Leagues across North America and Europe are now in full swing with highly and newly regarded prospects making their marks. With that in mind, we at DobberProspects are here to answer all your prospect-related fantasy questions every month.
Without further ado, let the mailbag begin!
Question: “Eeli Tolvanen, how far off do you think he is? Any upside projections and/or role projections?”
Answer: Tolvanen signed a one-year contract with Jokerit of the KHL after being formally rejected from Boston College due to academic issues. He has a player option for the 2018-19 campaign.
While Tolvanen has slowed down a tad – recording just a goal and an assist in the past five contests after stringing together a seven-game point streak where he racked up seven goals and 12 points to go along with 35 (!) shots on goal. (It’s worth noting that he has managed 15 shots on net during this current five game stretch.)
The 18-year-old sits in a share for 15th place on the league point leader’s list and continues to rank near the very top in shots-per-game.
It’s difficult to imagine Tolvanen staying in the KHL for another season after witnessing such immediate dominance. He’s likely to cross the pond and join Milwaukee of the American League for 2018-19 with an outside chance of cracking the Nashville roster.
The latter scenario is less likely than it would be in another organization as the Predators have been consistent in their approach to allow prospects marinating time – Kevin Fiala and Vladislav Kamenev being the most recent examples with each having over 120 AHL contests under their belt.
That said, the Preds did allow Filip Forsberg a chance to step into the league after a draft-plus one season in the Swedish second tier and just 47 American league contests.
My guess is Tolvanen will prove closer to Forsberg than Kamanev.
As far as upside and projections, I see Tolvanen as a top six, scoring winger who will do a ton of damage with the man-advantage. It’d sure be nice to see Nashville obtain another distributing pivot to move the puck around to all these skilled wingers, as it’ll be tough to wedge time next to Ryan Johansen with Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson helping create that dynamic top line.
Tolvanen is a rare prospect with 40-goal upside, but situation will be key in reaching that level.
Question: “A dynasty-league mate of mine always preaches about the importance of a prospect's "progression" year-over-year. In recent memory, he plucked Fischer and Kyrou before there was much hype around them. What's a good "progression" (in terms of pts) for a CHL player on track to become a top 6 forward/ top 4 dman? What about other leagues?”
Answer: It’s always difficult to fit individual players into a single box or set of standards. Ideally, you want to see a potential future producer put up near or better than a point-per-game in their draft-eligible season and then take a solid step forward in the draft-plus one campaign.
Many factors are at play here though. Is a draft-eligible player recording 80 points in 70 games on a very strong Kelowna Rockets’ squad comparable to a player producing 60 points in 70 games on a struggling bottom-feeder like Moncton?
Deployment, quality of line mates, quality of competition (ie. sheltered minutes versus heavy lifting) primary points, shots/game, personal and even-strength shooting percentages… There is a massive amount of subjectivity in assessing simple goals and assists.
You always want to see a player take a step forward offensively year-to-year, and deployment will be a good indicator of how valued a player is to their respective team.
Being on a top-level squad as a draft-eligible is going to make it difficult to garner big point totals for “regular” players. Therefore, a guy like Jordan Kyrou or Cliff Pu slipped in their draft years due to being utilized in middle six roles, only to see their production take off like a rocket when their opportunities increased as a third-year Major Junior player.
This is a similar case for NCAA and European leagues – especially for those players playing in professional circuits, including tier two pro leagues, as the deployment will be a huge factor in their ability to produce and the coaching staff has an even further mandate to succeed based on the nature of the business.
Question: Who is most likely to move up into the top three between now and the June Entry draft?”
Answer: At this point, the top of the draft remains a two-horse race and the likely tiers are:
I could make arguments for as many as five players to be legitimately considered for that third overall position but if I was doing so today, my strongest breath would be saved for Adam Boqvist.
Keep in mind that there are trends in every draft and 2018 has two specific ones:
Undersized and dynamic defensemen
Powerfully skilled wingers
The lack of centres – considered by many as the cornerstone piece to any successful organization, will mean if one does show himself to be at the head of the class and worthy of a high pick, a team in that third hole could persuade themselves to pass on a dynamic puck-moving defenseman like Quinton Hughes, Ryan Merkley or Boqvist to grab a player like Joseph Veleno – currently the top ranked pivot in his class.
