Prospect Ramblings: Scouting the NHL Draft and World Junior for Fantasy Hockey

Peter Harling

2016-12-06

2017 - World Junior Championships - photo courtesy: hockeycanada.ca

The biggest prospect event of the year outside of the NHL draft has to be the World Junior Tournament. Last year the two were synonyms with each other as the tournament was loaded with an unprecedented number of draft eligible prospects. Not only did the games feature draft eligible prospects across several nations rosters, the tournament scoring leaders were dominated by underage draft eligible prospects. Four of the top five tournament scoring leaders heard their names called early at the draft in Buffalo.

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Looking ahead to the upcoming tournament the top two prospects in Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren will not be playing. Both have had injuries but even taking that into consideration, they were not a lock to make their respective countries rosters. While not all the rosters have been announced yet, (Latvia and Czech Republic have not announced rosters) some other notable draft eligible players we know will not be going include Klim Kostin (RUS), Casey Mittlestadt, Kailer Yamamato (USA) and Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, Nicolas Hague, Callan Foote, Michael Rasmussen and Maxime Comtois (CAN).

Here are some draft eligible prospects who have been named to their teams preliminary rosters; Nico Hischier (SWI), Elias Pettersson (SWE),Jake Ottinger (USA) Jonas Rondbjerg (DEN), Martin Bodak (SLV), and Finland has named six draft prospects including Eeli Tolvanen, Kristian Vesalainen, Miro Heiskanen, Robin Salo, Urho Vaakanainen, and Juuso Valimaki.

So with so few draft eligible prospects heading to the World Juniors, does that suggest that this draft is a weak one?

Not necessarily. Consider last year as the outlier, and the exception. The 2017 draft was a banner crop that featured some special talent, several of which will not be returning because they are already in the NHL. There is no chance the likes of Auston Matthews (TOR), Patrik Laine (WIN), Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM), or Matthew Tkachuk (CAL) are released from their NHL clubs to play because they are all playing important roles for their teams. Perhaps defenceman Jakob Chychrun (ARI) could possibly be one as he has been a healthy scratch seven times and five of the last seven games.

The 2017 draft may lack any generational talent the like of which we have been spoiled with in recent drafts featuring Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid and others, but make no mistake; it has some players. The 2017 draft will by no means be as weak as the dreaded ’99 draft, which outside of the Sedin twins had a dreadful top ten picks including Patrik Stefan, Pavel Brendl, Tim Connolly, Brian Finley, Kris Beech, Taylor Pyatt, Jamie Lundmark and Branislav Mezi…you remember them!

How does this apply to your fantasy hockey scouting you may ask?

Scouting the World Junior is the most important opportunity to gauge prospects for your fantasy team. Seeing the cream of the crop competing against the elite of the elite can give you great insight to their potential fantasy upside. As I mentioned in the last episode of DobberProspects Radio, I saw Peter Mrazek play out of this world for the Czech, and Juuse Saros do the same for Finland and I own them both in fantasy leagues as a result. It became clear last year at the WJC that Patrik Laine was going to score a boat load of goals in the NHL and sure enough he is doing just that.

So if you are in the deeper leagues like the DPFHL and have 26 teams with full rosters and full prospect rosters as well, getting a look at draft eligible prospects is very insightful because all the NHL drafted prospects are already owned. If your league is not so hard core, you can watch some drafted players that you otherwise would not be able to see play and really get a feel for how good they are. Even if your league does not include prospects (why would you be reading this if it doesn’t?) the majority of the players who stand out in the World Juniors make it to the NHL and have some success there sooner than later.

Here are some players you may want to keep an eye on during the tournament for your fantasy teams in a variety of league sizes.

Dylan Strome (ARI) 56% Fantrax owned – Canada

After starting the season in the NHL with Arizona, Strome was sent back to the OHL to play on the Erie Otters and compete for a OHL title. Since his return Strome has produced four goals and 15 points in six games. He is already a proven scorer at the junior level and will certainly dominate the OHL, but watch to see if he can do the same at the WJC. It will lend some insight to if he will play full time in the NHL next year, or if he could see some more development time in the AHL.

Alex Nylander (BUF) 40% Fantrax Owned – Sweden

Nylander was loaned to the OHL team where he was drafted from which allowed him to be sent to the AHL, rather than remain in the CHL for this season and play as a 19-year-old. In his rookie pro season playing in the second best league in the world, he has four goals and 14 points in 22 games for the Rochester Americans, who are 26th overall in the AHL. Nylander is a returning player who year last year picked up the slack for his big brother William Nylander (TOR) who was injured in the first game and went on to produce four goals and nine points in seven games. Nylander will be the star of the tournament offensively for Sweden, and could play in the NHL this year. He is one of the only players that could contribute to your fantasy team this season.

