Randy Hernandez isn’t the son of a famous NHLer. He didn’t grow up playing on backyard ponds and his first words weren’t the name of his favorite hockey team.
“Actually, I didn’t watch hockey at all when I was little,” he said. “I didn’t watch until I was 12.”
Hernandez just completed his first full season of AAA hockey, in fact. But this year, he’ll be a member of one of the most exclusive teams on the continent, the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-17 squad. How he got there is remarkable.
It’s nowhere near time to panic. You aren’t behind on your cramming for fantasy hockey draft day. You can print out my latest top 200 player list and leaf through it at the cottage.
Keeper and dynasty league GMs, though, have to be a bit more on the ball. These folks are running long-term franchises. They technically never stop playing, as they’re free to make trades all off-season. They can also host their drafts earlier, as their leagues depend less on immediate health and up-to-date depth charts.
It’s thus an ideal juncture to explore some keeper league rankings. Doing so means dispelling the hell out of some myths. For one, keeper league rankings are not merely prospect rankings. Sorry, but Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and Aaron Ekblad do not automatically top these lists. Elite prospects like Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and William Nylander don’t make the cut at all here, as I think they’re still multiple seasons away from being impact NHLers.
And here’s the thing too many people forget about keeper leagues: they still have standings and championships this year, and the next, and the next. So as long as an established star player projects to stay dominant for the next few seasons, he warrants strong keeper league consideration over the youngsters. McDavid tops the ranks if we’re projecting for five or 10 years down the road. But will he outscore John Tavares in the next two or three years? Doubtful. That’s not a knock on Connor. That’s a compliment to Johnny T.
Some veterans, however, are punished in these rankings. The likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have reached their mid-30s and dealt with nagging injuries in recent seasons. They will outscore many of the players on these lists this season, but they could decline sharply within two years. Give me Mark Scheifele in 2016-17 over Datsyuk if I’m starting a keeper league team from scratch. That’s why you won’t see Detroit’s dynamic veterans make the list.
Here are my top 30 keeper league picks by position. Age as of opening night, Oct. 7, 2015, listed in brackets.
By Carter Brooks
When you hear the name Domi, what comes to mind? Is it the record 333 career NHL fighting majors? Maybe it’s an unforgettable altercation with a fan in the penalty box. Whatever it is, it’s most likely not the words “goal scorer,” “captain material” or “first-line left winger.”
Newsflash: we aren’t living in 1997 anymore. The Domi of the 1990s and early 2000s is long retired. Tie’s name and legacy, however, live on in his 1995-born son, Max, who was drafted 12th overall by the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. Max is built just like his father. He is short and stocky with a pugnacious attitude. But, unlike Tie, Max can score goals. Lots of them.
Max thoroughly enjoyed his four seasons spent with the OHL’s London Knights. He racked up three consecutive 30-plus-goal seasons, highlighted by a 102-point campaign in 2014-15. He acknowledges the time spent in London has really developed his game and has paved the right path for the next stop in his career. Read more
There aren’t many 15-year-olds who are spending their summer picking out their future university, but, then again, there aren’t many 15-year-olds with the absurd amount of talent Oliver Wahlstrom possesses.
Wahlstrom announced Thursday via his Twitter account that he has committed to playing with the Harvard Crimson to begin his NCAA career. He won’t be able to join the club until the 2018-19 season so it’s still some time before we’ll know if the commitment sticks, which is always a concern when young prospects make an early commitment to an NCAA program.
Wahlstrom made headlines in January 2014 when, as a 13-year-old, he became the youngest player to ever commit to an NCAA program when he committed to Maine. That commitment lasted less than 18 months, however, as Wahlstrom, a Maine native, de-committed from the school in July. Read more
After a week off for vacation, the mailbag returns in full force. The volume of questions is beginning to get fatter and that’s awesome, so keep them coming by hitting me up on Twitter with the hashtag #thnfutures. If your question isn’t answered this week, check back next time. Let’s get to it!
For a kid who grew up in China, Rudi Ying was in a pretty good place for a hockey player this week. The 17-year-old center and fellow Beijing product Wei Zhong both took part in the BioSteel summer camp in Toronto, meaning they were sharing the ice and playing alongside Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid and a host of other NHLers and top prospects.
With a tight salary cap and uncertainty about where the upper limit will be heading in the future, this off-season hasn’t been an easy one for veteran free agents.
Top UFAs such as Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff remain unsigned, useful veterans such as Marek Zidlicky have yet to land deals and those looking to get their careers back on track, such as Martin Havlat and Tyler Kennedy, aren’t even sure if a deal is coming their way. It’s a tough set of circumstances for both Havlat and Kennedy, as they may not even be looking for solid NHL contracts, but rather the opportunity at a training camp tryout.
Already Sergei Gonchar and (reportedly) Devin Setoguchi are among those who have signed pro tryout agreements, but Havlat’s name might be the next added to that list. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported Wednesday that Havlat’s agent has been contacted about the 34-year-old right winger signing a PTO with the Senators. Read more
Since the teenagers taken at the NHL draft this summer aren’t old enough to drink, we’ll assume Nick Merkley celebrated being taken 30th overall by Arizona with an Oreo ice cream sandwich instead.
That was the junk food of choice for the Kelowna Rockets right winger after road trips this season, and it served him well: Merkley finished sixth in WHL scoring and helped Kelowna drub the competition in the playoffs.
The Rockets dropped just three games on their way to a dream final with the Brandon Wheat Kings before that showdown turned out to be a four-game nightmare for the Wheaties.
“Sweeping them was crazy,” Merkley said. “We were just trying to get a split (in Brandon), then we got both games. It was huge for us.” Read more