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 take a look at how Kaapo Kahkonen performed over his brief audition with the Sharks after a mid-season trade from Minnesota in order to project his value in fantasy moving forward. We'll also highlight OHL star Rory Kerins and shed some light on why many New York fans seem so low on former golden boy Nils Lundkvist.
Kahkonen owners must be feeling uneasy heading into 2022-23 after the Finn was traded to the Sharks mid-season. His former team, Minnesota, is on the rise thanks to a developing core of young talent (Kaprizov, Fiala, Boldly). By contrast, the Sharks appear to be much further behind the Wild in terms of both rebuilding and contending. They have their ageing blueline pillars, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, signed for the next three to five years, and their main two forwards, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, signed for the next five-plus years. That's a ton of money and term tied up in four players, three of whom are on the wrong side of 30.
San Jose does have the 11th overall pick in this year's draft, plus multi-cat stud Timo Meier (25; RFA after next year), emerging star William Eklund, and the mercurial Ryan Merkley on defence. But other than those three and a few skilled middle-sixers like Jonathan Dahlen and Thomas Bordeleau, their pipeline is pretty barren. It looks like the Sharks' plan is to hope their young players develop quickly enough to catch the end of their older stars' windows. If everything breaks right, San Jose has an outside chance at being a mid-pack team and seeing some playoff action over the next few years before tearing it down and rebuilding in earnest. But this cloudy outlook certainly casts a shadow over Kahkonen as a fantasy asset.
A key factor for the viability of that plan is strong goaltending, and that's where Kahkonen comes in. Or is it? The Sharks' newest acquisition does not yet have a clear path to the starter's role because incumbents James Reimer and Adin Hill are both signed until the end of next season. Kahkonen owners will be hoping that the Sharks move either Reimer or Hill in the offseason and then dub the other 1B to Kahkonen's 1A. Before even looking that far, though, San Jose first needs to convince the 25-year-old RFA to stick around.
Assuming he does resign with the Sharks, those of us who own Kahkonen in keeper leagues will have to assess