Most leagues are now on the home stretch and teams are jockeying for position to make a final push into the playoffs. The trade deadline has past and players have settled in on their respective lines, while coaches attempt to optimize player usage. This creates a great opportunity to find valuable players in your respective fantasy pools based on the point production set by prospects over the course of this season.
Today I’ll be outlining some key players you may want to focus on while utilizing PNHLe as a fantasy tool to identify players who are perhaps undervalued for one reason or another. I’ll also compare those players with others from past years that have ended their season with a similar PNHLe and were in a similar situation in terms of player usage and line-mates.
Joe Veleno – Detroit Red Wings – PNHLe (74)
Of all the drafted forwards currently playing outside of the NHL, Veleno holds the highest PNHLe by a fairly wide margin. I think most would agree that his fall down the first round of the NHL draft board last summer was a surprise, especially as a player who was originally granted ‘exceptional status’ in the QMJHL. Nonetheless, it means that because he was drafted 30th overall, fantasy GMs may not value him as highly as they should. The fact that he’s produced 98 points in only 51 games suggests that door is quickly closing and a fantasy team in rebuild mode should take the risk in acquiring him prior to your league’s trade deadline before his stock continues to rise.
Closest Comparables – Travis Konecny (Sarnia Sting: 2015-16), Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax Mooseheads: 2014-15), Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia Sting: 2012-13)
Adam Fox – Carolina Hurricanes – PNHLe (71)
A Harvard degree is considered one of the most valuable of any university in the world, so one would think that any hockey player that chooses to go back for their senior year couldn’t be faulted based on that factor alone. However, the Carolina Hurricanes will push hard at the culmination of Fox’s junior year and try to sign him to a professional contract. If he decides to stay for another season, the fear for Carolina is that he’ll choose to test free agency and they’ll lose him for essentially nothing.
Fox came to Carolina as an underrated piece to the Lindholm/Hanifin for Hamilton/Ferland trade but may eventually tip the scales in favour of the Hurricanes if he can translate his NCAA point potential to the NHL. The comparables are a bit tough to come by because NHL teams quickly sign most players that display the same offensive upside. While many other prospects in this article are having remarkable seasons, Fox has shown consistently that he has high upside all three years he’s played in the NCAA. As a defenseman, his 38 points in only 27 games speaks volumes as to how much skill he can provide from the back end.
Closest Comparable – Justin Schultz (Univ. of Wisconsin: 201-11), Brandon Montour (UMass Amherst: 2014-15), Nate Schmidt (Univ. of Minnesota: 2011-12)
Drake Batherson – Ottawa Senators – PNHLe (69)
At this point in time, it may be a bit of a stretch to consider Drake Batherson as an undervalued prospect, especially with the Ottawa Senators cleaning house at the trade deadline, which has opened up a few spots in their top-six. Chances are the door has closed on the opportunity to snag Batherson in most leagues, however, if you have the luxury of being patient then you may be able to use the fact that Ottawa is just entering a rebuild and a wary owner may sell him off for a player that is already in the NHL. I’m not sure there is an NHL prospect who’s seen his stock rise more than Batherson in the past year and a half, but there is no question the point upside that Batherson brings to the table.
He currently sits second in PNHLe of all forward prospects and was recently called back up to the NHL before he was demoted prior to the trade deadline so that he would be eligible for the AHL playoffs for the Belleville Senators. I don’t think that it would be advantageous for Batherson to play the remainder of the season in Ottawa earning limited minutes, but you should monitor his transactions closely, as I often can’t figure out some of the moves the Senators complete.
Closest Comparables – Logan Couture (Worcester Sharks: 2009-10), Kyle Palmieri (Syracuse Crunch: 2011-12)
Jared McIsaac – Detroit Red Wings – PNHLe (69)
Many prognosticators predicted that McIsaac would end up getting picked in the latter part of the first round in 2018. However, like many of Detroit’s other draft picks, McIsaac seemed to land in the Red Wings’ lap and they may laugh all the way to the bank with the 36th overall pick. As a former second overall pick in the QMJHL 2016 draft, his offensive upside seemed to stagnate in Halifax and he was seen as more of a shut-down defenseman until he broke out this season and has scored 55 points in only 43 games. He also earned a spot on a very deep Canadian World Junior roster and showed well in the tournament before an early departure. It’s unlikely he’ll end up matching the upside of some of his comparables, but the fact that he’s taken a huge step forward and is in a Red Wings organization that is desperately looking for the next defender to take over the top power play quarterback position bodes well for his chances.
