Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. One of the hardest tasks for fantasy managers in keeper and dynasty leagues is balancing upside and timeline. A prospect might appear to have a high ceiling, but if it will take them three or four years to reach it, you might not have the bench space or patience to wait that long.
This week, we'll take a look at a few prospects who currently have a decent chance to become stars at the NHL level but not for a number of years. First, a little game. See if you can guess the player being described here. He is an undersized defenceman (5-9, 170 lbs) who somewhat unusually chose to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League in his draft year.
No, he is not Cale Makar, but he actually matched the Colorado star's draft year AJHL production exactly: both defenders scored 75 points in 54 games. From there, they both went the college route. Our mystery player chose the University of Denver. Any guesses?
Although his freshman year wasn't overly special, he exploded as a sophomore, finishing second in defenceman points and goals nation-wide behind New Jersey prospect Luke Hughes. His 38 points in 41 games bested better-known college prospects like Scott Morrow (CAR), Sean Behrens (COL), Henry Thrun (ANA), and Ryan Ufko (NAS)—all of whom had fantastic seasons themselves. He capped off a magical year by scoring the goal that secured the 2022 NCAA Championship for his school and was then named National Player of the Month for March and April.
If you guessed Mike Benning (FLA), permit yourself a quiet fist pump.
Here's the golden goal:
For fantasy, the burning questions around Benning are