You may be familiar with Big_Ev from the DobberHockey forums. Well, here is his debut as a main page columnist. Evan published a terrific series on some lesser known prospects, and I figured you all would like to read it. Whenever we see really good content on the forums, we love to share it with the community at large. Many of our regular columnists started as forum contributors. Keep up the fantastic work.
When it comes to fantasy hockey, any Tom, Dick, and Harry can go into a prospect draft knowing which players to take with a first round pick. More often that not, it is the later rounds that ultimately decide which fantasy managers will improve their team in the long run.
In this three part series, I will take a look at one prospect from each NHL team who I believe is undervalued and underappreciated in the fantasy hockey world. Now, I am not guaranteeing that all these players will go onto to have future NHL success -- or even NHL careers -- but hopefully a few of these players turn out to give you serious value down the road in relation to where you grab them in your prospect draft or on the waiver wire. We just never know which under-the-radar prospects may turn out to be legitimate NHLers and/or fantasy studs down the road.
Part I starts with Anaheim. Enjoy!
William Karlsson, C
Karlsson has seen his stock shoot up over the last calendar year, however he is still very underrated in fantasy circles. Fresh off being drafted 53rd overall by the Ducks at the 2011 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old Swede put up 45 points in 46 games in his first full professional season with Vasterås of the Swedish Allsvenskan. At the 2012 US National Junior Evaluation Camp, Karlsson was one of the most impressive forwards on Team Sweden, which included the likes of Mika Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg. This season, Karlsson is taking his talents to HV71 of the Swedish Elite League and is expected to center the first line for Team Sweden at the 2013 WJCHC. If he stands out and produces at the WJHC as is expected, he will most likely be very hard to grab in prospect drafts next season.
Carter Camper, RW
It is tough to call a 24-year-old undrafted prospect underrated, but I feel Camper is just that. After a very successful college career with the Miami University Redhawks, the 5-9, 173-pound Camper signed on as a free agent with the Bruins at the end of the 2011 campaign and went on to post a team-leading total of 48 points in 69 games during his first full season with Providence. Camper also got a chance to play in three with Boston last year, scoring his first NHL goal in the process. While he may not possess high upside due to his age, Camper has produced at all levels of hockey, consistently finishing in the top three in scoring on every single team he has been a part of for the last eight years. Camper will need to show the Bruins that he is more than a perimeter player, but his rookie AHL season should alleviate a bit of the concerns that most people had when projecting what his game would be like in the pros.
Jérôme-Gauthier Leduc, D
A third round pick in 2010, Gauthier-Leduc exploded offensively this past season, scoring 28 goals in 62 regular season games for the Rimouski Oceanic. More impressive was the fact that he scored a goal in eight straight games during the month of October, tallying a point 18 times during the same span. For a player that isn’t talked about too much, Gauthier-Leduc has done nothing but produce in his four-year QMJHL career and looks to have nice offensive upside for the professional game, especially in the goals department due to his strong point shot. Gauthier-Leduc has the skill, skating ability, and smarts to potentially become a solid offensive defenseman at the NHL level. This season, he will look to show that his offensive game can translate to the professional ranks with the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Michael Ferland, LW
The 2011-2012 WHL season was a coming out party for Ferland. Playing on Brandon’s top line with Brendan Walker and top scorer Mark Stone, Ferland scored 47 goals in 68 games and was named to the WHL Second All-Star team. His explosion this past season is definitely a case of “chicken or the egg”, as many people question whether Ferland’s production was mainly due to riding on the back of Stone, or if Stone and Ferland simply formed some good chemistry and helped each other out equally. It is more likely the former, however Ferland showed he has the ability to capitalize on the passes and space he received from playing with Stone. Ferland will make the transition to the pros this season playing for the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.
Danny Biega, D
A member of the Harvard Crimson Tide, Biega has been one of the top scoring defensemen in ECAC hockey over the last two years, scoring 21 goals and adding 44 assists in 68 games during that span. Biega is an excellent skater with good vision who can quarterback a power play, but he is also great in his own end, having been named the ECAC Defensive Defenseman of the Year for the 2011-2012 campaign. However, that wasn’t the only accolade that Biega received last year as he was also named a first-team ECAC All-American and a runner-up for ECAC Player of the Year. To top it all off, Biega’s name was on the ballot for the Hobey Baker award, which is awarded annually to the top player in all of college hockey. Biega’s well-rounded game gives him a good chance of making the NHL one day, and his offensive upside should be intriguing for fantasy owners looking for a sleeper defenseman prospect. Biega will play one more season with Harvard before signing a contract with Carolina in the spring.
