As NHL team photos continue to look more and more like junior high class pictures compared to the bearded, veteran-laden photos from years’ past, a keen fantasy GM must keep up with the times.
In the name of continuing education, each month we’ll set up a thread in the prospect section of the DobberHockey forum to answer any and all of your prospect-related fantasy questions.
Our November thread was chalked full of great questions that we’ll try and answer to the best of our ability. Without further adieu, here we go.
Question: “What's your thoughts on Jake Guentzel and what do you see for upside with him?”
Answer: I’m quite high on Guentzel. While he doesn’t possess the most intimidating stature, he has shown an ability to not only survive in transitioning to higher leagues, but thrive.
One season in the USHL netted him Rookie of Year honours; in his first NCAA campaign as an 18/19-year-old, The Minnesota native produced close to a point-per-game (34 in 37) while weighing just 150lbs. Last season he got his feet wet in the AHL – a league typically known for stifling young offensive players, yet Guentzel was terrific producing 14 points in 10 playoff games and 20 points in 21 combined regular season and playoff contests overall.
And course, in his first NHL contest earlier this week, he scored a goal on his first shift, on his first shot on net and two goals in the first period. Not too shabby.
Guentzel is lightning quick, possesses tantalizing hands and has shown to be equally adept at setting up his teammates or scoring himself. His issue will be finding a home within a healthy Pittsburgh top six soon as there are many players in front of him already. That said, the cream always rises and as he continues to produce at a point-per-game clip in the AHL, working on his defensive positioning and hopefully adding some bulk to his slight frame, his time will come.
He will likely bounce back and forth with the Pens and baby Pens all season and I expect him to be an impact performer as early as 2017-18; especially if he can harness that early chemistry with Evgeni Malkin.
Question: “Rank these players for next season and long term :
Answer: Love ranking youngsters, never any peril in this task (insert sarcastic tone). I’ll do my best here though and assume you’re looking purely from a points perspective.
Next year: Konecny, Connor, Aho, Dubois, Barzal
Stick tap the the guys who are already in the league to have the upper hand next season.
Long Term: Dubois, Connor, Barzal, Konecny, Aho
Dubois is a horse who should be a front line player at either centre or wing; he’s the complete package. Connor has the purest offensive skillset of the bunch followed closely by Barzal. I like Aho and Konecny a lot but see their realistic ceilings as a notch below the rest. All should be quality fantasy players long term.
Question: “Rank these players for long term points only.”
Answer: Sneaking a single defender into a mixed bag of forward prospects, eh? Bold.
I like Boeser to be the best of this bunch, as he possesses all the qualities you need in a first line talent. He owns terrific offensive awareness, great edgework, a willingness to drive to the dirty areas and one of the best releases we’ve seen in a long while. He is an ultra-competitive player with a history of making others around him better. He has the highest pure potential.
Vrana is silky smooth and produces everywhere, but has deficiencies in his game that need cleaning up and that’ll probably keep him more in a second line capacity.
The rest of the players all have a certain quality that should make them somewhat productive NHL’ers but also lack some things that will hold them back slightly. Mantha and his pure goal scoring may find his way as a complimentary sniper in a top line, but the jury is still out.
Montour is a great offensive blueliner who needs some more time working on his defensive positioning and decision-making. Boom or bust prospect but I’d lean more towards the boom than the bust.
Question: “Rantanen.….uggg….looks like the coach”” my expectations of him being Malkin 2.0 unfair? Or is he a couple years away from making any impact??”
Answer: Yes, sadly your expectations of him being Malkin 2.0 were misguided. First off he’s a winger and not an elite centre and secondly, he’s not even in the same ballpark as a guy like Geno. Also, yes, he’s a couple of years away from making a significant fantasy impact.
However, Rantanen is a very nice prospect with great overall skills who is being put into prime positions to succeed early on in his career. New Avs coach, Jared Bednar got to watch Rantanen light up the AHL last season as an opposing coach so he knows what he’s capable of but the time will come where those opportunities will need some production to accompany them or he’ll risk falling down the pecking order.
I myself see a lot of Patric Hornqvist in Rantanen. He’s going to be a skilled, complimentary top six option who can play up and down your lineup, add some grit and skill to a power play or offensive scheme and probably hover around the 50-60-point level for most of his career.
Question: “Any thoughts on Sean Day, and where his development path may be leading next?”
