The Journey examines which prospects will be battling it out for spots in camp in the next couple months with the potential to provide value in deep fantasy leagues.
Nick Ritchie – Anaheim Ducks
With the Anaheim trio of Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler taking up nearly 24 million dollars of cap space for the foreseeable future, the Ducks will need to rely on some entry-level contracts to carry some of the load among their forward group.
The 20-year-old Ritchie is a candidate to fill a role among the Ducks forwards as early as this fall. The hard-nosed power forward found his way into 33 games for Anaheim last season, scoring two goals and adding two assists while playing nearly 12 minutes per game. Ritchie is a unique player who adds value in other categories, as he compiled 37 penalty minutes, 55 shots on goal and 93 hits in his 33 games in 2015-16. The 10th overall pick in 2014 has the ceiling of a 50-point scorer if played in the right situations, which would please fantasy owners given his secondary stat contribution.
Be on the lookout for where Ritchie slots in on the Ducks depth chart, and give him a bump up your draft board if he gets the opportunity to play alongside Perry or Getzlaf.
Hunter Shinkaruk – Calgary Flames
In 62 AHL games split between Utica and Stockton, Shinkaruk posted 51 points in 2015-16. In addition, he appeared in seven NHL games for the Flames, putting up three points.
Somewhat promising were the types of minutes that the 2013 first rounder played during his late season audition with the Flames. In his seven games in Calgary, only once did he fail to earn less than one minute of power-play time. Shinkaruk does have some boom-or-bust potential, but if he can latch on to a top-six role with second-unit, power-play time, he does have upside as a complimentary scorer.
Shinkaruk could impress right away in camp and earn a roster spot, or start the year in Stockton and be the clubs first call up in case of a forward injury.
Lawson Crouse – Florida Panthers
It’s safe to say Florida doesn’t have too many spots left in their top-nine forward group, but Crouse is a good candidate to fill one of the vacancies. The 6-foot-4 power forward was a solid contributor for Kingston last season with 62 points in 49 games, and he has played very well for Canada in the World Junior Evaluation Camp this week.
Crouse’s combination of size and skill will earn him a long look by Panthers brass this fall, as he is already a monster in the corners and a player who can play up and down the lineup as a versatile forward.
Seth Griffith – Boston Bruins
Griffith is the oldest and most seasoned player on this list at 23 years old and with 165 regular season AHL games under his belt. In three seasons with the Providence Bruins, the 2012 fifth rounder has posted 158 points, a number just shy of a point-per-game average in North America’s second best league.
Although undersized, Griffith is a prospect who has proven he can put up points at the NHL level in a small sample size. In 34 games with the Bruins, the Ontario native has posted six goals and five assists while playing limited minutes. Griffith’s power-play usage in those 34 games is optimistic, as he has averaged nearly two minutes with the man advantage per game.
Griffith is a candidate to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Spooner from last season as the Bruins breakout prospect of 2016-17.
Ryan Hartman – Chicago Blackhawks
One by-product of Chicago being cap-strapped each summer is that many of their prospects signed to entry-level contracts get opportunities to work their way into the lineup in the Blackhawks bottom six.
After moving Andrew Shaw to Montreal at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Chicago will be looking for a player for their top-three lines who can provide some bite and agitation. At this point, Hartman looks like the player most likely to follow in Shaw’s footsteps. The 22-year-old, Illinois-born winger has played two seasons with Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford, averaging 36 points and 125 penalty minutes per season.
Outside of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov, the Hawks forward group is not the deepest, which gives Hartman the opportunity to earn a spot in camp. He deserves an uptick in leagues that count hits and penalty minutes.
Julius Honka – Dallas Stars
Honka projects as an offensive defenseman with the natural ability to control tempo from the backend. As a 20-year-old who has already completed two seasons at the AHL level, it appears the young Finnish player is ready to take the next step this season.
The Stars added Dan Hamhuis in the offseason, but lost Jason Demers and Kris Russell from their defensive group of a season ago. Honka’s 44 points in his sophomore campaign with the Texas Stars prove that his offense is NHL ready, and he will likely battle it out with fellow prospects Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth, Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak for a roster spot this fall. Outside of Lindell, no other Stars defensive prospect has as much upside as Honka, which will likely give him a leg up when it comes to a permanent spot on the Dallas blueline.
Ryan Pulock – New York Islanders
The Islanders 2013 first round selection has put up solid numbers in back-to-back seasons for New York’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Pulock’s strong play earned him a 15 game NHL audition in March and April, where he added four points and played secondary power-play minutes.
In addition to his four points, the Western Hockey League product produced nearly a shot, hit and blocked shot per game. The Islanders blueline is basically set for 2016-17 with Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan playing prominent roles, leaving limited opportunity for a young prospect. However, Pulock is talented enough that he should battle for bottom-four minutes right out of camp, and likely has the upper hand over his fellow prospects to earn them.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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