Historically, one of my most common faults in assessing the immediate future of prospects in the fantasy arena is expecting production from rising prospects, who simply may not have an opportunity. If you’re a regular reader, you might’ve noticed that recently, I’ve begun to put an enormous amount of emphasis on discussing what opportunity will be available to prospects in the fall. The reason for that is simple – if an organizations’ NHL lineup does not project to have a hole in the lineup, a prospect’s opportunity can sometimes be very narrow.
All too often, we apply expectations based solely on a player’s individual performance, entirely forgetting the situation that they may be coming into. In many respects, the opportunity a player has is a more important factor than his individual achievements or ability when evaluating his short term potential. With that in mind, today I want to discuss several prospects who will enter the 2020-21 season at various levels, with high expectations. We’ll discuss what other factors are at play that could impact their success, and whether or not their high expectations are justified and can be counted on.
First and foremost, Alexis Lafreniere will emerge from the CHL with arguably higher expectations than any other rookie. Upon kicking off his rookie campaign, Lafreniere will be approaching 19 years of age. He is physically mature and has a high aptitude in almost every trait that could be expected of a modern NHL forward. Unfortunately, with the official date of the NHL Entry Draft unconfirmed, the most important factor remains unanswered. Thankfully it’s relatively safe to assume that Lafreniere will be given every opportunity possible to have productive success at the highest level. Regardless of whether or not the roster which he is added to has holes in their top-six forward ranks or not, Lafreniere will have the leverage to force his way into an opportunistic and productive role.
Perhaps the prospect with the next highest expectations at the NHL level coming into next season is Minnesota Wild forward prospect Kirill Kaprizov. The long-anticipated arrival of the Russian winger has kept fantasy owners intrigued in his file for what seems like forever. Since his emergence, the NHL has been exposed to various players with a similar development path, and results seem to vary. Not only is there a stigma associated with Russian players who’ve spent the majority of their development in the motherland, but the inconsistent transition of those who have has instilled caution in fantasy owners. Nikita Gusev, Vadim Shipachyov, Ilya Mikheyev, Ilya Kovalchuck and Artemi Panarin have each garnered relatively positive expectations upon their over-aged arrivals – the results, however, have been inconsistent.