I continue to obsess over the conundrum that fantasy owners will face this summer when considering who to draft first overall in prospect drafts. Rasmus Dahlin is a lock to go #1 overall in the NHL draft, and looks like he might be the best defenseman prospect we’ve seen in a long time. I continue to lean towards drafting Andrei Svechnikov #1 in fantasy drafts because of how much easier it is for forwards to come in and make an immediate impact.

We simply do not have much track record for defensemen making the leap to the NHL straight from their draft year. It was basically unheard of to make that leap in the 90’s and really didn’t become common-place until the mega defenseman draft of 2008. Not counting nine-game (or less) tryouts, we’ve seen 16 defensemen make the leap from draft to NHL over the past two decades. They’ve all been first-round selections. Here’s how they fared in their rookie years:







Steve Eminger






Jay Bouwmeester






Brent Burns






Luca Sbisa






Luke Schenn






Zach Bogosian






Drew Doughty






Dmitri Kulikov






Victor Hedman






Cam Fowler






Adam Larsson






Seth Jones






Rasmus Ristolainen






Aaron Ekblad






Noah Hanifin






Jakob Chychrun













That is uninspiring. The best-case scenario is something in the Fowler/Ekblad/Doughty range where the player got all the minutes he could handle including loads of power play time. However, even with all that usage the best season was a 40-point outing.

Over the same span there have been 48 forwards to jump straight from the draft to the NHL, roughly three per season, scoring an average of 35 points in 63 games. Half of those forwards scored at a 0.5-points-per-game pace or better. There are much higher odds of getting an immediate impact out of your highly drafted forward.

This isn’t to say that Dahlin can’t buck the trend, it would just be historic if he did. Not since the early 80’s with guys like Ray Bourque, Larry Murphy and Phil Housley did you have guys jumping straight from the draft to superstardom at the defense position. The game just isn’t wide open enough for that any more.

The track record for these early debuts in year two isn’t much hotter averaging 22 points in 66 games. The best-case scenario is Drew Doughty’s 59-point explosion, but most guys didn’t do much until year three or four.

There is a strong track record of highly drafted defensemen who wait a year before making their debut. In recent years we’ve seen Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov, Charlie McAvoy, Erik Karlsson, Morgan Rielly, Tyler Myers, Michael Del Zotto and Erik Johnson do well as rookies one year after their draft year. These, however, are exceptions, and even then, the best among them merely scored in the high 40’s.

Generally, a defenseman needs to step onto a team with a massive hole on defense to make an immediate impact. Which teams currently in the lottery have such an opening?

The only spot that would make me change my mind about taking Svechnikov over Dahlin is Edmonton. Some of this is home-town bias, but the Oilers haven’t yet figured out who their #1 defenseman is. Oscar Klefbom should be that guy, but he has had an injury-plagued, no-good year and is rumoured to be on the chopping block. Dahlin with Connor McDavid for the next decade is too intriguing to pass up, but mostly because a team with Connor McDavid shouldn’t be in the lottery.

Outside of that, the best spot is probably Vancouver. Their top defenseman for offensive usage is Alex Edler. The thought of Dahlin driving the bus for a team with quality forwards like Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and eventually Elias Pettersson is intriguing.

Other destinations of intrigue:

NY Islanders – John Tavares wouldn’t necessarily have to return, as Mat Barzal is dynamite in his own right. Nick Leddy looms, but probably isn’t good enough to block Dahlin. Ryan Pulock is also coming on of late but isn’t established enough.

Chicago – Duncan Keith is a future Hall-of-Famer, and still has some gas in the tank, but would probably do more to help Dahlin than block him. The Blackhawks have experimented with other options on PP1 instead of Keith all season. They’ve got some nice young forwards, and of course Patrick Kane is still a star.

New Jersey – They aren’t technically in the lottery right but heading into last night’s action they sat just one point up on Florida (who have two games in hand). Apologies to Sami Vatanen and Will Butcher, but the Devils still don’t have a #1 defenseman. With a bundle of talented young forwards, including a star in Taylor Hall, these guys could take another leap with the addition of Dahlin.

What are you expecting from Dahlin next season, and where do you think he’ll ultimately land?


Two goals for Ryan Pulock last night. As mentioned, he is coming on of late. He has an absolute BOMB of a shot scoring 39 goals in 163 games at the AHL level. Pulock has seven goals and 22 points in 33 games since the start of January. Highly intriguing young player who sits eight points back of Mikhail Sergachev for the rookie scoring lead.

I prefer Sergachev in keeper leagues, but Pulock is a nice option. Between those two on that rookie defenseman scoring list: Charlie McAvoy and Will Butcher. McAvoy is the best of the bunch, although it stinks that Torey Krug is blocking his path.


Connor McDavid has gone supernova and is now just one point back of Nikita Kucherov in the scoring race. He has dragged Ty Rattie from prospect bust to potential waiver wire option. Rattie has three goals and five points in the last four games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 11 points in 10 games since returning from injury and suiting up on McDavid’s wing.

Nugent-Hopkins’ season-ending run may boost his stock for next season if Chiarelli doesn’t trade him *breaks hand compulsive knocking on coffee table*. We saw a similar boost for Leon Draisaitl after breaking out on McDavid’s wing last year.


A four-goal night for Anze Kopitar won’t help make the Hart trophy race any easier. My word.


