A look at some of the prospects recently signed to entry-level contracts with NHL teams.
At this time of the fantasy season, you are either knee-deep into your playoffs or your team is already on the outside of the fun and you’re just watching other teams compete for the glory. In one of my keepers, I am still hanging in there in the semis but for the other keepers I am part of, my 2015-16 fantasy season is done.
For actual NHL GMs, there is never any rest for the weary. They are busy signing entry-level deals to kids coming out of college whose season has also wrapped up, or trying to tie up loose-ends with CHL kids; some drafted, some passed over and were late bloomers.
In this weeks Capped, we will take a look at some of the recent entry-level signings; some players you may have heard of, some you may not have. Hopefully this will give you a little more information on some of these kids and give you an opportunity to snag a hidden gem others aren’t aware of.
Hudson Fasching (RW – Buffalo Sabres)
Contract: Three years, $925,000 AAV
Drafted: 2013 4th round (#118 overall) by Los Angeles Kings
Originally drafted by the Kings, Fasching was acquired by Buffalo (along with Nick Deslauriers) for Brayden McNabb and two second round picks back in 2014.
This season, with the University of Minnesota, he put up career-high totals in goals (20), assists (18) and points (38) in what is known as one of the tougher conferences in US college hockey.
At 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, the 20-year-old Fasching is labeled as your prototypical power forward with offensive upside. Many see him as a compliment and a nice fit to the wing with Jack Eichel going forward, hopefully creating some space for the young phenom. He played with Eichel on the US National Development Team in 2012-13 so they already know each other well. You can bet Sabres GM, Tim Murray, is hoping for this as well.
The winger will report directly to Buffalo and could see his first NHL action as early as this Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets. If he does play out the string with the Sabres, who have nine games remaining on the season, this will burn off the first year of his ELC.
Fasching has top six potential with the Sabres going forward. He could be a nice piece to pick up for your fantasy roster.
Casey Nelson (D – Buffalo Sabres)
Contract: Two years, $925,000 AAV
The undrafted free agent coming out of Minnesota State University was one of the top ranked free agents coming out of college this year. That being said, this has also been described as one of the weaker free agent college classes in a few years so take that with a grain of salt. He did have the choice to go back to school for one more year but chose to field offers from NHL teams, and in the end, decided to sign with the Sabres for the rest of this year and next season.
The 23-year-old is bit of a late bloomer; it took him until his second college season to finally show some promise. That year he put up career-highs in goals (7), assists (26) and points (33) and was a plus-19. This season, his third with Minnesota State, he’s actually taken a small step backwards in his production, scoring six goals, sliding over 16 assists for a total of 22 points, but he was still a solid plus-14 and was named the WCHA Defenseman of the Year.
He’s an offensive defenseman who loves to shoot the puck and is known as an excellent skater. At six-foot-two, 182 pounds, he could stand to put on a bit of weight but has the size to be an effective NHL asset. He will join the Sabres and could see some time down the stretch with the club. I would expect him to start next season in the AHL with the Sabres minor league affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He does show top nine potential for NHL defensemen but he’s still a couple seasons away.
Teddy Blueger (LW – Pittsburgh Penguins)
Contract: Two years, $925,000AAV ($705,000 cap hit with $350,000 in signing and performance bonuses)
Drafted: 2012 2nd round (#52 overall) by Pittsburgh
Although Blueger is Latvian born, he has played in North America since he was 14 years of age. He is finishing up four seasons with Minnesota State University (a teammate of Casey Nelson for the past three seasons) that saw him progress offensively every year he was there. Last season saw him put up career highs in goals (11), assists (24), and points (35) in 41 games played.
Blueger had the choice to sign with the Penguins at the end of his college career or wait and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. I guess we now know how that played out. He will join the Pens AHL team, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton on an amateur try-out contract for the remainder of this year and his entry-level contract will start next season.
While the Penguins have been patiently waiting for Blueger, it would appear that the wait has been worth it. Although he is listed as a winger, he has played a fair amount of center in college and is known to be a very good faceoff guy. He’s a playmaker first but has shown the ability to score as well.
The 6-foot, 185pound winger projects to be a solid two-way player with top six potential. If there’s one thing we have seen with the Penguins, they aren’t afraid to try out skilled players in their top-six and Blueger could find himself in some tasty offensive situations with some of their big boys. He just needs to works his way onto the Penguins lineup on a regular basis. Considering the Penguins don’t have too many high-end prospects in the pipe, he could be there sooner rather than later.
Jordan Maletta (Center – Columbus Blue Jackets)
Contract: three years, $925,000 AAV ($792,500 cap hit with $325,000 in signing and performance bonuses)
The undrafted Maletta has just wrapped up playing his overage year with the Niagra IceDogs in the OHL and are headed to the first round of the playoffs. It’s a bit surprising to see a kid who’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, go through three NHL drafts untouched but that’s for the scouts/GMs to argue, not me. They obviously didn’t see the upside at the draft but Columbus appears ready to give him a shot in their system.
He has shown annual progression in his offensive numbers for the IceDogs with this past season being his best to date. This year he put up career highs in goals (34), and points (59).
He’s known as a good two-way OHL player but has been noted as having limited offensive upside at the next level. He’s primarily been used as a very good penalty killer who isn’t afraid to get in the lane and block shots; your prototypical grinder who gives nothing but 110% every shift.
Right now, it appears as if Maletta will head to the Blue Jackets AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, to start his pro career. He projects as nothing more than a bottom-six, fourth line grinder with PK skills. I wouldn’t rush out to sign him for your fantasy team unless you have a deep minors system but he’s worth keeping an eye on down the road.
So there’s a few of the recent, more notable signings from this past week. You can be sure there will be plenty more college signings coming down the pipe now that most teams are offically eliminated from the big dance. The actual tournament starts this weekend with 16 teams vying for their spot in the Frozen Four. By Monday, there will be eight more teams eliminated so next week should be a busy signing week as well. The tournament wraps up on April 9th with the champion being crowned on that evening.
We should also start to see more CHL signings coming soon now that all three leagues have wrapped up their regular season schedule and playoffs about to get underway. I will do my best to follow all the signings and keep you informed on any that appear to be noteworthy.
Please feel free to follow me on Twitter @chrispudsey and I will do my best to retweet the signings as they happen as well, along with other interesting things I find on Twitter.
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