Joakim Nordstrom, C
After playing a full season with AIK of the Swedish Elite League, Nordstrom was signed to a three-year entry level contract by the Blackhawks this past May. Originally drafted 90th overall in 2010, Nordstrom has impressed Blackhawks scouts and management with his sound two-way game, hockey sense, and skating ability. Nordstrom has a game that is well suited for the NHL level as he does not shy away from physicality and likes to park himself in the front of the net for scoring chances. While he may realistically only have third line upside, Nordstrom has shown decent scoring ability at lower levels in Sweden and internationally, including a four goal performance at the 2012 WJHC. In short, Nordstrom does not possess high-end fantasy upside, but he is a good bet to make the NHL and could prove to be a nice value pick for those in deeper fantasy leagues. Nordstrom will play one more year with AIK in Sweden before making the jump across the pond.
Garrett Meurs, RW
As a fan of the Ottawa Senators, I tried to watch 2011 first round pick Stefan Noesen and his Plymouth Whalers play whenever I could. When I did tune in, Meurs was a player who always seemed to stand out. After a so-so draft year, which concluded with him being taken in the fifth round by Colorado, Meurs bounced back by scoring 20 goals and tallying 33 assists in 2011-2012. The increase in production was nice to see, however scouts were more impressed with the physical game that Meurs added to his arsenal. He showed a consistent mean streak and was lauded for his team play and on-ice work ethic. If this past season was any indication, Meurs should take another step forward both offensively and defensively in 2012-2013, especially due to the fact that the Whalers may lose three of their top players from 2011-2012 in J.T. Miller, Andy Bathgate, and Jamie Devane. While he isn’t the biggest player, listed at 6-0, 175, a tenacious power game is always welcomed in the pros, no matter how large the player is.
Mike Reilly, D
I have to admit, Reilly was a player who I knew little about until this summer when I saw him play for Team USA at the 2012 National Junior Evaluation Camp. Reilly was without a doubt the best defenseman on the ice throughout the short tournament, which also included the likes of Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, Olli Määttä, Oscar Klefbom, Hampus Lindholm, and Connor Murphy, just to name a few. While this is obviously a small sample size, Reilly dominated at both ends of the ice and was Team USA’s best offensive weapon from the back-end. This past season, Reilly starred for the BCHL powerhouse Penticton Vees, leading the team in scoring from the back-end with 24 goals and 59 assists in 51 games. Reilly is committed to the University of Minnesota for 2012-2013 and is a virtual lock to make Team USA at the 2013 WJHC. If he plays in the WJHC as well as he did at the summer camp, then Reilly’s value should skyrocket in fantasy circles this season.
Matej Stransky, RW
You won’t find too many players who improved as much from one year to the next as Stransky did in 2011-2012. Stransky scored 39 goals and tallied 81 points in 71 games this season, which was more than triple his production of 26 points in 71 games in his rookie WHL campaign. The Czech winger uses his 6-3, 201 frame to play an excellent power game mixed with a good amount of finesse and puck skills. He was easily the Saskatoon Blades’ best player in 2011-2012 and showed the Stars that he was more than worth his sixth round selection in 2011. Given how much Stransky improved last year, it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore in 2012-2013 as he will be even more physically and technically mature than most of his WHL peers. Stransky is just one of those players with excellent size and skill that NHL teams yearn for.
Nick Jensen, D
Most of Detroit’s prospects are well known and heavily discussed due to the their past draft success, but Jensen is a player who is rarely, if ever, talked about in fantasy and real life hockey circles. Drafted 150th overall out of the USHL in 2009, Jensen has shown well at the NCAA level with St. Cloud State, scoring 11 goals and adding 44 assists in 77 games over the last two years. This past season, he was fourth in WCHA scoring by defensemen, finishing only behind Justin Schultz, Nate Schmidt, and Joey LaLeggia. Jensen was also named to the WCHA All-Academic team, which shows that he possesses a high level of intelligence and work ethic off the ice. On the ice, Jensen is lauded for his elite skating and his ability to rush with and move the puck. Right after he was drafted in 2009, Red Wings scout David Kolb told RedWingsCentral.com that Jensen’s “offensive upside is what (they’re) excited about, the skating ability. His skating is his best asset and he’s a good puck-mover.” After seeing him play with St. Cloud State in 2010, Kolb stated that Jensen “is almost impossible to beat one-on-one at this level because of his mobility…He likes to make open-ice hits and stand guys up at the blue line.” While Jensen is probably another two years away from signing a professional contract, he is one to keep an eye on in Detroit.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, which will be posted in the coming weeks.