Keeper league junkies do not have a lot of things to look forward to in the summer and are often forced to content themselves with beefing up their teams via trades in order to get their fantasy hockey fix. However, there are a couple of summer dates that are the exception. On July 1, unrestricted free agency opens. The other set of dates, of course, is June 22 and 23: the NHL entry draft. FPL will take a break from the team-by-team fantasy reviews so we can bring you a list of guys who are prominent on our fantasy radar.
10. James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia. Lots of skill and even more power. By the time the second overall pick is finished growing, he’ll be 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, at the very least. GM Paul Holmgren said he reminds him of a young John Leclair. While I don’t see that kind of offense out of him, I do see 80-point seasons in his future. He is also one of the more certain NHLers in the draft. The only drawback from a fantasy perspective is it will likely be five years or more before he starts putting up fantasy-worthy point levels in the NHL.
9. Lars Eller, St. Louis. Besides Patrick Kane and, at times, Alexei Cherepanov, Eller is possibly the most skilled, most intelligent player in the draft in terms of offense. The 13th overall pick is still a little raw, as he has yet to play against men. Had he proven himself against stiffer competition, he would have been drafted higher. He is much closer than van Riemsdyk to contributing fantasy-worthy points, but is less of a certainty to become an NHLer. In the end, he squeaks into ninth.
8. Maxim Mayorov, Columbus. A steal with the 94th pick. NHL teams were far too chicken to draft Russian players this year. Columbus has been through the headache before and are certainly capable of bringing this highly-talented winger to the NHL in a couple of years. He should have gone top 20. More talented than most in the draft, Mayorov also boasts a projectable frame (thin, but tall and will fill out) and a ton of speed. He has wrist shot worthy of 40 goals some day.
7. Sam Gagner, Edmonton. The sixth overall pick is a safe one. If there is one thing Gagner is great at, it is rising above expectations. He’s highly intelligent, a dazzling playmaker and he can also shoot the puck. What’s more, hockey is in his genes. He’ll be more of a fantasy asset than father Dave, whose career high in the NHL was 82 points in 1991.
6. Zach Hamill, Boston. If he better understood the defensive side of the game, Hamill would have been a top five pick. As it was, he was chosen eighth Â– which was higher than he was pegged. He has all the tools to be a first- or second-line center and the wait for him will not be all that long. He is the one player who could surprise onlookers in training camp as early as this year. I liken him to Patrice Bergeron, fantasy-wise.
5. Jakub Voracek, Columbus. It pains fantasy junkies to see the Blue Jackets land two guys in my top 10 in this year’s draft, given how draft picks have performed for Columbus up until now (even Rick Nash has never had more than 57 points in one season). However, Mayorov was a steal and Voracek was the right pick at seven. He is not that far from the NHL, as he touts a solid all-around game. His offense, defense and physicality are all high-end. He would have been the first overall pick, hands-down, if he played the way he is capable of every time he stepped onto the ice. Consistency is his drawback. He could produce in the mid- to late-80s one day.
4. Kyle Turris, Phoenix. The ultimate wildcard of this draft. He could be a 70-point player or he could be a 100-point player. The jury is out until we see him play some real competition. He makes a great high risk/high reward selection in your keeper league, but you won’t know what you have for a few years.
3. Angelo Esposito, Pittsburgh. On any other team, the highly-talented pivot would have been hard-pressed to make this list, but hey Â– it’s Pittsburgh we’re talking about. He may need to learn the game on the wing. If he does, he could wind up as a mainstay with any of the Penguins’ three big pivots as early as 2008-09. If that happens, you can add about 25 points to his upside.
2. Alexei Cherepanov, Rangers. If you watched the world juniors, you would swear he would be a 100-point player in the NHL. However, his performance was apparently the exception rather than the rule. He’s good, but not that good. He has the desire and the hunger, but not the consistency. He might be the closest to playing in the NHL out of all the prospects, however he has promised Omsk of the Russian Super League one more season. Although, he does have an escape clause and Omsk will not stop him from coming to North America Â– the Rangers just need to convince him and he could very well play in the NHL this season. An upside of 90 points is possible, but producing in the 80s is more likely. Look for 60-65 in his rookie year, whether it is this season or next. He broke Pavel Bure’s record for goals by a rookie in the RSL last year.
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago. Of course. He is the greatest talent in the draft, but he may have slipped to third on this list given the teams that selected Cherepanov and Esposito. What kept him at No.1 is the fact GM Dale Tallon is clearly hoping he can make the team this fall. Small players generally take a few extra years to get into the show, but there have been exceptions. The Blackhawks will give Kane every opportunity to make the squad. Having a player help your fantasy team immediately is always a bonus.
Fantasy Pool Look will be off on July 4 and will return on July 11.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league – check out the latest scoop every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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