First things first, make sure you pick up Dobber’s 2018-19 Fantasy Hockey Guide, available here. This was my first year contributing as I took a look at 25 players that could challenge for the Calder Trophy. Now on with the Journey!
Every year there are a few players selected during day number two of the draft that explode in their draft+1 year that causes everyone to think “how was he not a first round pick?” Here are a few such players that could fit the bill.
Jonatan Berggren, DET
When the 2018 draft wrapped up, many pundits declared the Detroit Red Wings the big winner, and the selection of Berggren at 33 is one of the reasons why. Between Berggren, Filip Zadina and Joe Velano, it’s clear that the Red Wings went into the 2018 draft with a focus on acquiring high-end skill. Watch any clip of Berggren and the skill level is immediately clear. Dobber Prospects’ own Cam Robinson believes that he has some of the best one-on-one skills in his draft class.
To say that Berggren had a good draft year would be a heck of an understatement. He was simply dominant in the Swedish J20 league playing for Skellefteå AIK leading the league in assists (39), points (57) and points per game (1.50), all as a 17-year-old. His season was so good that it ties him for 16th in points in a season in league history. He managed to even earn some time with the big club in the SHL skating in 10 contests but was mainly deployed in a fourth line role and failed to find the score sheet.
With numbers like that, you might wonder why he wasn’t picked higher. It’s because of two reasons common to a lot players his age: his defensive play and his strength. Proving that he’s too good for the junior circuit, an entire season playing against men would go a long way in Berggren’s development. He resigned with Skellefteå AIK so he’s probably going to marinate for another year or two in Sweden. But his upside is sky high and could certainly be worth for wait.
Jesse Ylonen, MTL
After snatching their coveted centre in Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick, the Habs went back to their bread and butter and acquired a winger with their second pick in the draft, selecting Jesse Ylonen with the 35th overall selection. Even though he was born in Scottsdale, Arizona (his dad Juha played five seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes), Ylonen has spent his formative hockey years playing in Finland, working his way up the junior ranks as a member of the Espoo Blues.
With the U16 squad, Ylonen put together 137 points in 78 games over two seasons. He progressed to the U18 team while still just 15 years old and proceeded to produce at a point per game rate with 36 in 35 games. 2016-17 saw him spent the year with the Blues U20 team where he once again flirted with the point per game mark but couldn’t quite his it, finishing the year with 31 points in 37 games. He was a part of the Finnish contingent that took home Silver at the 2017 U18 World Championships where he finished third on the team in scoring with nine points in seven contests behind Kristian Vesalainen and Miro Heiskanen but ahead of such notable names like L.A. Kings first rounder Rasmus Kupari and fellow Montreal prospect Kotkaniemi.
His draft year of 2017-18 saw Ylonen become a regular in the second tier Mestis for Espoo United and certainly held his own. He finished fifth on the team in scoring with 27 points and tied for second in goals by finding the back of the net 14 times, despite being the second youngest person on the team and was also the fourth highest scoring junior aged player in the league. He’ll be joining a new team this season in the wake of Espoo United folding due to bankruptcy. Ylonen signed a two-year deal with Pelicans of the Liiga so he’ll get a chance to show his stuff against the best Finland has to offer and should be a pretty good bet to be on Finland’s entry to the 2018 WJHC.
The younger Ylonen appears to have more offensive upside than his old man, who was known more for his defensive prowess. He might be spending another couple years overseas, but once he’s ready to cross the pond he could make Habs fans brimming with excitement.
Jack Drury, CAR
Another son of a former NHLer, Jack Drury’s dad Ted is a veteran of over 400 NHL games, mostly with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes with the 42nd overall selection in the 2018 draft, Drury had a breakout draft year serving as the captain of the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL. After registered just 12 points in 2016-17, Drury exploded in 2017-18 to the tune of a team-best 65 points in 56 games, finishing with a team high 41 helpers and tying for second on the Hawks with 24 goals. Across the USHL as a whole, he finished fourth in the league in scoring and had the sixth most primary points with 43.
After two seasons in the USHL, Drury will head to Harvard this fall to follow in the old man’s footsteps. The risk of drafting players that attend Harvard is that they typically spent three or four years in college leading to the dreaded “will he or won’t he sign” if the player is perceived to have risen their stock substantially since being drafted a la Jimmy Vesey and Alex Kerfoot. Drury is very much built out of the same mold as his dad in that he’s a hard-nosed type player, but owns a fair amount of offensive upside as well. He might not project as a top-line centre, but he should become a solid middle-sixer and future captain material.
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