The Journey: Underowned Prospects

by Brayden Olafson on August 3, 2019

A friendly reminder to all that the 14th annual edition of the Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide and draft list is available and flying off the digital shelves yet again! This publication is an absolute behemoth of a fantasy hockey resource that I am thrilled to have contributed to for the first time this year. The continually updated digital magazine features projections and detailed scouting reports across the league, and most importantly, it’s accurate!

As we transition out of the always entertaining draft analysis season, I want to shift the focus of The Journey back to a broader group of prospects. The hype of 17, 18 and 19-year-old players entering the next stage of the prospect world is exciting, however, it can sometimes pull attention away from equally deserving players. Today we’ll have a look at some players whose fantasy stock is on the rise, however, remain underowned in leagues. These players may have had quietly successful campaigns last year, or simply be looking up at a brand-new opportunity that some owners may have slept on in the summer frenzy. 

Now despite this list of players currently being under-owned, it’s important to retain a healthy perspective. Simply because they’ll been mentioned today does not necessarily mean that they should be claimed or drafted immediately (although in some cases they should). Take note of the names, and the factors that make them relevant, however, use an objective judgement to determine whether or not they will be a factor in your league.

Otto Koivula, NYI

Dobber Top 300 Forward Prospects Rank: 74          Fantrax Ownership: 36%

The Finnish AHL rookie made a strong first impression in North America a couple of strong years with Ilves of the Liiga. Playing overseas, the fourth-round draft-pick has been able to fly largely under the radar since his selection by the Isles in 2016, but his AHL success has been garnering significantly more attention. The rookie finished second in Sound Tiger scoring, despite a fruitless start throughout the month of October. His comfort level seemed to peak mid-season when he rallied for a five-game goal-streak at the turn of the year. At 20 years old, he’s proven his game at a higher level than Ivan Chekovich, the San Jose prospect who is ranked 83rd by Dobber, and is owned in 62% of Fantrax leagues – almost double that of Koivula.

Rem Pitlick, NSH

Dobber Top 300 Forward Prospects Rank: 77          Fantrax Ownership: 25%

The Nashville third-round draft-pick from 2016 had an outrageously unappreciated junior-year campaign at the University of Minnesota prior to signing his ELC with the team in the early spring. The Hobey Baker nominee has easily grown into an early second-round equivalent talent, and sits among a pipeline network with little immediate competition. Comparatively, Serron Noel, a Florida Panthers draft pick from 2018 who is ranked 81 by Dobber is owned in 79% of Fantrax leagues – a whopping three times more than Pitlick who is, by all accounts, an equally valuable prospect. 

Mitchell Stephens, TBL

Dobber Top 300 Forward Prospects Rank: 72          Fantrax Ownership: 34%

The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect’s profile has cooled off in fantasy circles as of late, partially due to the level of success seen by the NHL team, and their mysterious ability to retain their current NHL talent… until now. The Lightning have begun to ship out contracts including JT Miller and Ryan Callahan (LTIR & Trade) in anticipation of their inevitable cap crunch. Although the team has drafted well in the past, the fruits of their labour seem to be taking longer to develop than expected. The Syracuse Crunch have been led by a small group of “veteran” AHLers which include Carter Verhaeghe and Cory Conacher, with the remainder of the team contributing by committee. UFA signing Alex Barre-Boulet leads the core prospects in terms of ceiling, however, Stephens, who was injured for the better part of last year carries a heavier and broader load. The 22-year-old has the skillset to potentially play up and down an NHL lineup and is quite close to finally getting that opportunity.

Tanner Laczynski, PHI

Dobber Top 300 Forward Prospects Rank: 90          Fantrax Ownership: 17%

Moving deeper, and likely down a full tier from the players previously mentioned, Tanner Laczynski, the Flyers sixth-round draft-pick from 2016 has opted to return to THE Ohio State University for his fourth and final year of collegiate competition. A point-per-game player through the duration of his college years, Laczynski has offensive upside, but brings a healthy slice of grit and physicality to the table as well. Ranked by Dobber among players like Tyler Madden (96), who is owned in 56% of Fantrax leagues, he’s proven more at the same level. Despite exceeding the success that Madden’s had with Northeastern, Laczynski’s 6th round pedigree has seemingly fooled fantasy owners into thinking he’s a lesser prospect.

Kevin Stenlund, CBJ 

Dobber Top 300 Forward Prospects Rank: 95          Fantrax Ownership: 15%

Another mid-ceiling, albeit, high aptitude forward is Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Kevin Stenlund. The 22-year-old has four games of experience in the NHL after getting his North American career underway in 2018. His moderate AHL production can be partially attributed to the plethora of veterans that the Cleveland Monsters have insisted on deploying ahead of him in the lineup. The Swede likely has a higher offensive ceiling than he’s leading on, in addition to the professional level of poise and intelligence he brings to the table. The Jackets are heavily bolstered down the middle, which could prevent Stenlund from earning a full time spot in the lineup immediately, however, his impact at the AHL level should be monitored and compared to such peers as Sonny Milano who is ranked 97th by Dobber and owned in 52% of Fantrax leagues. 

As I already mentioned, this list is intended to be a guide and a reminder when combing your waiver wire. Often times, we put 100% stock in our own opinion of a player, rather than taking an objective stance regarding his actual ceiling and opportunity – that’s represented in the stark contrast of the ownership rates of the players shown above. 

Thanks for reading.