The thing about Veleno though, is he doesn’t necessarily project as a first line centre down the line. Perhaps he convinces a team otherwise, but to me (and many others) he’s a very sound, two-way player with great speed but lacking that elite gear offensively.
With eight months to go before the draft, there is plenty of time for a centre who has been pegged as a mid- first rounder to elevate and develop quicker than expected and push Veleno at the top of the centre class.
Guys to watch for in that regard are:
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – The powerful Finnish centre offers soft hands and exquisite playmaking ability. He wraps those skills with plus speed and a projectable frame.
Rasmus Kapuri – The only Finnish prospect to receive an A grading from Central Scouting, Kapuri struggles with consistency but displays high-end skill too. Lacks the ideal size needed for a prototypical top line role, but has the smarts.
Jack McBain – McBain receives conflicting assessments across the scouting community. At times, like at the most recent Ivan Hlinka tournament, he can be a physical force that blends power and skill like few in this draft. On other occasions, you’re left questioning his compete level and foot speed. To make matters worse, he’s playing in a tier two junior circuit to maintain his eligibility and commitment to Boston College for 2018-19.
He’s currently pacing at the same level of production as he did in his draft-minus one year in the OJHL so he’ll need to really ramp it up the rest of the way to start earning the right to push up this draft and not slide back in it.
Another player I’d keep my eye on is Ty Smith. The former WHL first overall pick from 2015 has been putting on a clinic with Spokane thus far in 2017-18. The 5’10 left-shot defender is a tremendous and explosive skater who uses his top-level decision making to dominate both ends of the rink.
Smith currently has 14 points in 13 WHL games and is noticeable on virtually every shift. He’s the type of player a team reaches for.
Adam Boqvist Highlights
Question: “Can Ethan Bear’s junior success lead to production in the pros?”
Answer: I was pretty steadfast in my opinion that Bear needed plenty of marinating time in the American league before pushing for a job with the Oilers despite the gaudy point totals with Seattle of the WHL.
The shoot-first, right-handed defender isn’t as mobile as some 5’11 rearguards but he makes up for that with great positioning and terrific hockey sense. He impressed me quite a bit during the Young Stars tournament and from all reports, looked a lot closer than anticipated during Edmonton’s main camp.
So far, he leads the Condors in scoring with two goals and four points through five AHL contests, so he’s displaying his ability to translate that junior scoring ability to a professional league – and one that doesn’t often lend itself to quick point production, especially for rookie defensemen.
Question: “Future of the Flyers goaltending: Hart, Lyons or Sotlarz?”
Answer: Don’t forget Felix Sandstrom over in the SHL. While his raw save percentage numbers aren’t top end, he does have some transferable skills.
That said, the real future in net is Carter Hart. The two-time WHL Top Goaltender and 2015-16 CHL Goaltender of the year (in his draft season) is the real deal.
This will be his final run in junior hockey and he is the clear favourite to rule the crease for team Canada at the World Junior Championships after seeing four games and winning a Silver medal with the squad last year.
Expect Stolarz to see NHL ice before Hart does, but I also expect by the time 2020-21 rolls around, Hart will begin pushing hard for the starter’s gig.
Question: “How many Norris Trophies will Rasmus Dahlin win during his career? Super excited about this kid. Is he the best 'D' prospect to become draft eligible since Hedman (9 years ago!)?”
Answer: He is absolutely the best defense prospect to come around since Hedman and is literally the best 16/17-year-old defenseman I’ve ever seen in my days as a scout and fan.
The truly impressive thing about Dahlin isn’t even the skills and display he puts on today, it’s the potential that is bubbling below the surface and paints a picture of greatness to come.
If I was picking a player to strictly play in 2018-19, I’d take Andrei Svechnikov first overall because his tools will immediate translate into impactful areas. However, the potential that Dahlin owns to become a cornerstone, franchise, 30 minute-a-night defender who can light up the score sheet and outskate incoming chances makes him a truly rare and tantalizing breed.
I won’t put a number on Norris trophies, but let’s just say he has the potential to be the premier defender in the world, just as Erik Karlsson is today.
Rasmus Dahlin Highlights (2016-17)
Question: “Eriksson-Ek…what’s this guy’s ceiling? Any comparisons in the NHL?
