The Journey: The One-Year Fantasy Rebuild

by Brayden Olafson on September 21, 2019


The one-year fantasy rebuild… is it, itself a fantasy? Well, that depends on a few factors. I had a discussion with my brother-in-law this week, which prompted me to write about this topic. He’s a sophomore member of the league that I commission and obtained his current roster by way of an expansion draft. The draft, which was held last fall, left him with a roster which, in the opinion of some of our more senior members was a sure-shot last-place finisher.

A year later, The Bleacher Creatures managed a 10th place finish in the 12-team league – at times it looked like he could’ve even pushed for eighth. After another five rounds of entry-drafting, I have my money on him finishing in the top half of the league. Now, of course, the roster that he finished his inaugural year with is not the same team that he originally drafted. Through trades as well as savvy waiver and draft selections, he acquired players like Oliver Kylington, Vitali Kravtsov, Pavel Buchnevich, Bowen Byram, Nikita Gusev, and more. His vision for these players wasn't for last year’s campaign, but rather looking to the future – one to two years out to be specific.

While I don’t believe he’s got the grandest of chances to finish in the top-three of the league, I don’t think he’s that far off. In my opinion, he’s well on his way to completing what I would consider being a successful rebuild… with the bulk of the lifting done over the course of one year. 

Now, if you’re a fantasy owner who’s currently in a similar position to where The Bleacher Creatures were a year ago, what advice can I give you?

  1.  Don’t waste your time acquiring safe players – if your league is anything like the ones that I’m in, middle roster players are near worthless in trades and will not win you a championship. The ones who you have on your roster might have some value this year, but it’s likely as an injury crutch for competing teams – trade them for late picks, now! Players who have boom/bust potential are right in your wheelhouse. 
     
  2.  Don’t let emotions get in the way – you’ve got to sacrifice to have success. This should be relatively easy to do in fantasy hockey. Don’t hold on to the fan favorite in his mid-30s who will score 60 points this year – he’s worth more to a competitive team, squeeze him for all he’s worth!
     
  3.  Consider the player's expected arrival – this is extremely important. You should be targeting the players with the highest ceiling that have a reliable arrival date that is one year away. These players will be less expensive to acquire than blue-chip prospects, so you should be able to afford to acquire extra draft picks by moving back in your draft. Dobber’s Fantasy Hockey Prospects Report is an excellent reference for this too – look for players with any of the following references:
  • Will have cups of coffee / get a look this year, full time in 2020-21.
  • 2020-21 (or whatever a year from now is)
  • 2020-21, but may play the final games of this season after college year 

The guide also designates a boom/bust player from each NHL team – cross-reference that player with their ceiling for more options.

So with that final point, and a full offseason of information in our books, who are the players you should be targeting right now? Whether it’s via trades, waivers, or in preparing for your still upcoming entry draft, these are my picks for players who will help you on your way to the infamous one-year rebuild!

Forwards

Isac Lunderstrom, Anaheim Ducks

This year, the Ducks’ rebuild lends itself to the success of budding prospects like Troy Terry, Max Comtois and Sam Steel who’ve already got their foot well into the doorway with the organization. While everyone is watching that trio though, they seem to be sleeping on Luderstrom who had an impressive stint with the team in his brief audition last fall and has continued to impress in Sweden. He’s expected to start the year with the San Diego Gulls, but if things go well early he could find himself back in Anaheim before Christmas. Snap him up while he’s still under the radar. 

Ty Dellandrea, Dallas Stars

The Stars thirteenth-overall draft pick from 2018 has been weighed down on a miserable Flint Firebirds’ roster since before being drafted. This year, however, things could be looking up for Dellandrea who will enter his fourth OHL season, and second as Flint’s captain with a significantly more competitive roster alongside him. The Stars have a few excellent prospects in their system who have come onto fantasy radars a little strong over the summer, but Dellandrea remains a sneaky pick. 

Tyler Benson, Edmonton Oilers 

The Oilers’ have corkscrewed themselves into a salary cap situation that will dictate much of their roster to play on cap-friendly deals for the next couple of seasons.  The team’s second-round selection from 2016 set up a mind-blowing 51 goals in his rookie campaign with Bakersfield to give him a total of 66 points on the season. For some odd reason, however, he remains owned in only 28% of Fantrax leagues to Kailer Yamamoto’s 42%. Act now!
 


Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders

After a widely hyped draft year, Wahlstrom’s fantasy stock took a tumble over the course of the last year while he managed only 19 points with Boston College. The first-round pick eagerly signed an ELC with the Islanders which allowed him to briefly redeem himself alongside peer prospects in Bridgeport. There is plenty of opportunity in the Islanders’ forward ranks and Wahlstrom could be in line to earn a coveted top-six role sooner than previously expected.

Logan Brown, Ottawa Senators

In another case of becoming overshadowed by his peers, Logan Brown has taken a back seat to prospects like Drake Batherson and Colin White, all the while quietly retaining and honing his own offensive potential. With one successful AHL campaign now under his belt, Brown is surely less than two years from making an NHL impact. His 70-point upside, paired with a respectable 60-point floor if healthy should make Brown a player you can target confidently at a discount. 

Sasha Chmelevski, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks’ sixth-round pick has battled hard for name recognition in fantasy circles, however, many have yet to take notice of this forward’s game-breaking skill. He’s poised for a breakout AHL rookie campaign which will surely boost his stock in every prospect league. A successful debut will put him in line to slide into a churning Sharks lineup within the year. This is your chance to hop on the wagon before that happens. 

Alex Barre-Boulet, Tampa Bay Lightning

The undrafted forward has put himself among the top prospects in a system boiling with average joe’s (alright that’s not fair, but it sounded good – Tampa has a lot of solid middle-six looking prospects). Barre-Boulet broke out as a rookie in the AHL last year with 68 points in 74 contests. Despite his size, ABB should be able to capitalize on an uber skilled Lightning roster at some point within the next year. He’s got an excellent opportunity to be the organization’s second coming of Yanni Gourde in almost every sense. 

Defensemen

Kyle Capobianco, Arizona Coyotes

The 2015 third-round selection has all of the tools necessary to one day become an elite NHL powerplay quarterback. While that surely won’t happen overnight, Capobianco could find himself in a Coyotes’ uniform before long. In a league where opportunity can often come knocking (See Sami Niku), Capobianco is the defenseman you want answering the door. 

Ian Mitchell, Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks didn’t trade Henri Jokiharju without some kind of a backup plan in place. Ian Mitchel is said backup plan. The now University of Denver Pioneers’ captain will play his junior campaign in the NCHC seeking to once again improve on his point totals from a year ago. This year is likely to be his last in college as the Blackhawks will surely take a serious run at signing him immediately after the Pioneers’ season ends. His future on the Blackhawks blueline comes in sync with the influx of a rebuilding roster that will be able to grow and peak together.  

K’Andre Miller, NY Rangers

The wildcard of the Rangers’ future blueline is returning to the University of Wisconsin for a sophomore season to follow up his near point-per-game rookie mark. The dynamic defender has been overshadowed by the additions of Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba, however, his skill set will be equal to, if not greater than both. Miller plays an offensively aggressive game from the blueline with the remnants of his days as a forward. 
 


Nicolas Hague, Vegas Golden Knights

Nic Hague is undoubtedly the future of the Vegas blueline. His rookie campaign in the AHL was a success but left just a tad to be desired. He’ll likely return to Chicago to join the Wolves in another competitive AHL run before the reality of an NHL job presents itself. He could have an opportunity over the course of the upcoming slate to audition on the strip which could trigger other would-be fantasy owners to bump his value in their own regard. Get to him first and make them beg for you to trade him. 

Goalies

Alex Nedeljkovic, Carolina Hurricanes

Have you seen Carolina’s goaltending depth chart lately? Whether or not you believe it’s a satisfactory duo to enter the 2019-20 campaign, one thing is for certain, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek are unlikely to be the long term crease solution in Raleigh. Nedeljkovic has proven his abilities at the AHL level and could have the opportunity to do so at the NHL level before long. If either of the two elder statesmen falters, the ‘Canes have shown in the past that they aren’t shy to demote underperformers. 

Igor Shersterkin, NY Rangers

It’s been more than a decade since the Ranger’s crease has ever truly been contested, however, the signing of Igor Shesterkin indicates that there are finally internal discussions happening within the Blueshirts’ organization to facilitate a changing of the guard. The organization as a whole is climbing ferociously out of a lull in competitiveness which should spell a winning record for whichever netminder earns the lion’s share of the teams starts over the next five years – the smart money is on Shesterkin.  

***

Thanks for reading

@olaf1393