- Category: Eastern Edge
- Written by Russ Miller
This week the Eastern Edge will look at hot-shot prospects Ryan Strome, Anders Lee as well as long-shot T.J. Brennan and their potential for the coming season.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years, you've likely heard a fair amount of hype on uber-prospect Ryan Strome. I'm going to take a critical look at his prospects for the coming season only. I don't want to get into his potential and value in keeper/dynasty leagues in this article.
The main issue I have with projecting Strome to have significant fantasy value this season is that the team already employs centers John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and recently signed unrestricted free agent Mikhail Grabovski to a four-year deal. So unless Strome is able to convert to the wing, he is very unlikely to unseat either of those three pivots this season.
Last year, Strome and Anders Lee got long looks at the end of the season with the big club. Both acquitted themselves well with Strome recording 18 points in 37 games, while Lee potted 14 points in only 22 games. Interestingly enough, Strome dominated his AHL competition in his limited time last season, recording 49 points in 37 games, while Lee had a respectable 41 points in 54 AHL games.
For me, a telling indication of how ready Strome is in comparison to Lee is how they were employed last year. In their final 10 NHL games last year, Lee spent nearly 80 per cent of his even-strength shifts with Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey. Strome's linemates were less offensively inclined, Matt Martin and Colin McDonald.
At only 21 years of age, it's easy to see Strome being given another year of seasoning in the AHL instead of being converted to a winger. Anders Lee on the other hand seemed to have little difficulty adjusting to left wing, based on his performance with the big club last year.
The free agent signings of Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin will not impact or delay the arrival of Strome in the major leagues; Nielsen is the key. Once he is no longer in the way, the path will be clear for Strome to assume full-time second line duties with Grabovski sliding down to the third line. Nielsen has two more years left with an easily tradeable cap hit of $2.75M per. If Strome looks fantastic at training camp, he might and I stress might force "Party on Garth" Snow to look for a new home for Nielsen.
For everyone concerned except his fantasy owners, it is better for Strome to develop in the AHL, almost certainly dominating the competition, instead of playing reduced minutes or out of position. If you are in a one year league, draft Strome with caution and don't buy into all the hype from the dynasty/keeper league crowd.
One signing that peaked my interest over the summer was when the Isles signed defenseman T.J. Brennan to a one-year, one-way contract worth $600K. Don't put too much stock into the one way part, simply because if his play sucks, the Islanders would not hesitate to send him to the minors with that salary.
The 25-year-old offensive defenseman is coming off a season in which he copped AHL Top Defenseman honours, recording 25 goals and 72 points in 76 games. Okay, so he was a minus-10 on the year, but listen to me now and hear me later; he had 44 power play points and 115 penalty minutes. Deep, deep (R.E.M. deep) sleeper roto-stud, anyone?
At the NHL level, Brennan has had a couple cups of coffee, one point in 11 games with Buffalo in 2011-12 and a single point in 10 games during the 2012-13 campaign. He was dealt to Florida during the 2012-13 season and registered nine points in 19 games, while going minus-8.
So the real question is, can he play in the NHL without having his defensive deficiencies exposed too badly? He should be given an opportunity to prove himself in Long Island and could find himself on the top power play unit there, which makes for an interesting late round gamble, if you need a defenseman in a deep league that counts penalty minutes, but maybe not plus/minus.