Wright has a lot to prove at this tournament. There is no doubt he is still a top prospect and the Seattle Kraken are playing the long game with him. A strong tournament at the under 20 World Junior Championship (U20WJC) will no doubt improve his confidence, though I’m not sure it will be enough to be a regular for the Kraken the remainder of the season. He has one more NHL game to play for the Kraken will burn a year of eligibility.
Shane Wright vs. Matt Boldy courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
More than likely, Wright will go back to the OHL after the U20WJC and the Kingston Frontenacs will no doubt trade him for a pretty penny. Tearing up the OHL at the end of this season should set him up for future success in the NHL. Hopefully by next season, Wright is ready for the NHL because if he isn’t, the Kraken will have to do the same dance next season as he won’t be AHL eligible. If you roster Wright in a dynasty league, you might consider moving him for a prospect who is playing now or someone with a higher points upside. That might be hard to come across, but someone like Matt Boldy comes to mind who is already contributing and might have as high of an upside. The wait for Wright’s upside is starting to seem like it will be much longer than expected and that can be frustrating for fantasy managers who are ready to win now.
Othmann has already won gold at both the under 18 and 20 World Juniors for Canada, but he still has a ways to go in terms of breaking into a stacked New York Rangers lineup. Not only are the Rangers a strong team, but their young players like Kappo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Filip Chytil have famously taken a long time to get to the point where they are regular contributors and they are still not regular top 6 players.
Brennan Othmann vs. Casey Cizikas courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
What does Othmann have going for him? Well, he plays a style that is unique amongst Rangers’ forwards. Othmann is a power forward, extremely physical. He is tough and plays hard, but also has soft hands around the net. He projects to be a similar, if not better, version of Ryan Reeves, whom they recently traded to the Minnesota Wild.
In case you are wondering, Othmann projects to be elite in banger leagues if the points come. His blocks, shots, and hits (BASH) are all strong with over two hits per game, nearly a block per game (great for a forward), and over four shots per game in the OHL. If you can acquire Othmann for a prospect who’s upside is questionable or who’s development is stalling, that might be a good idea. Shoot me some names of guys on your team to see if it wouldn’t be good to trade for Othmann.
We finally get to see Clarke suit up for Canada at the U20WJC. After playing in Slovakia during his draft season, he was back in the OHL last season and captained the Barrie Colts going over a point per game. The 8th overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2021 debuted with the NHL club this season, getting into nine games before attending selection camp. A year ago, he wasn’t even given a camp invite after being a high selection in the NHL draft.
Brandt Clarke vs. Cam Fowler courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
Clarke has a lot to prove. He wants to prove to Hockey Canada that he belongs in the maple leaf sweater and that he is a top prospect ready for an NHL role. Because of his age, he won’t be eligible for the AHL after the tournament so he might be headed back to the OHL like Wright.
Clarke will want to show that he is NHL-ready, at least for next season, if not earlier. As one of only two right-handed shots on this team, he may get an opportunity due to handedness, though I imagine all the prime opportunities will still go to Olen Zellweger. Either way, he is going to be fun to watch and I imagine he makes the most of this opportunity.
Stankoven may seem like a strange addition to this list since he was a top player on the gold medal winning team from the last tournament played in August, 2022. Stankoven scored four goals and six assists in 10 games in that tournament and won just about every face off he took.
Logan Stankoven vs. Luc Robitaille courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
The skeptics will still point out that he is still only 5’8” and players of his stature have a hard time sticking in the NHL. Only five players currently in the NHL are his height or shorter and those are Cole Caufield, Kailer Yamamoto, Cam Atkinson, Alex DeBrincat, and Mats Zuccarello. All of these players have exceptional skills that translated to the NHL and I think the same can be said for Stankoven.
