Emerson Etem and Brendan Smith should be on your keeper team. Read on to find out why!
A popular team-building philosophy in capped keeper leagues is to combine star players who are usually expensive with cheap effective depth options to help keep the roster under the league’s cap ceiling. The stars are easy to identify. We know who they are and most of them have a proven track record of high-level production. It is the cap bargains that are more difficult to find and to make matters worse it is not uncommon for cheap players who are effective in one scoring format to not be worth owning in another league. Some additional research is required to figure out which players will help your team the most in your environment.
This week we continue look at a series of players who are good inexpensive investments in keeper leagues in both points-only and multi-category formats. Factors used to select the players include long-term upside and an ability and opportunity to produce immediately along with a multi-year contract with cap hit that is well below the league’s average. These players may or may not be easy to acquire in your league but there is tremendous value in owning them.
Note: Since we are profiling players who should be effective immediately, these players also apply as solid options in one-year leagues.
Emerson Etem (ANH)
Emerson Etem has had a pretty amazing run since being drafted 29th overall back in 2010 by the Anaheim Ducks. He posted excellent numbers in the WHL, including 45 goals and 80 points in 2010-11 before exploding for 61 goals and 107 points the following year.
Last year was his first as a pro, which was split between Norfolk of the AHL and Anaheim. Following the end of the lockout he successfully transitioned to the NHL suiting up for 38 out of a possible 48 contests and getting a total of 10 points in just 11 minutes per game.
Etem’s rookie numbers were not significant but the fact that he made the jump and was not out of place is significant. With Bobby Ryan now out of town others like the 21-year-old Etem will be given an opportunity to pick up some of the slack. With such a proven track record scoring goals and getting points, he is a pretty safe bet to clear the 40-point mark this year and is not far from becoming a very significant fantasy contributor.
One potential roadblock this year is the potential return of Teemu Selanne to the Ducks. This would primarily hurt Etem on the power play as the future hall-of-famer would probably be deployed next to stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the man advantage. Still, Etem should see a big increase in ice time especially at even strength and should also receive secondary power-play minutes at the very least.
In addition to his massive offensive potential, Etem may also be an underrated roto league player. While his history at all levels suggest that he is not going to be a big PIM threat, he did achieve 43 hits and 20 blocked shots in Anaheim last year. This, along with an expected step forward in points, power-play points and shots on goal give him good potential in a number of multi-category formats.
Brendan Smith (DET)
Like most Detroit Red Wings’ prospects, Brendan Smith has been brought along slowly. Despite being drafted in the first round (27th overall) in 2007 he only made the jump full-time last year at the age of 24. His potential in multi-category leagues has been apparent since day one but his career really took off in 2010, his final year at the University of Wisconsin, where he had a whopping 52 points and 76 PIM in 42 games. He then turned pro and put up a combined 66 points and 214 PIM in 120 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL.
Smith’s first year in the NHL was not a great one offensively but he continued to show plenty of fantasy-league promise. In 34 games he had just eight points but added 36 PIM, 20 hits, 35 blocked shots and 33 shots on net. This was accomplished in just 18 minutes per game, a low total for a defenseman.
Going forward, those numbers can only improve as the team continues to transition away from the retired Nicklas Lidstrom. With experience he will gain more confidence which will give him more ice time and thus will make him more of a factor on the score sheet as well as in shots on goal, hits and blocked shots.
In the meantime, expect Smith to gradually improve each year. The offensive numbers will come with time but the peripheral stats are not going anywhere. In deep leagues he was already a good depth option during his rookie campaign. Expect him to take a step forward this year and become relevant in most multi-category leagues. At a price of just $1.2 million there are not many better combinations of immediate return on investment and long-term potential.
Previously from Daoust: