The Western Conference has its share of young talent. Not quite as much as the East, which boasts some teams in some state of a Shana-plan style rebuild but the prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL are numerous. Adding to this some teams are simply forced to add a kid to the roster. Arizona recently let Antoine Vermette walk, San Jose uncomfortably close to the salary cap and Edmonton is well, Edmonton.
An important item to consider this preseason: many of the NHL’s biggest stars will head to the World Cup of Hockey. This tidbit is important for two reasons: First, the extra space in NHL training camps will give younger players knocking on the door of making the team more time to impress coaches, learn systems, and create chemistry with teammates. Second: injuries happen at any level of hockey. From a pick-up game to the NHL’s Frankenstein of a “world” competition.
Based on all of this we’ve compiled our list of top prospects ready to make an impact this year. The following ranking is not a best of or where their careers will end up. Simply, for a single season, who could help their NHL team and thus your fantasy squad.
Below are the top 10 young players that are ready and could make an impact on the Western Conference this year.
Easiest choice, biggest impact, massive player. As the most dynamic player in the 2016 draft, Laine is an absolute lock for the Jets roster. He turned 18 only a few months ago, but the weight that his shoulders have carried during his draft year player have been impressive. Laine was instrumental in bringing Tappara an SM-Liiga championship. His much older teammates would feed him the puck during crunch time, knowing he was their best option for a goal. Along with #2 on this list, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Sebastian Aho formed a steamrolling line at the WJC.
Back home, Laine finished with 17 goal and 16 assists in 46 games. The right-handed left winger then went on a tear in the playoffs with 15 points in 18 games, 10 of those goals. But why stop there? In the Wold Championship, again against much older and (allegedly) better competition, Laine posted seven goals and five assists in 12 games as Finland took the silver medal. A floor of 40 points next year for Laine is conservative. Below is a video of all but one of his Liiga playoff goals.
The absolute shock of the Oilers that one of the Big Finns fell to them is likely still in the recovery phases. Puljujarvi was part of a Karpat squad that made a deep playoff run. His game has taken a step forward until Jesse & Co. ran into Patrik Laine’s Tappara team. Puljujarvi is pro-ready in every sense of the word. He’s won a pair of gold medals at WJC and the U18s and now finds himself with an upgrade at center over the skilled Sebastian Aho. What a year it has been for Puljujarvi.
Edmonton’s controversial trade of Ta