Back again with Part 2 of my brief overview of the players I’ll be watching at the World Junior Championship tournament in hopes of finding a gem for one of my keeper league teams (I have three of them). Every year, the WJC brings us hockey that's as entertaining as it gets. These youngsters, aged 17 to 19, are not only playing for the glory of a country, but they also know damn well the eyes of the hockey world are on them. Future employers are taking notes on their every move and decision. There will be no missed checks, no coasting and no nights off.
But most important of all for us keeper league owners, this is our chance to watch some potential fantasy assets play against the right competition. Back in their regular leagues, be it the Canadian Hockey League, the NCAA in the United States, the Kontinental League or the Swedish Elite League in Europe, these players are either dancing around their opponents as if they were pylons, or they're buried on the bench with teams that play against grown men. That makes it tough to get a feel for their offensive upside or their chances of making the NHL. That’s why the WJC is so valuable: it gives us a chance to evaluate these prospects on an even playing field. This tournament puts these players on a lot of draft and watch lists in fantasy hockey. Here are some key names to keep an eye on.
*Note: to keep the list manageable, I'm only discussing prospects already drafted by an NHL team. I'm also not going to discuss Jonathan Drouin - he should already be owned in all keeper leagues.
Bo Horvat, C - Already considered a strong leader, clutch player and two-way guy, Horvat has found the next gear when it comes to offense, posting 44 points in 28 games for the London Knights (Ontario League). He could make the Canucks as early as next season, but his defensive talent may keep him on a checking line at the WJC.
Matt Dumba, D - The seventh overall pick in 2012 hasn't seen a lot of ice time after making the Wild, but he'll see plenty at the WJC.
Josh Morrissey, D – He’s a great defenseman with lots of upside, but the Jets already have Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Paul Postma and Jacob Trouba in terms of puck-moving blueliners, so the wait could be a long one. Still, a strong WJC performance would make Morrissey too hard to pass up in fantasy.
Derrick Pouliot, D - After an incredible training camp with the Penguins, he's back to posting more than a point per game for Portland (Western League). He has 134 points in 144 WHL games over the past two-plus seasons.
Adam Pelech and Griffin Reinhart, D - The list of weaknesses on the Islanders this year is a long one, but it arguably starts on defense. The Isles have six defensemen with a minus-5 rating or lower and just one defenseman with more than six points after 35 games. Bottom line? Lots of opportunities ahead for Pelech and Reinhart. Let's see how they handle this competitive tournament.
Damon Severson, D - The emergence of Eric Gelinas on the Devils could complicate matters in terms of the future of New Jersey's blue line on the power play, but the talented Severson won't just lie down. Here’s his chance to get everyone's attention.
Charles Hudon, LW - At this point the Montreal Canadiens draft pick is considered a long-term fantasy prospect, but we could change our minds in an awful hurry by January.
Scott Laughton, C - Nearly made the Flyers after two strong training camps and he's gone on to dominate the OHL as a top 10 scorer.
Curtis Lazar, C - Like Horvat, Lazar is strong in his own end and may skate on an effective checking line at this event. Granted, a Team Canada checking line will always be a threat to score, but we may not fully see what Lazar has to offer fantasy hockey. Still, we’ll be watching this Ottawa prospect.
Anthony Mantha, RW - The Detroit prospect leads the Quebec League in scoring by a wide margin, but because he's with the Red Wings he'll have to get in line. He'll need to take the choice out of the hands of Red Wings brass with some ridiculous play.
Nic Petan, C - With 186 points in his past 103 WHL games, you get the idea what the Winnipeg prospect has to offer your fantasy league. But can he do it against the best in the world?
Kerby Rychel, LW - The talented though streaky scorer plays a power game that we'll see in full force for Team Canada. The Blue Jackets have a lot to look forward to.
Hunter Shinkaruk, C - Another Vancouver stud prospect, Shinkaruk has been hampered by a hip injury this year. Offensively, his potential is through the roof.
Radek Faksa, C - The big power forward was considered one of the more NHL-ready prospects when Dallas drafted him in 2012, but he’s done nothing but move sideways, or maybe take a step back, ever since.
Not one player on this team has been drafted.
Markus Soberg, RW - As the Norwegians try not to get pounded 8-1 every game, the lone bright spot could be Soberg, who likes to shoot the puck and shows a lot of hustle.
Oscar Dansk, G - Columbus prospect could rise up the ranks quickly, as the Jackets aren't exactly bursting with talent in the goaltending position.
Andre Burakovsky, LW - The 23rd overall pick last summer by the Capitals has high-end offensive upside and could potentially lead Team Sweden in scoring.
Sebastian Collberg, RW and Jacob De La Rose, LW - Montreal's talented prospects haven't seen a lot of ice time playing with men over in Sweden, so the WJC could be a coming out party for both.
Erik ‘No, Not That One’ Karlsson, LW - A potential NHL second-liner, how can we not pay attention to a guy named Erik Karlsson? Carolina prospect was drafted 99th overall in 2012.
Elias Lindholm, C - This one goes without saying. Lindholm will be an elite player for Carolina for years to come.
Gustav Possler, RW - Arguably Modo's best player over in the SEL, the Buffalo prospect is playing with former NHLers Jeff Tambellini, T.J. Hensick, Richie Regehr, Samuel Pahlsson and Kyle Cumiskey.
Nick Sorensen, RW - Anaheim's second round pick in 2013 (45th overall) has been one of the better offensive players in the QMJHL this year.
Oskar Sundqvist, C - An underrated prospect belonging to the mighty Penguins. He has played some right wing, which bodes well for his future NHL career.
Alexander Wennberg, C - The 14th overall pick last summer by Columbus, Wennberg has a bright future in the NHL that could take place sooner rather than later, given the Blue Jackets' offensive struggles.
Mirco Mueller, D - The Sharks will need an offensive rearguard when Dan Boyle moves on and Mueller (a.k.a. ‘Muller’) could be that guy.
Fabrice Herzog, RW - Toronto prospect has 20 goals in just 34 QMJHL games. A performance like that on the world stage would put him in a lot of fantasy keeper leagues.
In Part 1 we took a look at the fantasy hockey prospects to watch for Team Finland, Team Slovakia, Team USA and Team Russia. To get more information on these prospects, but from a fantasy hockey standpoint, visit DobberProspects.com.
Enjoy the tournament and have a Merry Christmas.
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.