The Dean’s List received a special request from a few forum members eager to get the upper hand on 2012 NHL draft eligible players likely to carry some relevant fantasy value in the very near feature. Not surprising, the number one ranked prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry draft also headlines TDL’s fantasy-based rankings. Developing ranks for fantasy purpose alone is certainly different than lists distributed by actual scouting services as the importance lies in mainly offensive rewards.
Intangible qualities such as grit and defensive-zone skills are sought after by NHL teams but in the world of fantasy hockey it is important to get your mitts on players with higher upsides even if it comes with more assumed risk or bust potential. Weighing the risk-reward of drafting the forty-point gauranteed NHLer over the riskier potential point-per-game player becomes an internal struggle that fantasy junkies must resolve. Smaller, European players considered by many professional scouts to be “projects” (meaning the player has good raw hockey skills but will likely take time to develop with more bust potential) hold more value in fantasy rankings simply based on their potential offensive upside. The Dean’s List has adjusted the following rankings to factor in NHL likelihood and offensive potential to ensure that the rankings remain realistic.
**Emphasis on fantasy leagues with straight points and positional settings (C, LW, RW)**
1. Nail Yakupov, RW (Sarnia, OHL)
Barring a masterful surge from the Columbus Blue Jackets or a devastating loss at the NHL Lottery Draft, it appears that the Russian winger Yakupov is likely to find himself headed to the state of Ohio. Nail Yakupov entered North America as a high flying dynamic scoring winger able to pot goals at will. Despite breaking former Sarnia Sting Steven Stamkos' OHL rookie point totals notching 101, the Russian sniper has improved his game even more this season showcasing his elite ability at playmaking, adding to his deadly arsenal. Yakupov has all the potential to become one of the NHL’s elite forwards of the future with his elusive quick skating abilities, hair-trigger release and deft passing abilities. Nail Yakupov will hold extra value in fantasy leagues that distinguish wingers and his tendency to play on the edge benefiting leagues that reward categories of hits and penalty minutes.
2. Mikhail Grigorenko, C (Quebec, QMJHL)
Experts are comparing the one-two Russian punch of the 2012 draft class to the 2004 crop when Russians Ovechkin and Malkin went first and second overall. The comparison is fair as Yakupov is to Ovechkin as Grigorenko is to Malkin. Playing for Quebec in the QMJHL, Grigorenko has shown how he is able to control the pace of the game through puck protection. Mikhail has all the physical tools to become a fantasy contributor – size, strength, stong skater, lively-shot and elite hockey sense. TDL believes the Joe Thornton comparison is most accurate for Mikhail Grigorenko.
3. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW (Sarnia, OHL)
Flying under the radar slightly due to his season long knee rehabilitation, Alex Galchenyuk has teams slightly concerned about using a top five pick on the American born Russian but he is certainly worth it. The Dean's List has had more than enough viewings of Alex Galchenyuk last season to understand that he could become the best NHL player of this group. Blessed with good size, elite hockey sense, x-ray-like vision and a swift stick that even teammate Nail Yakupov has gushed over, Alex Galchenyuk will certainly offer your fantasy squad with consistent offensive production. For further reading on Alex Galchenyuk please read his profile here (posted Saturday, February 11th).
4. Filip Forsberg, LW (Leksands, SWE)
Looking at Forsberg's stat line will not "wow" you but the big Swede is one of the younger eligible in this draft (August birthday) and has already shown flashes of his rare skillset. Much like Grigorenko and Galchenyuk, Forsberg excels in the puck protection and the control game by using his strength and long reach to create time and space for his teammates. Filip Forsberg, no relation to Peter, has a heavy accurate shot that he likes to use as he roams around the offensive zone displaying his smart instinctual approach to the game. The youthful Forsberg has some filthy skills and does show similarities in his game as a young Evgeny Malkin in the way that he shows no fear stickhandling through players.
5. Sebastian Collberg, RW (Frolunda, SWE)
Swedish players seem to always be a safe bet (for the most part). Sebastian Collberg had a very strong World Junior tournament statistically (6GP-4G-7P) showing off his incredible speed and hockey sense as he hovered around the puck. TDL has had difficulty ranking Collberg but the gut feeling is that he could be drafted higher than most people expect as it appears he possesses some of that "it" factor that many valuable NHLers own. It is just a gut feeling though. If your fantasy squad covets speed, soft hands, elusive agility and a scorers knack then Collberg could become a good investment.
6. Pontus Åberg, LW (Djurgården, SWE)
Pontus is one of the oldest players in this draft class and has one hell of a shot. Unfortunately, Åberg has battled several injuries (shoulder in pre-WJC competition and a concussion) and as a smaller player (5-11) he will need to bulk up to improve his longevity. Åberg has fared well against men in the Swedish Elite League showing creativity and his strong skating skills. The potential to become a top six NHL player certainly remains for the skilled Swede and he has become a favourite of the TDL but durability is a bit concerning for a player who often plays in traffic.
7. Zemgus Girgensons, C (Dubuque, USHL)
Scouts are describing the big Latvian forward as one of the more complete players in the 2012 draft class. Girgensons projects to be a power-forward type of player that bangs and drives the net for goals. The Dubuque Fighting Saints captain oozes intangibles that scouts absolutely love but his speed, hands and instincts are impressive as well. Zemgus' upside is tough to project but he has the potential to become a Ryan Kesler type of player that scores, defends and competes one-hundred ten percent every night. Like Kesler, Girgensons could exceed people's modest projections for him and become a scoring star.
