The 2017 NHL Entry Draft was supposed to be a weak one, but already two early first-round picks are impressing us faster than anticipated. Owen TIppett (10th overall) and Martin Necas (12th overall) appear to have made the Panthers and Hurricanes, respectively. Both players only tallied a single assist in a handful of exhibition contests, so their presence comes from hard work, good instincts, and the knowledge that they will grow into special players for their teams in the future. That being said, their situations within their squads are a little different…
Tippett came into the draft as a goal-scorer. His frame is close to NHL-size at 6'01" and 200 lbs, but his skating was sub-par, which has historically held back other young goal scorers like Michael Dal Colle in NYI. Clearly the Panthers aren't bothered and want to see what he can do (for at least a 7 game tryout) before sending him back to Junior. Looking at their depth chart, its easy to see why he was worth keeping – there's only 3 natural right-wingers listed on their site's official roster! With Dadonov and Vrbata most likely to get the top-six roles, this makes Tippett their 3rd-line RW, most likely lining up alongside Bjugstad or Trochek. These are both capable pivots so despite being outside the top-six, Tippett could easily pot a few goals thanks to the C depth. I still predict Tippett returns to Junior after a few games with the big club, but his experience as a RW when other options would be converted Cs puts him in a strangely good place within the Panthers organization. This is why you always consider the depth chart when drafting prospects in your fantasy pools!
Martin Necas's sitation is the exact opposite. Carolina already has Staal, Rask, Kruger, Lindholm (sometimes), Ryan, and rookie Wallmark down the middle, so there was absolutely no pressing need for Necas to make the opening night roster. Coach Peters does prefer to have two centermen (or at least players capable of taking draws) on all forward lines, so this is advantgeous for all of the team's depth down the middle. But there are more than enough players that fit this bill in Carolina already, so Necas' NHL premier this week has come with a little more competition than Tippett's in Florida. That being said, Necas probably wont see the minutes that TIppett will; most of his pre-season/exhibition playing time has come alongside propsects equally as unlikely to be present when the NHL puck drops. So although its great to root for the player who battled out a few more peers fo potential roster spot, if I'm drafting for impact this year and next, Tippett is my guy in this toss-up.
Maybe both these players get cut tomorrow and this evaluation ends up meaning nothing inthe short term. But these depth charts are going to be very similar next year, and the years after that, which makes it so, so important to realize that situation means everything when you're drafting in your keeper leagues.
If you liked this toss-up between two talented youngsters, you're going to love this week's DPR podcast, where Paul and Peter play some Would You Rather with some top prospects cracking the NHL this season. The show guest stars Shane Malloy of Hockey Prospect Radio to discuss the American Top Prospects game. You can check out the show notes here: http://www.dobberprospects.com/dpr34/
Thanks for reading and best of luck in your fantasy pools as the NHL starts this week!