One of the biggest challenges for off-season Fantasy Hockey is keeping up to date on what moves and transactions are made in the real world and how it may impact your fantasy keeper decisions. This is even more difficult in deep keeper leagues that mirror the NHL and have full prospect rosters, or at least very deep ones.
With that in mind here are some tips for how you can stay on top of what is happening, who is going, who is coming and what other players stand to gain from these moves.
First visit us here daily throughout July and August as we are posting a new team focused article daily. The summer 31-in-31 series is back by popular demand. July takes a look at what each team came away with at the NHL draft, has a look at what each teams Development Camp roster looks like and what moves have been made so far. Catch up on the series here.
It would also be wise to check in regularly on the EliteProspects home page to see the latest transactions. I just had a look and here are some things that I took away from that.
European Free Agents
It is always a roll of the dice when talking older free agents from Europe. But here is my take on it. They are free to acquire, simply draft or sign them to your fantasy team. They almost always have short-term and cheap contracts so minimum financial obligation and they are also often minor eligible. If they are a boom or bust, either way you find out pretty quickly. You may be adding the next Artemi Panarin, or he may be on the waiver wire by Thanksgiving (Remember Vadim Shipachyov). The point is, it costs little to find out, and you don’t have to wait four years for him to develop like entry draft players.
One that stood out is Czech center Jan Kovar, signed by the New York Islanders, the 28-year-old comes from the KHL . He is a KHL All-Star, Playoff leading scorer and Champion with his former team Magnitogorsk and has averaged over a point per game the past five seasons with 286 points in 285 games. With John Tavares signing with the Leafs, the Islanders first line should be Beauvilier-Barzal-Eberle, leaving a vacancy in the 2C slot that the Islanders will hope Kovar can fill.
The Russian factor rears its ugly head.
Don’t think the “Russian Factor” is a legit concern? Heading back to Russia are former first overall pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Nail Yakupov. Sure Yakupov has panned out to be the biggest first overall bust since Alex Daigle, and there is an argument to be made that he is just never going to cut it in the NHL regardless of his passport. But I think he reminds me too much of another Russian bust in Nikita Filatov. Both players were considered to be not Coach friendly. Maybe Yakupov figures it out how Alex Radulov has and makes a big comeback, but if you own him in any fantasy format the time to cut bait has arrived.
Also heading to Russia is former “sleeper pick” Anton Slepyshev. The 24-year-old showed flashes of brilliance while in North America, particularly in Development camps and pre-season, giving false hope to fantasy owners that “This would be the year he breaks out”. In 102 career NHL games he managed only 10 goals and 23 points. If you were holding out on this guy, he is gone to Russia and is no longer fantasy relevant.
Viktor Antipin was one of the top European free agent signings last summer with the Buffalo Sabres. I suggested him as a potential great value pick for your draft last summer at this time. Antipin did play in 47 games for the Sabres posting 10 points (all assists) but has returned to his KHL club Magnitogorsk. Easy come, easy go.
And while this is not a prospect by any stretch of the imagination, I want to chime in on the return of a Russian player in Ilya Kovalchuk. If you have been holding onto him this is the time to sell. If he is available in your league, let someone else reach too soon to pick him. And if you are in a capped league, steer clear! Kovalchuk signed during the second day of the NHL Draft, and I was at the draft in Dallas and was able to listen in on a conversation Craig Button was having with some of the media. Craig and I share the same opinion; that is that the NHL is not the same as when Kovalchuk was a star, and he is not the same player anymore either. One of the greatest assets in his game was his speed, that’s gone. Kovalchuk was a player that scored on the rush, and now he isn’t fast enough to do that. He still can shoot the puck and will be looked at for offence on the power play, but don’t count on much 5v5 production anymore. If you look at his KHL and Olympic stats you may be thinking “He still has it”. Button said that he talks to a lot of scouts that watch a lot of KHL hockey, and watched him in the Olympics and that the quality of competition he has been playing against is far weaker than the NHL, and his skill set currently does not translate to the way hockey is played in the NHL today.
For more insights and takes from the Draft in Dallas be sure to check for the latest DobberProspects Radio Podcasts. The latest episode features guest Bob McKenzie as we discuss some first round picks that may be in the NHL sooner than later and more. I will be posting more epsiodes soon featuring interviews with guests such as Sam Cosentino from Sports Net, Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, Scott Wheeler for some Leafs talk, and Anthony Mingioni on the Flyers.
Speaking of the NHL Draft and Adam Kimelman, here is a link to a great thread on following what players from the Draft have been signed to NHL contracts yet over at NHL.com
The article gives a great little snippet of where each player is expected to play next season. Here is a preview:
- Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (signed)
Expected to be in Sabres opening-night lineup
- Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Carolina Hurricanes (signed)
Could start season as top-six forward.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Montreal Canadiens (signed)
Will compete for a roster spot during training camp but could start the season in the American Hockey League or return to his native Finland.
The AHL offers players a little more familiar and closer to home, and that are already pro. These players can be difficult to track in the off season when they are free agents. Some will sign in Europe, some will sign AHL deals, but some will sign on with a new team and get a fresh chance to make or get back into the NHL. AHL writer Pat Williams has a great AHL free agent tracker list of players Still Out There On The Open Market
Here are a few names that stood out to me:
Cody Franson, Patrick Wiercioch, Jason Garrison, Stuart Percy, Casey Baily, Lance Bouma, Justin Auger, Emile Poirier, and Ryan Kujawinski.
Finally, the CHL held the Import draft recently. It is always reassuring that the player you picked in the draft from Europe comes to North America sooner than later to play junior hockey. While playing pro hockey is also impressive for an 18-year-old, many of the European pro leagues give little ice time to the young players, which can hurt their development. There isn’t a better league than the CHL. Here are some players coming to North America.
Adam Boqvist who was drafted last year by the London Knights has signed to come and play in the OHL. Boqvist was a top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft by Chicago, and could be on the Hawks roster as soon as next year. How he plays this year will be a clear indication of how close he is.
The CHL also lifted its embargo on European goalies and the Sudbury Wolves picked Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with the 3rd overall selection. Lukkonen also recently signed his ELC with the Sabres, and played in Buffalo at the 2018 World Junior for Finland.
Arizona Coyotes third round pick Jan Jenik was selected 6th overall by the Flint Firebirds. The Czech winger is a physical and offensive player with good upside.
The first ever British born player drafted into the NHL was also drafted by the Peterborough Petes with the 9th overall pick. Kirk is another Coyotes prospect and is a bit more of a banger. Here is a scouting report from his profile by our writer Sid Osmond.
He has very soft hands and is an efficient and agile skater. Kirk also has a quick and accurate release on his shot. Liam is another young prospect coming from a Commonwealth market who is showing potential. He doesn’t have the same crash-and-bang playing style as Australian Nathan Walker, but has potential of being a utility scoring forward with his good skating and soft touch on the puck
A player ranked highly at the start of the season and ended up not being drafted in the NHL was Nando Eggenberger. He was picked in the Import Draft by the Oshawa Generals and will try to rebound after a disappointing season and make it into the 2019 Draft as an overage.
Maksim Zhukov was picked 48th overall by the Barrie Colts. The Russian goalie played in the USHL and was picked by Vegas in the 2017 Draft. I spoke to one of the Vegas scouts at the draft in Vegas and he told me their goalie scout was ecstatic they landed Zhukov as he was his top ranked goalie in the draft. Barrie could have a good one here.
Barrie also selected Matej Pekar with their second pick at 108 overall, a Buffalo Sabres 4th round pick from last years draft. Pekar played last year in the USHL as well scoring 54 points in 56 games.