Late in the CHL, AHL, and NHL playoffs, teams have been hard at work signing their top prospects to professional deals. This means that the organization sees them coming to North America and being meaningful contributors at some level within the term of the contract – an extremely important consideration for fantasy owners.
A player’s talent is only half of the equation when it comes to fantasy relevance. If a player has no clear path to NHL ice time, or a team has no interest in bringing a prospect into their organization, they wont be scoring any goals for your fantasy squads. So when a team decides they are ready to commit to a prospect, that’s when I’m ready to commit to them as a fantasy owner.
Here’s a few names you need to remember, especially now that the clock is ticking on their fresh ELCs:
One of the breakout prospects of 2018-19, Bemstrom is one of the reasons the Blue Jackets sold off top prospects at the trade deadline. His 23 goals in 47 SHL games as a 19-year-old rookie led the entire league. I’ll type that one again in case your eyes glazed – he led the SHL in goals, as a rookie. Presumably trying out in North America next season, there will be a big scoring hole to fill in a Panarin-less lineup and if he can score goals here like he has on the bigger ice, this kid is going to be someone you’ll regret not taking a chance on. Even if the team thinks he needs some AHL time to get used to the new ice surface or new culture, new situations don’t seem to be a long-term problem for Bemstrom.
The Panthers surprisingly chose not to sign Heponiemi after his 18/19-year-old 100-point season in the WHL. So he headed home to Finland, and his incredible acclimation to the new league clearly impressed Florida brass. Or, if it wasn’t his 46 points in 50 games in Liiga, maybe it was his 9 points in 7 games at the WJC, where he was a key member on a gold-medal squad. Regardless, the plan is for him to play on the AHL for 2019-20 unless he really forces his way into the lineup out of training camp. If his swift acclimation to his last league was any indication, Heponiemi should be making noise for your fantasy squad well within his 3-year contract.
The Kings have been patient with Prokhorkin and it may finally be paying off. The 6’2″ power winger is coming off a point-per-game season (his 6th full KHL campaign) and seems eager to reunite with former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk. Being 25 allowed him to sign a 1-year deal, meaning that this is truly a “prove it” year. In addition, his contract reportedly contains a European Out Clause allowing him to return to the KHL should he not make the team out of camp, making him a high-risk high-reward fantasy choice. He wouldn’t have signed the contract and made the effort if he didn’t think he had a chance out of camp, so keep an eye on how this develops. After finding success at home, if this NHL audition goes poorly it seems unlikely that he would desire trying again.
One of the horses in the goaltending stable, Werner jumped from Allsvenskan to the SHL in 2018-19 and tore it up with a 0.926 save percentage. His 26 games played was only a fraction of what he needs to see before having serious starter potential, but for a 21-year-old rookie its not too shabby. He’s got the prerequisite height as an advantage too, listed at 6’5″. As a goalie, its naturally difficult to predict a timeline on his development, but signing an ELC gives us insight into the team’s plans for him. He may return to the SHL next season, but clearly the intention is for him to claim the AHL crease in the next year or two and become a consideration as the teams goalie of the future. There isn’t much internal competition (depending on where UFA All-Star Francouz signs), so the new contract makes his path a lot clearer.
In case you missed the high-profile signings even earlier this month, check out Jokke Nevalainen’s Ramblings HERE covering names like Kravtsov, Korshkov, Steen, and many more.
FIRST NHL GOALS TIME!
Connor Clifton gives us another rare late-playoffs first goal by hanging around just long enough after joining the rush:
Thanks for reading! Make sure to check back in as the NHL Draft approaches – DobberProspects has become one of the most-referenced sources by the big channels on draft day for good reason.
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