Update on Patrik Laine: apparently his foot is bruised, not broken and he’ll miss 4-14 days. I still have some skepticism after what went down with Patrice Bergeron, but it looks like Laine will be good to return in time for the playoffs.


Jonathan Toews is expected to miss a few games with an upper-body injury. It’s a shame because Toews had finally started to produce at a high rate with 12 points in his last 10 games. In particular, Toews has been producing on the power play with five PPP in the last 10 games.


Jason Spezza has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a back injury.


Christian Wolanin made his NHL debut last night going scoreless in 17 minutes of action. Thomas Chabot is the heir apparent to Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, but Wolanin is going to make some noise. The 23-year-old led his North Dakota team in scoring with 35 points in 40 games, netting points on 30% of his team’s goals. That’s comparable to the load Karlsson has carried in Ottawa this season with points in 28.4% of the Senators’ goals. In keeper leagues, you could do worse than taking a flyer on Wolanin. Read more about Wolanin here.


Some goodies in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts:

In the first period of Toronto’s game Thursday night in Nashville, James van Riemsdyk knocked home his 34th goal of 2017-18. He’s averaging 14:50 per game, one of the best bang-for-your-buck players in the NHL. Not since 2005-06 has anyone scored 30 goals in a season playing less than 15 minutes a night.

That was Vancouver’s Anson Carter (33 goals in 14:34), Colorado’s Marek Svatos (32 in 13:45) and the Rangers’ Petr Prucha (30 in 13:42).

But, with six more, van Riemsdyk will be all alone in an impressive club — 40 goals in under 15 minutes per night. Since the NHL began counting ice time, no one has reached 40 with so little opportunity.

This is why I spend so much time harping about ice time. You can’t succeed without talent, but you need opportunity as well. What van Riemsdyk is doing is wildly impressive. For a while it looked like he might not be as highly sought after this summer. Now, he is going to be a hot commodity. Contract year baby!

1. The NHL has submitted to the NHLPA a revised Draft Lottery odds system for 2018. In 2016-17, the 30th-place team had an 18 per cent chance. If approved, whoever finishes 31st would be at 18.5 per cent. It was 20 prior to 2017.

Take note if you are in a keeper league that follows the NHL lottery results to determine draft position. Tanking is going to become less valuable.

12. Word out of the GM meetings is Calgary GM Brad Treliving will look to add a first-round pick in this year’s draft. The Flames traded their 2018 selection to the Islanders in the Travis Hamonic deal, and will try to replace it. That would likely mean a major move, but the way this season is ending necessitates something big.

This is explosive news. Do the Flames have a specific player they are targeting? A specific player range where there are a number of players they value highly? Why does it have to be a first-round pick, is it just for optics because it’s embarrassing to not have a first-rounder in a season where you missed the playoffs?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions then this is alarming. Let’s take them one by one:

Are they targeting a specific player?

If yes, then this is overconfidence in their ability to scout. I mean, 100% you have to put in the work with scouting and analytics, build your draft board and trust your ability to draft and develop players, but if there is one “must-have” guy you are liable to overpay in moving up to get that player. What happens if they trade into the first round but then get spooked about that player not making it to their pick. Now they might talk themselves into trading even more to move up.

Are they targeting a specific range of players?

This would be a rational approach, so I take back what I said earlier about this part being alarming. If the Flames have 10 prospects they grade similarly high and target a top-10 pick they are still liable to overpay, but at least they aren’t banking on one prospect, and can thus shop around for the pick that will go cheapest. They could even go for a pick outside that range and roll the dice on one of their players dropping to them.

Are they doing this for optics?

I totally understand wanting to get a high pick to get more talent into the system. First-rounders offer the best chance of landing more talent, but you could probably do more damage with a pile of mid-round picks than you would with one first-rounder, especially if that pick isn’t in the top 10. A lottery pick is going to be exceedingly difficult to steal away. The last few times lottery picks changed hands at or before the draft it was for starting-calibre goaltenders in Martin Jones and Cory Schneider, and also for Dougie Hamilton, a trade that worked out well for Calgary.

If all the Flames can bag is a pick in the 20’s, it won’t buy them much certainty in terms of the odds of landing a future NHLer but will still likely cost them a lot. I know circumstances are dire with no pick in the top 70 this year and only nine picks over the next year, but you’d increase your odds of getting more talent loading up on cheaper picks.

Teams love trading later picks for retread first-rounders. The Curtis Lazar deal is a perfect example. There’s no getting back the second-rounder that Calgary gave to get him, but would a team take a chance on him for a seventh-round pick? Your odds of getting a player are low with a pick like that, but they aren’t 100% with a first-rounder.

Also, it’s unlikely that a first-round pick helps the Flames next season, which should be their focus while they have a top defenseman like Mark Giordano and a viable starting goaltender in Mike Smith nearing the end of their careers. The Flames’ prospect pool is loaded with defensemen on the cusp of helping out now. Eventually, they are going to wish they had a first this season to get talent that will help the team in a few years, but they do have some talent already germinating.

Anyhow, it doesn’t hurt for Treliving to try and get more picks, but this news stinks of desperation.

You can take a lesson from this in keeper leagues as well. People clamor for first-round picks when rebuilding, but you can lose a lot of trades chasing the bird in the bush that is a draft pick.


Check out Ian Gooding’s latest Finding Fantasy Value column.


Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.