Hockey leagues around the world have now surpassed the halfway mark and are coming down the homestretch towards the playoffs. The World Junior Championship has concluded and a number of NHL prospects have etched themselves into the collective memory of fantasy GMs everywhere. Most likely, an onslaught of free agent pickups have transpired in your keeper leagues as fantasy GMs try to position themselves for the tough road ahead.
This month, I’d like to take a look at some names from last year’s 2018 NHL entry draft that are beginning to make a name for themselves and are players that you should quickly add to your watch list depending on how deep your keeper pool is. I’ll be using PNHLe (you can find an explanation at the bottom of this article) as a tool to identify players that have outscored their draft positions and are showing signs that they are quickly surpassing their cohort. That also means that many of the players outlined below may not be on your competitor’s radar yet, and you can do some more investigating to see if these young men are worthwhile pickups.
Akil Thomas (C)– 51st overall in 2018 by the Los Angeles Kings – PNHLe: 67
Thomas has shown steady improvement over the past three seasons in the OHL for the Niagara IceDogs. His present PNHLe places him fifth overall combining all prospect forwards currently playing outside of the NHL. Last year, players that finished in that range were a who’s who of top end prospects: Robert Thomas, Kristian Vesalainen, Morgan Frost and Jordan Kyrou, only to name a few. I’m doubtful that he’ll be able to continue the pace he’s set based on recent additions to bolster the IceDogs’ line-up, which may steal valuable ice-time away from Thomas.
The fact that he’s in an NHL organization that is in desperate need of players of his ilk suggests that his road ahead may be more wide open compared to similar prospects. However, the Kings have a handful of other young studs that are more highly rated at the centre position; Gabriel Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari are higher on the depth chart, but if Thomas can continue this progression he may end up the best prospect of the bunch.
Nicolas Beaudin (D)- 27th overall in 2018 by the Chicago Blackhawks – PNHLe: 63
The second of two rare Blackhawks first round picks in 2018 was used to select an offensively gifted defenseman that has posted a remarkable 40 points in only 33 games for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. Beaudin was one of the last defensemen cut from Canada’s World Junior Championship team, but he’s steadily improved from one season to the next, and continues to get better each and every game. His PNHLe l