Five future multi-category studs…
One of the most interesting aspects of multi-category leagues is the role of physical players in your league. They are not as well-known as the league's traditional stars since they are not putting up points with as much frequency. While they receive less overall coverage, their role in fantasy hockey could be as important as some of the game's "best players" because of their ability to provide high-end totals in PIM, hits and, for defensemen, blocked shots.
In cap leagues the majority these players hold even more value. Their lesser offensive totals often leave them with a lower cap hit. Having players on your fantasy squad that can dominate multiple categories while costing close to the league minimum can make or break your season. The more you save, the more you can invest elsewhere.
Over the past year Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas has received a lot of attention around these parts. His PIM and hit totals have been off the charts and he has also been very good in the shot-blocking department. On top of that, his offensive production has put him on pace for about 20 points over an 82-game season. Those in cap leagues have additional motivation to acquire Gudas as his cap hit of just under $1 million makes him one of the best multi-category cap bargains available.
The downside to cap bargains in keeper leagues is that many of them could be due for a big raise that will make them less appealing to own. Gudas himself will likely receive a much bigger contract after the 2015-16 season due to his emergence as a defenseman capable of playing 20 minutes per game while being a solid contributor killing penalties. Thus, things can be cyclical when it comes to cap bargains. Your best bet is to ride the wave and then make changes if the cost increases.
If your keeper league has farm positions you obviously want to invest in players that can become regular contributors in the near future. This includes potential future stud defensemen that will provide a ton of PIM, hits and blocked shots. Ideally, you will be able to uncover the next Gudas.
Last week we started by looking at five candidates to be roto studs in the near future. Below are five more players that fit the same mold as Gudas production-wise. Not all of them will make it in the NHL but if they do the physical part of their games will translate immediately. You just have to roll the dice where you see a potential opportunity for a promotion. The reward for owning the correct prospect is a difference maker on your fantasy team.
Brandon Manning - PHI ($675,000 / RFA 2014)
Manning is a very intriguing prospect. His style of play fits the historical Flyers' mentality and he is also a talented hockey player at both ends of the rink. His career AHL numbers - 52 points and 307 PIM in 138 games - should put poolies on notice.
The problem with Manning, however, is opportunity. The Flyers possess a ton of mediocre NHL-calibre bodies on defense in their organization and are also prone to making a ton of (sometimes wacky) moves to shake things up. There is no telling if Manning will suddenly find himself in a depth role in Philadelphia or if he will always have one-way contracts keeping him down in the minors.
Dylan McIlrath - NYR ($1,295,000 / RFA 2015)
The former 10th overall draft pick in 2010 has managed to avoid the hype machine during his years of development. That is about to change as McIlrath is on the verge of making the jump to the NHL. Recently he was called up to the Rangers and amassed seven PIM in two contests before returning to the AHL.
While his offensive upside will be limited at the NHL level, McIlrath's draft pedigree will help him earn a full-time gig in the NHL. And going all the way back to his WHL days it is clear that he will bring a ton of physical play and continue to be good friends with the sin bin.
Alex Petrovic - FLA ($870,000 / RFA 2015)
Petrovic has been making great strides in his development and just before the Christmas break played in a game with the Panthers where he had a minor penalty and eight hits in 15 minutes. Going back to his junior days where he had 105 points and 281 PIM in his final two WHL seasons it appears that Petrovic may be an underrated prospect at the offensive end of the rink.
With Mike Weaver, Tom Gilbert and Mike Mottau set to become unrestricted free agents this summer there will probably be some roster spots available in the fall. Petrovic is at the front of the line to grab one of those spots and could be in for a strong fantasy rookie season.
Cameron Schilling - WSH ($1,775,000 / RFA 2014)
Looking at Schilling's current cap hit he is unlikely to be of use to your fantasy team if he does make the jump to Washington down the stretch this season. His entry-level contract expires after this season and with a lack of NHL experience you can expect a much lower cost next time.
At 25 years of age the risk is increasing as he is losing his status as a prospect. This will take him off of the radars of your rivals but if he can find the right opportunity as a depth defenseman or as the first minor-league call-up he could find himself on the fantasy radar quickly. Just keep him on your radar. Schiling is not a sure thing but his physical style of play makes him a good multi-category asset if he does make it.
Michael Sdao - OTT ($620,000 / RFA 2014)
Another long shot, Sdao is a player with limited offensive potential. But to compensate he brings a lot of toughness to the table. His team, the Senators, are known for giving opportunities to players that provide some sandpaper. Perhaps Sdao could replace the roster spot currently occupied by Matt Kassian who becomes a free agent this summer. Nothing is guaranteed here, but the reward would be worth it if he can make the jump.
The players discussed over the last two weeks come from different backgrounds and have differing levels of name recognition. Some of them will make the jump to the NHL while others will remain career minor-leaguers.
Investing into unknown prospects with limited offensive upside may look unorthodox but the fact remains that if any of these players do earn a permanent promotion to the NHL they will be productive immediately in leagues that count PIM, hits and blocked shots. That alone makes it worth investing into this type of player.
Gudas, the central focus of this article, is a household name in fantasy hockey today. But that was not always the case. When he was rising through the prospect ranks he was never seen as a top-tier prospect. It is his ability to produce numbers that makes him rise above many that occupy higher depth chart positions that sets Gudas apart in this corner of the fantasy hockey world. The fact that this type of player is not flashy and thus less hyped gives you a rare opportunity to possess better prospects than your league rivals.
Also, we are seeing more and more defensemen rise to prominent NHL roles at a later age. Such examples include Mark Giordano, Johnny Boychuk and most recently Andre Benoit. The salary cap era offers rare opportunities in organizations that lack depth or needs cheap alternatives. As with many gifted forward prospects, some defensemen just need a chance. Once their foot is in the door it is possible for a newcomer to earn a greater role if he can earn the coach's trust. While the risk does increase as the prospect advances in age, for defensemen the game is still far from over.
Previously in Capped: