The first edition of this list was put together last August, and it is something I am going to update at least once each season. I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often I see poolies place too much of an emphasis on youth and prospects instead of trying to add players who could help them win now. Using this rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.
I very rarely rebuild. I tried to unsuccessfully in one of my keeper leagues this past month – there were many sellers, but not many buyers. My IR in that league is star-studded – Sidney Crosby, Mikko Koivu, Marian Gaborik, David Perron, and Alex Edler. I sat too long on a potential trade involving Martin Brodeur and a trio of young talents (Patrik Berglund, Kyle Okposo, and Zach Bogosian). Berglund decided to start producing, and the deal hit the skids.
Keeping the two-to-three-year window in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league forward prospects to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the scope, the long-term upside of these players is balanced with their NHL readiness. The cut-off point for this list is 25 games played at the NHL level. Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin are no longer eligible.
This list is in order, so I probably wouldn't trade the fourth player straight across for the fifth player, and so on. However, unlike my previous lists, I haven't broken down forward prospects by position, so positional requirements in a specific league may change the rankings. I didn't split the forwards into centers, left wings, and right wings because many times prospects don't play their natural position at the NHL level. Many times skilled players skate at center during college and junior because they excel with the puck on their stick, and playing center allows them to do that on a more regular basis. However, many of these players are too slow, too small, or not good enough defensively to play the position at the NHL level. Some recent examples include TJ Oshie (although he moves back from time to time), Zach Parise, and Jordan Eberle.