Cam Metz wrote an article for Dobber Hockey earlier in the week where he covered some different fantasy playoff options for leagues both deep and shallow in terms of player pool. I thought the idea was great, and would be something that I could apply to The Journey this week. While Cam focused on players to consider plucking from the waiver pool in the first week of fantasy hockey playoffs, today, you’ll hear about a few up-and-coming prospects who are working their way into the realm of fantasy relevance at different stages of your league’s depth. Now the important thing to remember obviously when we’re talking in terms of prospects is that anything that follows is strictly related to keeper/dynasty leagues – these aren’t guys you should be considering in your one-year leagues.

Before we get going, I want do define a few terms that will be key for following along today… so for today’s purposes only, these terms will be defined as follows:

Shallow Leagues: Shallow prospect leagues will be leagues where a typical team would own 2-3 players who are currently on the brink of playing in the NHL, or already making their way in the league.

Medium Depth Leagues: Medium depth leagues will be defined as leagues where a typical team would own 3-5 players who are true prospects in the sense that they, at most would have had a taste of the NHL, but more likely are still playing overseas, in junior or in the AHL.

Deep Leagues: Deep leagues will be defined as leagues where a typical team would own 5-10 prospects who vary from fresh second-round draft picks to fringe prospects.

Ultra Deep Leagues: Ultra deep leagues will be defined as leagues where a typical team would own in excess of 10 prospects that could include fresh third-round or later draft picks, and recent free agent signings.

So whether it’s for an upcoming prospect draft, or simply your waiver wire watch list, here are some names to consider grabbing in the next few months, regardless of your leagues setup!

Points-only keeper leagues

Shallow leagues – Alex Barre-Boulet, Jason Robertson

In shallow points-only leagues, opportunity is important, but it’s definitely easier to feel good about swinging for the fences. If your waiver pool is open and either of these guys are available in any sort of a keeper league, grab them… NOW. If, however, your pool is locked up, they should be at the top of your list for next year’s prospect draft.

Barre-Boulet is an undrafted Lightning prospect who’s had an immediate impact in his first AHL campaign. The fact that he somehow slipped through the cracks of subsequent eligible NHL drafts is astounding at this point, even though he’s scoring at a point-per-game clip in the AHL as a rookie. His future in the NHL is bright, and while there is some risk associated with a player who has no NHL experience, ABB is looking extremely confident.

Robertson, on the other hand, hasn't exactly flown under the radar. The Stars’ prospect has eclipsed the 100-point mark in the OHL as a 19 year old, and will likely dip his toes in a Dallas uniform next fall. In all likelihood, he’ll spend some time in the AHL getting accustomed to the pro game, but the Niagara forward is built for the modern NHL and should have a good opportunity to impact an NHL roster within two years.  

Medium Depth Leagues – Jeremy Bracco, Emil Bemstrom

Two prospects who have really come on to the fantasy scene in 2019 are Leafs’ prospect Jeremy Bracco and Blue Jackets’ prospect Emil Bemstrom. Listed at 5-9 and 5-10 respectively, both are undersized by NHL standards. However, have both proven to be impactful forwards in their pro leagues – Bracco in the AHL, and Bemstrom in the SHL. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see both in the NHL at some point next season with a full-time entry to the league in 2020-2021. Despite their size, both have elevated their ceiling to the point of being highly relevant options in most keeper fantasy leagues.

Deep Leagues – Tyler Benson, Otto Koivula

As we go deeper, the name recognition will begin to drop off slightly. If you’re in a league where Daniel Sprong and Evgeny Svechnikov have apparent value, do yourself a favor and track these two guys down. Benson and Koivula have both had impressive stints in the AHL this year, and while under the radar they might be, value they do have. It’s anyone’s guess what happens next in Edmonton, but with Benson’s positive trajectory, expect him to get as good of an opportunity with the team next fall as any prospect. Koivula’s future with the Islanders will depend largely on what the team does in free agency, but another year of proving himself in the AHL is likely.

