The AHL season wraps up today and the Calder Cup Playoffs will begin in short notice. This is an excellent time of year to be on the hunt for good names to draft next season – because a big playoff run can often tell you so much more than a regular-season stat line can.
If you're hesitant about basing fantasy value off of the playoff run, remember that last years heroes included future-NHLers Yanni Gourde (27 points in 22 games), Danton Heinen (18 points in 17 games), and Tomas Nosek (22 points in 19 games), among others. These guys changed their status from "keep an eye on" to "add to the draft list".
The year before that is when we saw breakout signs from Zach Werenski, Jake Guentzel, and Anthony Mantha. Not all AHL scorers will become NHL regulars but many will, and now is the best time to see who is ready to rise to the occasion.
Now, here are some on-the-fantasy-radar prospects (for next season) to watch in this year's playoffs for signs of NHL-readiness:
– Rookie of the Year Mason Appleton (WPG) led the Moose in points in a smooth transition from the NCAA. Does anyone know if the Jets have good luck with college kids?
– Appleton's not the only Jets prospect looking to impress even further. Defenceman of the Year Sami Niku (WPG) got some hardware and his first NHL goal and will want to stay hot.
– There might not be a player with more at stake than Dylan Strome (ARI). Solid campaign and the Roadrunners are atop the division but fantasy owners are getting impatient and he needs to get back to his status when he was a 3rd-overall-pick.
– Goaltender of the Year Garret Sparks (TOR) has been playing like an NHL 'tender all season long. If he can come up clutch, maybe he gets that hard-to-come-by chance.
– Daniel Sprong (PIT) already got an NHL audition this year thanks to his outstanding regular season. Some strong play in the big games would really help him get back onto Crosby's wing.
– The Hurricanes will look different next year and Valentin Zykov (CAR) could be one of the new scorers on the block. He had a heckuva tryout, a heckuva playoffs would really build the hype.
– Same goes for Lucas Wallmark (CAR). These two need to continue their strong showings to overtake Necas who has that high-pick pedigree.
– Its not a coincidence that lots of these names are AHL rookies. One of the biggest signs of fantasy value is quick adjustment periods – aka not struggling to find offence despite playing in a new league for a new coach. When it happens, its our job as fantasy owners to identify that potantial gold. As such, Mathieu Joseph (TBL) should be rising very quickly up your list if he keeps up his pace this post-season. Even if there's no room for him on Tampa Bay…teams make trades.
– Its hard to go under the radar as a Leafs prospect, but late-season addition Pierre Engvall (TOR) is quietly transitioning very well from Sweden and with a bit of a run could prove to be a hidden gem.
– A few prospects need some strong play to stop their fantasy-value tailspins. Denis Gurianov (DAL) and Alex Nylander (BUF) are former A-listers that could really use some mojo.
When it comes to seeding and sceduling, the official AHL Playoffs Primer page is an excellent resource: https://theahl.com/2018-calder-cup-playoff-primer
Thanks for reading and best of luck to all of your vocal cords in this time of year where the refs totally screw over your favorite teams!