Closest Comparables: Sam Girard (Shawinigan Cataractes: 2016-17), John Carlson (London Knights: 2008-09), Ryan Ellis (Windsor Spitfires: 2009-10)
Emil Bemstrom – Columbus Blue Jackets – PNHLe (66)
Even in leagues with very knowledgeable fantasy owners, chances are prospects currently playing in European leagues are undervalued because of their lower points-per-game. That’s why a prospect like Bemstrom who has scored 31 points in 39 games, including 20 goals, maybe a player to target if you have a high-end prospect that you are beginning to sour on (i.e., Alex Nylander). The 2017 fourth-round pick was arguably Sweden’s top forward during the 2019 World Junior Championship and has been a key component in Djugarden’s success in the SHL this season. The fact that Columbus went all in at the trade deadline, while moving some other top end prospects (i.e. Vitaly Abramov), but were able to hold on to Bemstrom speaks volumes on how highly they consider him as a prospect in the organization. It’s quite possible that if he has a strong showing during next year’s training camp that he’ll make the Blue Jackets and contribute on the score sheet the following year.
Closest Comparables – Andreas Johnsson (Frolunda HC: 2015-16), Johan Larsson (Brynas IF: 2011-12), Elias Lindholm (Brynas IF: 2012-13)
Lawrence Pilut – Buffalo Sabres – PNHLe(64)
Pilut is a boom or bust type prospect that you may be able to get at a very cheap price but comes with the risk he may never become an impact player. His stock has likely fallen because he was recently assigned to the AHL and could see substantial time there for the remainder of the season. The extra minutes in Rochester will only help his defensive game. Even in today’s new NHL style of play, he rarely takes the body, which results in breakdowns in the defensive end. The loss of Brendan Guhle to the Anaheim Ducks should make the road ahead much more open for 23-year-old. The one thing to remember about Pilut is that he has excellent vision and hockey IQ that translates to points on the score sheet. He’s proven in two different professional leagues that his offensive upside is more than just a fluke. Last year he led the SHL in points and won Defenseman of the Year, and this season in the AHL, albeit a small sample size, he’s posted over a point a game scoring 22 points in 17 games.
Closest Comparable: Shea Theodore (San Diego Gulls: 2015-16), Matthias Ekholm (Brynas: 2010-11), John Klingberg (Skelleftea AIK: 2012-13)
Assuming your fantasy league’s trade deadline is just around the corner, right now is the time to take a hard look at your team and make a concrete decision on the direction you want to move. Even if you are in a position to make a run, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the future and building depth on your farm team. Often the same rules that apply to real NHL teams can be adapted for fantasy purposes.
PNHLe is a tool that I’ve created so that you can see how NHL players have succeeded in different leagues, and at different ages so that comparisons can be made with current prospects. Like any instrument, it should only be used as a piece of the puzzle to build the ultimate dynasty team. The great writers at Dobber Prospects is an invaluable resource that can be used alongside PNHLe to find prospects before other general managers or to analyze a prospect’s value and buy them at a lower point before they break out in your league.
You can read up more on the PNHLe stat, where it comes from, and the methodology behind how the algorithm was created here.
If you are interested in seeing other player cards, a prospect’s progression and how their PNHLe stacks up against other prospects, every profile is available in a completely free iOS app that I’ve created specifically based around fantasy hockey. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can download it here.
If you have Twitter, please give me a follow @NHLRankKing
Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed.
- Mason Black
- 2020 NHL Draft Fantasy Rankings
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- 2021 NHL Draft Ranking: Finnish prospects (December 2019)
- WHL Report - December 2019
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- QMJHL Report - December 2019