As with every year, this year’s version of my Fantasy Prospects Report (being sold on my website for $13.99) includes a Top 20 comparison chart in which I choose 20 forwards in this draft. The chart appears side-by-side with co-writer Matthew Bugg and his picks.
As a treat for my THN readers, I will go over the Top 10, why I chose them and where I chose them. Keep in mind this is for fantasy purposes and not a projected draft order. Rather, it’s a delicate balance of player upside, his certainty of reaching that upside at the NHL level, as well as how long we have to wait for him. All are very important factors to consider when running your keeper league team. Only “points” are considered.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Because: He holds the most upside in the draft, the wait on him will be no longer than a year and he’s virtually a lock to be on a scoring line in the NHL at some point.
Team thoughts: I really like him in Edmonton or Florida for the simple “needs a No.1 center” reason. I dislike the fit in Colorado.
2. Jonathan Huberdeau
Because: He holds the second-highest upside in the draft and, like RNH, we won’t have to wait very long for Huberdeau (maybe one year longer).
Team thoughts: Colorado is so deep with youth up front I would cringe a little if he went there simply because it may be three years until he arrives instead of one or two. But I love the fit in Ottawa, Florida or even New Jersey.
3. Gabriel Landeskog
Because: He may be the most “certain” NHLer in the draft, which makes up for the small shortfall in upside (probably will never be a point-per-game player).
Team thoughts: Because of his skill set (his tool box is a complete set), I wouldn’t think any less of him as a fantasy asset no matter who drafts him.
4. Ryan Strome
Because: After Huberdeau and RNH, he is next in terms of “upside.” In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up with the highest-scoring NHL season of players in this draft.
Team thoughts: Ottawa is a nice fit here, in terms of likely destinations. The wait time would be at its lowest there as well. I also like Winnipeg. I don’t like Columbus or the Islanders for Strome, simply because of the players coming up through their systems. And getting picked by Boston would be the worst for him – so many forwards there, including Tyler Seguin, who is already waiting for his chance. If they made Seguin wait just imagine what would be in store for Strome.
5. Sean Couturier
Because: The same reason as Landeskog: the full toolbox and the NHL certainty. I would just rate him marginally lower (marginally!) in terms of upside.
Team thoughts: Same as Landeskog. Any team is fine.
6. Sven Bartschi
Because: I see him as having even more upside than his more highly touted countryman, Nino Niederreiter.
Team thoughts: It would be cool to see Bartschi with Niederreiter on the Island. I also think Calgary, Dallas and Minnesota are great fits – the host team because of how the lineup will look once Mikael Granlund crosses the pond and Dallas because of the great job they did developing Jamie Benn and James Neal.
7. Alexander Khokhlachev
Because: He’s this year’s Vladimir Tarasenko. If his name was Joe Smith from Canada and there was no Kontinental League threat, I would have him third on this list.
Team thoughts: I would love to see Washington or Pittsburgh nab him. The Caps are already solid with Russian prospects and I think that helps their reputation in Russia, which in turn encourages those players to come over. He would, of course, need to convert to the wing, though.
8. Matt Puempel
Because: I’m a sucker for dark horses. Because he missed most of the season with an injury he’ll slip out of the Top 10 at the draft. He has the skill set to be included on this list and you could probably draft him late in your keeper league if he slips out of the Top 20.
Team thoughts: I’d like to see him go to a team that isn’t deep up front on the NHL roster or in the system. So Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto, the Rangers and Calgary all come to mind.
9. Ty Rattie
Because: He’s compared to Jeff Skinner in the Fantasy Prospects Report. He’s an underrated goal-scorer despite numbers that say otherwise.
Team thoughts: You’re probably going to wait a year or two for him regardless of the team.
10. Tomas Jurco
Because: He’s fairly one-dimensional, but boy do fantasy owners like that dimension: offense. The problem is, he Alex Kovalev’s his way through seasons. That is to say, he’s a top player in the draft one night and invisible the next. But I love the high risk/high reward players.
Team thoughts: If the team plays a strict system and doesn’t have a lot of patience for this type of player, then I wouldn’t like to see him drafted there. New Jersey comes to mind as a ‘no.’ He would fit on a team that looks like it will have a star center in three or four years – Pittsburgh comes to mind.
Just missing the Top 10: Mark McNeill, Zack Phillips, Nikita Kucherov, Mika Zibanejad and Rocco Grimaldi – any one of them could be interchanged with Jurco. In terms of forward depth, I really like the draft this year. There may not be a Steven Stamkos or John Tavares, but the top 15 or 20 forwards are all players fantasy hockey owners should be very excited about.
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