Answer: Day has teased scouts for many years. He offers a ton to like in an offensive defender: speed, hands and a quality shot. However, his hockey IQ is not where it needs to be. His decision making is wildly erratic and leads to odd-man rushes against with far too much regularity. One of those players who get’s fans excited as you just know someone is going to get on the board when he’s on the ice, good or bad.
The Rangers would be best served to take the ‘crockpot method’ with Day, and let him simmer for a good long while in junior and then in the American league. If everything falls right, he could be an impact player, but I’d shy away from anointing him anywhere near a sure-bet.
Question: “Thoughts on Tyson Jost? Does his skillset look like [it] will translate to the NHL? How long until he makes the jump (will he complete his college years or make the jump earlier)? Projections (top line? top 6? top 9? point projection?)
Answer: Tyson Jost is going to be a heck of a player. Normally draft-eligible players who are in a tier two junior league, in this instance the BCHL, take a hit in the rankings, but Jost was one of the rare exceptions. He is a blessed with exceptional awareness and anticipation skills that allow him to find open space and pounce on lose pucks.
He’s as gifted an offensive player as he is on the defensive end which will greatly assist in his transition to the professional ranks.
I don’t believe he’ll play out his collegiate career but the safe bet would see him playing two or three seasons at North Dakota, with a legitimate chance to go deep into the final NCAA tournament on a yearly basis.
As for projecting him down the road, think Ryan O’Reilly. If things go to plan his game could translate into a very valuable top two centre with the capabilities of producing upwards of 60 points while stifling the opposition as well.
Question: “Is Brendan Leipsic the next Brad Marchand – talented pest?”
Answer: Leipsic is certainly a talented pest. He is a offensive skilled dynamo who is keen to engage physically and mix it up. Similar to Marchand, teams recognize when he’s on the ice for a few reasons.
Whether he can translate his game to the same level that Marchand has is very optimistic, but not unrealistic. He should have an opportunity to play with some talented players when he eventually cracks Toronto’s roster full-time and if he can find chemistry within the team’s top six then there aren’t a ton of reasons to think he won’t continue to find the score sheet as he has had every other level.
For every one 5’9 forward who succeeds in the NHL, there are dozens who fail, but Leipsic possesses the traits needed to succeed despite size limitation and is certainly one to watch going forward.
Question: “What is your thoughts on Taylor Raddysh? Does it look like he has the stuff that might translate to the NHL?”
Answer: Raddysh is certainly having a very successful start to his third junior season by leading the CHL in points and averaging a goal per game. The 6’2 205lbs power forward is adept at winning board battles and is highly dangerous walking out from the corners. He possesses good vision, a great shot and a keen work ethic. All of those traits should help him translate to the NHL.
Now, for the negative. While not a poor skater, he lacks much explosiveness even at the OHL-level and really doesn’t have a high gear even when he gets moving. Currently, speed is the key ingredient in all recipes so he’ll need to be able to find a way to limit how low he gets in the end zones to shorten the ice for himself at the next level.
Projected as a late first or early second rounder, Tampa Bay grabbed themselves a very nice player at 58th overall. He’ll likely need another season in junior after this one (as they’ll be no AHL option) and then likely two more in the AHL before pushing into the Lightning’s top forward group. He’s an intriguing player but bigger junior players who dominant the score sheet but lack foot speed often take longer to get there – just ask Anthony Mantha.
Question: “When looking at prospects is it better to focus more attention on a certain league? Does one league produce better prospects? QMJHL, OHL, WHL, NCAA etc.”
Answer: A great question. There is no magic formula for discovering quality prospects. Just like anything else in this world, top end talent can be nurtured and developed from every corner of the globe. Obviously premier junior circuits like the CHL, NCAA and top European leagues are great places to begin you search, but don’t stop there. The USHL, tier II Canadian junior circuits like the BCHL and even second division Euro leagues are producing highly skilled players.
My best advice is to look at what is most valued by NHL scouting departments and what would translate best into a fantasy hockey context, ie. Speed, skill and smarts. If a player possesses those traits at an elite level, then they’re well on their way to becoming relevant.
Try and forecast prime opportunities that may lie ahead for young players: an organization known for drafting and developing well; an aging core that may lend itself to a transition to youth; and pedigree.
That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for the great questions and hopefully this has helped in the continuous quest for fantasy hockey prospect knowledge.
You can follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.