The Journey: Three Underrated WJC Players Poised for Breakouts

Benjamin Gehrels

2021-12-25

Happy Holidays and welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. This week, we'll be considering an interesting aspect of U20 tournaments like the World Juniors: every year, certain players see massive bumps in fantasy value that can be exploited during a post-tournament sell-high window.

Treat yourself this Christmas and use your Journey insights to rip off a fellow manager who only follows prospects for one week at the end of December! You deserve it.

Many top prospects consistently play above their age group against older players, so this is a rare opportunity to see how they measure up against their peers. When a player performs well at the WJC, the hype machine can really get going. Remember when Samuel Fagamo scored 13 pts in only 7 GP at the 2020 WJC? Since then, he's scored 28 pts in 53 AHL GP—respectable totals for a young player in a league like that but not eye-popping. If you traded Fagemo in 2020, you probably haven't regretted it.

The trick for fantasy managers is to use these somewhat overinflated jumps in value to your advantage. If you can grab the right player for free beforehand, there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to sell high on them during or after the tournament once the broader public becomes aware of how talented they are.

Don’t discount the power of nationalism at international events like these either: if a player helps put your country’s team over the top, you may well feel a desperate need to have them on your imaginary roster. But that’s where savvy managers can exploit these emotional highs to gain leverage over their competition.

Here are three players to acquire now as good bets to see their value increase over the coming weeks. If things break right, you’ll either have a solid prospect or a desirable trade chip.

Mackie Samoskevich (FLA)

Taken at the end of last year's first round, Samoskevich was seen as a skilled but lower-ceiling player than top picks like teammate (at the time) Mathew Coronato. This year, Samoskevich is being somewhat overlooked again on the University of Michigan's historically stacked NCAA team. His 11 points in 19 GP pale in comparison to the point-per-game or better outputs of the other four Michigan players competing in the WJC (Matty Beniers, Owen Power, Luke Hughes, Kent Johnson).

The plus side to Samoskevich's lack of eye-popping numbers at the USHL and NCAA levels so far, however, is th