Mathew Barzal (NYI) 39% Fantrax Owned – Canada

After briefly making the NHL to start the season, playing in only two games, Barzal was returned to the WHL. Since his return he has posted close to two points per game with two goals and 19 points in 21 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds. He is an offensive dynamo and an elite playmaker who along with Strome should lead Canada offensively.

Clayton Keller (ARI) 37% Fantrax Owned – USA

Keller is a freshman at Boston U. and got off to a hot start posting five goals and nine points in seven games, but has been injured since then. Despite the injury he is expected to be medically cleared to play in the tournament and was named to the USA roster. If he is healthy, he will have an impact and be a key offensive contributor for the USA.

Tyson Jost (COL) 34% Fantrax Owned – Canada

Jost was outstanding as the Captain of Team Canada at the U-18 tournament in North Dakota with an incredible 15 points in seven games. As a freshman at the University of North Dakota Jost is over a point per game pace with seven goals and 17 points in 16 games and should be one of Canada’s top performers. Plenty of prospects established themselves for Canada at the WJ before like Jordan Eberle and Jonathan Toews and Jost is my prediction to be that player this year.

Brock Boeser (VAN) 28% Fantrax Owned – USA

Another University of North Dakota player, Boeser is also a returning player to the WJC. While he only managed three points last year, look for Boeser to provide a significant offensive punch for USA. As a freshman in the NCAA he has seven goals and 16 points in 13 games. Along with Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko, Boeser is the future of the Vancouver Canucks

Alex DeBrincat (CHI) 25% Fantrax Owned – USA

DeBrincat is a returning player for USA and was a major disappointment last year. He scored only one goal in five games and racked up 25 penalty minutes, including some very bad and costly calls. However, there is no denying his offensive ability as he is poised to score his third consecutive 50 goal season playing for the Erie Otters. Look for DeBrincat to atone for last year’s debacle; if he is not able to score at this tournament I will begin to highly suspect his ability to translate his junior offensive numbers to the pro level.

German Rubtsov (PHI) 18% Fantrax Owned- Russia

Rubtsov played in the Canada Russia series scoring two goals in five games. At times he was dominant, but he has failed to stick in the KHL in 14 games and failing to post his first point. Rubtsov is an effective two-way player and his offensive upside is beginning to break through. This tournament could be his coming out party as the Flyers are already very excited for this prospect.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Another Flyers prospect with another good chance at representing his country at the WJCs this year! <a href="https://t.co/nWQZqpgj1m">https://t.co/nWQZqpgj1m</a></p>&mdash; Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/BroadStHockey/status/804452873983709184">December 1, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Kirill Kaprizov, (MIN) 8% Fantrax Owned – Russia

Kaprizov is one of the fastest rising prospects. He is playing as a 19-year-old in the KHL and is setting All-Time records for a player his age. He has a very impressive 14 goals and 28 points in 36 games (Outscoring Pavel Datsyuk who has 22 points) He is a returning player who scored a goal and three points last year, and should see those point totals take a significant jump. He is widely available in fantasy leagues. What about the “Russian factor”? His current agreement in the KHL expires after this season and has said he wants to come to North America, and is even willing to play some time in the AHL if need be to make it to the NHL. Pay attention to this player.

Carl Grundstrom, (TOR) 6% Fantrax Owned – Sweden

The Leafs 2016 second round pick is the leading under 20 scorer in the SHL with 11 goals and 13 points in 25 games for Frolunda HC, as a 19-year-old playing against men. That suggests he should be more than able to provide some offence for Sweden at the WJC and that he can carry that over to North America for your fantasy roster. Sweden always has a strong team and look to Grundstrom to contribute in a key role.

Nico Hischier (’17 NHL Draft) – Switzerland

Nico Hischier will be the highest drafted Swiss born player in NHL history this summer. Playing for Halifax in the QMJHL he has scored 22 goals and 47 points in 29 games in his draft season, and is second in league scoring, two points behind teammate Maxime Fortier. The sure-fire first round pick is one of the hottest prospects in the draft and has seen his stock skyrocket. A breakout WJC could make him a top ten lock if he isn’t already.

Eeli Tolvanen (’17 NHL Draft) – Finland

Tolvanen is already in North America where he is dominating the USHL with 14 goals and 24 points in 21 games. He has committed to NCAA hockey next year and will be a top ten pick at this summer’s draft in Chicago. Tolvanen will have a prominent role on a young Finnish team and should make an impression in the tournament.

For more, check out Jeff Marek on SportsNet talking some OHL players to watch for Team Canada

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Who should you watch at Canada's World Junior selection camp? <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffMarek">@JeffMarek</a> sorts it out for you: <a href="https://t.co/ttn9DxFtqL">https://t.co/ttn9DxFtqL</a> <a href="https://t.co/WwPQ2mubWd">pic.twitter.com/WwPQ2mubWd</a></p>&mdash; Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) <a href="https://twitter.com/Sportsnet/status/804897931170119680">December 3, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Enjoy scouting the World Juniors, and good luck in your fantasy leagues.

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