As we approach the NHL trade deadline, I thought it this week would be a good opportunity to take a look at some prospects whose fantasy relevance could be impacted by a change of scenery sooner rather than later. For some young players, their current opportunity simply hasn’t offered them the best opportunity to succeed, and in some of those cases it doesn't appear to be around the corner either. The most important factor for many of these players is their team’s desire to win now, as opposed to allow their valuable youngsters to prosper. Without further ado, let's have a look at a few of the names that could quickly become more interesting if they switch uniforms between now and February 25.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton Oilers | 20 years old
Puljujarvi has had a tumultuous transition to the NHL since his selection by the Oilers in the 2016 NHL draft. Unfortunately for both the player and the team, time hasn't done them any favors. Even more important than doing themselves favors, they haven't done us fantasy owners any either. JP slots in on Edmonton’s fourth line more often than not, and has seen his mediocre production all but stunted, even after the team’s recent coaching change. Whether or not team still believes in him long-term remains to be iterated, but I think we can all clearly see that an opportunity in any team’s top-six would be more favorable than his current situation.
Potential suitors: Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings
For Puljujarvi owners, the best possible scenario is that he goes to a team where there is potential for him to earn a long-term top-six role on the right wing. For my money, Philly would be an excellent destination for the former fourth-overall draft-pick. In black and orange, Puljujarvi would likely be surrounded by at least some of the Flyers’ core that has experience in winning. There also isn't a ton of depth on the team’s right wing that he would be forced to compete with, and while sometimes competition is exactly what young developing players might need, at this point in his career, JP just needs a good opportunity to explore his potential, for better or for worse.
The Red Wings would also be an interesting destination for the Oilers’ fringe winger. While the team is much earlier into their rebuilding curve, it’s highly likely that they will be clearing out several of their aging forwards, creating a void to be filled by someone they can roll the dice on.
Spencer Foo, RW/C, Calgary Flames | 24 years old
The former NCAA free agent signing has struggled mightily in his second pro season within the Flames’ organization. While it might be a little early to really think that a change of scenery is what’s necessary for Foo, the Flames appear to be in a position to contend this offseason, and Foo could certainly serve as C-grade currency heading into the deadline. The sophomore pro has donned an “A” on his sweater in Stockton for the entirety of his 40+ games with the Heat, and while he has yet to be granted a promotion to the NHL since last year, Foo is likely still registering on several other teams’ pro scouting lists.
The major factor in Foo’s declining value is his age. At 24, his growth curve offers significantly less potential than other gambles around the league. With that being said, the relatively small sample size as a pro is likely leaving other organizations quite curious.
Potential suitors: New Jersey Devils
Foo is likely to have less suitors based on his apparent value. The Devils could be an organization, though, that is willing to pony up a small price for Foo’s services. Their depth at center and on the right side is relatively shallow, and not to mention includes veteran names like Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford that could create a void for Foo to fill in the short term. Any opportunity in the NHL at this point is necessary to get his early pro career back on track.
Adam Erne, C/LW, Tampa Bay Lightning | 23 years old
The Lightning have been rumoured to be interested in adding a defenseman to their core for the 2019 playoff run. Either Cody Ceci or Alec Martinez could be potential suitors, both of which could require a return package consisting of the under-exposed Lightning forward. Erne has been bubbling in the Lightning pipeline since being drafted in 2013, but has yet to receive a proper window to offer his services to the team. He’s certainly a player whose potential hasn’t entirely been explored by the organization and will be itching for the opportunity to do so by any means necessary.
"Embarrassment of riches" pic.twitter.com/ulG50Iu7Hz
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 22, 2019
Potential suitors: Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings
While the Lightning would certainly like to retain Erne’s services, their salary cap situation could prove to be problematic next fall. His expiring contract will demand a raise after this relatively impressive NHL introduction, something that could be explored quite openly by the Senators.
Josh Ho-Sang, LW/C, New York Islanders | 23 years old
The under-utilization of Joshua Ho-Sang by the New York Islanders is something that has bothered me for some time. As such, I’m taking this opportunity to call for his freedom from the Islanders’ shackles. While his attitude is likely as has been advertised, there are several cases where highly skilled players have been able to overcome such a hurdle with the help of a new team. At 23-years-old, Ho-Sang’s value has already deteriorated to the point where his return will likely represent a pure gamble for the receiving team. The Islanders, however, have reached a point in their team’s development where it would actually make sense to acquire a simple value rental in return.
Potential suitors: Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks
If anyone is looking for cheap, young production these days, it’s the Blackhawks. While the team has some experience in getting the best out of players with noted attitude issues, they’ve also recently kicked off the trend of rolling the dice on young underperforming players.
The Canucks payroll structure isn't currently all that well aligned with their team’s youth development outlook. Ho-Sang would fit well in the team’s age window and definitely have an opportunity to grasp a more opportune role in the lineup with the departure of some of the Canucks’ older wingers.
In each of these players’ cases, the receiving team will be making a calculated gamble to obtain a young, inexpensive player’s services. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that each one has a positive future in the NHL regardless of their future destinations. One thing that we can be relatively certain of, however, is that a change in scenery will likely offer them a better opportunity than if they are to stay put, and rot…
Thanks again for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these guys and other potential destinations, as well as any other prospects that you think would fit well in the same category – find me on Twitter @olaf1393.