As the season slowly winds to a close and teams are quickly eliminated from their fantasy playoffs, the urge to consider next season is natural and enticing. After months of diligent work, you’re left with a, ‘better luck next year’ and a kick in the ass. Now begins the work for 2017-18 and with it, a better understanding of the young players on their way.
Here at DobberProspects, we’ll continue to pump out prospect-related mailbags each month in the hopes of helping you find the next diamond in the rough and earning you the right to rub it your competitors faces with exalted glee!
This month’s mailbag is chalked full of juicy questions so let’s get started!
Question: "Thanks for doing this, it's much appreciated!
Every year there seems to be at least one prospect projected to go in the first round that is very polarizing, some scouts seeing him go early, some others later or even in the second round. Who (if there are any) would be this year's polarizing players and what are your own thoughts about them?"
Answer: There are a handful of players that offer a wide range of opinions from scouts and draft forecasters. This is in large part to the separation in talent that occurs right around the middle of the first round. You can basically throw picks 16-40 in a blender as it’ll be very contingent on team needs and individual organizational biases.
One player who sticks out to me is Michael Rasmussen. The 6’5 centre from Tri-City of the Western League offers a tantalizing package of size and skill. Watching him play on a good night offers you a glimpse into what could turn out to be a 30-goal, top line centre capable of handling a yeoman’s workload. This potential has seen him on some draft lists as high as fourth overall.
On the other side of the coin, there have been many questions surrounding his ability to create offense at even-strength and whether his goal scoring prowess is the result of his being bigger and stronger than much of his competition – despite being just 17 years of age. Those who feel that way, see the Vancouver-native as not possessing great vision or creativity and relying on his heavy shot on the man advantage to rack up points. Those pundits have him falling deep into the first round and sometimes even into the 30’s and 40’s.
Having seen him play several times the last two seasons, I think he lands somewhere in the middle. Rasmussen does own very promising ability when coupled with his size and skating ability and would be a very worthwhile pick somewhere in the late teens or early twenties. I feel he’ll be a fairly safe NHL player, but that his top six upside is still very much in question.
The other player of note for this question would be Kailer Yamamoto. The exceptionally gifted forward is oh-so-slight standing just 5’8 and 160lbs but man can he create offense. His pure ability is up there with the best of this draft crop, but we’ll see how far he falls due to size concerns. He ranges anywhere from the 10-12 range all the way to early thirties on some board.
I like him a lot and believe if he is selected by the right organization who can insulate him and let his natural ability thrive, he could be a terrific fantasy asset down the line. He’ll challenge for the CHL scoring lead next season.
Question: “I know that goalies are a crapshoot, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on the Flyers' goalie prospects. They've got 2 studs in Carter Hart and Felix Sandstorm, who have been developing wonderfully, but they've also got someone by the name of Merrick Madsen who gets no love, and has done nothing but be awesome the past couple of years for Harvard, who just won the Beanpot. I feel like it could be a situation like when the Jets drafted Eric Comrie in the 2nd round as their goalie of the future, but then an unknown, late round draft pick in Connor Hellebucyk played so well in college and became their top goalie prospect.
Answer: The Flyers are absolutely loaded in the crease and on the back end. As you mentioned, they have several players under the age of 24 who look like they could be NHL goaltenders. Carter Hart is my favourite of the bunch but I haven’t seen enough of Merrick Madsen to say whether he’ll end up as a Connor Hellebuyck-like talent.
Hellebuyck was an incredible NCAA goaltender. He posted .952 and .941 save percentages in his only two college seasons and was awarded the inaugural Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top puck-stopper.
Madsen has the size and posted very strong sophomore numbers and did look solid in the Beanpot this year. I expect he stays and finishes his final year at Harvard before turning professional and battling for time in the AHL.
Question: “Which prospect that didn’t pan out in fantasy this year, but could be amazing next year?
Answer: There are a handful of players who were pegged to step into the league and produce exciting and fantasy relevant numbers, but ended up struggling in 2016-17. Of those guys, the three I see having the best shot at making up for lost time are Jesse Puljujarvi, Kyle Connor and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Puljujarvi has been coming alive in the AHL of late; demonstrating his powerful skating ability and terrific offensive instincts. Do not let the raw rookie showing fool you, this is a player who is going to feast on opponents in future seasons and will get many a long look next to Connor McDavid. Expect him to be far more ready for NHL competition next fall and begin to put up the numbers most predicted he’d have this season.
Connor is a similar story. He destroyed the NCAA in a one and done capacity and looked like a strong bet to stick with the Jets and be placed in positions to succeed. Well, the Jets won the Patrik Laine sweepstakes and suddenly their top six is loaded. Connor has begun to really light up the AHL recently, producing 20 points in his last 12 contests and will make a strong push to fill a wing spot in Winnipeg’s top nine next season. He may be another year away from really showing his stuff.
