Jordan Kyrou, Jonathan Dahlen and Alexander Nylander
This happens sometimes; a player on a championship-calibre junior team gets buried down the lineup in his draft year. They play well and show flashes of what’s to come, but teams tend to sleep on them and they end up slipping out of the first round and in some cases, even all the way to the middle rounds.
What happens next also seems to go somewhat unnoticed: The player heads back to their junior squad as an 18-year-old on a team that likely graduated a handful of top end players. Suddenly, their role is massively increased and their production and confidence soars right along with it.
What doesn’t seem to soar is the value placed on that player in the hockey world – fantasy included. Pedigree (most often hinging on draft-minus one and draft-eligible seasons) lasts far longer than a player whose skill percolates a tad before bubbling over.
Jordan Kyrou is the definition of that player.
He impressed as a 16-year-old in Sarnia and earned the respect of his peers and coaches through great speed and sound two-way play for a youngster. He maintained a similar role on the powerhouse Sting squad in his draft year; often living in the middle six and second power play unit on route to a respectable point total of 51 of 64 games.
St. Louis took him early in round two in hopes of having snagged a quality energy player for the future.
Lo and behold, something impressive happens: Kyrou heads back to the OHL for his D+1 campaign and suddenly, he’s the man.
The results? 48 goals and 141 points over his next 87 games – including a sixth-place finish in points for 2016-17 and roasting the competition to the tune of 2.18 points-per-game to start this most recent campaign and still, hardly a peep from fantasy writers.
He leads all scoreres with 48 points in 22 OHL contests thus far in 2017-18 (eight more than second place), with 30 of those coming via five on five play – far and away the league leader in that category. He’s been creating on a shift-by-shift basis, has a six-point night to his resume, and is ready to show his stuff on the international stage at this winter’s world junior tournament.
To put into perspective how dominant the 6’0 forward has been, just 10 players in the past 20 years have produced to the level that Kyrou has thus far:
Connor McDavid (2014-15): 2.55
Rob Schremp (2005-06) 2.54
Patrick Kane (2006-07): 2.50
Jason Spezza (2001-02): 2.31
Corey Locke (2002-03): 2.29
Wojtek Wolski (2005-06): 2.29
Luciano Aquino (2005-06): 2.25*
Sam Gagner (London) (2005-06): 2.23
Sergei Kostitsyn (London) (2005-06): 2.22
Dave Bolland (London) (2005-06): 2.20
(Yes, that London Knights' top line in 2005-06 was real and spectacular)
Despite these tremendous results, translatable skills, being firmly entrenched on Team Canada’s radar for the upcoming Olympic Games, and heading to a top-notch organization like St. Louis, Kyrou remains a forgotten asset in the fantasy landscape.
He sits 113th on Dobber’s Top 200 Keeper League Rankings and is unowned in 99.9 percent of all leagues across Fantrax, ESPN and Yahoo.
For comparison sake, some other players selected in a similar slot in 2016 who are universally owned more than Kyrou:
Henrik Borgstrom (23rd)
Tage Thompson (25th)
Sam Steel (30th)
Jonathan Dahlen (42nd)
Vitaly Abramov (65th)
It is expected that sometime in the AHL is likely when the 19-year-old turns pro next fall, but don’t expect his ascension to be slow. He plays a pro-style game and will turn heads in short order and compliment a scoring line in the NHL in the near future.
Don’t sleep on Kyrou for much longer. The Hype will find him one of these days.
Digging further into this phenomenon of quick vs slow developers, we as fantasy owners can take advantage of this situation from either side.
Recently, the Managing Editor at DobberHockey, Steve Laidlaw and I were discussing the validity behind the oft-cited, “Sophomore Slump”. I am of the belief that the premise behind this notion has some semblance of reason. Teams have seen you enough to game plan against your strengths, weaknesses and the formulas you’ve created with your now-common line mates. Additionally, the individuals themselves may not have taken their foot off the pedal but the mindset is no longer simply trying to survive and prove you belong, now you’re a year older, stronger, smarter and as such, the results should come easier.
Steve referenced Dylan Larkin as a player who suffered through that stretch last season and noted that in reality, it was just an extension of the back 50-odd games from his rookie season. Larkin started out red hot as a rookie and that image has been lasting on the minds of countless GMs who have held onto the speedy centre despite him producing at under a 0.5 point-per-game pace in the last 145 games stretching back to January 1st, 2016.
Granted, Larkin is back to looking like a real asset here in year three, but this is another example of a guy who started well and remained a viable chip to many, while players who start slowly but find their way, tend to end up in the bargain bin.
