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Targeting long term prospects who will be worth the wait.



To effectively rebuild a fantasy team, you must take advantage of certain situations. The primary advantage afforded to most teams is often dramatic value fluctuation that some players seem to take. Depending on the in-depthness and progression of your rebuild at least one and as many as three years of production mean zilch to you. If your plan doesn’t see you contending for three years, the only reason that a player’s next two years of production matter is if you are considering trading him. When you can let go of the wise and oft adhered to “three year rule”, the possibilities for trading are endless. All of a sudden Kuznetsov is worth much more than St. Louis, and getting Berglund for Burrows is a good deal in a multi-cat league.

 

While youth is obviously integral to any rebuild, prospects aren’t the be all and end all of a rebuild.  In addition, take a look at younger players who are in relatively bad situations, and target them. If that statement started alarm bells ringing in your head, you passed the test. The vast majority of good GMs feel the same way, and for good reason. Conventional wisdom aside, look at the history of players in bad situations and see how many of those turned around within three years. Recent examples include Cody Hodgson coming up where there was no spot for him and Jakub Voracek being stuck in Columbus with no end in sight. Now Bobby Ryan has been liberated from behind Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (though it remains to be seen how much that helps him). While all of those players were somewhat costly to acquire, even before their situations turned around, that cost would now be a lot higher in each case.



Also, take a look at young prospects that are significantly undervalued because of their wait times. If there are two prospects expected to get 45 points three years from now, but only one will be in the NHL this year, that prospect’s value is often inflated. Since you only care about the value a few years from now, the cheaper prospect is often better. Young players who can flourish in time or in another situation often do, eventually.


Long-Developing Prospects (i.e. Detroit Division)


I will start off with two Detroit prospects worth pursuing. While I believe both players discussed below are great investments, there are other long-term prospects who could easily do just as well, Detroit or otherwise. There are a staggering amount of prospects with high ceilings and long wait times. These are just two examples.


The stereotypical Detroit prospect develops slowly, which is not a good thing in many fantasy circles. It suits us rebuilders just fine though! The numbers even back up the stereotype as Detroit is last with just 72 total NHL games played among all prospects drafted in 2008 or later.


Riley Sheahan (2010 draft) and Ouelett (2011 draft) fall within that range, and both are a little ways away from being productive NHL players. That being said, both do have significant upside and there seems to be room for them long term.


Riley Sheahan


Target if production not needed for: two seasons


Sheahan is a center in the power-forward mold and produced good numbers in his first AHL season. He had a point every two games in the regular season and two in every three during the playoffs. While he did play a game in the NHL this year, he has not yet received the attention that some Detroit prospects routinely get. He already has a strong defensive base to his game, so look for him to get opportunities in the near future with the Red Wings.


Regardless of how he ends up panning out, his value will only go up as attention begins to turn to him. Now would be a good time to get a feel for his value in your league.

 

Xavier Ouelett


Target if production not needed for: three seasons


Ouelett has already been covered by Angushere (take a look at all the long-term sleepers in that series, it is highly useful for long term rebuilding), but is worth mentioning again as an offensive defensemen within the Detroit system. While he is mainly a possession-based offensive player, he is also asteadying presence defensively.


Drafted in 2011, this year will be his first in the AHL, and competition will be tough for minutes. It will take a few years to crack the Red Wings’ roster in a productive manner, but when he does he should be a valuable piece for years to come.


 

Non-Detroit Division


These are players that already have some value, and have established their skill (either in the NHL or KHL), but are still deals in the fantasy realm. I have excluded some players that could improve immensely with time or another situation, but would still take exorbitant amounts to acquire.


One prime example is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He put up half a point per game this year. That isn’t great but it was done playing against absolutely ridiculous competition, while starting less than half of his shifts on the offensive side of the rink. As a 22 year old. Take a look at the quality of competition for every player to play 10 games in the NHL this year. The higher up they are, the tougher the competition. That silver circle at the very top is Ekman-Larsson.


If he ever got the Brian Campbell treatment, he would put up incredible numbers. The only reason he isn’t on here is that the price to acquire him is quite high already and his deployment pattern isn’t changing anytime soon. The only way that he is going to get better minutes is if another defenseman emerges to take on the tough minutes or if Dave Tippett, he of the recent five year extension, goes away. Luckily, there are some players that do have a foreseeable path towards a better situation.


