We are in it now. Preseason games are well underway. Players are experiencing the dreaded invitation into the coach’s office and being handed their one-way ticket to the American League, CHL or to the unknown. Prospects and journeymen alike are already being pencilled in for monster seasons after looking good in a preseason tilt versus non-NHLers.
It’s truly the best time of year.
The fantasy drafting landscape is beginning to take form as well. Many have already drafted. The rest will be sitting down between now and next weekend to make their selections. This is the most important part of the fantasy season. Sure, your campaign can be salvaged through shrewd trades, clever waiver wire additions, even a surprise or two, but the draft is where most of the butter is churned.
To quote Nice Guy Eddie “First things fuckin’ last”. Get your hands on Dobber’s Annual Fantasy Guide and the Prospect Report. The information in those documents will provide dividends that will last past this season. I like to go back and read of previous editions to refresh my memory on pedigrees of players and how the projections are turning out. Spoiler Alert: Many are turning out accurate.
Friday night was host to seven preseason games. None were overly exciting – as few preseason games are. Here are some news and notes though.
- Mitch Marner and John Tavares looked dangerous once again. That should prove to be a match made in heaven. Tavares has consistently been a 30-plus goal threat but has never played at even-strength with a player who owned Marner’s vision. Expecting 40-goals from a guy who has never done it is asking a lot, but I doubt anyone will be surprised if it happens this season for JT
- Carolina’s rookies both looked good tonight. Martin Necas centred a line with Teuvo Tearvainen and Warren Foegele. Andrei Svechnikov slid in beside Sebastian Aho and Valentin Zykov. There’s a better than decent chance the two youngsters play together on the second line once the season begins. Don’t rule out Svechnikov getting cosy with Aho long term though.
- Ghost scored another one tonight. In typical Ghost fashion, he ripped the clapper from the point for the PPG. Unfortunately, he left the game after 40 minutes for “precautionary reasons”. A situation to monitor.
Friday bore witness to a swath of players landing on the waiver wire. None held any fantasy impact but there certainly were a few familiar names who once graced a fantasy roster or three.
You knew you weren’t getting out of here without me talking about Elias Pettersson and the excitement he’s been bringing this preseason. First, he all but ended Ryan Strome’s career via shame by breaking both his ankles earlier this week.
Then on Thursday evening, he made Jake Muzzin look like a beer leaguer by slipping a disgusting between the legs (both sets) drop pass to begin a goal-scoring sequence.
pants are off in vancouver pic.twitter.com/RSL1uxOUBF— Jason Botchford (@botchford) September 21, 2018
His teammates back in Sweden nicknamed him The Alien because his skills are out of this world. He’s already starting to convert his North American teammates with plays like these.
As most of you know, my work and love of prospects usually ends up poking its greasy little head in my Ramblings over here at the main site. But today, I’m going full bore. We’re going to dive into the 2018-19 Calder Class and take a stroll down a few avenues: The Best Case, The Worst Case, and the Likely Result.
This will be projecting the top rookies in the fantasy landscape from a points-only perspective.
10. Filip Zadina
The sixth overall selection from last June’s Entry Draft wasn’t supposed to be around that long. He was and Detroit was all too happy to grab the dynamic winger. Zadina torched the QMJHL last year and brings the one-shot goal scoring ability that every fantasy team desire.
The issue will be deployment and quality of teammates. Detroit is in the midst of a rebuilding cycle, yet it appears someone neglected to mention that to management. The Red Wings boast a plethora of aged bottom liners that will sprinkle their lineup. It’s unlikely that the left-shot, right winger will unseat Anthony Mantha on the top line. And with Henrik Zetterberg hanging up his skates, the team’s centre depth drops off considerably behind Dylan Larkin.
A spot on the top power play unit will go a long way in helping push the metrics in the right direction.
The Good 30-30-60
Zadina has the goods to score and score a great deal. If he can lock down the left side on the top power play and receive passes into his wheelhouse, the puck will see some twine. Same goes If he can fight his way onto a line with Larkin. If the deployment works out and the chemistry clicks, it will be a fun season.
The Bad 10-12-22
Just as the sweet spot needs to be extra sweet to hit the big numbers, the low end needs to be fairly dark as well. Realistically, there is a scenario that sees Zadina in the AHL (if permitted. There’s still some grey area there), or back in junior. But let’s say he sticks for the duration but fails to lock onto the first power-play unit. Its not a stretch to think that a partnership with Andreas Athanasiou may not be the most productive in the middle six. If things don’t click early and the level jumps prove to be too much, this could be a long season for the Czech-product.
The Likely 18-15-33
Big surprise, the final outcome will likely land in the middle. Zadina is too good a goal scorer to be held down with the man-advantage, but the even-strength production will prove difficult.
9. Henrik Borgstrōm
Traditional routes mean nothing to Henrik Borgström. Taken as a rare first rounder as a draft-plus-one player in 2016, he went from the Finnish junior leagues to the NCAA and led his team to a National Championship.
Dubbed the Magician by his university mates, the Finnish centre owns some of the best pure puck skills of any U22 player. He can dazzle in tight and finish off a play, or shake and bake out high and set his teammates up for golden opportunities. His opportunity as a rookie in Sunrise will be the determining factor in how high his production can flourish this season.
