This week we look back to December of 2002 and the emergence of Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik
There is a certain invulnerability that comes along with being young. That feeling of unlimited potential, that the rest of your life is a blank canvas filled with endless opportunities and possibilities. It's a nice feeling to be sure, and it often creeps up into the world fantasy hockey.
This season I've been incredibly impressed with the performance of many players under the age of 21. San Jose's You Tube sensation, Tomas Hertl, managed seven goals in his first seven games; 18 year old Nathan MacKinnon has been a consistent point per game player to start his career; and in only his second season Canadians eventual franchise centerman Alex Galchenyuk looks ever more comfortable in a top six role.
As a result of these strong starts it makes sense that these three have been involved in a ton of fantasy trades. While some have been well balanced transactions, I have been shocked by the value some poolies are getting in deals, specifically with Tomas Hertl.
Coming into this season Dobber had Hertl ranked as the 37th most valuable prospect. As of August 10th he was all the way back in the 59th spot. Certainly his play over the first couple weeks has warranted a jump in his ranking, but we're still considering a sample size of only 10 to 14 games. In some trades I've seen Tomas garnering more interest than Yakupov or Galchenyuk in keeper leagues.
I empathize with everyone; properly assessing the value of young players with limited NHL experience is one of the more daunting tasks in fantasy. Ultimately it's a bit like being at the roulette table. You really don't know if that ball is going to come to rest on red, black or even green. With players under the age of 22 you're essentially wagering a bet and watching the ball go round and round, hoping that it comes to rest in your favor.
The emergence of Hertl, MacKinnon and Galcehnyuk got me thinking about the early part of the new millennium, when the NHL was undergoing a transition from the old guard to a new group of elite prospects.
In Dobber's December 2002 fantasy rankings there was a lot of the names one would expect near the very top: Jagr, Thornton, Bure, Foresberg…etc. However, the top 15 also featured a couple kids making some fantasy noise – 20 year old Marian Gaborik and 19 year old Ilya Kovalchuk.