Ultra Deep Leagues Philipp Kurashev, Aarne Talvitie

If you find yourself navigating the dark cavernous depths of a league such as the DPFHL, these two fellas are names you might want to have a good look at. Kurashev is a Swiss forward who is currently competing in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts. Despite his relatively cavalier progression in the Q, the Blackhawks’ prospect had an impressive showing with Switzerland at the World Junior Championship. With Chicago’s relatively shallow pipeline, Kurashev’s opportunity might be a little more favorable compared to prospects in other systems. Talvitie is a Finnish prospect who also had a great showing at the WJC in January. He’s had no problem adjusting to the NCAA from the junior league in Finland and makes an excellent case to be a project to stash away for a couple of years of development.

Multi-category keeper leagues

Shallow leagues – Conor Garland, Calle Rosen

When it comes to shallow multi-category leagues, opportunity is everything. Now if your waiver pool is wide open during the season, there’s a very good chance that one, if not both of these players have already been picked up – if not, take note. In some leagues, however, where the waiver pool is locked during the regular season, these guys are more than likely still available. Both have had windows of relevance in their past, but experienced dips in their transition to the AHL. Now with some serious experience under both of their belts, an opportunity has emerged that should allow them to become full-time NHL players in the next year.

Garland just signed a two-year, one-way contract with the ‘Yotes, indicating their intention to keep him in the league. Rosen is the very likely replacement for departing blueliners on Toronto’s NHL roster. Both will see deployment in the middle to bottom of their lineups for their first year or two in the NHL, but their certainty of sticking in with the NHL club in the short term is more favorable than many of their peers.

Medium Depth Leagues – Josh Mahura, CJ Smith

Again, getting into the medium depth leagues, opportunity remains important. When you’re only expecting to hold a small amount of prospects in your roster, it’s important to get base hits, as opposed to swinging for the fences. Both Mahura and Smith have served time in the AHL, with a splash of opportunity in the NHL. In the case of Mahura, there will be an opportunity for him to play higher in the lineup than previously expected, especially with the departure of Brandon Montour – If time on ice is a factor in your league, he could be a sneaky pickup. Smith has a slightly less favorable opportunity with the Sabres, but has proven that he isn’t afraid to muck out the corners when necessary, a trait that will prove valuable in multi-category leagues.

Deep Leagues – Libor Hajek, Francis Perron

Working our way into the deeper fantasy pools, opportunity remains a factor, but the ceiling of our players of interest becomes more valuable than in shallow pools. While Hajek has experienced a struggling season in Hartford, Perron has put his offensive skill on display with the Barracuda. Despite Hajek’s offensive struggles, he’s remained a steadfast two-way defender. His consistency earned him a recent call-up with the Rangers, a positive sign that the team is eager to see him in the NHL. In addition to Perron’s flashes offensive success, his physical game has flourished in San Jose. While his scoring pace has tapered off in the second half, the Sharks are surely happy with what they’ve seen in the 22-year-old, a window of opportunity is the only thing holding him back from a potential NHL impact.

Ultra Deep Leagues Evan Barratt, Mason Shaw

A couple of mid-round NHL draft selections are the names I’d suggest keeping an eye on in the Mariana Trench of fantasy hockey leagues. Barratt could become relevant in shallower points-only leagues if his production continues to climb, but for now he’s a good option to gamble on in multi-category keeper leagues. Shaw on the other hand, is crafted almost exclusively for multi-category relevance. His grinder style of play has been successful to the point of earning him a middle-of-the-lineup role in Iowa as an AHL rookie. Overthrowing Jordan Greenway for the rights to be Minnesota's go-to, rough around the edges prospect, though, could prove to be a challenge for Shaw. If his growth continues at the AHL level, his progress could create an opportunity at the next level.

*** Very important note: If you haven't already noticed, Dobber Prospects has begun to integrate a PNHLe graph on each prospect page. This is an extremely valuable tool for keeper league fantasy hockey that has been made easily accessible – make sure you check it out on any pages of your players of interest!

Until next week… follow me on Twitter @olaf1393