Ramblings: Fantasy Calder Candidates (Part 2), Ho-Sang, Brannstrom, Theodore

Cam Robinson


Elias Pettersson is the Golden Boy


Does anyone else think Shea Theodore is hearing footsteps? Long been dubbed as one of the top fantasy blueline prospects, the 23-year-old remains a holdout from Golden Knights camp. His absence coupled with Nate Schmidt’s suspension has opened a large hole on the left side. That hole is being filled by 2017 first rounder, Erik Brannstrom and he’s looking to seize the opportunity.


Brannstrom is a new-age defender. He’s undersized, mobile, crafty and loves to jump into the play. He relies on his IQ and processing skills to skate the puck out of trouble and into offensive situations. Through four preseason games, the recently turned 19-year-old has four points and looks ready for a chance during the real games.


Theodore was already battling for power play minutes before the infusion of Brannstrom. If he’s not careful, he’ll be left on the outside looking in. And I’m not just speaking contractually.


I remain somewhat lower on Theodore's upside than many. I expect a season in the 30-35 point range. As for Brannstrom, he has a very high ceiling and should be considered the future solution to that top PP point job. However, expecting much more than 25 points from the rookie would be asking a lot. He can still yet end up in the AHL, or even the WHL where Brandon selected him 37th overall in the CHL Import Draft last June. 





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As the conclusion of the (too lengthy) preseason draws near, teams are whittling down their rosters. The New York Islanders are no different. Except they made some noise on Monday by sending down Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang and Keiffer Bellows.


Bellows was dangerous throughout the preseason and camp. But he’s a fresh rookie and the AHL is a good place to learn. MDC was the fifth overall pick in 2014. He hasn’t even come close to looking like a top-six AHL threat, let alone a full-time NHLer. Sadly, he’s gone down bust avenue.


But Ho-Sang should be on this team. That is of course if they didn’t fill their roster with a glut of bottom-six, one-way contract players. There’s a chance that Ho-Sang’s off-ice stuff is what’s holding him back, but there’s an equally good chance that his waiver ineligibility is playing a role here.


Any chance the Islanders are quietly tanking in hopes of finding another Tavares?



Philly has a new mascot named Gritty. I don't even have words. 





We now jump back into the finish the countdown of the top 10 Fantasy Calder Candidates. This exercise has focused on the point-production of the 2018-19 rookies and how valuable they’ll be to your squad this season.


5. Casey Mittelstadt


The eighth overall selection from 2017 had an interesting draft-plus one campaign. He stepped out of High-school hockey and into his freshman season at the University of Minnesota. There he produced 30 points in 34 games. Strong results but not world-beating. He was demonstrably more impressive at the World Juniors and concluded his campaign with six contests for the Sabres. There he scored a goal and added four helpers. That final stretch of action had fantasy manager licking their chops


The Good 21-41-62


If things fall into place, Mittelstadt owns the high-level speed and skill to produce top-end freshman numbers. The key will be in his deployment (big surprise), his team taking a massive step forward, and his ability to adjust to the NHL on an everyday basis. The 19-year-old is pencilled in as the second line centre behind Jack Eichel. He’ll be flanked by Kyle Okposo and Conor Sheary. That’s not a bad place to be. And he’ll be afforded secondary matchups as the defensive focus will be squarely placed on L1.


A spot on the top power play unit is key here. And realistic. If the American pivot can find his sea legs at even-strength, Okposo bounces back, and the Sabres top power play unit starts finishing as their talent-level would indicate possible, it’ll be a fun year in Northern New York.


The Bad 8-23-31


The preseason hasn’t gone as smoothly as Mitteltstadt and the Sabres would have liked. That could mean little, but if it’s an indication of his situation play, the numbers will suffer. A lack of chemistry or production on L2 and a spot on the secondary power play unit will be leaving owners disappointed.


The Likely 14-31-45


As per usual, the most likely is somewhere in the middle. Mittelstadt will see some decent deployment opportunities, but it’s difficult to produce at even-strength as a rookie, as especially one who is tasked with the responsibility of a centre and moving around mid-level wingers. He’ll likely see stretches on each of the power play units, providing a boost to the production but likely not massively so.



4. Dylan Strome


The classic post-hype sleeper. Owners of the 2016 third overall selection have had their patience tried. Sent back to junior for two post-draft seasons was hard to swallow. A full campaign in the AHL didn’t help matters. Except if you’re following closely of course. What Strome accomplished as a 20-year-old AHL rookie was beyond impressive. His final stretch with Arizona to close out last season tells the tale a player who is ready to contribute on an everyday basis. While he just misses out on being eligible for the real Calder Trophy (by one game), I don't live by such constrictive rules. He's a rookie in my books. 


The Good 16-40-56


A spot on the wing in the top six would provide the most action at even-strength. A spot on the top power play unit would push things into overdrive. It’s unlikely that both of these things occur but if they do, Strome has the skill and hockey sense to help the Coyotes push towards a playoff spot.


The Bad 7-20-27


Stuck in the bottom six and on a less-than-stellar second power play unit will really push GM’s to pull out their hair.


