Tim Stützle (left) and Drake Batherson celebrate a goal. Photo courtesy of the Athletic/Andre Ringuette / NHLI
By Mike Kosciesza
Ottawa is looking for scoring forwards to surround the internet’s favourite roommates Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle. Last year’s AHL rookie standout Josh Norris is an easy fit with the idea that it makes sense to keep someone around who makes Brady Tkachuk happy where he is in an otherwise dismal season but it makes a lot more sense when he is nearly keeping pace with franchise cornerstone Tim Stützle despite playing less than 46 minutes at even-strength with him. Norris’ 15 points in 31 games have him third in rookie scoring behind only his teammate Stützle and Calder favourite Kirill Kaprizov.
Another player in Ottawa that is seizing the top-six ice time and running with it is Drake Batherson. Batherson has eclipsed the 20 point mark after his two-point performance against Toronto Sunday night. Batherson was never seen as a player that was a bad prospect but he was also never a prospect that the Ottawa fanbase and fantasy managers never were overly excited about. If you were, I’d consider you an optimist but optimists are rewarded with being right now and then.
Batherson reminds me of another player who’s own team has traded, regretted it and brought him back not once but twice. A player who is into his 30’s now were avoiding a dip in production is reserved for only the stars of the game. The player I’m talking about if you haven’t already guessed is perennial fantasy pre-season regression candidate David Perron. He, like Batherson, is the guy where you say “I don’t know man, I think with the talent coming in there’s no way he doesn’t lose some ice time or his role on the powerplay”. Then there he is again at midseason having another year that makes anyone who tried to be early to the David Perron goodbye parade lonely and feeling shame.
Heck, their development even looks the same.
Consider me a Drake Batherson guy, get this guy if you can. I like what I see in Ottawa and I like his place in their future.
Another guy who was an AHL standout and point-per-game player who I have pounded the table so much for and am thrilled to see doing well (except for the fact I traded him in my dynasty league) is Jason Robertson. Robertson was even being said to have been the lower upside forward of the two Robertson brothers going into this season, which really speaks to the kind of draft +1 year that younger brother Nick Robertson had. While Nick was scoring 55 goals in only 46 games in the OHL, Jason was scoring at a .78 points-per-game pace through 60 AHL games in 2019-20. Well, Jason Robertson can’t stop finding a way to impress at the NHL level this year posting .68 points per game through 19 games this season which is a pace bested by only (you called it) Kaprisov’s .92 in 26 games.
Alright, here is something I thought might be fun. Let’s take the five 2000 born standout defencemen not named Rasmus Dahlin and Quinn Hughes (as they are in their third full NHL season) and rank them 1-5 in terms of fantasy upside. The prospects I’m talking about are, in the order of TOI: Ty Smith, Noah Dobson, K’Andre Miller, Alex Romanov, Adam Boqvist.
Why is this fun? Well, only the January born Dobson and the Canadian market Romanov can buy a beer in their team’s city so the fact that they are all performing at the NHL level means they are all exciting and you probably want them on your fantasy team so choosing between them is not easy.
Alright, here goes.
I’ll start by rank in the official Dobber top 50 fantasy prospects as follows:
1. Ty Smith
2. Noah Dobson
4. Adam Boqvist
8. K’Andre Miller
15. Alex Romanov
I agree with these rankings although I think the real discussion comes in the top 3 of this class.
Before Rangers fans get all over me let me say that I think Miller and Romanov are exciting young blueliners and I’d take them on my team any day. They both clearly have offensive upside and haven’t exactly been given the same reins within their team’s offence that the top three have partially due to having players like Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Shea Weber and Jeff Petry ahead of them in those roles. The kind of talent that quite frankly isn’t there on the Chicago, New York and New Jersey bluelines. That being said, although Romanov and Miller will be trusted with big minutes in their NHL careers and maybe even PP2 or PP1 with injuries I will rank Romanov five and Miller four in this exercise.
What is interesting about comparing the three remaining defensemen is that they all played in the CHL during their junior career but all in each of the three different leagues that make up the CHL and never actually playing on the same stage outside the world juniors. Boqvist claimed the highest draft slot at eight with Dobson following at 12 and Smith at 17. All three are out producing first overall pick Dahlin with Smith producing 13 points and Boqvist at 12 apiece. I told you this wouldn’t be easy.
Who has the highest star probability?
Who’s running their powerplay? Well, they’ve all spent between 55 and 65 minutes on the powerplay.
Dobson PP TOI: 64.6
Boqvist PP TOI: 58.95
Smith PP TOI: 57.7
Points per 60 on the powerplay?
Even strength primary assists per 60?
Even strength points per 60?
A bit of a mixed bag of results there. Dobson didn’t lead any categories, Smith led the even-strength production and Boqvist led the power-play production.
My final notes before final rankings would be that Boqvist doesn’t have a single primary assist at even strength yet despite spending about one-third of his time on ice at even-strength with Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat at (33.15% and 32.92%). I mean, that’s surprising but it shows he’s not too firmly gripped to their scorching hot coat tails. Dobson’s Kane equivalent would be Mat Barzal, with who he has spent 38.89% of his even-strength time on ice, so it’s tough to call his production inflated either. Smith, however, doesn’t have near the same supporting cast as Jack Hughes has cooled off significantly and if you are labelling anyone else on that roster aside from 4 games of Nico Hischier a superstar then we have issues. With Dobson getting placed on the COVID protocol list now we must all look at their season under the lens of absences and stop and start due to being infected or being a product of COVID protocol.
Now that that’s all out of the way. If I own a fantasy dynasty team I am taking the 3 of them as follows:
- Ty Smith
- Adam Boqvist
- Noah Dobson
- K’Andre Miller
- Alex Romanov
I don’t think there is a wrong way to rank the top three prospects. I think the margin of talent between them is so thin and this ranking is likely to change over their careers. It’s an amazing time for young defencemen in the NHL and these five will be sure to be the feature topics of production from the blueline over that time.
Data courtesy of NHL.com, Evolvinghockey.com, hockeyprospecting.com and of course… Dobberhockey.com.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeKosciesza