Now that the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have ended, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been crowned champions, lets take a closer look at some under the radar prospects who performed well along the way. Also, stick tap to the Grand Rapids Griffins who closed out the Syracuse Crunch to win the 2017 Calder Cup last night!
Austin Watson – Nashville Predators
Watson's contribution to a fantasy team is always going to be centered around peripheral stats. In 77 regular games last season, the brash winger had 99 penalty minutes and 143 hits. In an increased role given the Predators injury woes in the playoffs, Watson took his all-around game to another level. His 106 hits in 22 playoff games were 26 more than any other player in the playoffs, and good for a hit-per-game rate of 4.81. He still averaged over a penalty minute per game, but maybe the most important development was his increased point production. If he can continue his points-per-game pace of the playoffs and put up close to 25-30 points in a full season next year, he will certainly help fantasy teams.
Colton Sissons – Nashville Predators
Another Predators forward who was helped by Nashville's depth issues as the playoffs went on was Sissons, who bounced up and down the lineup, filling in at center after Ryan Johansen's playoffs were ended. In 22 games, the 2012 second rounder posted 12 points, which would have been his career high in an NHL season to this point. Including the regular season, Sissons scored 14 goals on just 70 shots, which makes his shooting percentage for the season 20%. He has always been a pretty high percentage shooter, but that number is clearly unsustainable. Deployment will play a big part in his value next season, as he could chip in with some faceoff wins and power play points if given the opportunity.
Scott Wilson – Pittsburgh Penguins
After playing 78 games for the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins during the season and posting a solid year with 26 points, Wilson continued his strong play in the playoffs. His points-per-game rate was fairly flat from the .33 that he put up during the season, but his time-on-ice increased by over a minute. After averaging two hits-per-game during the regular season, Wilson threw the body around quite a bit more in the playoffs, with 66 hits in 20 games. The 2011 seventh rounder will likely always be a fourth line type player, but it was good to see that he was rewarded with extra ice time, something that could lead to a slight bump in point totals down the road.
Jimmy Vesey – New York Rangers
In a year where it must have been pretty painful to see the Nashville Predators, the team that he spurned in the summer, go to the Stanley Cup Finals, Vesey was pretty under-the-radar solid for New York before getting bounced in the second round. His Corsi-for percentage increased from 44.76% during the regular season to 50.46% during the playoffs, and the former Hobey Baker winner finished in a tie for seventh among Rangers players with five in 12 games. His point-per-game in the playoffs ticked up to .42 from .34 during the regular season, and Vesey, who didn't do much physically during the season nearly doubled his hits output. Look for him to be more careful in a Rangers jersey starting this fall.
Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets
Ok, so one point in five games isn't going to blow anyone away. But Bjorkstrand, who many expected a breakout season from following the Lake Erie Monsters winning the AHL's Calder Cup a year ago, could be poised to have that standout season in 2017-18. He was terrific in driving possession, with a 63.11% Corsi-for percentage, and averaged two shots per game against a Pens team who just won the Stanley Cup. Clearly Coach Torts was sheltering him a bit, playing the young forward just under 13 minutes a night and starting him in the offensive zone 75% of the time, but it does show he values him on the offensive end of the ice. I'd be buying low on Bjorkstrand if he is available in your leagues starting now.