“Scouting” for fantasy hockey can be a dangerous game sometimes. It’s a numbers game for most of us – I’m guilty of it more often than not these days. It’s the unfortunate reality of having a full-time job where I daydream of being able to collect a livable income by simply watching and assessing hockey players. I’d love to be able to watch every player of interest, collect information, and compile my own unique assessment of his skillset and potential based on my personal vision of him – production aside. We all have lives though, and for most of us that means we aren't able to consume 30-50 hours of pure, unedited relatively low-profile hockey for the purposes of fantasy hockey scouting… this is where the numbers game makes our competition a fun and interesting game.
While the numbers game gets a bad rap in the world of scouting – and rightfully so, I think we can all agree that a player’s actual production plays a significant part in our vision of them. Fortunately for us, sometimes there are key indicators that reveal themselves by way of a player’s production that can give us a little more insight as to what that player’s actual potential is. Today I’d like to provide an angle that probably doesn't get a lot of attention from most fantasy scouts, but really is a tool that should be considered when evaluating player for future production.
When we assess a player’s production, we collect a snapshot of data. He is one player, typically playing in one league, and typically on one team. His production is tied to those parameters, except for in the cases that a player has been traded part way through a season, in which case we are able to collect a second snapshot. Sometimes a player’s production will have been skewed by one or more factors on a single team – coaching strategy, linemates, etc. When those players change squads, we’re able to compare their successes and compile a more clear picture of what to expect from him as an individual, rather than as a fixed cog in the machine that was their former team. These are some interesting prospects who have been traded this year and given us that additional perspective to “scout”.
Joël Teasdale, Montreal Canadiens, Undrafted Free Agent
Undrafted and never finished a QMJHL campaign over a point per game – Teasdale’s file isn't something that jumps off the page at you. The 19-year-old forward has spent his entire major junior career in black and white, playing for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, a team that had experienced an immense amount of success in that timeframe. Now that the Armada are in the dumps, Teasdale’s services have been been better utilized for the Wagon Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Since the trade, Teasdale’s been finding the net at a consistently higher rate than ever before. Keep an eye on this file for the next few months.
Josiah Slavin, Chicago Blackhawks, 193rd overall – 2018
The younger sibling of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, Jaccob – Josiah is a 20-year-old forward currently competing in the USHL for the Chicago Steel. The Blackhawks took a flyer on the younger Slavin as an overager in 2018 after seeing him play for Lincoln of the USHL. Whether by chance or by Stan Bowman’s influence, Josiah found his way to the Chicago Steel midway through this season and has been off to an excellent start. He’ll finally transition to the NCAA next fall, but his late success in the USHL is a good sign for the future. He’s a player to keep an eye on, especially given the lack of depth in the Blackhawks forward pipeline.
*Anthony Salinitri, Phillidelphia Flyers, 172nd overall – 2016
That asterisk isn’t referencing a footnote on Salinitri – it’s to get your attention. If there’s one player who’s undergone a massive transformation since trading in his uniform, it’s Flyers prospect Anthony Salinitri. The bred Sarnia Sting forward was shuffled to Oshawa 25 games into the OHL slate, a move that has been extremely well received by the 20 year old. After kickstarting his final junior campaign in Sarnia with his first ever point per game run, Salinitri has put his last season into overdrive as an Oshawa General. His current scoring rate in red, white and blue would have seen him nearly touch the 100-point mark over the course of a full season – not bad for a sixth round pick. The moral of the story is that if you take one name from this entire article, it should be his. Don’t be afraid to stick him on your watch list.
Nick Henry, Colorado Avalanche, 94th overall – 2017
The gifted winger who had spent the entirety of his major junior career in a Regina Pats’ uniform followed Jake Leschyshyn to Lethbridge in the mid-season trade. The former fourth-round selection had been unimpressive since his selection by the Avs in 2017, however, after a serious offensive revival in this, his 19-year-old campaign, the move west has been a slap in the face for Henry. His 40 points in 25 contests for Regina had him on pace to shatter his career best in the WHL which was set in 2017. Since being traded to the ‘Canes of Lethbridge, his goal scoring rate has plummeted leaving him only a hair over a point-per-game rate. His future as an NHL player has never been certain, but at this point I would expect more in terms of production to consider him a fantasy relevant asset.
Jake Leschyshyn, Vegas Golden Knights, 62nd overall – 2017
After a severely disappointing draft+1 campaign on the scoreboard, the rebuilding Regina Pats named Leschyshyn captain. As a 19-year-old, the Knights’ second rounder was on his way to yet another cavalier season in terms of production with the Pats. Once the Pats came to terms with the imminent demise as a contender for the 2018-19 slate, Leschyshyn and Nick Henry were dealt to Lethbridge. While Leschyshyn’s production has remained relatively consistent since the move, the very fact that it hasnt improved is enough for me to all but write him off as a fantasy relevant prospect for now. Unless your league is perennially drafting sixth- and seventh- round NHL draft picks, there is a good chance you won’t need to have this former second-round pick on your radar for quite a few years.
Ryan Merkley, San Jose Sharks, 21st overall – 2018
Many insiders were surprised to see Merkley drafted as high as he was by the Sharks in 2018. While his production was the least of anyone’s worries at the time, we’ve been given a new perspective of the defenseman’s offensive capabilities since his trade to Peterborough. While playing in familiar Guelph, Merkley was on pace for nearly a 90-point draft+1 campaign. Since trading in his Storm uniform, Merkley’s assist rate has dropped off significantly to the point where it would be a surprise to see him eclipse 80 points by year-end. While still an impressive mark, and personal best the drop in production pokes another small hole in his Swiss cheese resume.
Thanks for taking some time out of your Saturday to tune into some prospect happenings. I’d love to hear your guilty fantasy hockey scouting strategies here in the comments or on Twitter where you can find me @olaf1393.
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