Here is a list of first-round picks who will fit in well fantasy-wise for their new teams.
A bow has been tied on the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, and it’s time to analyze some of the players who were drafted into the best situations for their fantasy value to thrive. In a three part series, I will look closer at first round, mid-round and late-round fantasy prospects who you should target in your fantasy amateur drafts. Check back for the mid-round and late-round options in the next couple weeks.
Nolan Patrick – Drafted 2nd Overall – Philadelphia Flyers
Although I have Hischier as the top overall fantasy prospect, I think that Patrick found a perfect fit in Philadelphia that will help him thrive. He will slot in right behind Claude Giroux and will allow for Sean Couturier to drop back into his natural third center position.
The Philadelphia prospect pool is one of the deepest in the league and adding a top pick such as Patrick only deepens it. There will be no lack of talent for him to play alongside when he does enter the lineup, which I think is 50/50 at this point whether it is this season or next. The Flyers moved Brayden Schenn on Friday, which will open a spot on the Philadelphia power play, but that replacement is more likely to come as a wing rather than a center. I think Patrick likely ends up more of a second power-play guy who should get ample minutes in all situations.
Cale Makar – Drafted 4th Overall – Colorado Avalanche
Both Makar and Miro Heiskanen, who were taken back-to-back at number three and four, found good fits in the draft that should help them be valuable assets as they reach the NHL level. Heiskanen is currently in a much better organization in Dallas, but Makar’s offensive upside tends to be a bit higher, and thus the reason he is highlighted here.
The newest Avalanche defenseman is like Casey Mittelstadt in the sense that their talent is easy to see, but there are questions because of the level of competition they faced in their draft year. Skill is skill however, and I would rather have a high-upside option then someone who is capped in terms of ability, especially in the fantasy world. Colorado is a mess, and who knows what the team will look like once Makar spends time in the NCAA’s and makes the eventual jump to the NHL. But at his peak, the AJHL product has game changing offensive ability from the back end, which means he likely will be the first defenseman drafted in most formats fantasy amateur drafts.
Cody Glass – Drafted 6th Overall – Las Vegas Golden Knights
Las Vegas completely knocked their first draft out of the park this weekend and it started with Glass at sixth overall. Adding Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki later in the first round starts the core of a solid prospect group. Glass is one of the guys in the draft who has a first line ceiling, and is coming off a monster season with the Portland Winterhawks with 94 points in 69 games.
It’s a bit of a shot in the dark to see how the Golden Knights evolve over the next couple seasons, as much of their expansion draft was built around taking assets in turn for staying away from other team’s players. Glass is likely a couple seasons away from cracking the NHL, but when he does, he will be an able playmaker who will be the staple of Vegas’s team in the future. Look for him to have a huge post draft season with the addition of Kieffer Bellows as his linemate.
Casey Mittelstadt – Drafted 8th Overall – Buffalo Sabres
Mittelstadt was one of the most talented offensive players in the draft, and has high potential in terms of fantasy production. Obviously, we will learn more from this upcoming season at the University of Minnesota in terms of production, as most of his work this season came against lower-level competition.
With Jack Eichel holding down the number one center spot for the forseeable future, Mittelstadt’s biggest hurdle will be outplaying Sam Reinhart and Ryan O’Reilly to take over the 2C spot in Buffalo. The Sabres have a ton of depth down the middle and not too much on the wing, so you may see one of the three move from center down the road. Mittelstadt oozes upside and should be a power-play dynamo which adds value to his fantasy ceiling. He will need some seasoning at the NCAA level and will need to get stronger before making the jump.
Kailer Yamamoto – Drafted 22nd Overall – Edmonton Oilers
Yamamoto will be a great test case to look back on a few years down the road. Immensely talented, the 5’7”, 150-pound winger would be one of the smallest players to ever succeed at the NHL level. He is a terror for opposing defenders with terrific agility, skill and a nose for the net.
Being drafted by Edmonton only boosts Yamamoto’s value. He’s one of the only players in their system that may have the creativity and skill to play alongside Connor McDavid in the future. Worst case, he will provide a secondary option to keep offensive pressure up when #97 is off the ice. Yamamoto was always going to be drafted higher in fantasy leagues then he was in the NHL draft, but the Oilers fit is almost perfect and could boost his value even farther.
Kristian Vesalainen – Drafted 24th – Winnipeg Jets
I absolutely loved this fit for Winnipeg as Vesalainen is a guy who I believe slid down the board farther then he should have without much basis. You can easily see the tools in his game, and at 6’3” and 200-plus pounds, he is a guy who won’t have to develop physically to make an impact.
With Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele already in the fold and all 6’3” plus, Vesalainen is another skilled, big body to add to the lineup. Getting regular ice time as a 17-year-old in a league like the SHL is impressive and although his production with Frolunda doesn’t look like much, it was quite solid for a player of his age. He will likely again be a member of Finland’s World Juniors roster, with the hope to erase the memory of their 2017 failure in the event. Winnipeg typically drafts well, by taking the best player available which Vesalainen was at the time. The fact that the Jets already have a solid offensive core in place will only help the young winger when he gets to Winnipeg.
Klim Kostin – Drafted 31st Overall – St. Louis Blues
This could have been a blurb about either Kostin or Eeli Tolvanen, both who slipped down the draft board and provided great value for both the Blues and the Nashville Predators. As playoff teams with intriguing cores already in place for the future, both Kostin and Tolvanen will provide the clubs with more offensive ammo down the road.
The Russian winger was one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft year, as his injury and lack of playing time capped scouting time and provided an unknown that caused him to last until the last pick of the first round. If he reaches his potential however, we will look back and wonder what all teams were thinking when they let him fall. Central Scouting’s number one European prospect already has NHL size and has said that his preference is not to play junior hockey next season, whether it be in Russia or North America, preferring to be an NHL or AHL player. Lofty goals, but his combination of size and skill is rare and could lead to a multi-category type option for fantasy owners. He certainly will be taken higher in amateur fantasy drafts then he was in the NHL draft.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for prospect talk and happenings.