8. Teuvo Teräväinen, RW (Jokerit, SM-liiga)
Check Teuvo's birth certificate and it will become clear that if he was born four days later then he would not be NHL draft eligible until 2013. Teräväinen is considered a borderline first round selection at this point in the season but he is a player with very good offensive creativity and execution skills. Compared to Filppula by a few draft experts, Teuvo is a poised playmaker with dynamic skating abilities. From a fantasy standpoint, Teräväinen has the qualifications to become a reliable powerplay contributor and offensive catalyst. Do not expect a quick transition to the NHL for Teräväinen as he is playing in a child's body (5-11, 161) and needs to build strength to compete at the next level.
9. Radek Faksa, C (Kitchener, OHL)
The Kitchener Rangers' import pick rising up the rankings of most NHL scouts has the potential to follow in former Rangers Gabriel Landeskog's footsteps as a first round pick. Faksa has the work ethic teams admire and he earns his ice time through mistake free hockey. Faksa is not a flashy player but he possesses good offensive instincts and shows creativity on the offensive side of the puck. Check the Radek Faksa scouting reports and it will read: soft hands, strong north-south game with a heavy precise shot. Faksa has become a player who shows the willingness to work his way up the depth charts and it should not go unnoticed for NHL and fantasy general managers.
10. Nikita Gusev, LW (CSKA, MHL)
The wild card of The Dean's List's Top 10 is the twice-passed-over Nikita Gusev. Gusev has a few knocks against him but three biggest seem to be, size, average skating skills and the "Russian Factor". The latter is likely the reason Gusev has not been drafted yet but after the world witnessed firsthand how dangerous the tiny playmaker can be at the World Junior Championships he will surely be picked inside of the top ninety players. Gusev has world-class playmaking abilities with his surgeon-like hands and you would have to think Tampa Bay takes a long look at him as they own the rights to his WJC linemate Nikita Kucherov already. Gusev is a homerun swing and he could be worth it with his 52 points in 22 MHL games already this season.
Tomas Hertl, C (Slavia Praha, CZE)
Hertl emulates many of the recent Detroit Red Wings' draft picks in that he is a vigorous worker with a good package of offensive abilities. Skating issues are the only concern but his poised playmaking approach could reward fantasy teams with a solid asset.
Brendan Gaunce, C (Belleville, OHL)
The jury is still out on power forward Brendan Gaunce's offensive upside but the Bulls' captain should be picked inside the top fifteen players. Gaunce owns one of the best shots in the draft and can certainly bury some rubber but many scouts wonder how consistent his offensive output will become. Brendan Gaunce has a tireless work ethic and a "do-everything-to-win" attitude that makes him a safe pick. The upside for Gaunce is likely a second line centre in a Brandon Dubinsky type of mold and in the worst case he becomes a valuable third line pivot. Not too shabby.
Daniil Zharkov, LW (Belleville, OHL)
A "sniper" in every sense of the word, Daniil Zharkov has the size (6-3) and skill to put up points. The OHL rookie is a streaky scorer that has shown with his sixteen goals in 32 games of action that he has the ability to capitalize on his opportunities.
Martin Frk, RW (Halifax, QMJHL)
The gritty winger has the soft scoring touch and enough abrasiveness to reward fantasy owners in several categories. The once highly touted Czech forward has had a rough year struggling with concussions for most of the seasons but he does have solid hockey skills and will come at a discount on draft day.
Charles Hudon, LW (Chicoutimi, QMJHL)
Another undersized forward receives a shout-out from The Dean's List. Last year's QMJHL Rookie of the Year recipient, Charles Hudon's NHL future will be determine by his offensive contributions. It is a top six role for Hudon or nothing for the Q scoring star. The knock against Hudon is his skating and tendency to avoid traffic but one cannot deny his wizardry with the puck. The Chicoutimi winger is another home-run swing for fantasy owners that must make the decision to gamble with Hudon or draft just another potential 30-40 point player instead.
There you have it Dobber Hockey readers – fifteen forwards ready to be drafted to your fantasy squads in the near future. The Dean's List would separate the above group of forwards from the 2012 draft class into several tiers. At the top, Yakupov and Grigorenko have a commanding lead in tier one. Step down a tier and fantasy GMs should jot down two names – Galchenyuk and Forsberg. The third tier features the Collberg's, Aberg's, Girgenson's, Teräväinen and Faksa's. Tier four welcomes tenth ranked Gusev as well as Hertl, Zharkov, Gaunce, Frk and Hudon. If you prefer the safer picks then sliding Girgenson, Faksa, and Gaunce up might be more appealing to your draft needs. Again, several of the names mentioned above have significant boom-bust potential attached to their value. In the fantasy version of the NHL, drafting responsible thirty-point players should be left for the real NHL GMs. If you want to look like a genius then take a risk and draft Teräväinen, Gusev and Hudon higher than your opponents will have feel comfortable doing. Roll the dice and cross your fingers.
Please check back in the near future as The Dean's List reveals some of the names on defense that fantasy junkies should be watching out for.