Looking through the Rankings archives...back to April 2010 and the fantasy hype surrounding one Nikita Filatov.
The American philosopher George Santayana famously said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is one of the most recognizable quotes in history, asking us to remember the past, or risk making the same mistakes in our future.
I cannot confirm or deny if George meant this as a founding principle of fantasy hockey (maybe he was concerned with landing a strong keeper centerman in the late 1890s?). It’s message undoubtedly rings true in all walks of life. Today I want to apply it to fantasy rankings, and the importance of understanding our errors of yesteryear, so we can aim to value players more appropriately in the future.
When Dobber published his prospect rankings in April of 2010 there wasn’t a more sought after youngster than Russia’s Nikita Filatov. He had been drafted by Columbus sixth overall, behind Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, and Luke Schenn. He was lightening fast, had soft hands, and a laser release that had pundits pegging him for 30-plus goals annually over the coming decade.
The Blue Jackets landing Filatov at six was considered quite a coup at the time, with Nikita being ranked higher on many pre-draft lists. Teams picking one through five shied away from the sniper for fear he might prefer playing in Russia.
We all know what would unfold, Filatov spent the next four years bouncing between AHL, NHL and KHL teams before eventually being traded to Ottawa for a third round draft pick in 2011. After nine games with the Senators, and a mighty one assist, his NHL, and fantasy career came to an unceremonious end.
|Apr. 10||Prospect||Team||Prospect Rating|
Looking at this list, it is amazing to see how much has changed in just over three seasons. Today the most valuable assets would be:
5. Cody Hodgson
10. Nazem Kadri
11. Max Pacioretty
14. Logan Couture
27. Jiri Tlusty
Eberle has performed very close to expectations – producing a fantastic 34 goal, 76 point season in 2011-12. Last year’s point totals dipped slightly (82 game pace of 63) but he took a step forward in shots, finishing with a per game average of 2.8.
Fresh off a new six year 25.5 million dollar contract Cody Hodsgon should provide close to the top five value he promised owners in 2010. Players like Brayden Schenn, Nazem Kadri, and Jiri Tlusty have taken significant steps forward and look to be valuable fantasy commodities for years to come.
Arguably the best pick from 2010 has turned out to be Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. He may lack the point potential of a Kadri or Eberle, but he more than makes up for with his shots in multi-category formats. Last year he ended with 39 points in 44 games, to go along with 163 shots (seventh in the NHL). This year he has a yahoo average draft position of 87, which is quite a steal, considering his last two seasons of top 50 production.
84. Derek Stepan
97. Marcus Johansson
165. Adam Henrique
184. Colin Greening
Scrolling way down near the bottom of our rankings I was astounded by the number of quality players who have defied the odds and vaulted into fantasy relevancy. Derek Stepan (when he eventually signs) could be playing on the first line in New York where 70 points is a real possibility. 23 year old Henrique is locked into New Jersey’s top six for the next half decade and already boasts a 51 point season on his resume.
What struck me the most about reviewing these rankings was the shear randomness with which some players succeeded, while others have yet to reach their fantasy potential. Guys like Mikkel Boedker, Joe Colborne, and Mikael Backlund were seen as top 10 prospects in 2010. In the time since, none of those three has been anything more than a waiver add in most formats.
So what does this mean for our fantasy teams?
The most important reminder is to tread carefully with prospects. No matter how much research and analysis you conduct on players like Drouin, Barkov, or Nichushkin there is no way to know exactly what they will become. The age of these youngsters and inherent lack of sample size at the pro-level makes them a significant gamble, even if it is an educated one.
I don’t mean to discourage you from taking prospects. The risk/reward equation for a coveted young player if he blossoms can do wonders for your team, especially in keeper leagues. Just make sure you don’t over invest, wooed by offseason articles and reports of a player looking like “The next Stamkos, Hall or Karlsson”. There is always a place for prospects, but the downside risk needs to be managed by surrounding them with consistent veterans.
Heading into 2010-11 we had our annual keeper league re-entry draft (everyone kept four forwards, a defenceman and a goalie) at a friend’s place in Toronto. A 10 team league, head to head, with multiple categories.
Staring down at my draft board in the second round I couldn’t believe my luck - Nikia Filatov had inexplicably gone undrafted through the first 13 picks. That entire summer I had read every conceivable magazine article, news report, blog post, scouting report and hieroglyphic writing I could find about Filatov. Almost everyone echoed the same sentiment – he is a surefire star – he’ll score 40 goals in the NHL someday.
Practically shaking with excitement I hit the draft button and the Russian phenom was mine. I glanced around the room and pronounced confidently to everyone in attendance “Well gentlemen, you are totally screwed. I just drafted the next Pavel Bure - in the second round!”….
Well George, consider that a lesson learned.