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Fantasy Pool Look: Top prospects Pt. I

With the Olympic break underway, it is the perfect opportunity to review the 40 best prospects with fantasy potential.

These are the guys with the most offensive upside down the road.

Ranking players is a delicate process of trying to blend the uncertainty of when a prospect will make his NHL team along with his potential offensive talent.

However, I have looked at many factors (not unlike my fantasy rankings) and have come up with a top 40.

Here is Nos. 40-31:

40. Vojtech Polak, Dallas. This offensive wizard has already had a cup of coffee with the big club. Polak is averaging more than a point per two games with Iowa of the American League, but his production has slowed a little. Just 20 years old, Polak most definitely will not make the Stars as a result of his grit and defensive play. He will not be a regular in Dallas next year, but two years is possible.

39. Juha-Matti Aaltonen, St. Louis. Another 20-year-old who lacks grit but can definitely find the net. Aaltonen was chosen in the ninth round of the 2003 entry draft (284th overall), however his offense has dramatically improved in each and every season. He is currently playing in Finland and is averaging about a point every two games. He is about three years away, and is still a project.

38. Drew Stafford, Buffalo. The 19-year-old Stafford is more of a sure thing than most players at this end of the list. However, his upside is only about 75 points as he is more of an all around hockey player than an offensive dynamo. The Hockey News Future Watch has him ranked as the 16th best prospect, but he's still another three years away, as he is currently playing in the NCAA.

37. Dave Bolland, Chicago. This 2004 second round pick (32nd overall) had a great Ontario League season last year and he buried those numbers at the halfway mark of this season. He is a candidate to charge up this list over the next year or two. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the pro game in the AHL next year. Still three years away, he is ranked No. 46 by Future Watch.

36. Marek Zagrapan, Buffalo. The 19-year-old Slovak had a spectacular World Junior Championship in January, and has carried that through with his return to the Quebec Major Junior League. He is a set up man, who is still about four years away from the NHL. Future Watch ranks the 2005 first round pick (13th overall) as the 41st best prospect.

35. Chris Thorburn, Buffalo. A huge power forward who is putting up solid AHL numbers for Rochester. He is 22 years old, but like most power forwards, he'll be a couple more years before poolies can see what he can do regularly at the NHL level. His production has improved in each of his three years in the American League.

34. Devin Setoguchi, San Jose. One of the last cuts for Team Canada prior to the WJC, the 2005 eighth overall pick has put up some nice numbers in the OHL. The 18-year-old is still a good four years away from NHL duty, but like Stafford, he is one of the closer prospects to a 'surefire NHLer'. Future Watch has him ranked 27th.

33. Ryan Craig, Tampa Bay. This 23-year-old has risen up my list every month since October. It's hard not to when he's been called up to the big club - and sticking. He has also put up some solid numbers, with 15 points in 24 games with the Lightning. He has a lot of character, which generally means he will stick in the NHL. Now it's just a matter of maintaining his impressive production.

32. Brad Richardson, Colorado. A 2003 fifth round pick (163rd overall), Richardson has been called up to the big club on several occasions and has impressed more and more each time. The 21-year-old has eight points in 20 NHL games and seeing as he was third in scoring last year in the OHL, the potential for more is certainly there.

31. Steve Downie, Philadelphia. Still a good four years away, Downie is nonetheless a solid prospect for keeper leagues if only because he was drafted by Philadelphia. We can all see Philly's track record of late, and Downie looks to be another success story. The 2005 29th overall pick is averaging nearly two points per game in the OHL this year, and impressed at the World Juniors.

Check back Feb. 17 for prospects 30-21.

Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Hockey 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 Wednesday and Friday. Also find the top 250 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN's Fantasy section.

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