Obviously, he has to prove that he can continue to dominate his peers and is ready for the next step. After the U20WJC, he will have to go back to the WHL where he is scoring over a point per game as he is not eligible for the AHL. Next season, he can finally start his professional career and that will be a big step for him as we will finally see him in the AHL, unless he impresses at camp so much he starts in the NHL. I would be doing whatever I can to get my hands on Stankoven.
No player on Canada’s U20WJC team was drafted than Joshua Roy. The Montreal Canadiens took Roy in the 5th round in 2021. At the time, he had scored exactly a point per game split between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Sherbrooke Phoenix and there were concerns with his poor skating mechanics. After being drafted, he ramped up the production to nearly a point per game for the Phoenix, which is about where he is now and his poor skating mechanics remain an issue.
Joshua Roy vs. Dillon Dube courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
Roy already has U20WJC experience, scoring eight points in seven games enroute to the gold medal in August. He actually had the 5th most ice time on the team in that tournament, ahead of players drafted much earlier than him. The question remains though, can he be a legitimate contender for top six minutes in Montreal within the next couple of years. Another strong tournament here will go a long way toward proving that.
Though like most of these players, what he does in the AHL and in camp next summer will be even more important. Roy, unlike many of his teammates on this team, is eligible for the AHL next season, so he seems destined to show what he can do against professionals sooner than later.
Zellweger was great at this very tournament in August. He won a gold medal with Canada while posting the most assists and points by a defenseman. There isn’t much to prove at this level, but Zellweger has his sights set higher. There are still detractors who say that at his height of 5’10,” he can’t be a top-pairing guy.
Olen Zellweger vs. Jamie Drysdale courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
There is also the issue of the Anaheim Ducks having Jamie Drysdale as their future top-pairing and top power play defender. I think Zellweger is building the case that he should be a franchise rearguard moving forward. Of course, Drysdale is a righty and Zellweger a lefty so they could just play together, but who will be the top power player two years from now? My money is on Zellweger.
Jamie Drysdale RAPM chart courtesy of Evolving Hockey
During his 113 NHL games, Drysdale is near the bottom five percent of the league in expected goals against and Corsi against per 60. His offensive numbers are solidly in the bottom half as well. Of course, he may still figure things out and he is still young, but I still see more offensive creativity in Zellweger’s game than I did in Drysdale at the same age. There is of course also the issue of recently drafted Pavel Mintyukov, but I’d still bet on Zellweger.
I was amongst those who thought the Ducks reached at 22nd overall when taking Gaucher. He’s a big physical center, but the question was does he have enough skill? So far this season in the QMJHL, his numbers haven’t really popped off the page like he and the Ducks would have liked. This tournament, and especially being named an assistant captain, could go a long way to proving he has a scoring touch to go with his other attributes. Personally, if he has a decent tournament, I’d try and sell high on that value.
The San Jose Sharks drafted Gaudreau in 2021 in the 3rd round. This was after the OHL didn’t play at all in 2020-21 and the only hockey he played was at the U18 World Junior Championship, where he led Canada to the gold medal. He also took home the goaltender of the tournament so the results were good in a small sample size.
Benjamin Gaudreau vs. Brian Elliott courtesy of Hockey Prospecting
Since then, he has played on a poor Sarnia Sting team where his combined save percentage is 0.876 and goals against average is 3.67. On face value, it would seem he is struggling mightily, but his expected goals numbers tell a different story. His expected goals per goals conceded in 2021-22 were 1.27, where any number over 1 is good. In 2022-23, that number was 1.18 so he has saved more goals than expected for nearly two years since the draft on a poor team.
Regardless of what any of those numbers say, his performance at this tournament will cement his legacy. The Sharks have a fair number of goalies in their pipeline including Eetu Makinimi, Strauss Mann, Magnus Chrona, and Mason Beaupit so if Gaudreau wants to be the cream that rises to the top, he needs to be outstanding in this tournament.
For more on these prospects and other insights, tune into the latest Fantasy Hockey Life podcast, part of the Dobber Hockey podcast network.
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