We're getting into the doldrums of the offseason, but several talented young players are waiting for contracts. Lots of these players are high-profile names that don't quite qualify as prospects anymore, but I do think its time to ramble about a few lesser-known pieces that have unclear futures. The following players are probably on someone's minors bench in fantasy keeper leagues, should owners be patient or panicked?
Austin Czarnik (BOS)
Czarnik has struggled to find a consistent slot in the Bruins lineup despite an outstanding scoring history in the AHL. He managed 84 points in 90 AHL games over the last two seasons, but only 13 points in 49 NHL contests. He needs a full season to prove what he can do, and I think someone will give him the chance, but it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't Boston. If he gets a full season and strikes out…players his size dont often get second chances.
Nikita Zadorov (COL)
Zadorov's progress on the terrible Avs blueline this season was one of the only successes the team had this year. The big man crushes opponents, putting up big numbers in the hits and PIMs category while also putting up a few points in his top-four role. Unfortunately, he's threatening to move back to the KHL if Colorado doesn't give him the contract he wants. I'm starting to get worried since this should've been a priority for the Avs front office, but he's such a solid fantasy own that you should not give up on him until his plane has landed in Russia.
Dallas fans and Oleksiak owners are getting frustrated with this one. His 41 NHL games this year was a career-high, but he only averaged 16 minutes a night and managed only 7 points on a ridicuous shooting percentage leading to 5 goals. Looking at their depth chart, he's in that dangerous 6th/7th d-man slot with others nipping at his heels, and given that he's only good for hits, blocks, and PIMs, is he worth stashing on your bench if he spends another season in the AHL or press box?
Robbie Russo (DET)
Similar to Czarnik, Russo is putting up great AHL numbers but struggling in the NHL. he got 19 games with the Red Wings and had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet despite being an offensively-gifted player in the NCAA and AHL. He's not putting up any perpheral stats of note, and if the barren Detroit blueline cant find room for a right-handed defenceman, why should you? That being said, I do think the 24-year-old gets at least another shot being an AHL-NHL busboy, but fighting against that role is probably why hes not signed yet.
Frank Corrado (PIT)
Safe to say Corrado has funder gone full transition from "promising young under-used d-man" to "something's not right if three teams all think the same thing". No one seems to want to give him much of a chance in the NHL, despite blueline troubles on Toronto and Pittsburgh giving the organization every chance to test him. I'm officially jumping off the Corrado train, and dont believe he will be getting the NHL contract he wants. Seems like the position in which most would go play in Europe.
Brendan Gaunce (VAN)
Most fans assumed that Gaunce would be off to Vegas in the expansion draft, but it turned out not even Vegas saw value in the bottom-sixer who has managed 6 points in 77 NHL games. This is not a hard decision – 4th line wingers who dont shoot and take the occasional draw are a dime-a-dozen so don't fret about holding onto Gaunce if a contract isn't worked out. His best chance at a spot is on a weak team without much depth…aka the team that just could've gotten him for free and passed.
JC Lipon (WPG)
Lipon has seemed like an NHL candidate for years now but only has 9 NHL contests under his belt. Unlike some other players though, Lipon is perfectly suited for a grinding bottom-six role even if his offensive upside doesn't pan out towards a higher role. He's proved his worth in the AHL long enough and it wouldn't surprise me if he's holding out for an agreement that will land him minutes with the Jets. I predict the bangers-and-mash wrecking ball gets a real NHL chance somewhere next season if Winnipeg chooses to pass.
The DobberProspects Radio has started their summer series, where the hosts dig into a few teams every episode and look at which prospects are poised to take the next step (or not). Its never to early to study-up for next season. Check the show out for free on iTunes right here:
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your summer drafts.