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 the top 10:
10. Andrew Ladd, Carolina. This 20-year-old, two-way player is a little light to be called an emerging power forward, but sometimes he plays like one. There are no flaws to his game and besides the No. 1 prospect on this list, he is the best guarantee to be successful in the NHL. His upside is as high as 85 points, though I would put his range in the 70s, similar to a Rod Brind'Amour of ten years ago. He has a legitimate shot at cracking the Hurricanes' lineup for good in the fall and since Carolina is one of the best teams in the NHL he has some playoff value Â– so his fantasy owners could see some immediate dividends. The Hockey News Future Watch ranks Ladd 20th on their list of the NHL's best prospects.
9. Patrick O'Sullivan, Minnesota. O'Sullivan was a 2003 second round draft pick (53rd overall) and even then was regarded as a steal if one looked at talent alone. Some off-ice issues and a perceived lack of maturity dropped his stock to that of a second rounder, but that was 2003 and this is now. The offensive soon-to-be star has definitely shown signs of improvement. Although still prone to the occasional dumb penalty, the fact remains the 20-year-old can score at every level. You can see his numbers improve with each game and he is currently seventh in American League scoring (tops amongst rookies). He has a very real shot at making the Wild in the fall and has 100-point potential in the NHL one day.
8. Jiri Hudler, Detroit. Size. Another victim of having a diminutive stature. As I have said before in this column, the small players who tear up the minor leagues generally get an NHL opportunity much later than the other, larger prospects. Now 22, Hudler is dominating the AHL under the new rules and would likely be on the Red Wings right now if he was 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds. That being said, he will have more of an opportunity in the fall to make the Wings and I think he'll force his way on the team within two years. His NHL upside is 95 points. Future Watch calls him the 29th best prospect.
7. Benoit Pouliot, Minnesota. Future Watch's 14th ranked prospect is still about two years away from joining the Wild, even though he was a late cut in this year's training camp. The 19-year-old was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 entry draft and plays in all situations this year for his Ontario League team Sudbury Â– something he wasn't exposed to last year as a rookie. He has high-end offensive talent (otherwise he wouldn't be on this list), but it's his certainty of making the NHL that makes him all the more valuable.
6. Bobby Ryan, Anaheim. This 18-year-old American has the potential to be one of the best power forwards in the NHL. The only downside to his vast talent and potential (from a keeper league perspective) is the fact he is a prototypical power forward and that generally means waiting a few extra years for his offensive production to peak. If you want to see a similar career curve, look at Bobby Ryan's junior stats on one side of your screen and Todd Bertuzzi's junior stats on the other. Are those numbers from two hulking first round draft picks eerily similar or what? Future Watch ranks him at No. 3.
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles. He's huge, he's talented and he's considered a steal as the 11th overall pick in 2005. The 18-year-old has a legitimate shot at making the Kings next season, but the season after that is more likely. He has tremendous upside and he continues to move up every owner's radar screen as more scouting and information is done on him. Coming from hockey mad (okay, not quite) Slovenia, he has always been a dark horse. It's safe to say that the term no longer applies. Future Watch ranks him 11th.
4. Robbie Schremp, Edmonton. Although Schremp did not maintain his incredible start to the OHL season (26 points in six games), it's tough to call 94 points in his next 40 games Â“cooling down.Â” Only three other players in OHL history reached 100 points in fewer games and one of them was Wayne Gretzky. The 20-year-old is not Future Watch's 15th best prospect because of his defense Â– this guy is a scoring machine. So much so that Edmonton actually considered keeping him with the team this year for what he could bring to its power play and shootout. He is still two years away, but is one of those rare guys who make you think 100 NHL points is one day within reach.
3. Gilbert Brule, Columbus. From my own personal perspective, I don't value Brule as high as number three simply because he showed signs of having injury problems this year that could haunt him with Zhamnov-like frequency. However, there is no denying his offensive talent, no denying his value to keeper league owners I know and there is no denying he is a sure thing to make the Blue Jackets Â– possibly next year. The 19-year-old has already shown he can score at the NHL level, which is more than can be said about most of the prospects on this list. He's ranked No. 7 in Future Watch.
2. Corey Perry, Anaheim. He tore up the OHL last year and tore up the AHL this year. Now that he's in the NHL, the 20-year-old finally seems to be in a league that can give him a challenge. Anaheim was doing everything in their power to give him time to develop, but how do you argue with a guy who keeps putting up monster points? He is probably in the NHL to stay Â– I guess I just needed to see another 10 games before removing him from the prospects list. While he seems to be a player who will put up 65-85 points in a couple of years, he has the talent in today's new NHL to hit the century mark in six or seven years.
1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh. I almost didn't bother including the No. 1 prospect. If you didn't know who it would be, than you probably shouldn't be in a fantasy league hockey pool. In fact, if someone in your keeper league doesn't already own Malkin, perhaps you could forward me your contact information so I can join your pool Â– it would be easy money! Malkin was the unanimous choice as the top prospect in Future Watch, he was the MVP of the World Junior Championship and he is impressing in the Olympics playing with men Â– the best in the world, at that (ignoring his kicking incident that led to a one-game suspension). Pens GM Craig Patrick has already stated that Malkin has a spot waiting for him in the fall. The only question mark, and Malkin owners have their fingers crossed, is the Russian Federation's transfer agreement, or lack thereof, with the NHL. That situation bears watching.
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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