Each year there is a new wave of prospects coming to the NHL from various European leagues. Some of these players were drafted, and some were signed as a free agent. It is difficult to judge who will be the next Artemi Panarin, and who will be the next Roman Cervenka.
There has been plenty of ink used to discuss the impact players such as Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho could have in their rookie season in the NHL. And you won’t get any of those players in a later round for better than market value. For that you need to dig deeper
For those of you in deeper keeper leagues, picking some of these players in later rounds offers a low risk, high reward potential scenario I strongly suggest is worth exploring. Here are ten prospects coming to the North America you need to know.
Pavel Buchnevich, RW – New York Rangers
Recently signed by the Rangers, Buchnevich will make his North American debut this year. There is little doubt he begins the year in the NHL, but if he can crack, and stick in a top six role remains to be seen. Coming off a 37 point season in the KHL, the offensively talented winger is the Rangers best prospect, and has an outside shot at the Calder Trophy.
Nikita Zaitsev, D – Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the hottest commodities as a European free agent this summer, and one of the worst kept secrets was the Leafs signing of Zaitsev. More known as a physical defenceman, Zaitsev also has some fantasy value as an offensive defenceman as he posted eight goals and 26 points in the KHL last year. He was an impact player in the Gagarin Cup and was impressive playing for Russia at the World Championship last spring. You will get a great opportunity to scout him as he will be one of Russia’s top pairing defencemen at the upcoming World Cup. The Leafs have already said they expect him to step into a top four pairing straight out of training camp. Zaitsev would be a safe, low risk pick with moderate upside and a high floor.
Anton Rodin, RW – Vancouver Canucks
Rodin has already made his North American debut, and he flamed out in the AHL and went back to Sweden. His AHL tour was hampered by injuries, but since he returned home he posted at a point per game pace in the SHL. The 25-year-old is now in his prime and has a shot at cracking the Canucks roster. If the former second round pick can play his way onto a line with the Twins, he could be found money. Rodin could play full time in the NHL as the Canucks are believers in his offensive ability and will give him every chance to prove them right.
Nikita Tryamkin, D – Vancouver Canucks
Yes I know he came to North America last season already and played 13 games in the NHL with the Canucks so I am cheating including him on this list. However the towering 6-7, 228 pound monster posted some pretty eye-popping stats in his late season audition. No two points isn’t what I am referring to, rather his 23 hits and 31 blocks for leagues with category scoring are what offer fantasy value. In his final KHL season he posted 11 points in 53 games, so any offence he produces is a bonus. When asked about a comparison to Zdeno Chara, he said he wants to be better than Chara.
Michal Kempny, D – Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks identified their blueline as a weakness after last years playoff loss and addressed the issue with the additions of Brian Campbell and Kempny. Kempny will likely pair this season with TVR on a bottom pairing role, with some time on the second power play unit. Kempny posted 21 points last year in the KHL and his play at the World Championship for the Czechs sold the Hawks on his potential. The 26-year-old will have to win a roster spot from, and fend off rookies Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling.
Mantas Armalis, G – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks lost backup James Reimer to free agency and replaced him with Armalis out of the SHL. With no better option in the organization and no other roster addition made by the time I write this, Armalis is the backup. While Armalis played well, and posted good stats in the SHL, he has a lot to prove to play in the NHL. While he does pose a high risk factor as goalies are already voodoo, imagine his value if he can survive in the NHL and there is an injury to Martin Jones.
Linus Hultstrom, D – Florida Panthers
The Panthers signed the offensive defenceman to a two year contract and the 24-year-old may need some AHL seasoning to adjust to North America. Hultstrom scored 12 goals and 31 points in 52 games in the SHL last season playing against men. He has significant offensive upside but could need some time before he reaches his potential. In deep keeper leagues he has value, hope for the next John Klingberg, but he has to jump past several quality defenceman on the prospect depth chart to do that.
Yohann Auvitu, D – New Jersey Devils
The Devils signed the Liiga defenceman-of-the-year as a free agent in hopes the 27-year-old can help provide some offence from the back end. Known more for his offensive skills and skating ability, the French defenceman made strides in his defensive game, enough for the Devils to sign him. He may need some AHL development time before he can contribute to your fantasy roster, so some patience and faith may be required.
Daniel Pribyl, C – Calgary Flames
A former Montreal draft pick, the Flames signed the 23-year-old Czech to a two-year contract. The 6-3 forward scored 16 goals and 45 points in 45 games in the Czech Extraliga playing against men last year. Some may be scared off by his off-season knee surgery, but reports are he is recovering well. He may miss some training camp and the Flames won’t rush him into action. The Flames will start him in the AHL in all likelihood where he will get into game shape and make the adjustment to North America. It may not be long before he plays his way onto the Flames roster and make his NHL debut. There is some risk associated with this player, but if selected in later rounds of deep prospect drafts, he could pay off.
Roman Lyubimov, C/W – Philadelphia Flyers
The big Russian had a breakout performance at the World Championship scoring eight points in ten games after posting only 14 points in 52 games in the KHL. The Flyers like his size, and two-way game and he could make an ideal fourth line player who can play wing or center. His ceiling is not very high, but his floor is solid as a fourth line player. Low risk, low reward, low value.
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