Bjorkstrand has already begun to make up for the disappointing campaign. I was very high on the former Portland Winter Hawk star as he dominated the AHL playoffs and looked great in his cup of coffee with CBJ at the end of 2015-16. He’s currently riding a streak of six points in his last eight games with the big club and coach, John Tortorella appears to enjoy sending him out with quality players to help maximize his potential. Bjorkstrand should once again be high on your list of prospects to target come next draft season.
Question: “What are your thoughts on Sam Steel's NHL outlook given his monster season in the WHL?”
Answer: His stock has certainly risen in the past eight months. He’s performing at a near-historical rate thus far and that cannot be overlooked. He is an accomplished two-way player and has demonstrated terrific offensive ability and improved speed this season. Leading the entire CHL in points is nice feather in any player’s hat, let alone in your draft-plus one season.
That said, I think it’s all but assured that he returns to the Western League next fall as he’ll be ineligible to play in the AHL and will be in tough to crack a deep Ducks’ lineup. Steel has top six upside and offers a skillset that would allow him to thrive in a middle six role if the offense doesn’t translate as expected. Fantasy profile here
Question: “William Lockwood – Van prospect. He's playing for a weak Michigan team in the NCAA… Two part question, how far away is he & does he project to be much more than a 3rd liner in then HL? “
Answer: William Lockwood had a terrific start to his NCAA career. He came flying out of the gate as a freshman playing on Michigan’s top line – you spoke of the weak squad, that helped him get early opportunities. However, he’s dealt with injury and cold spells for much of the back half.
I believe he’s a player who will most likely play three, if not four years of college hockey before turning professional. In my estimation, his speed and gritty play should help him transition to the next levels but I don’t think a top six spot will be in his NHL future.
Question: “A guy I own in a couple leagues and recently acquired in another is Evgeny Svechnikov. What are your projections for him in multi-cat leagues?”
Answer: I think Svechnikov has had a solid first season in North American pro hockey. He was an accomplished goal scorer in junior and played a powerful, yet skilled game. I think we’ll likely see his shot rates and penalty minutes rise as he becomes more comfortable in his body and competing against bigger opponents. With the way Detroit is trending, he should get a long look at camp next fall.
I believe we’ll see the 20-year-old back in Grand Rapids next season and depending on how that goes, he should be primed to push for a full-time NHL job in 2018-19. Fantasy profile here
Question: “Bruins defense will be changing over the next couple of seasons, which prospect has the highest offensive potential: Carlo, McAvoy, Zboril?”
Answer: I like Charlie McAvoy here by quite a bit. He’s got a little bit of everything and will very likely be the Bruins top defensive option during all situations in the not-so-distant-future. He’s a terrific skater, knows when to make a quick outlet or skate out of trouble, uses great edgework and can run a power play unit.
Zboril is a bit of a mystery as he flashes nice skill but also lacks a lot of consistency and is prone to lapses in judgement. Carlo isn’t going to wow too many people on the scoreboard, but his development thus far has been quite positive. I think he’ll fall in as a capable top four guy that maybe sees time on a second power play unit due to his big shot.
Question: “Sonny Milano; the kid has crazy hands and he is having a decent 2nd year in the A.
My question is, do you think his draft-year hype is still warranted today or will he end up burried in the system while having a few call ups here and there. Is he Rob Schremp 2.0 or is there more to this kid?”
Answer: I like Sonny Milano. He’s got great vision and can think the game at a high-level. His play away from the puck, pace and consistency are all still in need of work, but at just 20 years of age, these are not uncommon for an offensively driven player.
He will have some trouble pushing into a top six-role with Columbus anytime soon as the competition is stiff and Oliver Bjorkstrand is clearly a step ahead of the former 16th overall pick. That said, CBJ will need cheap, young talent as they aren’t in the best shape cap wise, so maybe it’s another season in the AHL and then he pushes into the bigs.
Either that, or you see him dangled as a trade piece to obtain a player that could put the Blue Jackets over the top. Either way, I think he will force his way into the NHL in the next two-three seasons and begin to become a productive top six winger.
Question: “Any players that you expect to be called up to their big clubs during the fantasy hockey playoffs and make an impact?”
Answer: To be quite honest, no I don’t. Sure, there will be teams who are well out of the race and decide to bring up some youth and give them an opportunity to see where they need to take their game in order to earn a full time spot next season, but there aren’t any that really jump out as capable of contributing to your fantasy squad.
Some potential NCAA signees, like McAvoy, Keller, White… even Luke Kunin might get to step into their big squad, but only Keller’s Coyotes are out of it and could throw him into a top six and PP role.
Prospects playing in the AHL such as Danny O’Regan, Kasperi Kapanen or Brandon Leipsic haven’t received an opportunity yet, and seem destined to finish out the year in the minors barring injury. Even a guy like Kyle Connor could get called up to Winnipeg but I wouldn’t be expecting fantasy relevant numbers at this point.
That’s all for this month! I hope you gleaned some information from these answers and as always, feel free to follow me on twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.
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