Evgeny Kuznetsov


Target if production not needed for: One season


This may be the most obvious selection here, but it is also the one with the highest opportunity for upside. While it may seem that right now you are buying high for a player that isn’t in the NHL, this may be the last time you have the chance to get him at a price even approaching reasonable.


Reasons for devaluation by most GMs:


  • He will almost assuredly not play in the NHL this year.
  • His production in the KHL stagnated this season.
  • Kovalchuk returning to the KHL.



Reasons for increased value during rebuild:


  • Next year he will be, at worst, the undisputed number two center on an offensive team.
  • Has the opportunity to play with Alex Ovechkin.
  • The player with the second most points on his team was Jan Bulis. Despite the name of ahilarious blog, there is a reason no one passed it to him in the NHL.



While he has still attainable, this 21-year-old future All-Star is incredibly valuable to someone looking to contend in 2014-15. Since he won’t even be in the league for the majority of the year, it opens up a roster spot for you to use to your advantage (as outlined in my last column), and will probably put you in a better draft position in a way that is morally and legally right.


Robin Lehner


Target if production not needed for: Two seasons


Robin Lehner’s situational value can be easily extrapolated to many backups around the league, but Lehner is in the best position imaginable for someone looking to contend in 2015-16. This longtime top prospect has a bright future ahead of him, tempered only by the stellar play of Craig Anderson. 


Reasons for devaluation by most GMs:


  • Behind an established starter that was running away with the Vezina before getting injured
  • Has played, at most, 12 games in a single season
  • Anderson is signed for two more years


Reasons for increased value during rebuild:


  • Assured a starting spot two years from now
  • Had a .938 sv% in AHL this year and .936 in NHL
  • Being mentored by a quality starter


It is as close to a sure thing as you can get that Lehner will be a starter, somewhere, by the time Anderson’s contract is up two seasons from now. Once Lehner does become the starter, he will be the last line of defence for a team with a bright future, a future that should coincide with Lehner's establishment as top goalie. If you don't mind his backup-level stats for the next two seasons, Lehner might be the smartest goalie to invest in. 

 

Sean Couturier


Target if production not needed for: Two to three seasons


As far as long term value versus short term perceived value, Couturier might be the best deal out there for fantasy purposes. Simply put, a contending team will not be able to set aside a roster spot for a player doing most of his team’s heavy lifting. He faces the second toughest competition on the Flyers, behind Talbot, while starting the lowest percentage of shifts in the offensive zone for any non-fourth line player. He also had a pretty heavy sophomore slump, at least offensively and will be the third line center for at least a couple more years behind Lecavilier, Giroux, and possibly Schenn.


Reasons for devaluation by most GMs:


  • Only put up 15 points in 46 games this year.
  • Stuck behind Lecavilier, Schenn and Giroux for the near future.
  • Plays consistently tough minutes for the Flyers.



Reasons for increased value during rebuild:


  • Has offensive pedigree (almost two points per game in last season of Junior and almost a point per game in the AHL during the lockout).
  • Produced points when playing with quality teammates.
  • Has mastered the defensive side of the game at the age of 20.

All things considered, there is a chance that he is either not owned or can be easily traded for. If you are rebuilding, do just that. His teammate quality was terrible, but when playing with at least one of Voracek or Simmons, his points-per-sixty minutes was top 10 in the entire NHL and better than Giroux in his breakout year. His offensive pedigree, combined with him even putting up any points in such a defensive role without offensive linemates, suggest that he would become a fantasy star with a change of role.



Whether that comes from being with the Flyers or another team, Couturier’s development may follow a similar path to Ryan Kesler. Kesler was used as a shutdown center for the early part of his career, and even now faces fairly tough competition. In his second full season, 2006-07, Kesler was behind a point-getter on the wrong side of his prime (Brendan Morrison) and an All-World passer just beginning to peak (Henrik Sedin). Beginning to sound familiar? Here’s more. His first five full seasons in the NHL produced these point totals  23, 16 (in only 48 games), 37, 59 and 75. Couturier’s first two seasons in the NHL procured 27 and 15 points (in only 46 games). If he follows the same pattern as Kesler, look for him to become productive in two years and a star in three.


I bet if you tried to acquire Kesler in 06-07 it wouldn’t have been that difficult, and that may be the case now with Couturier. The rewards could be similar.


Previously from Austin:


Rebuilding To Contention: Part I

Rebuilding to Contention: Part II

Rebuilding to Contention: Part III

 

 


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