The Likely -14-35-49


Some time bouncing around the middle six and top two power play units should be enough to get him moving in the right direction. If something slips with the Alex Galchenyuk-at-centre-experiment, or a Derek Stepan injury the door would open much further. While many are ready to write this player off, now would be an opportune time to buy and for him to push forward.  




3. Rasmus Dahlin


The first overall selection from 2018 has the talent to be a franchise-altering player. The type of defenseman you build championships around. And we’re not just talking about the Sabres here. He has that same type of juice in the fantasy landscape. The 18-year-old plays a skilled and silky game that leaves your jaw-dropped at times. He has incredible one-on-one offensive skills, terrific speed and a mind for play creation. He’s the best draft-eligible defender since Drew Doughty and many (myself included) rate him ahead at the same age.


The Good 12-38-50


Many have questioned whether the Sabres would slide Dahlin right onto the top power play unit from day one. That would mean shifting Rasmus Ristolainen out. Risto has been one of the more effective power play defenders in the last three seasons, so it would take some guts to do so. But if they do give the youngster the best minutes, that means he’s producing enough to justify it. 50-points as a true rookie blueliner is as rare as unicorns but will be the low-end of his prime aged metrics. He has the ability to change the game in a flash and if he finds his NHL legs quickly, he could blow the doors off of the predictions.


The Bad 5-22-27


A difficulty producing offense at 5v5, a spot on a deflated second power play un, and the Sabres continue struggling to provide team offense. Possible and plausible for an 18-year-old. If that’s the case, expect a muted year.


The Likely 8-30-38


Right smack dab in the middle. Dahlin sees the good amount of top power play time, but the overall offense in Buffalo sputters once again. He ranks third on this list due a 38-point season from a blueliner being more valuable than a 45-50-point campaign from a forward.




2.  Andrei Svechnikov


The number two overall selection will go first overall in a lot of rookie drafts this fall. The dynamic Russian goal-scorer is a threat from all over the ice. His ability to convert from outside the dots is as impressive as his willingness to get dirty and finish the hard way down low. Svechnikov joins a tantalizing young core in Carolina. He has the opportunity to mesh with Sebastian Aho or Martin Necas – not a bad proposition. He’s physically mature. Owns high-end skill, and is entering a good situation. This is a rare player with 40-goal upside.


The Good 32-32-64


Chemistry on the top line and top power next to Aho would go a long way in his bid for a Calder Trophy. Svechnikov was one of the best even-strength scorers in junior hockey and looks to continue that trend



The Bad 18-20-38


The same as always – slow start, lack of power play time, missing chemistry at evens. Of all the players listed, this seems the least likely.


The Likely 27-26-53


Plenty of goals. Plenty of highlight reels made. Plenty of good times in Carolina. A 53-point season is nothing to sneeze at and is just the first step in what should be a terrific career.



1. Elias Pettersson


We’ve all heard the story countless times. The rail-thin forward was drafted as a playmaking centre. This despite playing primarily on the wing in his draft year. While he didn’t add much weight heading into 2017-18, he did add a ridiculous release. Pettersson torched the SHL; finishing as the point leader during the regular season and playoffs. He was named Rookie of the Year, MVP and playoff MVP. He led his Växjö squad to a championship, took home a silver at the WJC and was apart of the gold medal winning Swedish squad at the Worlds.


He broke Kent Nilsson’s U20 SHL scoring mark and has been widely considered the top player outside of the NHL. Well, he’s in the NHL now. And he’s making those claims look justified.



The Good 30-44-74


It appears evident that the soon-to-be 20-year-old will make a great deal of hay on the man-advantage. If he can find some success at even-strength, the sky’s the limit. The preseason has seen him working with Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin a great deal. That trio would bring the creativity and skill needed for Pettersson to thrive as a full-time centre.


Dubbed The Alien by his Swedish mates for his out of this world skill, he boasts creativity, confidence and a plethora of weapons to hurt you. A push for 75 points wouldn’t surprise many, but would be a massive feather on a weak Canucks’ squad.


The Bad 17-27-44


Stuck on the wing next to Brandon Sutter; a top power play that falters; and a difficulty transitioning to the small ice surface and bigger opponents. It’s plausible.


The Likely 27-34-61


Pettersson is the front runner for the Calder Trophy and 60-odd points will normally get you close. Outside of Mathew Barzal (85) and Artemi Panarin (77), no Calder winner had produced more than 69 points in the last decade.


There will be bumps in the road for this talented player, but his ability to create offense is unquestionable. I’ve said for some time that he’s a player with triple digit upside. 2018-19 will be the first step in that journey.



Honourable Mentions (The Likely)


Filip Chytil (8-22-30)

Kailer Yamamoto (15-28-43)

Miro Heiskanen (6-26-32)

Anthony Cirelli (13-24-37)

Sam Steel (9-22-31)

Robert Thomas (13-30-43)

Andreas Johnsson (17-19-36)

Valentin Zykov (18-20-38

Dylan Sikura (13-26-39)




Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson


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