The Journey: Three Sink-Or-Swim Prospects

Benjamin Gehrels

2022-01-01

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. A common dilemma with owning prospects in fantasy is knowing when to part ways with former blue-chippers who are beginning to lose value. Too early and they may still blossom into a star; too late and their trade value may bottom out before you can move them. On the flip side, disappointing prospects at a low point in their trajectory make excellent buy-low targets from panicking managers. This week, we'll consider three high-profile prospects who appear to be at a crossroads with their development.

Kaapo Kakko

Many fantasy owners are likely panicking about the state of their Kakko stocks. Currently on pace for only 33 points (which still would be a career high) despite being stapled to high-end linemates like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad all year, Kakko is looking more like a Kyle Turris or Brandon Saad type than his draft year comparable Brendan Shanahan.

It's been a year of ups and downs for him so far: a tough start with no points over his first ten games (14:57 mins/game), some renewed hope when he scored eight points over his next seven (17:29 mins/game), and now only three points in his last ten (15:41 mins/game). Time on Ice (TOI) seems to have something to do with it: as you can see, Kakko averaged about two more minutes per game during his successful seven-game run than the ten games on either side.

That additional TOI wasn't on the PP; he's only seeing 24.5% of NYR's PP time, but as per his Frozen Tools Usage Chart below is driving play against high-quality competition at even strength (dark blue, near the top of chart)—a great sign that he's impacting the game positively despite the inconsistent offense. That kind of play-driving in a limited role is a sign a player is ready for increased responsibility and offensive deployment.