The Journey: Draft Worthy Rookie Forwards in 2020
Welcome back for another edition of The Journey. A lot has happened in the hockey world since my last post. Many leagues have officially closed the door on their respective leagues, resulting in an unfortunate end to their 2019-20 seasons and postseason. This list includes the CHL, meaning there will be no winner etched onto the Memorial Cup for the first time in its 102-year history.
In other, and far more positive news, the WHL has announced its first player to be granted "exceptional status". Connor Bedard, a phenom forward out of North Vancouver will now be eligible for the 2020 WHL draft. This likely makes him the unanimous number one pick, which was awarded to the Regina Pats earlier this week. He is a dynamic player who should follow in Shane Wright’s (OHL) footsteps and make an immediate impact, despite his young age (15). He put up 84 points (43G + 41A) in just 36 games this year while playing in a U-17 league. Dynasty owners should keep a very close eye on him in the next few seasons as he could be worth tanking for.
Now for this week’s piece. Since your fantasy season has come an abrupt standstill, I am sure you have begun mocking up potential blueprints for your team next season. I know I have. If you are in a dynasty league, all of these names are likely taken already. However, if you are in a pick' em or a keeper league, you may be looking for some potential breakout rookies to steal with your mid to late round picks. Here are a few noteworthy forwards who could jump to the big leagues and make a splash next season.
Team – Minnesota Wild
Position – Left Wing
Current Dobber Prospect ranking – 7
The time has finally come for both Minnesota fans and fantasy owners to bask in their pent-up excitement. With the KHL post-season officially terminated, Kaprizov is now eligible to join the Wild and take his talent over to the NHL. The 22-year-old Russian has developed into a point producing machine, earning back-to-back goal-scoring titles and solidifying his status as one of hockey’s most anticipated prospects.
Since being selected (more like stolen) in the fifth round of the 2015 entry-draft, Kaprizov has morphed into an all-around offensive dynamo. Whether it’s filling the net or dishing out helpers, his ability to find the score sheet has made him one of the greatest producers the KHL has seen. The young sniper currently sits 15th all-time in goals-per-game, clicking at a career rate of 0.386/game. All of this before his 23rd birthday.
While he's likely to hit a few natural bumps during his transition, his elite skill sets should allow him to step right in as one of the Wild's top forwards. His offensive capabilities and strong hockey IQ are by far his most highlighted attributes; however, he is no slouch in his defensive zone either. He is a work horse and plays at a faster pace than most, which should make him an instant threat. Given his age and previous history playing against men for the better half of his adult life, Kaprizov carries an instant edge over all other rookies next year. I anticipate him to be right in the thick of things in regards to Calder talks and could easily bring 60-70 points to the table.
With the uncertainty of how he will transition, he’s likely to drop a few rounds in many drafts. This makes him a fantastic mid-range option with tremendous fantasy and keeper upside. It may be ambitious, but you could be looking at your 2020 Artemi Panarin.
Team – Los Angeles Kings
Position – Centre
Current Dobber Prospect Ranking – 18
Turcotte recently signed his entry-level contract with the Kings, making him a strong candidate to take a seat on their roster next season. While his spot is by no means a guarantee, the Illinois native brings many intangibles that the struggling organization could use up the middle. At 19 years old, the Wisconsin freshmen is coming off a respectable year that saw him post nine goals and 26 points through 29 games. The 2019 fifth overall pick was poised to join the Kings for a late-season debut before the league's postponement, which means he should be in their plans for the 2020-21 season. However, he could take some reps in the minor league to begin the year.
Turcotte is an elite skater, one of the best in his draft class. With the game only getting faster, he could step in and instantly provide a much-needed boost to their aging forward group. What he lacks in size and physicality, he makes up for in his compete level and strong two-way play. His high-end playmaking ability should spill over well into the NHL and given the team's current roster, he could even see top-six deployment. Don't count anything out at this point.
It is no secret that LA is in a rebuild stage. Therefore, Turcotte may suffer in the statistical categories at first. However, with the organization’s prospect pool ranking among the top of the league, his long-term potential is worth the gamble. At the very least, he should be considered a very nice "see what happens’' pick late in your draft. Regardless of his totals next season, he holds definite keeper value.
Team – Ottawa Senators
Position – Centre
Current Dobber Prospect Ranking – 27
Norris was originally taken 19th overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2017, but was quickly packaged in a blockbuster deal that sent him to Ottawa for superstar defenseman Erik Karlson. Since then, the Michigan native has been one of the Senators' top performing prospects. Despite dipping his toes in the NHL for a short three-game stint, Norris spent the better half of his 2019-20 rookie campaign in the AHL. He did not disappoint. Not only did he lead all rookies in points with 61, his totals had him tied for third amongst the entire league.
The 20-year-old pivot is by definition the “complete package”. He has a thick frame, yet shows soft hands. He's got a fantastic shot and vision, but works just as hard in his defensive zone. If you are looking for a consistent two-way forward, Norris should be on your radar.
Given where the Senators are in terms of available slots, Norris should be a shoo-in come opening day. Their team may be young and unproven, but given his ability to produce good numbers at every level thus far, I anticipate him to have a solid rookie season. He is a great young asset who could provide you with production now and in the future. It’s important not to overlook the fact that Ottawa has a very strong prospect pool, with two potential top-5 picks this summer. There could be some serious fantasy upside heading towards this roster.
Team – Buffalo Sabres
Position – Centre
Current Dobber Prospect Ranking – 33
Cozens is coming off his second straight 80+ point season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Keep in mind that he was forced to leave games on the table this year with the cancellation of the season. His dominance at the junior level has indicated his readiness to jump up to the pros next year.
Cozens showcases NHL-ready attributes and should have no issues stepping into the league. His strong skating ability allows him to blow past defenders, and his size allows him to drive the net with ease. He is great in tight and can fire the puck with excellent speed and power. Contrary to their spot in the standings, the Sabres carry a very strong offensive top-9 unit, which only adds to his stock heading in.
With talents such as Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson, the variations for his deployment are endless. Expect him to take some reps on one of the team's power play units as well.
Rookies are unpredictable, so depending on your league, he could drop all the way to the later rounds. With that in mind, take a flyer and let him ride. He could end up putting up some points and become a nice future keeper.
Thanks for tuning in. Keep an eye for my potential defender and goaltender steals in future posts. If you would like to see me talk about any specific prospects or topics, please feel free to catch me on Twitter @hall1289
Have a great week and stay safe.
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