts ranking players in different categories, plus 30 teams top prospect profiles making it an all-inclusive prospect/draft guide.  Buy it in our shop

The McKeens Draft Guide is another excellent and affordable guide I buy every year. This year it has a sharp new look, but as impressive as the graphic design is, the content is outstanding.

Our friends at Draft Buzz Hockey have another great product, it goes over 200 players deep and is tremendous value for your dollar, check it out here

Finally, another great resource to research the draft prospects is at The Hockey Writers and Chris Ralph’s the Next Ones series. It is not a download and is a little tricky to navigate that way, but it is totally free and extremely in depth.

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In preparation for the draft I reviewed of every round of the 2015 draft looking for some of the best, later round players. Some of the finds are amazing and have quickly gone from little known prospects, to must own assets in deeper fantasy keeper leagues.

In the third round, the Detroit Red Wings selected Vili Saarijarvi with the 73rd overall selection. Saarijarvi then was selected by the Flynt Firebirds in the CHL import draft allowing him to begin his transition to North American hockey in Michigan, which also allowed the Red Wings to keep a close eye on him. He was very impressive to start the year at the Red Wings training camp and despite the nightmare year the team had in Flynt, Saarijarvi had an excellent season. He began the season atop the OHL defenceman scoring leaders, was a standout at the World Juniors with Finland and had a brief pro audition in the ECHL, scoring four points in five games with Toledo. He is a few years away from NHL contribution, but has 50 point upside as an offensive defenceman.

In the fourth round, the Edmonton Oilers drafted Seth Jones younger brother, Caleb Jones with the 117th pick overall. After being drafted from the US National Team, Jones joined the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks and really had a breakout year. Labeled as a two-way depth defenceman, Jones developed his offensive game posting 10 goals and 55 points in 72 regular season games. The addition of an offensive element to the skill sets that got him drafted such as defensive responsibility and physical play make him a great value pick in the fourth round.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been highly praised for their 2015 draft, but beyond Mitch Marner they seem to have found great value with all their picks. Dmytro Timashov was picked in the fifth round, 124th overall and he may be the best value in the entire draft. He was traded mid-season and had an eye-popping 53 points in 29 games with the Quebec Ramparts. After he was acquired by the Shawinigan Cataracts his points per game dropped, scoring 32 in 26 games (Still over a point per game though) Timashov also had seven points in seven World Junior games for Sweden before posting another 28 in 21 playoff games, followed by three goals  and an assist in five Memorial Cup games. The diminutive forward needs some work before he can bring his offensive firepower to the pro level, but make no mistake, it’s coming!

Andrew Mangiapane was selected in the sixth round, 166th overall by the Calgary Flames after being passed over in the 2014 draft all together. Mangiapane has posted back-to-back 100 plus point seasons for the Barrie Colts and had another 21 in 15 post season games. The 5-10 20 year old may be on the small side, but he has undeniable offensive skills and is a very quick skater. He has Johnny Gaudreau upside!

A strong criticism of the Edmonton Oilers in recent history has been their lack of success at the draft. Sure they had all the first overall picks, but beyond them their prospect cupboard has been unimpressive. The Oilers made amends for that in 2015 and have made this list twice as they picked Ziyat Paigin third last overall with pick 209 in the seventh round. Sure there was some risk with the Russian factor involved, and the fact he only scored two points in 33 games in the KHL in his draft year, but the Oilers saw something. After a trade to Sochi HC he showed what Oilers scouts saw and scored 27 points in 37 games. The 6-6 towering defenceman has a howitzer of a shot, but is signed through 2016-17 in the KHL.

Finally, one player I thought was very underrated last year and went undrafted was Cameron Lizotte. The 6-2 198 rugged defenceman was traded mid-season from Peterborough to Barrie. He doesn’t offer much in terms of offense, but he plays the game hard, delivers crushing hits, is a willing and very capable fighter and shot blocker for leagues with peripheral stat categories. Look for Lizotte to make his mark in the NHL one way or another.

***

The CHL Import Draft is also coming up on June 28th, shortly after the NHL draft. A lot of CHL teams general Managers will be in attendance at the NHL draft, looking to get the feel from player agents as to what players will report if selected at the import draft. Each team is allowed two import players and selecting a player that refuses to report is a serious setback. Some standout players selected at the import draft last year that were impact players and will be first round picks at the NHL Draft include Mikhail Sergachev sixth overall to Windsor. Vili Saarijarvi picked ninth overall by Flynt, Alex Nylander 12th overall to Mississauga. Gatineau picked Vitali Abramov with lucky 13 and the London Knight knocked it out of the park with Olli Juolevi with the 45th pick overall!

***

The Carolina Hurricanes have signed Finish prospect Aleksi Saarela to his Entry Level Contract. The undersized scoring forward was acquired from the New York Rangers as part of the Eric Staal trade. Saarela led his team in scoring this year and also won Gold at the World Juniors in Finland with an impressive four goal performance. Saarela could have been included in the late round draft steals list above as his value continues to rise. He also grew and inch and added five pounds! Sleeper prospect potential here *wink, wink.

Carolina signed another Finish prospect in Sebastian Aho. The Canes selected Aho 35th overall in 2015 but he had an excellent development season from start to finish (pun intended). Aho won World Junior Gold on home soil centering a line between top 2016 prospects Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi scoring 14 points in seven games. He was also part of the Finnish World Championship roster, playing against men and did not look out of place posting another seven points in 10 games. He finished the season with point a game totals for Karpat and will make his North American debut this year. He may have an immediate fantasy impact in a top six role in Carolina next year.

***

Yet another Finish prospect making the news wire recently is Eeli Tolvanen, who has committed to Boston College for the upcoming season.

{source} <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">'99 Eeli Tolvanen commits to Boston College. High-end offensive player, lethal shot, great puck skills. Former <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EspooBlues?src=hash">#EspooBlues</a> jrs stand out.</p>&mdash; Finnish Prospects (@FINjrhockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/FINjrhockey/status/742440391614550016">June 13, 2016</a></blockquote>

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Tolvanen played last season in North America already in the USHL playing for Sioux City Musketeers and scored 17 goals and 38 points in 49 games. Tolvanen was also impressive for Finland at the U18 where in seven games he posted seven goals and nine points. He will be a top prospect to watch for the 2017 draft.

Peter Harling

 

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