One more day! One more day! This is my last writing post until the season starts besides including streamers in tomorrow’s podcast. Can’t wait. Let’s put a bow on things by looking at the prospects from the three non-playoff teams in the Pacific Division along with the expansion Golden Knights:
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Gabe Vilardi is the top prospect in the system following his selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. I’m very torn on Vilardi. His puck-handling is outstanding and his shot is sneaky good. I think he can get to top speed quickly which is good for getting to board battles but the problem is his top speed is lacking. There’s potential for him to become a first line power forward but he’ll need to improve his skating to get there. I think he’ll be able to make an impact because Vilardi knows how to play through his skill set but don’t reach for him.
I am a fan of Adrian Kempe despite his skating form. It looks very strange but it doesn’t take away from his skating ability. Kempe is absolutely relentless on the forecheck and will go through anyone in his way to get to his spots. He has a nice shot but his puck-handling is mediocre. No worries about that from here because Kempe knows what he needs to be, a player who goes north to south. The upside isn’t massive but Kempe should become a middle-sixer.
Honestly, this Kings system is pretty ugly. I do want to mention Cal Petersen who spurned the Sabres to sign with the Kings. Petersen was outstanding at Notre Dame last season and should be the goalie of the future for the Kings. He is a couple years away (he’ll start in the AHL for Ontario this year) but he has terrific long-term upside.
The Coyotes have two prospects who are among the best in the league. At this point, I would lean towards Clayton Keller being #1 with Dylan Strome coming in at #2 but both are top 10 prospects, if not top 5. Both of them are in my top 200 and deserve to be drafted this year. Long term, Keller has the potential to become a top 20 fantasy player while Strome has top 50 upside. When I see Keller, I see a Marner or Patty Kane type of player. He’s on the first line to open the year and will be a nice DFS option in the year. If he’s available in your league for some reason, grab him. Strome will center the third line to start after lighting up the OHL the past two years. Despite taking longer to stick in the NHL, I still have little doubt about Strome becoming an effective NHL’er.
Christian Fischier is my other notable in the system. Fischier has progressed nicely over the last couple years with 20+27 in 57 games in Tuscon last season along with 3 goals in 7 games in the NHL. Fischier is projected to start in the bottom six for Arizona and I can see him eventually playing on the second line behind Keller on the right side. The tough thing is that Fischier probably won’t do much this year since he will receive limited minutes.
I am a huge fan of Brock Boeser going forward. Boeser was a standout at North Dakota before scoring 4 goals and an assist in 9 games with the Canucks to end the season. Boeser will play on the new first line with the Canucks with one of my favorites, Bo Horvat. Anyways, Boeser is a natural goal scorer through and through. He knows how to get to the right spots, his shot release is incredibly quick and his ability to possess the puck is terrific. I haven’t seen many players Boeser’s age control the puck as well as he does. His scoring potential is absolutely elite and while there will be ups and downs, especially in the near-term, I would do whatever I could to get him in dynasties. For redrafts, Boeser is just outside my top 200; I love the idea of taking him with my last pick or two. Otherwise, look to stream him.
Elias Pettersson is one of the two recent #5 overall picks for the Canucks. The 18 year old can skate with the best of them and already is terrific in all three zones. He needs to fill out (was only ~165 lbs at the combine) but once he does, he can reach new levels with his aggressiveness. Pettersson is a very stable player who has the highlight reel goals in him as well. For rookie drafts, I’d put him 6th with Mittlestadt jumping him but Pettersson’s offensive potential is third among forwards in this draft ahead of Patrick.
Olli Juolevi has no idea where he’s going to be playing this season but it won’t be in Vancouver. Regardless, the 5th overall pick from 2016 is a terrific possession player who has elite playmaking ability. Juolevi is going to be a player who plays on the first pair in all situations. I don’t think his fantasy upside is that high but he should become a solid #2-3 down the line making him very valuable in dynasties.
I just want to mention Thatcher Demko, Jonathan Dahlen, Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen. Demko should be the future goalie for the Canucks while the other three are all high upside forwards. I would put them in the above order in terms of potential but I do like them all a fair bit. Despite the team being bad right now, the Canucks are building a very nice core.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Vegas has a ton of prospects in their system given how they approached their expansion. I’m going to leave guys like Theodore out of this since he is covered in my ranks. I’m going to focus on their three first round picks and the best young player they acquired through the expansion draft, Alex Tuch. The former Wild first round pick went to Vegas with Erik Haula in exchange for not taking one of the Wild defenseman. Tuch scored 18 goals and 19 assists for Iowa last year, his first as a professional. Tuch is a big player who also has very solid skating. He projects as a second liner long term who fits the power forward role to a tee.
Cody Glass was the first selection for the Golden Knights in the 2017 Draft. The thing that stands out most to me about Glass’ game is how quickly he can transition from his own zone to the opposition’s. He has all of the tools to be a possession monster in the NHL down the line. He needs to fill out a bit and hopefully does so in Portland this year. Glass has the wow plays in his game and has first line potential. I suspect he makes the Canadian WJC team this year and the Golden Knights in 2018-19.
Nick Suzuki plays a big man’s game despite being a smaller guy. His ability to hold onto the puck when being pestered is excellent. Suzuki is an amazing skater, has great passion vision and loves to put the puck on net. His speed has me intrigued especially since he’s very shifty. Suzuki is a couple years away but the upside is through the roof.
The third first round pick, Erik Brannstrom, should develop into a terrific fantasy hockey player. Brannstrom is an excellent skater and moves the puck at an elite level. He’s extremely comfortable running a power play and has an above-average shot to go with his terrific passing. Brannstrom will spend the year playing in Sweden and for the Swedish WJC team before hopefully coming to the USA in 2018-19. He doesn’t have Makar’s potential but Brannstrom’s upside is as high as Heiskanen’s. He’s one of my favorite defenseman prospects.
That’s all for now guys. As mentioned in the intro, I’ll be back tomorrow with a podcast with Reid. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Be sure to sign up for a last-minute RCL if you haven’t done so yet, there’s nothing to lose! Thanks for reading, take care!