Keeper leaguers in rebuild mode are always looking for the next big thing. Actually, keeper leaguers in any mode are looking for the next big thing. Mid-season drafts are starting to hit (assuming they weren’t cancelled with the shorter schedule) and poolies are turning their eyes to the prospects. THN's annual Future Watch issue is out and I also invite you to look at my fantasy hockey-themed prospects site, DobberProspects.com.
Over the next two columns, I’ll look at those prospects (forwards only) who appeal to me most, the only criterion being they cannot have played a single NHL regular season game. If you want a list of top prospects, including those who have played a few games, I track a list every month right here. Otherwise, here are prospects ranked 11-25.
25. Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jenner was drafted as a surefire NHLer, but a gritty, hustling leader-type who plays on the third line. Just 18 months later he’s made it pretty clear he doesn't want to be pigeonholed as a third-liner. His 39 goals in 51 games for Oshawa this season in the Ontario League makes the statement he can be a top-sixer.
24. Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning
The only problem with this skilled prospect is Cory Conacher just made the jump, Alex Killorn has a foot in the door, while Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson aren’t exactly sitting around waiting for their opportunity to come to them. So Namestnikov has some bodies to jump on the depth chart; otherwise, he’s three years away.
23. Vincent Trochek, Florida Panthers
The 2011 third round pick (64th overall) is among the OHL leaders in scoring with 91 points in 55 games. But that includes a ridiculous pace with his new team, Plymouth, where he’s picked up 41 points in 20 contests. The Panthers have a deep system, so they can wait a couple of years on this guy, but if you don't mind the wait he will be a good one.
22. Zack Phillips, Minnesota Wild
Another case of “being in a deep system,” Phillips will continue to hone his craft while the likes of Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson get their shot. Players such as Phillips, Trochek and Namestnikov will move up this chart a year from now and possibly dominate my Top 10 in 2015.
21. Max Reinhart, Calgary Flames
Although Reinhart’s transition to the American League is about the same as Phillips and Namestnikov, he ranks ahead of them because of organizational need. His upside is similar to the latter two youngsters, but is there any team in the NHL more in need of his skill set than the Flames? As soon as he’s ready, they won’t hesitate. But he won’t be for two years.
20. Brett Ritchie, Dallas Stars
Ritchie is fairly deep on this list considering he has 33 goals in 46 OHL contests this season. But I’m leery of him because of the Scott Glennie lesson. Glennie is struggling as a pro, so clearly his junior numbers were skewed playing with Brayden Schenn and later Mark Stone. Ritchie is playing with Ryan Strome. But his numbers impress enough to make him a solid fantasy prospect nonetheless.
19. Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars
Faksa was considered one of the most NHL-ready prospects in the 2012 draft class and that may still be true, but it won’t be for his offense. The points will come, but for now his complete game will get him into the lineup. A nice blend of speed and size, Faksa will need three or four years in the NHL before he takes that step forward. Still, just getting him into the NHL quickly is enough to give him trade value in fantasy circles.
18. Sebastian Collberg, Montreal Canadiens
The emergence of Brendan Gallagher (unexpected) and Alex Galchenyuk (expected) has given the Habs enough depth to wait a couple of years on Collberg. Otherwise the skilled Swede would have received a long look come September.
17. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov is posting crazy numbers in the Quebec League and his career path reminds me of Alexander Radulov. Kucherov will need to add bulk, so the wait on him will be two or three years. Some Russian-born players may not have that kind of patience, especially with a big payday awaiting them in the Kontinental League. But if he sticks it out, his upside may be the highest among Tampa prospects.
16. Matej Stransky, Dallas Stars
Since being drafted 165th overall in 2011, Stransky has posted 157 points in 132 Western League games for Saskatoon. He had just 26 in 71 games during his draft year. We call a player like that a steal. Although his skating needs improvement, he offers a poor man’s Jaromir Jagr-like package of size and skill.
15. Ivan Telegin, Winnipeg Jets
Although he’s struggling to put up numbers at the AHL level, Telegin is learning quickly. He has shown throughout his young career that he builds on experience. He’s on a St. John’s team that lacks scoring punch, so his numbers are a little misleading.
14. Calle Jarnkrok, Detroit Red Wings
Another strong pick by the Red Wings, Jarnkrok is well on his way to a full-time NHL job. The Wings take their time developing prospects, so they will want to see the 21-year-old Swede play in the AHL for two seasons first.
13. Phillip Danault, Chicago Blackhawks
The Quebec League’s defensive forward of the year for 2011-12, Danault has improved his offensive touch in 2012-13 (74 points in 47 games for Victoriaville and Moncton). The defense will see to it he gets into the NHL quickly, even on a deep team such as Chicago. The offense will probably show up in later years, as with Faksa.
12. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
After a 68-point rookie-pro season in the AHL last year, the undrafted Johnson is on pace to top that this year. Were it not for Conacher and Killorn, he would probably be on the Lightning right now. He'll have to wait and competition will be fierce, but he’s up for it. After all, he wasn’t even drafted and he overcame that, didn't he?
11. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
The former college star has adapted well to the pro game in his first year, sitting second in team scoring behind Nino Niederreiter. He’s a former first round pick (30th overall in 2010) which means that he’ll get more than his fair share of NHL chances on a scoring line. I wouldn’t be shocked if he made the jump in the fall.
Check back Monday for the Top 10, plus a handful of honorable mentions I jotted down.
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.