Photo Courtesy of NHL.com
When it comes to the fantasy offseason we are all breaking our prospects into tiers. Who is too soon, who is too late and who is just right (Calder dark horses). I am not one to write off a prospect or any player too early, look at Ryan Strome, Brad Marchand or Jeff Petry who all looked like they were average producers or busts and then here they are later in their careers thriving. The average prospect won’t break out and become a legit NHLer until their age 21/22 season. Look at Jason Robertson, I held on to him since he was an 18 year old because I always “had a feeling” and ended up trading him before his breakout season this year because I got tired of waiting. That is why I am here, on the wrong side of trading a Calder nominee, to help you not make the same mistake and maybe be the person on the other end sniffing out the next Robertson or to trim the fat and cut ties with the Michael Dal Colle types who have been on your rosters backburner a little too long and now they are over cooked or “too hot”.
Too soon – These prospects are ones worth drafting but maybe not yet if you can’t afford time on a project
Ryan Suzuki (2001 born, Drafted 28th overall in 2020)
It might be tempting to draft Ryan on the basis that his older brother Nick is looking like a steal but the fact of the matter is Carolina is a much deeper team. Seth Jarvis is likely to be getting a shot ahead of Suzuki and heck maybe even Dominik Bokk. He got a shot playing at the World Juniors this year putting up four points in seven games and then 10 points in 26 games for the Chicago Wolves. These are not numbers that would force the Hurricanes to create a spot in a deep NHL lineup. He will be a good if not great player for the Hurricanes down the road but that day is not today
Rodion Amirov (2001 born, Drafted 15th overall in 2020)
This one seems obvious to me but one thing I have learned from being a Leafs fan myself and living in the GTA with a lot of Leafs fans is that Leafs prospects and players always go well before they should in drafts. Amirov could be tempting to jump on as he will likely get cups of coffee this year and has been touring around Toronto since his KHL season ended but it might be a shade too early for him. Although he is wearing 72 which is Panarin’s number and that is huge “I am ready” energy so I would not fault you for drafting him this year if you can afford to have him do nothing all year for you. His closest comparables to Byron Bader’s metric are Cam Stewart, Sean Couturier, Sean Monahan, Alex Tanguay, Raffi Torres and Kaapo Kakko so it is a but of a mixed bag but overall all good players for the most part. He has been compared to a Artemi Panarin play style so there is a lot to be excited about with LW spots open on both the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner and John Tavares/William Nylander lines. I believe it is still early but the kid is coming along nicely.
Just right, aka these guys are primed to emerge to fantasy relevance this season – Sleeper Calder contenders
Dylan Holloway (2001 born, drafted 14th overall 2020)
Holloway earned a three year ELC after an amazing D+1 year tallying 35 points in 23 games. How much of that was Cole Caufield? Perhaps all but he does not make an all star team and become a finalist for the Hobey Baker without being a pretty damn good player himself. The good news is, he puts up points and can play a dynamic game creating both off the rush and east west. The great news is, he also leaves little room for the opposing team on the defensive side of the puck, is a powerful skater and has the ability to disrupt defensively which should make him an effective two way player in the NHL.
Riley Damiani (2000 born, drafted 137th overall 2018)
Speed and agility are his game. He answered concerns over consistency of scoring at the pro level this year by being named to the AHL All Rookie team and finishing a point per game, top in rookie scoring and fourth in league overall scoring. This earned him a three-year entry level deal. I would expect his NHL timeline to be moved up but a lot of his biggest detractions have been mitigated by his play. He likely will not be a 30-goal scorer at the next level but his intelligence, speed and hockey IQ mean he should find top six minutes and power play time at his upside and top nine role in his floor. Outside of Tyler Seguin and Miro Heiskanen Dallas’ team is built on players who exceed expectations, why not Damiani?
Alex Newhook (2001 born, 16th overall 2019)
Newhook might be one of the best skating forwards not in the NHL last season as a full time NHLer. The thought of that alongside one of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri or Brandon Saad would be at the very least a good situation if not stylistically exciting.
Too late – It’s time to cut ties with these guys.
Casey Mittelstadt (1998 born, drafted 8th overall in 2017)
I was big on Mittelstadt, especially after his World Juniors MVP performance. He seemed to have it all going on and I suppose he could be a late bloomer and you can chalk a lot of his shortcomings to Buffalo. However, It’s tough to justify holding onto him at this point with 61 points in 155 games. If Eichel gets traded and he remains in Buffalo a little less pressure and more ice time could benefit him but Dylan Cozens has surpassed him as 1C and that doesn’t account for any player(s) Buffalo would get in return.
Nolan Patrick (1998 born, drafted 2nd overall in 2017)
I think Patrick will be an NHLer and will provide value to whatever team he plays for. However he will not live up to the number two overall production expected from that draft slot and honestly I do not see him having consistent fantasy value. Of all players on this list I would say he is someone you could warrant the “one more year” depending how Seattle’s expansion draft shakes out. Still, I would be seeing if you can swipe an asset out of him if you still can or cutting ties all together. He is just three shy of 200 games and only has 70 points to show for it. He plays some good hockey but I don’t know if you want to be the guy holding out at this point.
It’s never a wise game to play when you are talking young players being too old to peak but as the old fantasy rule goes, if you ever worried about dropping a player they’re always available in the draft. More often than not you will be hurt more holding a player you shouldn’t have than dropping a fringe player and assessing the situation when the cards are on the table. I don’t think either of the players above will be out of the league or anything of the sort, it just may be time to drop them in favour of some of the other players who could be available in those late rounds.
Keep an eye out for the Dobber offseason guide, nothing will make you feel better about the offseason decisions you’re making than that.