Happy Monday folks! I’d like to start off by saying that this is a big milestone for me personally. I’ve been an avid fantasy hockey player, sports fan and Dobber ramblings reader for several years now and I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be bringing you my very first rambling. So let’s get on with it.
I am a member of a hyper competitive 14 team 3 keeper league in which every owner pours hours and hours into trying to get even the slightest competitive advantage. Last season in my league I managed to finish in 1st place during the regular season on the back of some very savvy prospect pickups. I strongly believe that the fantasy hockey season is won and lost not during the draft, but in the 60 days following the start of the NHL season. Why? Because 10-15 games into the new season the prospects which are ready to pop begin to emerge and it is absolutely crucial that you are able to identify those prospects first. Now, many of you will probably be saying “But you should identify prospects before the draft so you don’t miss out on them.” To some extent I would agree with that statement but only for blue chip prospects. In my opinion, the chance that the hot prospect you draft in the middle rounds being nothing but hot garbage all season long is just too high for me to justify rolling the dice with valuable picks. Each year I’ll draft one or two prospects I’m high on somewhere in the last five rounds. Sometimes you get burned, sometimes you strike gold. Last season for me it was Shayne Gostisbehere and Artemi Panarin that put my team over the top. A few years back I picked up a young Vlad Tarasenko to replace an injured player and then dropped him again when my middling winger returned to action. Big mistake. Knowing your prospects is critical to both immediate and long term success in fantasy hockey and I hadn’t done my homework on Vladdy. This season I’ve got a copy of Dobber’s 2016 Prospect Report for quick and easy fact checks and if you haven’t tried it out yet I’d highly recommend it.
Let’s take a quick look at a few prospects which I think could have a huge impact on both their NHL clubs and your fantasy line-up:
Mitchell Marner, C/RW – Mitch is a scoring dynamo. He’s got great hands, great vision and he knows where to put the puck given the opportunity. Marner will be fighting for a position on the Leafs in training camp and his spot on the team is far from guaranteed. However, if Marner does crack the opening day squad there’s a real possibility that Marner could nab 50 points over the course of a full season. Some major concerns for Marner going into the 2016-17 season are that Babcock has not been known to rush players into the NHL and the Leafs will already have several young or first year players in Nylander, Matthews and Zaitsev. How scary good could a Nylander-Matthews-Marner line be though?
Nikita Zaitsev, D – Speaking of Zaitsev, the Russian defender should be expected to make the Leafs out of camp and could be a wildcard for offensive production. It’s always hard to place value on players who come to the NHL from other leagues due to the transition time that it sometimes takes for them to adapt to the different ice surface and playing style. Zaitsev has great offensive awareness tallying 26 points in 46 regular season games for CSKA Moskow in 2015-16 and 13 points in 20 playoff games. If Zaitsev has a smooth adjustment to the North American skating surface he could become a solid 4-5th defender on your squad.
Michael Dal Colle, LW – Drafted 5th overall in 2014, Dal Colle had a rough start to the season last year for the Oshawa Generals before getting traded to the Kingston Frontenacs. The trade was just what the doctor ordered for Dal Colle as he proceeded to score 55 points in 30 regular season games and then 18 points in nine playoff games for his new team. The Islanders have some room for Dal Colle up front after the departure of Kyle Okposo this offseason so it would not be shocking if Dal Colle received an opportunity to perform for the big squad this year.
Ivan Provorov, D – Provorov is one of the best defensive prospects in the game so I’m sure it surprises no one that I’ve included him in this list. Provorov is still young so he may or may not play a major role for the Flyers this season but he is absolutely worth keeping a close eye on if he gets the call. The Flyers are not particularly deep on defence and the squad had a great experience with a rookie call-up last season. The Flyers are trending upwards and I expect a stronger performance from them in the fall. Provorov has the opportunity to become a fixture on the Flyers blue line if he starts the season off well. In deep keeper leagues Provorov will be long gone, but in hybrid keeper-redraft leagues like my own Provorov could be a fantastic 4-5 defender option with high upside.
Shea Theodore, D – Theodore has the opportunity to step right into one of the league’s most intimidating offensive teams and the ability to make an impact on the powerplay. Theodore’s success this season will be based mostly on opportunity. Theodore was given powerplay time in Anaheim last season and managed to pot 8 points in 19 appearances but showed some real promise as an offensive defender. If Theodore sees significant powerplay time this season he should have a shot at 40+ points. He’s that good.
Well, I could keep going with this forever because there are just so many good prospects coming into the NHL this season. It is a very exciting time to be a hockey fan and a great time to be a fantasy hockey player. The last few seasons we have seen a changing of the guard in the NHL and more and more young fantastic players are starting to take the stage. Don’t fall behind on your fantasy hockey research and keep a keen eye out for breakout prospects.
Feel free to have your say in the comments section below and you can always reach me on twitter @NHLFantasyGuy. Have a great week!
– Mike Drover