Daoust dishes the goods on a few unheralded young players with some upside.
At this time of the year there are many prospects that are signed to entry-level contracts. Some are drafted players who finished their junior or college season while others are undrafted free agents who have made an impression on NHL clubs. With most people focused on the NHL trade deadline movement and the final stretch of their fantasy leagues, this is a chance to acquire some previously unknown talent.
The focus will be put on salary cap leagues so we will omit the more highly-hyped prospects who signed more costly rookie contracts and instead focus on the underrated ones who carry a near-minimum cost and can be pay dividends down the road if you have farm space to stash them away in your keeper league. As they develop they will be excellent call-ups to cover for injuries on your roster when they get cups of coffee in the NHL without hurting your team’s payroll while they are up.
Tanner Richard (LW) – Tampa Bay
Drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft at the age of 19, Tanner Richard posted a career-best 62 points, 94 PIM and plus-18 in 52 games for Guelph of the OHL. He is a very feisty and defensively-responsible playmaker who begins his pro career behind several good forward prospects in the Lightning system. His versatility could give him early call-ups to Tampa Bay if he can have a strong start in the AHL next year. Additionally, the departure of Cory Conacher removes some depth from the wing position which can only help Richard. Moving forward, he will be most valuable in roto leagues where he should be able to help you in assists, hits, blocked shots and PIM.
Tyler Graovac (C) - Minnesota
The mammoth Tyler Graovac had a breakout 2012-13 campaign in the OHL where he increased his point total from 27 to 73 in 60 games split between Ottawa and Belleville. As a seventh-round choice in 2011, the Wild were hoping that he would follow the typical development curve of so many large forwards and so far they are correct. With the Minnesota roster still in a state of transition after a few key acquisitions and with several young assets lost in the Jason Pominville trade, it is possible that Graovac could rise through the depth chart sooner than most would think. However, chances are that he will need a couple years in the AHL to develop his consistency and all-around game.
Andrew Agozzino (LW) - Colorado
The undersized Andrew Agozzino has made a good impression this year in his first AHL campaign with 46 points, which leads the club, and 69 PIM in 69 games. He began the season as an undrafted free agent playing for the Lake Erie Monsters and was recently signed to and entry-level deal by the Colorado Avalanche. The 21-year-old has certainly done enough to warrant call-ups to the main club as early as next fall in an energy role. His long-term potential in the NHL remains a mystery but in his last two OHL seasons he crossed the 40-goal mark and finished above a point a game which indicates that his recent success may not be a fluke. He is certainly worth watching.
Garrett Meurs (RW) – Colorado
Garrett Meurs is a bit of a long-shot in the fantasy hockey world but has been showing signs of improvement. He has improved his point total in each of his four OHL campaigns and his reputation as a hard worker and leader make him an intriguing roto league prospect. He may not stand out in any one area but versatility along with balanced contributions in a few categories could help your roster in a time of need. He is not worth acquiring now but should remain on the radar as he gets some pro games under his belt. And if he makes it, his cap hit will certainly not hurt your team.
Travis Ewanyk (C) - Edmonton
At first glance, Travis Ewanyk looks like a typical goon who underwhelms offensively. Certainly, that takes away his value in points-only leagues. But beyond the physical play he is good defensively and on the draw which adds to his value in certain roto leagues.
The most important element in Ewanyk’s fantasy appeal is opportunity. The Oilers currently employ the likes of Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Mike Brown. Clearly, they want to add some toughness to the lineup to help protect their young superstars and will probably continue to do so in the years to come. Ewanyk could one day fill such a role and his competence in other areas could put him ahead of the line for a promotion.
Previously from Daoust: