This week's Capped takes a look around training camps for some early season surprises.
The 2016-17 NHL season is now underway, and that means we finally have real hockey games to watch and talk about. It also means we have some clarity with the shape of rosters. Every year there are lots of rookies (or other young players) that surprise us fantasy owners, and the fastest to jump on them can be the managers that ride them to a podium finish. Some of these players are mid-season call-ups, but the most valuable are those that make the teams out of training camp. This is especially valuable in Salary Cap leagues where the cheap production is gold. I really enjoyed Chris Pudsey’s take on this last season, so I hope that I can do it justice with this second take of it.
The point is not to rattle on about players such as Austin Matthews, Dylan Strome and Ivan Provorov that were expected to make their respective teams (and did) and then put up numbers. The purpose is to dig a little deeper, and find those bargains that everyone is always gunning for. So lets toss some things at the wall and see who sticks.
Zach Hyman (C) – Toronto Maple Leafs
Current year salary – $900,000
Zach Hyman has earned some high praise from coach Mike Babcock due to his high work ethic and effort level out of the ice. After a cup of tea with the big club last season, Hyman’s showing in training camp has put him on one of the top two offensive lines* for much of the pre-season. He will be starting the season there, and if he manages to keep a spot in the top six, he could put up some bigger numbers than expected (just beware the plus/minus). Listed as a centre, he should get left-winger eligibility soon.
*I say top two line because of the offensive potential of playing with Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Currently it is listed as Toronto’s third line.
Danton Heinen (C) & Austin Czarnik (C) – Boston Bruins
Current year salary – $872,500 & $817,500 respectively
Danton Heinen was drafted in the fourth round in 2014, and hugely impressed as a freshman at the University of Denver last season. He has continued his impressive play of late, working his way into serious discussion for a top nine spot in Boston. Like Hyman above, Heinen has been playing mainly on the wing. However, while Heinen played on the fourth line in Boston’s last preseason game, Austin Czarnik was centering the third line. Czarnik, the undrafted free agent that Boston signed out of Miami University, has maybe impressed even more. Working on his defensive zone game, he has still managed to score two goals during the preseason. However, as Dobber mentioned in the ramblings a few days past, due to Czarnik getting his bell rung we could see Heinen step into the top 9 role ahead of him. Should that be the case, look for Czarnik to be the call up when injuries strike during the season. With the news Wednesday morning of Patrice Bergeron being day-to-day with a lower body injury, then we may actually see both get top nine time.
Zachary Sanford (C) – Washington Capitals
Current year salary – $875,000
Zachary Sanford was another mention of Dobber’s in the ramblings, so I will make this quick. Sanford had a very impressive camp, and forced the Capitals into making the decision of keeping him over players listed higher on the depth chart, and farther along in their developmental paths. Based on some practice lines, it looks as though we could see him start as high as the third line with Marcus Johansson and Lars Eller. Unlikely he works his way onto a power-play unit, but the third line on Washington still has some fantasy value.
Kevin Fiala (LW) – Nashville Predators
Current year salary – $863,333
Kevin Fiala has made the Nashville Predators, and it wouldn’t make sense that the smaller, skilled forward makes the team to toil on a bottom line. Fiala will be given chances in the top 6, and on the power-play. He scored on his first shot of his NHL career last season during his cameo with the Predators, and with another quick start this season he could see time lining up with some combination of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and James Neal. Fiala was drafted 11th overall back in the 2014 NHL draft. Similarly, Forsberg was drafted two years prior in that same slot, and had his big breakout after making the Predators squad out of camp two years ago. The hope is that Fiala can follow in the footsteps of the fellow European scorer. This isn’t to say that we will see 60+ points out of Fiala this season, but the precedent is there for him to be a fine fantasy contributor in points leagues.
Tyler Motte (C) & Michal Kempny (D) – Chicago Blackhawks
Current year salary – $863,333
The Blackhawks top line at the moment has Johnathan Toews centering Marian Hossa and Richard Panik. Panik is the odd one out on that line, and will likely get shuffled down the lineup at some point. Rookie Tyler Motte is currently slated to start the season as the third line LW in Chicago. That may not last long if he can start off the season with a good performance or two. Motte could make a great fit alongside Toews and Hossa, which would give him an excellent opportunity to thrive and put up some respectable numbers for the Blackhawks and for fantasy owners too.
Michal Kempny finds his way a little more blocked, and will likely start the season on Chicago’s third defence pair. However, after a good showing in the World Cup of Hockey, it may not take long for him to start stealing some offensive even-strength minutes, and find a niche on the second power-play unit. He makes a great late round flier if upside from a defenceman is what you are looking for.
Devin Setoguchi (LW) – Los Angeles Kings
Current year salary – $575,000
One of the best feel-good stories of October, Devin Setoguchi turned his tryout with the Los Angeles Kings into a one year, two-way contract. The 29-year old, former 30-goal scorer has battled alcoholism over the last few years. He is now clean, sober, and ready for another chance at life, and the NHL.
With the suspension to Tanner Pearson and the injury to Marian Gaborik, the Kings’ hands were tied in terms of options for their top lines. Setoguchi has a chance to make a splash while the forward core is thinned out. If he can put up some decent showings in the first handful of games, then maybe he can even stick around in a depth role when Pearson and Gaborik return. More likely though is that Setoguchi gets sent down to the AHL once everyone is healthy, and he becomes a call up option during times of need for the Kings this season. Playing with Kopitar though, he makes an interesting option in deeper leagues if you need a player for the first few games as an injury replacement.
Daniel Pribyl (C) – Calgary Flames
Current year salary – $925,000
As a bonus name, Daniel Pribyl is currently injured, rehabbing from ACL surgery this spring. The Calgary Flames signed the 23-year old Czech star after he put up a point per game in the Czech league last season. At 6’3” and over 230 pounds, the skilled forward has some size as well. Because of the injury you will have to wait on him, so he’s not worth grabbing yet. Keep an eye on him when he gets close, as there is room for him to steal a spot in Calgary’s top six forwards (or maybe even on the top line). Everyone is looking for this year’s Artemi Panarin, and though Pribyl may not have the same massive impact, he has the tools and the opportunity to surprise when he returns from the injury.
I am curious to hear of other under-the-radar players that some of you readers may be targeting in your leagues.
Thanks as always for reading, and enjoy the NHL season!
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