Taking a two-week break from the team-by-team off-season outlooks, since we’re on the heels of the 2014 NHL draft. Now that we know where these skilled youngsters are heading, here are the 10 players I will be targeting the most in keeper leagues.
Players 10 through four on this list are probably not going to make their NHL team this fall and in some cases, won’t make the team next year either. So what I’m doing is looking at a group of 10 top prospects and trying to determine not only which team will provide them with the opportunity sooner, but also how well the prospect will be developed to meet his upside. You want to avoid having a prospect sit on your reserve for four or five years.
10. Brendan Perlini, Arizona
The Yotes are not very deep up front and the future of their offense lies with Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson and Perlini. Perlini has the size and hands to make this team in two years as a 20-year-old and perhaps make your pro roster by the time he’s 21. His 16 power play goals were tied for third in the Ontario League last season.
9. Josh Ho-Sang, NY Islanders
Considered the “wild card” of the draft, Ho-Sang has a lot of upside. So is he another Kirill Kabanov or will he be that special offensive player teams covet? Over the next two years, he will work on using his teammates better and playing hard every shift. Boom or bust.
8. William Nylander, Toronto
Other than perhaps Leon Draisaitl, Nylander may have the highest offensive upside in the draft. He certainly has the creativity and shiftiness that puts him at the head of the class. But he lacks size (169 pounds), strength and defensive acumen. As such, he’ll be several years away from NHL duty.
7. Jake Virtanen, Vancouver
A power forward if there ever was one, Virtanen already boasts NHL size. He also plays hard, with a will to score that only pure snipers can boast. And the beauty part? He’s still 17, one of the youngest in the draft. There’s still so much room to grow and he joins an organization that has plenty of room for him over the next couple of years.
6. Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh
Since 2008, the Penguins have only drafted one forward in the top 50 – Beau Bennett. Until now. Kapanen went 22nd, but he was top 15 on a lot of lists. Sami’s son boasts similar skill as his father and he joins an organization with the two best centers in the game. Like Bennett, Kapanen will take two or three years to get here.
5. Michael Dal Colle, NY Islanders
Great upside and seems certain to make it to the show and thrive. But if Ryan Strome has been sitting on your bench for three years now, how long will Dal Colle sit there? And with the Islanders finally done their rebuild and many scoring-line spots spoken for by young players, they can afford to wait even longer on developing the kids.
4. Sam Reinhart, Buffalo
He may have been drafted second overall, and Buffalo may have new management, but I still shudder when I think of what happened to Mikhail Grigorenko. I’m sure the Sabres will do much better by Reinhart and I also think Reinhart is better equipped to handle change in circumstances. But besides all that, Reinhart has the lowest upside of the top three and he’s on a team that is a long way from finishing a very serious rebuild.
3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton
The highest drafted German in NHL history has offensive upside that is through the roof. Brendan Ross, who penned the draft section of my Fantasy Prospects Report (on sale over at my own site), likened Draisaitl to Anze Kopitar in terms of potential. On a talented, freewheeling Oilers team, he could be right.
2. Aaron Ekblad, Florida
I think we’ll see with Ekblad next season what we saw with Seth Jones this season – a quick impact with modest production and hints of what’s to come. Long-term, Ekblad should be a coveted defenseman in fantasy hockey.
1. Sam Bennett, Calgary
Pull-ups be damned, Bennett is the best all-around forward in the draft. Teams selected based on need and the top four players in the draft are so close in talent that if the top four teams picked in the opposite order, they may have selected the same guys. Bennett’s “fall” to fourth should be taken with a grain of salt – and Calgary is a great fit for him.
You can read up on all the drafted prospects, from a fantasy standpoint, over at my site DobberProspects.com.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.