Welcome to the NCAA signings edition of the Prospect Ramblings! Today we look at the impact of some of the impactful players who were drafted and left college for the professional ranks, and some of the undrafted free agents that have made an imprint on their new teams. There has been a lot of young blood infused into the lineups over the last few weeks and now that the regular season is over, we can react to the small samples we’ve been shown.
We will start with the drafted signees and who better to start with than dynamic defenseman Quinn Hughes. The smooth-skating rearguard signed as soon as his Michigan Wolverines were eliminated for the NCAA post season. Showed up to the Canucks facilities with a foot injury which held him out of game action for a couple of weeks but the debut was more than worth the wait. Making a difference in every game he’s played, his debut game showed off all of his skills. He was able to play defense with good positioning, unafraid to use his body along the boards. His skating is where he excelled. His first NHL point came on a play where Hughes seemed to have the puck on his stick for the entire shift before skating down low into the zone, behind the net and coming out front and unloading a shot that Brock Boeser was able to clean up. If you can pick up one young defenseman heading into next season for you fantasy team, Hughes might be the best bet.
Another prominent blueliner that came out of school early was Dante Fabbro of the Nashville Predators. The solid two-way d-man has shown the ability to play in an NHL top-six. Fabbro has shown the ability to move the puck effectively, cleaning up the bottom pairing on the Nashville defence. The blueliner scored his first NHL point on a perfectly placed from the edge of the face of circle in the Predators final game of the season. He’s a top-four defenseman in the making and likely has fantasy upside in the years to come (assuming he isn’t buried on the third pairing Nashville).
Moving up front, center Ryan Poehling had a debut to remember in the Montreal Canadiens final regular season game. The 20-year-old had a hat trick in his first NHL game and had numerous chances for a fourth goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With a willingness to get to the net, he banged in his first two goals from within ten feet and finished the hat-trick off with a great shot on a 2-on-1. He was able to do all this in just over 11 minutes of ice time and just for good measure, he scored the shootout winner for the Habs. Poehling is likely to crack the Canadiens roster next season and if he can keep up his solid play, a top-six role is in his sights. He’ll be a smart fantasy add for the upcoming season as a rookie.
The Ottawa Senators signed goaltender Joey Daccord to a two-year entry level deal and had him burn the first year of it immediately. He was able to get into one game, allowing five goals on 35 shots. He often looked behind on some of the plays as the NHL game is much faster and Daccord clearly needs time to catch up. The one-game stint in the NHL allows him to get a feel for the game and head into summer knowing exactly what he needs to work on. His fantasy hockey upside is still to be determined, but he could be a decent prospect to take a flyer on and store at some point next season in deeper formats.
Jake Oettinger joined the Texas Stars, AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars, recently and has out on a show since being given the opportunity between the pipes. Although the former Boston University goalie is playing in the AHL rather than the NHL, he’s made an immediate impact that is worth noting. The 20-year-old goaltender has been absolutely stellar for the Stars as he’s put up a .928 save percentage and a record of 2-0-1, helping them keep pace in the battle for a playoffs spot in the AHL’s Central division. His one loss came in a shootout where he made some outstanding saves to keep the game even. Storing Oettinger on your Fantasy team is a good idea as he could turn into a good NHL starter in the coming years.
Now for the the undrafted players who signed fresh deals – let’s start with Taro Hirose. Finishing his career at Michigan State, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings and immediately made an impact with the team. Hirose was able to make up for below-average skating with his high hockey sense. He began his NHL career with a five-game point streak, all assists, before scoring his first NHL goal in game seven. In all he ended up with seven points in ten games and will likely play on Detroit’s roster in the fall. A lower-end fantasy pickup in reality, most of his ability to affect your fantasy roster will come in the way of playmaking so quality of line-mates will matter for Hirose’s fantasy potential.
Another free agent signing for the Red Wings was Ryan Kuffner who hasn’t made much of an impact. He is a quick player but he has seemed like he needs to do some catching up prior to next season. While Kuffner is a bit more well-rounded than Hirose, he likely will not factor into fantasy next season. He could turn into a long term project and secondary scoring down the line.
The Minnesota Wild were the winners of the Nico Sturm sweepstakes. The center was regarded as possibly the most NHL ready prospect in college due to his mature game and ability to play at both ends of the ice. Unfortunately in the two games that Sturm was able to get into, he wasn’t able to make an impact. Sturm likely grades out as a middle-six center who can contribute offensively. While he could put up point totals in the 35-45 range, his defensive ability won’t translate to counting stats for fantasy.
The depleted Senators were able to add Ottawa native Max Veronneau to their pipeline and get him right into the line-up. Veronneau has used his skating to his advantage making an impact offensively with two goals and two assists in 12 games. While he is likely to be a bottom six forward, his spot in Ottawa’s lineup isn’t guaranteed in 2019-20. He will have the opportunity, but no promises are given on Veronneau’s ability to stick at the NHL level.
Overall, we’ve had a good two to three weeks from rookies coming from college to the NHL. There have been glimpses of fantasy relevance and confirmation of talent in the case of Hughes and Fabbro. Be sure to keep an eye out for these players development over the summer as this will be an important summer of training for the former NCAA athletes turned pros.
That’s all for this edition of Prospect Ramblings! Enjoy the upcoming NHL playoffs and the playoffs of all the leagues junior and otherwise!
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