Answer: Eriksson-Ek plays a quiet but very effective game. I see him as having the potential to be a top notch second line centre or adequate first liner who can handle heavy defensive minutes while also contributing in the 60-point range.
It may be too easy a comparable, but he reminds me of team mate, Mikko Koivu. Koivu has always been a very strong defensive player and surrounded by skilled line mates, became a suitable top line pivot for a handful of seasons. Koivu would be an excellent 2C on a true contender and I see Eriksson-Ek as following a similar path.
Question: “If Yamamoto stays up past his ninth game, what is the future for Puljujarvi?
Answer: It’ll be interesting to see, but if Yamamoto can maintain his position in the lineup with Draisaitl returning, that likely means the coaches see him as a long term fit with McDavid and that will change Puljujarvi’s trajectory a tad.
What’s most likely though, is Draisaitl returns, Yamamoto goes back to playing limited minutes and is sent back to junior. This isn’t a slam dunk, but it would be the safe route.
Then it’s back to a horse-race to see who can plunk themselves on the right-side of McDavid long term as I believe Draisaitl will eventually become a staple on his own scoring line and perhaps he and Puljujarvi can become a formidable duo while Yamamoto and McDavid make sweet music together up on L1.
Puljujarvi is taking longer than many expected, but his forecast shouldn’t be downgraded too much. He still has a ton of potential to become an impact two-way winger capable of 60-plus points down the line.
If we’re looking at pure offensive ceilings, however, give me the wee kid out of Spokane.
Question: “At this point do you value players like Pettersson, Yamamato, Tolvanen more than guys like Bennett , Puljujarvi, Dylan Strome, C Dvorak?”
Answer: I guess it all depends on how you look at it. If you’re in a league that values promise and hype over proximity to true NHL production, then I’d lean towards the former group. Some teams and leagues love the shiny new toys, and while Sam Bennett and Christian Dvorak are playing top nine minutes today and should be closer to seeing tangible fantasy results than the new crop, their hype has lessened by not immediately becoming stars (which is the rule, not the exception).
Personally, Jesse Puljujarvi remains an elite prospect capable of reaching some nice heights in a good spot. I haven’t lessened my view on him much over the last 14 months but I also didn’t see him as a likely point-per-game player either.
At 19-years-old, Kailer Yamamoto has proven capable of handling 20-plus minutes a night next to McDavid and is looking more confident with each shift. His pure ceiling is tremendous, likely the highest of the bunch you’ve mentioned. Couple that with what should be a long and fruitful relationship with the greatest players in a generation and it’s a sweet-sounding recipe.
Elias Pettersson is going to be a tremendous player. He has all the attributes of a top line, distributing, high-IQ, point-producing pivot. He should get his pick of the litter for wingers, but Vancouver isn’t a desirable fantasy option and likely won’t be for several more years.
Tolvanen needs a centre to work with in Nashville, but he has legitimate 40-goal upside and will be pushing for NHL ice as early as next season.
Dylan Strome is going to need work; this much we know for sure. His pace has always been a concern and it shows when he’s playing with and against quick players – which is virtually every shift in the NHL. He’ll need to focus primarily on that, but his vision, playmaking and offensive awareness is through the roof. Don’t count him out just yet, but we’ll need to see strides soon.
Question: “What will Christian Dvorak become in Arizona?”
Answer: A very reliable two-way, middle six centre.
Question: “Casey Mittelstadt – will he be a 1 and done in the NCAA? How close of a comparison to Keller is he?”
Answer: There’s a decent chance he does turn professional after the one season at the University of Minnesota, as he’s displaying some early dominance with a near point-per-game output through the first three weeks of the season.
That said, he’s still a work in progress with regards to cleaning up his defensive zone coverage and melding into tighter systems. These are elements of his game that will need to be at a much higher level in order to earn the trust of his future coaches in Buffalo.
At this time, I’d expect him to stay for a second year in the NCAA before turning professional at the conclusion of that 2018-19 campaign and perhaps jumping into a few games down the stretch – similar to how the Canucks handled Brock Boeser and his career at North Dakota.
That’s all for this month! As always, feel free to follow me on twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I’m often giving unsolicited fantasy hockey advice and prospect information that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.