Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way.
At the end of last month, this column did a sink-or-swim article covering Kaapo Kakko, Erik Brannstrom, and Eeli Tolvanen—all young, formerly hyped prospects who seem to be at a crossroads in their development. The response inspired a monthly feature on The Journey. At the end of each month, we'll examine three former blue-chip prospects whose values have taken a hit and whose futures now seem uncertain. Should you trade them while they still have name recognition or hold until/buy low before they turn things around and get back to their dynamic ways?
Post ideas for future players in the comments or hit me up on twitter @beegare. This month, the spotlight is on Juuso Valimaki, Kailer Yamamoto, and Nick Robertson.
Juuso Valimaki, CGY
What's going on with Valimaki? During the NHL pause last year, the 23-year-old went a point per game over 19 games in the Liiga and came into the 2020-21 season with a ton of hype. Since then, his stocks have slowly declined to the point that he's next to worthless right now in keeper leagues. His 11 points in 49 games last year certainly didn't move the needle. Then this year it was healthy scratch, healthy scratch, healthy scratch from late October until early December until he was finally demoted to the AHL where he immediately put up seven points in ten games.
So is Valimaki still a top prospect or has his ship sailed? Well first off, check out his usage last year versus this year. In 2020-21, Valimaki was as sheltered as humanly possible: his small-ish light blue bubble in the extreme bottom right indicates he was doing well with limited minutes and constant offensive zone starts against the weakest competition available. That deployment seems a tad over the top but it's also how one might hope a team would utilize a young offensive blue liner like Valimaki.