The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Defensemen – March 2019
We’ve reached the time of year again where junior leagues have wound down and heading into their respective playoff tournaments. With that, we’ve gained another year’s worth of junior prospect information. After this week’s edition of the Fastest Rising Prospect defensemen, The Journey will be making the rounds through each prospect-focused league to discuss what we’ve learned in the season that was, so stay tuned!
While only one of the players featured into today’s edition of The Journey is part of a Canadian junior league, the same notion applies to the NHL and AHL despite their handful of games remaining on the calendar. As discussed last week, going forward the monthly circuit of fastest rising prospects will feature three tiers, each relative to different fantasy league depths. Let’s get into it!
For Shallow Leagues
Tony DeAngelo, NY Rangers | JAN 2019 – 13 | FEB 2019 – 11 (+2) | NOW – 7 (+4)
DeAngelo’s fantasy valuation has been sinusoidal since before he was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014 – it’s worth recapping in order to appreciate his current position with the Rangers.
The supremely offensive-minded defenseman had surged through the OHL in his draft year with the Sarnia Sting. His vision alone projected him to be a sure-fire top-4 defenseman, not unlike current OHLer, Ryan Merkely. DeAngelo continued to dominate the remainder of his junior career between the Sting and Sault St. Marie Greyhounds before turning pro as a 20-year-old. Despite an extremely impressive offensive rookie campaign with the Syracuse crunch, DeAngelo never donned a Tampa Bay Lightning sweater in the regular season. In the two years that followed his rookie campaign in Syracuse, the American bounced to Arizona, Tucson, back to Arizona, to New York, Hartford, and finally back to Manhattan. Through every bit of uncertainty he’s seen in his professional career, DeAngelo’s production has been consistent and relatively impressive. He’s been a minus player on every team that he’s played with since leaving the OHL… until now. The young Ranger, who leads the blueline in points per game by a wide margin, also has the only positive goal differential of any Rangers defenseman to play more than 40 games this year.
By much of his own merit and motivation, as well as the help of rookie head coach, David Quinn, DeAngelo has reshaped his game to the point where some consider him to be the team’s most reliable defender. Still only 23-years-old, the opportunity for DeAngelo to begin to rebuild himself as an elite offensive threat still remains. Now that he’s begun to earn the trust of his organization, an offensive breakout could be looming for DeAngelo, who’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer. Signing a bridge deal could indicate he’s confident in elevating his game to another offensive level relatively soon. If your fellow owners are under the impression that he’s finally peaked, now could be the time to make a small investment in the Blueshirts’ future.
For Medium depth Leagues
Victor Mete, Montreal Canadiens | JAN 2019 – 20 | FEB 2019 – 19 (+1) | NOW – 17 (+2)
Thus far in his NHL career, Mete has been a surprising, albeit, mostly unreliable fantasy asset. To be fair, did anyone expect much more from this kid? At only 20 years old, the fact that Mete, the 100th overall pick in 2016, is already playing in his second professional season is actually an outstanding accomplishment. As a sophomore, his production has been more steady than in his rookie campaign, earning an even three assists per quarter, despite only being on the ice for an average of 17:33 with next to no power-play deployment. His role with the Canadiens has expanded, however, with Claude Julien relying on the young defender to kill penalties and support their captain, Shea Weber, at 5-on-5.
While the young defender hasn't exactly been rocketing up Dobber’s rankings, his gradual rise goes hand in hand with the pace at which he seems to be progressing as a stalwart NHL defender. At his age, the organization will surely be stressing his defensive responsibility – a task with the Habs that would all but stunt any young defender’s offensive growth.
Patience will need to be exercised from a fantasy perspective with Mete. His offensive abilities, however, are somewhat of a sleeping giant. Once the youngster has reached an appropriate level of confidence in himself, and trust from his coach, there’s no doubt that he has the skill set that the Canadiens need to support their offense from the back end in the long-term. If you’re prepared to wait a year or two, an investment in the Ontario native is a very safe bet for 30+ points in addition to 100+ hits.
For Deep leagues
Jett Woo, Vancouver Canucks | JAN 2019 – Not Ranked | FEB 2019 – 71 | NOW – 41 (+30)
The 18-year-old former second-round draft-pick is the Vancouver Canucks’ most recent entry level signee. After wrapping up a tremendous offensive regular season campaign with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Woo is off to the WHL playoffs where he’ll face off against the Saskatoon Blades along with the rest of his Warriors squad.
The Winnipeg native will be in tough to crack the retooling Canucks roster next fall, and still has a year of junior eligibility remaining. Unfortunately for him, the AHL, which would probably be the most appropriate spot for his development, will not be an option. For Woo, the best-case scenario is that he carries his success into training camp, forcing Vancouver to retain him for a handful of games in October. Getting a taste of the real pro game before returning to junior for a final stint will allow him to hit the ground at a brisk jogging pace once he’s back a year later. At that point, it wouldn't be unrealistic to see Woo in a Canucks sweater for a REAL audition in a small amount of games, but more that likely, he will end up playing a year in the AHL.
Along with the signing of Woo, the Canucks have hedged their defensive depth by signing last year’s 5th overall pick Quinn Hughes and Princeton graduate Josh Teves. The trio of signings on the blueline is an indication that the team is likely prepared for a changing of the guard, of which will be headlined by the eldest Hughes brother.
Now almost a year removed from his draft, it’s safe to say that the second-round pick is on the right track. For all intents and purposes, a 2021-22 fall arrival would be a reasonable expectation with the potential to lock himself into a top-4 position on a team that should be competing for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Thank you all greatly for tuning in, yet again to The Journey. I hope you enjoyed reading this week’s topic and will seek us out next week when we’ll kick off the “What we’ve learned” series for each of the Canadian major junior hockey leagues. As always, find me on Twitter @olaf1393
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