Dobber Prospects’ Fantasy Mailbag:
The time has finally come! The most commonly selected draft date is the Saturday before puck drop and that is this Saturday! Congrats on surviving another grueling offseason filled with sun, BBQs, friends and family.
With a new season and an upcoming draft comes loads of questions surrounding the incoming talent. So, without further ado, let’s dig in.
Question: “What do you see as a points ceiling for Bjorkstrand and where do you see him this year points wise”
Answer: As always, a great deal will hinge on opportunity, but I believe that the slick right-winger will be given a chance at some pretty high-level situations.
As it stands, Alex Wennberg (C) and Artemi Panarin (LW) seem destined to be a pair. That leaves Nick Foligno – a natural left-wing, Cam Atkinson and Bjorkstrand – both natural right-wingers, in a battle for the coveted spot on the top line.
Historically, John Tortorella has been hesitant to place his team’s best finisher (Atkinson) with their top distributor, but loading up a top line could be in the cards now that Panarin is around. What is just as likely though, is seeing Bjorkstrand land on that line while Atkinson and Foligno make up the punch on line two.
That’s a lot of words to say that Bjorkstrand has the skill and could have the even-strength situation to be a productive fantasy player this season. The first unit power play will elude him so the expectations to need to be tempered somewhat.
I see him playing somewhere in the 45-55-point pace this season and has a 65-point upside moving forwards.
Question: “What do you put the most stock into when coming up with prospect projections? Eye test, certain tournaments like WJC, teams that draft them, gut? Obviously, opportunity is key, but in general, what do you like to see that gets you giddy about a prospect?”
Answer: There are four things I look for when projecting young players:
To break those down further:
(1) The skill portion is always going to be subjective but is really the main piece to consider. The cream always rises. I place a great deal of value on speed and smarts. Being able to think the game at a high-level is just as important as being able to play the game at high-speeds. You don’t need to be a burner to necessarily be successful, but the less speed, the more smarts you’ll need out there (ie. the Sedin twins, Joe Thornton…). Having both will always be best.
(2) The opportunity portion is clear. Will they see sustainable situations with high-level players? Yes, no or maybe. What about the depth chart moving forward? Are their players blocking them with long term deals? Is the coach notoriously hard on young players and limits their ice time? This aspect is massive in projecting points.
(3) Recent history can tell us a great deal. Did a player have a tremendous D-1 season only to witness their stats underwhelm in subsequent campaigns? Did a player perhaps develop a tad later and then witness steady growth? How was the quality of competition? Did the player produce most of their numbers at even-strength or on the power play? These factors are more important to me than simple pedigree.
(4) Looking at a player’s pedigree helps to establish what type of opportunities they may receive simply because they were a high-pick. It’s great if a player has a history of success against their peers, but is not essential to predicting results. Being a high draft pick will afford a player extra opportunities with the team who selected them simply to avoid a dreaded miss on such a valuable slot. They will also continue to see opportunities down the line in new organizations as almost every team has a habit of gifting roster spots to former lottery selections hoping to strike gold on their previous potential.
Question: “What do you think Connor Carrick is most likely to be, now and 3 years from now? (a) PP1 QB (b) PP 2 QB, (c) defender who rarely gets scoring chances? Do you think he'll ever develop into a 30-40 pt/year skater?”
Answer: I’m not sure Carrick will exactly fit into any those boxes perfectly, but I see him as having top four upside, but likely settles into a 5/6D role with second unit power play time. He has several obstacles in his way to earn top unit time and as such, his overall production will be muted to some degree.
Carrick is a quality possession player who has played above a 53.5 percent CF rate outside of his first 34 games a 19-year-old rookie in Washington.
If he can find his way into playing close to 20 minutes a night with even just some time on the top unit, then 30-plus points is doable. I just don’t see that happening with the players in front of him and those on the way.
Question: “How many players in the league have yet to tell us that we pronounce their names wrong still?”
Answer: All the new Europeans.
Question: “I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on NYI's prospects making the team this year points production-wise. Ho-Sang, Barzal and especially Pulock.”
Answer: I’ll start by saying that I’m big fan of Mathew Barzal and feel he is head and shoulders the Islanders’ best prospect. His speed, vision and distribution skills are top of his class and will translate exceptionally well to the NHL.
