Five defensive prospects who could help you win your pool in 2013-14.
Many NHL teams are entering this offseason with the mandate to clear cap space, as the salary cap is dropping to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season. And because of that, there will be a lot of roster openings around the league. Young players are very valuable in situations like these, as their rookie contracts typically carry very low salary cap hits. However, they need to be ready for the NHL game, particularly as defensemen. It isn't easy to step in and log top four (or even bottom pairing) minutes as a rookie.
Read on for five lesser-known defensive prospects that are primed to make an impact in 2013-14.
Look at the impact Jake Muzzin had this season in Los Angeles, or Brenden Dillon in Dallas. Neither entered the season with much fanfare. Using the Fantasy Hockey Geek tools, Dillon ranked as the 17th most valuable defenseman in my keeper league. Muzzin was 45th. We use standard categories and added hits last summer.
Shrewd fantasy hockey poolies have their ear to the ground at all times, and it is often the late round picks that make the difference. Eric Daoust has done a fantastic job looking at rookies ready to make fantasy impacts in his weekly Capped series.
Direction and fit are both important, and all five of the below defensemen fill a need on their respective NHL club when taking those two factors into account.
Adam Clendening – Chicago Blackhawks
Clendening is a mobile two-way defenseman in the Chicago organization. He was drafted in the second round back in 2011, and has had a nice developmental path since that time. After two years at Boston, he turned pro last summer. His rookie season in the AHL was a very successful one, as he finished with nine goals and 46 points in 73 games (and for you roto poolies, he also had 137 SOG and 67 PIM).
He plays a lot like Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy. Very mobile, head always up, and great at making outlet passes. He will be a natural fit on the Chicago back end with the puck possession game they like to play.
Where does he fit in?
Keith, Seabrook, and Oduya are all signed for the long term. Nick Hjalmarsson has one year left on his contract and may be trade bait this summer. Nick Leddy is an RFA this summer and will be due a nice raise, and that money has to come from somewhere. Clendening has a great shot at earning a bottom pairing spot out of camp, as he makes less than a million per season.
Matt Donovan – New York Islanders
I tabbed Donovan as a sleeper last fall, but the Islanders did the right thing and kept him in the AHL for the entire 2012-13 season. He's a dynamic two-way defenseman with no holes in his game, and his numbers this season speak say a lot about what he brings to the table: 14 goals, 48 points, 151 SOG, and 112 PIM in 73 games. He is a lock to play in the NHL next season, especially if UFA Mark Streit moves on from Long Island.