With the Olympic break underway, it is the perfect opportunity to review the 40 best prospects with fantasy potential.
These are the guys with the most offensive upside down the road.
Ranking players is a delicate mix of trying to blend the uncertainty of when a prospect will make his NHL team along with his potential offensive talent.
However, I have looked at many factors (not unlike my fantasy rankings) and have come up with a top 40.
Here is Nos. 20-11:
20. Dan Paille, Buffalo. This two-way player sneaks into the top 20 for a couple of reasons. First, he will be in the NHL as a regular next year, so fantasy league owners will not have to wait long for him. Second, he is close to a 'sure thing' as far as production goes. His upside is modest, but a near-guaranteed 50-70 points per season throughout his career is pretty valuable in deeper hockey pools. The 21-year-old, 20th overall pick in 2002 has split his time this year between Buffalo and Rochester. Injuries are the only question mark with Paille.
19. Roman Voloshenko, Minnesota. A 19-year-old 2004 second round pick (42nd overall), Voloshenko is one of the top rookies in the American League this year, averaging nearly a point per game. He likely won't be in the Wild lineup as a regular next season, and that is about the only reason he is not in my top 10 right now. He is a pure goal-scorer who may well tally 50-plus in the NHL one year. Skating is a bit of a weakness and he could probably use a few more pounds, but he has improved on the former and the latter will come with age. The Hockey News Future Watch ranks him as the 63rd top prospect.
18. Brandon Bochenski, Ottawa. A difficult player to read in terms of his potential, Bochenski put up some big years for North Dakota in the NCAA and continued that trend in the AHL. However, he has showed some inconsistency and defensive lapses. This became even more apparent during an otherwise impressive stint in the NHL. The 23-year-old should be a regular in Ottawa next year and could step right in with more than 65 points if put with the right linemates. His potential is anywhere from 50 to 85 points. The situations he is used in will dictate how he does. Future Watch ranks him at No. 50.
17. Travis Zajac, New Jersey. The 20-year-old 20th overall pick in 2004 is fast with good size and great hockey sense and could be a 90-point player in a few years. Zajac will likely spend a couple more years at the University of North Dakota before making the jump to the pros. He is New Jersey's top prospect and Future Watch ranks him 21st overall. His numbers have improved 25 per cent this season as he is up averaging a point per game with the Fighting Sioux. His plus-13 is second on the team, trailing only fellow top prospect Drew Stafford.
16. Lauri Tukonen, Los Angeles. Tukonen was second in scoring at this year's World Junior Championship and he has impressed in his North American pro debut. The 11th overall pick in 2004. His strength is his ability to maintain possession of the puck, particularly in the corners. Future Watch's 35th best prospect should wind up on one of the top two lines in Los Angeles and will be ready to contribute to a fantasy squad in about three or four years.
15. Andrei Kostitsyn, Montreal. A poor debut in the AHL last year, combined with a weak start this year, did nothing to help his cause. However, Kostsitsyn has turned things around of late, garnering 20 points in his last 28 AHL games as well as a decent performance during his cup of coffee in Montreal. The 10th overall draft pick in 2003 has tremendous offensive upside and should be in the lineup full time by the fall of 2007. Future Watch ranks at No. 53.
14. Jason Pominville, Buffalo. This 23-year-old can barely be called a prospect at this point as he has played 34 games in the NHL this year. In fact, had this article been written in March instead of February, Pominville would likely be off this list. An offensive star in junior, the 2001 second round draft pick (55th overall) averaged just less than a point per game in the AHL the last two years. He was in cruise control well above that standard in 18 games this year prior to his recall and if Daniel Briere's return to the Buffalo lineup does not impact his situation he is here to stay and I will remove him from this list. His upside is as high as 80-85 points.
13. Igor Grigorenko, Detroit. The biggest wildcard in the top 20, Grigorenko would be in the NHL today were it not for a terrible car accident that nearly ended his life, nevermind his career, in 2003. It took him a couple of years, but the 22-year-old's numbers in the Russian Super League finally match the level he was at prior to the accident. He will have an opportunity to make the Red Wings next season and the sky is the limit for his potential. Very high risk/reward here.
12. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim. This power forward had a nice NHL debut and when he was sent to the AHL to get more ice time, Getzlaf gave the Ducks every reason to believe they made a mistake. The first year pro put up nearly two points per game for Portland and after 17 games he was called back up. It looks as if the 20-year-old is there to stay and the only reason he is not in the top five is my general belief that power forwards do not come into their own until they are at least 25. However, it looks as if he will get 40-60 points in the meantime, so I'm sure poolies can wait for what looks to be a real nice upside.
11. Alexander Radulov, Nashville. His 118 points in 50 games in the Quebec Major Junior League should say it all. Radulov is five ahead in the league's points standings, despite playing at least three less games than any of the next six players. The 15th overall pick in 2004 is currently on a 40-game point streak. Out of all the prospects, he is one of only a handful who has the ability and upside to reach the triple digit-point level in the NHL. Radulov is still three years away, otherwise he could well be in the top three on this list. Future Watch ranks him as the 19th best prospect.
Check back Feb. 24 for the top 10.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Hockey Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Wednesday and Friday. Also find the top 250 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN's Fantasy section.
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