For this year, he should see a good deal of top six minutes and not slide further down than line three. I would expect he makes his home on the second power play unit as well. Being stuck behind Tavares will be an issue for some time, unless the team finds a way to load both centres onto the top power play unit.
I’d expect a nice healthy rookie season of 35-40 points from Barzal.
As for Ho-Sang, his little audition last year was a great window into the type of player he could become – which is a dynamic puck carrier who can finish plays. Sounds like a great fit alongside Barzal, no?
Ho-Sang loves to keep possession of the puck and simply refuses to dump and chase. So long as that trait is admired by the coaching staff and they can excuse his momentary lapses in defensive judgement, Ho-Sang could be on the road to competing for the Calder trophy this year.
Once again, the opportunity will be limited seeing only second unit power play time, but that’s just the reality of most young players. I see a similar output from Ho-Sang but maybe pushing closer to the 45-47-point area.
Finally, Ryan Pulock has spent time on my fantasy roster in each of the last two campaigns but demotion and the unfortunate injury in game one of the regular season last year made sure those stints were short.
He’s got the big weapon from the point, owns good pedigree, quality recent results in the AHL and frankly, the Islanders don’t have much in the way of offensive defenders for him to beat out. Pulock immediately steps in as the team’s second best offensive option behind Nick Leddy.
I think Pulock can fight for 30-odd points this year, and potentially even more depending on how things go early on. Does that first unit stagnate at all? Because if it does, Pulock and that cannon of a shot would be a tantalizing option to slide into Leddy’s place and let Tavares feed saucer passes to him and Anders Lee to munch up the blue paint.
It has the earmarks of a deadly combination.
Question: “Is Christian Djoos going to be a regular on the Capitals PP this year?”
Answer: I believe that Djoos will be a mainstay on the second power play unit this year, likely paired with Matt Niskanen. The issue Djoos will have moving up to that top unit and really pushing for serious numbers is that Alex Ovechkin lives and dies on that left point; hell, he sometimes plays that spot for both units which will cut into the rookie blue liners’ opportunities even further.
There really isn’t a reason to expect Ovi to be moving out of that spot anytime soon, so while I’m a big fan of Djoos’ skillset, his overall production is going to have to be attained through primarily even-strength action.
Question: “Where will Marty Reway play this season?”
Answer: Reway should be playing a large role with Laval this season in the American league. Despite missing all of 2016-17 due to a heart condition, he’s not that far off from pushing into the NHL and I believe a strong season in the AHL is just the launching pad he needs. He’s also likely not far down the pecking order for call-ups should injuries arise on the left side or down the middle.
Question: “With Yamamoto’s productive preseason, any chance he sticks at least for a nine-game trial?”
Answer: Coming into the Young Stars tournament and main camp, the odds of Yamamoto sticking with the club were next to none. The Oilers have a wealth of top nine options and are pushing towards serious Cup contenders; no need to slide a green rookie into the lineup, especially one that is 5’7 and 150lbs. Well, Edmonton didn’t count on Yamamoto looking so dangerous at times.
Purely from a production standpoint, the diminutive winger has made his mark. five goals and an assist in just four contests. However, it hasn’t all been toe drags and thin mints. For good portions of these tune up games, the soon-to-be 19-year-old has looked just as he should: a step behind on defensive assignments and out muscled in the corners. He’s also manage to convert those five markers on just eight total shots on goal.
I’m guessing the 63 percent conversion rate isn’t quite sustainable.
I think the Oilers will keep Yamamoto around as long as they feel he can handle himself and gain confidence. If that’s one or two regular season contests, then so be it. If it’s nine games, then all the better for him and his development moving forward. However, in the grand scheme of things, I believe it would be a very surprising move to see him play on past that point.
Despite racking up 99 points in 65 games for Spoken last season – his third WHL campaign due to the late birthdate, Yamamoto still has some things to accomplish in junior. He can shoot for a league championship with buddies Anderson-Dolan and Ty Smith and take on an offensive leadership role with Team USA at the World Junior Championships.
Yamamoto has all the talent to be an elite, point-producing winger and will have his fill of elite pivots to work with, but the teams needs to remain patient with him.
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I’m usually spouting off some sort of hockey-related take that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.