Last week, FPL took a look at Team Canada players to watch. This week I will review the top fantasy prospects on the other teams in order of their current fantasy ranking.
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington (Team Sweden): Already being ordained as Alex Ovechkin’s center, Backstrom is tearing up the Swedish Elite League. He should be on the Capitals next season, which further increases his value as a prospect in fantasy circles. He is the top prospect in this entire tournament, as far as fantasy keeper leagues are concerned.
Nicklas Bergfors, New Jersey (Team Sweden): Bergfors should be ready to make the Devils next season, but it will be several years before he reaches his 70- or 80-point potential. The two-way forward has 19 points in 23 games for Lowell of the American League.
Petr Kalus, Boston (Team Czech Republic): Kalus has impressed the Bruins in two camps now. It will not be long before he sticks. He has more upside than Bergfors as he is more of an offensive player, but as with most talented youngsters, we may never see his 90-point potential.
Alexander Vasyunov, New Jersey (Team Russia): The smallish left winger has as much offensive talent as Kalus, but is farther away. Expect him to come to North America in a couple of years and learn the North American-style game in the AHL first.
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis (Team Sweden): Seeing as members of Team Sweden hold three of the top five spots on this list, it would be wise for poolies in deep keeper leagues to keep an eye on their games. Tons of dazzling offense to watch on this squad and Berglund is no exception. Still about four years away from a sniff at the NHL, Berglund is tearing up the Tier II League in Sweden.
Michael Frolik, Florida (Team Czech Republic: Frolik is a bit of a high risk/high reward prospect. His upside is 90 points and he is several years away from the NHL. As he gets older, you will be able to get a better read on just how good this kid is. For now, he is an exciting offensive prospect you’ll have to wait on.
Vladimir Zharkov, New Jersey (Team Russia): Speaking of high risk/high reward, there is nobody who exemplifies that statement better than Zharkov. Other than Backstrom, he is arguably the most offensively-gifted player in the tournament. He lacks consistency and a defensive conscience though, which makes an NHL spot far from a guarantee. If he gets there, it will be in five years and it won’t be to kill penalties.
Martin Hanzal, Phoenix (Team Czech Republic): Hanzal made the move to Canadian junior hockey this year and proceeded to lead the Western League in scoring with 54 points in 34 games. He is still three years away from the NHL, but he understands both ends of the ice so he should be a safe bet to get there. His upside is the low-80s.
Kyle Okposo, N.Y. Islanders (Team USA): A future power forward, Okposo will be at least five or six years before putting up big offensive numbers in the NHL. He has the potential to produce in the mid-70s.
Igor Makarov, Chicago (Team Russia): Makarov is another example of all offense and no defense. Though he has less potential than Zharkov, Chicago hopes they have a future star on their hands, along the same lines as Igor’s father (and former NHLer) Sergei.
Jiri Tlusty, Toronto (Team Czech Republic): Tlusty is a two-way forward with loads of offensive skill and defensive acumen. In three years he’ll likely challenge for a spot on the Leafs’ roster. He is a sure-fire NHLer with an upside in the high-60s to low-70s.
Jack Skille, Chicago (Team USA): Skille is a two-way forward who will be playing in college for the next three years, otherwise his value as a fantasy hockey prospect would be a little higher. That said, he could be a 75-point player one day in the NHL.
Trevor Lewis, Los Angeles (Team USA): There must be a reason why the Kings were tripping over themselves to get this guy. They traded Pavol Demitra for Patrick O’Sullivan and the rights to choose Lewis. They also signed him to an entry-level deal right away. He is still quite raw and will need several years of seasoning, but his offensive talent is unquestionable.
Perttu Lindgren, Dallas (Team Finland): Lindgren has the potential to be a first-line center in the NHL. He is responsible defensively and creative offensively. He is about two years away from a shot at a roster spot in camp.
Peter Mueller, Phoenix (Team USA): Mueller is a two-way forward who will one day be a first- or second-line center in the NHL. The Coyotes are desperate for pivots with size and Mueller fits the bill. With that in mind, he could sneak into the NHL next fall, although two or three years is more likely.
You also need to keep an eye on Jakub Voracek of the Czech Republic. He is a candidate to go first overall in the 2007 draft.
I used up so much space for the forwards that there will not be any defensemen profiled. I will mention the Big 3 though Â– Jack Johnson (Los Angeles) and Erik Johnson (St. Louis) of Team USA (no relation) and Jakub Kindl (Detroit) of Team Czech Republic.
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