An example of a young player who has gone that route is Nino Niederreiter. The former fifth overall draft pick had a putrid start to his NHL career. He had just three points through his first 64 NHL games and the belief that he couldn’t be a productive scorer stuck.
However, during his past 145 games, the Swiss winger has produced at a 0.65 points-per-game clip, or 22 points more than Larkin. However, Niederreiter has consistently been found on waiver wires while Larkin lived with a 'K' next to his name in dynasty leagues.
Being aware of these trends can help a savvy manager take advantage. Finding players with perceived low-value despite current or projected production are terrific buy-low opportunities (we’re looking at you, Sean Coururier). Conversely, selling the hype on a young player who found early success and then hit a wall or ran out of the PDO-magic that got him there, is a prime sell-high opportunity.
Watch for these trends and make hay while the sun is shining.
I'll just leave this here…
Cliff Pu has been named CHL Player of the Week. The Sabres' third round draft pick recorded four goals and 12 points in just four contests.
After a sluggish start for Pu and the entire London Knights’ squad, he and his team has looked far more comfortable since the return of Alex Formenton from the Senators.
Pu currently sits with 28 points in 22 games after recording 86 in 63 a season ago.
Speaking of Buffalo prospects, Alexander Nylander returned to action this past week and looked good after shaking off some rust. He has an assist in three games played but has displayed more confidence then he showed during a trying 18-year-old campaign in the American league.
Don’t be surprised if the 2016 eighth overall pick finds himself as a full-time member of the Sabres at some point this season. His playmaking and vision are tremendous and should mesh nicely with some volume shooters already on the roster.
Canucks’ prospect, Jonathan Dahlen is too good for the Swedish Allsvenskan. There’s really no two ways about it.
After a three-point afternoon on Wednesday, the productive winger is up to nine goals and 18 points in 13 games – far and away the league-leader in points-per-game for those who have suited up for more than a handful of contests.
After losing out on some offseason training and missing out on the Canucks' main camp with a bout of mononucleosis, it was a smart move to send the 19-year-old back to Timrä where he would be comfortable with the staff and earn a boatload of ice-time, but few will be surprised when he exercises his out-clause on January first to either head back to the AHL or sign with an SHL club.
Troy Terry and Henrik Borgstrom are having some fun with the University of Denver this season.
The two have combined for 45 points in 23 games and sit one/two in scoring nation-wide.
Terry, an Anaheim fifth rounder from 2015 is known for his heroic play at last winter’s World Junior Championships and is all but assured to complete his junior NCAA season and turn professional this spring.
He’s a slight and elusive player who will need to clean up some defensive aspects of his game, but he has the tools to become a productive top six winger.
His centre, Borgrstrom, was passed over in his draft year only to be nabbed by Florida 23rd overall as a draft-plus one guy in 2016. His development has been tremendous the past 18 months.
The Finnish forward has been lights out since joining the NCAA a year ago, recording 35 goals and 65 points in 48 career games. There’s really no reason to believe that he won’t be signing his first contract at some point this spring and adding to the ridiculous depth that the Panthers’ boast down the middle of the ice.
They already boast:
Sasha Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bugstad, Jared McCann, and Derek McKenzie on the NHL roster with Borgstrom, Aleksi Heponiemi, Adam Mascherin, and Jayce Hawryluk in the pipeline.
Obviously developmental curves can dip and players will surely slide over to wing slots, but it’s an enviable spot for the organization.
Ryan Merkley is going to force teams to make a decision on him very early this June. The former first overall selection in the OHL Bantam draft back in 2016 is an electric offensive player from the back-end. He's a wildly creative, right-shot defender who can beat you with his mind, his feet, his hands or his shot.
The only issue is, he's basically another forward on the ice and teams will need to seriously consider whether or not he can play defense against the best in the business.
As it stands, the 5'11 170lbs rearguard sits as the highest scoring first year draft-eligible player in the league, second in scoring for all defensemen and is tied for 16th overall with 27 points in 22 contests. He's just a month away from being eligible for the 2019 draft, which only furthers to shed light on his amazing ability.
He's also a combined minus-56 in his first season and a bit of OHL action, in part because Guelph hasn't been a very good team, but also due to his firewagon approach to the game.
Merkely sits 10th overall on my most recent Draft Rankings but has the ability to push all the way into the top five or perhaps even see himself fall into the back half of round one.
He's one of the most interesting prospects in this upcoming class.
That's all for this week, thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3