The Good 24-36-60
You’ll hear me repeat these words countless times, opportunity reigns supreme. If Borgström can carve out a role on the Panthers’ top power play unit, his production will be fantasy-relevant. He’ll receive an additional boon if he leaves his natural centre ice position at the door and slides in beside Vincent Trocheck or fellow-countryman, Sasha Barkov on one of the top two lines.
The Bad 11-14-25
When it comes to deployment, The Bad is also the most likely. The Panthers Added depth on the wings with the Mike Hoffman trade. They appear to like Nick Bjugstad up on the wing. And there’s no way Borgström is pushing Barkov or Trocheck out of the top two centre positions.
That leaves centring a third line that consists of some sort of combination of Frank Vatrano, Denis Malgin, Jared McCann, or Colton Sceviour. Not exactly a who’s who of offensive dynamos. However, it’s difficult to imagine the coaching staff leaving him off the second power play unit, but his chances of seeing the top squad are unlikely.
The Likely 19-22-41
The reasonable result for Borgström sees him finding some success during limited deployment on the team’s third line, and time on the second power play unit. He’ll be an easy slide up the line up when injuries or inconsistencies arise. A 40-point rookie season should be viewed as a success for the talented forward. With his skill level, it’ll be just the tip of the iceberg.
8. Ryan Donato
Donato seemed to score goals at will in his junior season in the NCAA. The 22-year-old torched the competition to the tune of 26 goals in 29 games to lead the NCAA in goals-per-game. He even managed to score five goals in five games for the Americans at the Olympics.
The Harvard alumni turned pro at the end of his campaign and tallied a quick five goals and nine points in 12 NHL regular season games. He saw his ice cut and eventually saw the press box during the playoffs. However, he’s been pegged by many to challenge for the Rookie of the Year due to his ‘advanced’ age and likely position in the Bruins lineup.
The Good 30-25-55
Here we go again with that darn deployment thing. The top line is closed for business for the foreseeable future. But there is a window to slide onto the Bruins deadly top power play unit. As it stands, Bergeron, Pastrnak, Marchand and Krug are welcoming a young stud. Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Donato will all be gunning for it. Let’s say Donato takes the bumper spot and makes hay. A 30-goal season wouldn’t be outrageous.
The Bad 15-15-30
No top power play deployment. A spot on the third line. A difficult time getting rolling. These outcomes are plausible and if they occur, forget about 30-goals, 30 points may be difficult to hit.
The Likely 24-20-44
Donato is a polished enough player that brings an element to the team that has been lacking outside of L1. He should get ample opportunities to be the triggerman in the middle six as the Bruins are looking to employ three scoring lines. At worst he’ll see the same role given to him on the second unit, but likely moves into that cushy top unit for stretches too. With the fifth spot on the Bergeron unit being sought after by young players, there is bound to be ups and downs and rotations aplenty.
7. Eeli Tolvanen
Tolvanen’s exploits in the KHL as an 18-year-old have been discussed ad nauseam. After blowing past the U19 record, he nearly broke the U20 scoring mark as well. He crossed the pond, saw a bit of action in Nashville and then was promptly sent to the press box to watch the contender try and contend. This season he’ll be more than a spectator.
The Good 30-28-58
While he won’t be dislodging Filip Forsberg off the top line left wing, the right-shot sniper could find himself playing with the big boys on the power play. Forsberg has played the point on that top unit in the past and if the team feels Arvidsson can be the net front player instead of Craig Smith, Tolvanen can blast away from his usual spot at the top of the circles.
With Kevin Fiala sliding up to RW1 and looking strong, Tolvanen should have an easier route to the second line left-wing job next to Kyle Turris at evens. If all that occurs, this kid has the release to score a bushel of goals as a rookie.
The Bad 16-14-30
Stuck on line three with Nick Bonino and cueing up his bomb on the second power play unit. That second unit still boasts talent like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Turris and Fiala, so if they see enough time, they can do some damage. However, if he’s hunkered down with Bonino during five-on-five play, the production will suffer greatly.
The Likely 25-20-45
The likely result sees Tolvanen earn quality time on the second line and second power play unit. Neither will result in massive metrics but its difficult to keep a goal-scoring threat like Tolvanen down for long. He should establish himself as a true weapon off the rush and with the one-timer. He joins a team that enjoys scoring by committee and he should become a large part of that in a hurry.
6. Martin Necas
Necas was something of a surprise to crack the Hurricanes’ roster last season. He lasted a single game and went back to the Czech Republic where his game flourished. He was sensational at the World Junior Championships, looked strong at the Worlds, and appears ready to take on true minutes in Carolina this year.
The Good 23-35-58
The good happened last spring when Carolina landed the second overall selection in the 2018 draft. That assured the club elite goal scorer and dynamic winger, Andrei Svechnikov. The two teenagers are likely to begin their careers on an exciting second line together, and Necas should be feeding the Russian on the power play for the next decade.
If Necas can find immediate chemistry with Svechnikov at even-strength and land a spot on the team’s top power play unit, a sniff at 60-points is within reach.
The Bad 13-19-32
As the broken record continues to sing, if the deployment isn’t there, nor is the production. If Necas slips to the third line and drops down to a far less potent second power play unit, it could be a season spinning his wheels.
The Likely 17-28-45
The likely scenario sees the 19-year-old lock down a second line role with rotating wingers and finds some success. The fish will be fried during the man-advantage where he should see a good chunk of time on the top unit with stretches down on PP2.
Check back on Monday evening for the conclusion of this list. 1-5 will surely excite the masses.
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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