KNEE HIGH WOOL BEAUTIES
There is nothing quite like the hope of draft day. From a dedicated fan to a professional scout, the thrill of gathering a new group of talent is much like Christmas. Every year my mom gives me socks during the holidays. I can tell what the nicely wrapped gift contains as soon as she puts it in my lap. She smiles a grin which lets me know that we are both on the same page. She knows I know. I know she knows I know. In a way… aren't we all hoping for socks come draft day? Maybe in the second round, your favorite team drafts a dependable pair of socks and you can see it coming. Maybe in the sixth round, they draft some red and green argyle socks which might not be a popular choice but you're hoping they pan out in the future.
Lets look at a specific pair of socks. The giant ones. The knee-high, wool beauties that you might sigh at on draft day, but they have potential to keep you warm years later.
The success story of the small, skilled forwards are becoming easier to find. The type of impact that a Viktor Arvidsson or a Sebastian Aho can have brings hope to all those who want instant success stories. In the last few years, there have been some tall talent in the first round. Lawson Crouse. Patrik Laine. Logan Brown. The Logan Stanleys of the world will always be surrounded with much debate on draft day, but if there is a lesson to be learned recently it's that guys like Brandon Carlo can find their way too. Even if they aren't an arguable superstar in the league, the Nikita Tryamkin type players can carve a role to play and get quality games under their belt too.
Lets take a look at three 2017 draft eligible players who are big reward.
Eemeli Rasanen – 6'7 205
He will hit you. Grab the puck from you. Transition the puck up the ice. Classic. He already has some mobility instincts which will hopefully increase once his skating improves but his upside is considerably higher than your average big two-way defender. As a fantasy asset at a pro level, he would chip in offensively while also collecting significant hits. He currently has 29 points in 53 games for Kingston.
Ostap Safin – 6'4 200
This large Czech forward can beat goalies with his hard release or by driving the net with good puck protection. Safin is more of a classic big body power forward in the sense that his instincts are fairly straight forward; shoot when you can or drive hard. On a line with an above average playmaker, Safin could do some damage. He might slip a bit lower in the rankings due to some being afraid of consistency but he certainly has the size and the skill to be a factor on the fantasy score sheet. He currently has two points in eight contests for Sparta Praha.
Isaac Ratcliffe – 6'6 195
Last season Ratcliffe dealt with injuries and playing on a struggling Guelph team. He only managed to put together 13 points in 46 games. This season has been a huge jump for the large body (44 points in 54 games). He's quite smart and isn't afraid to look pass first or be selective with his shots; looking for high danger chances. His hand-eye coordination and physical strength give him a wonderful toolset. Sneak into the first round? For sure first rounder? Top 15 player? Regardless, there is a lot of fantasy upside to his game.
2017 will see its fair share of prospects in the first round who are 6'3 and above, but certain NHL teams have a tendency to reach if the particular prospect project is calling them. Covering the Calgary Flames have made me quite aware of the draw to take a risk on a tall glass of water. Just because a big-bodied prospect doesn't quite have the draft eligible season they were hoping for doesn't mean they can't continue to take strides either. How many teams would love a crack at getting Nicolas Roy instead of passing purposefully? Those in your deep fantasy draft might have the same regret.
Last season for Flames fans was Mitchell Mattson and Stepan Falkovsky. Year before was Riley Bruce. Hunter Smith and Adam Ollas-Mattsson before that. Predictable Christmas gifts. I hope on fantasy draft day you can find a “knee-high, wool beauty” to call your own.
Joel Henderson @dathockeydoe