Nazem Kadri

 

I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often fantasy hockey poolies place an emphasis on youth and prospects over proven veterans with gas still left in the tank. So using my general rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.

 

Keeping my rule in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league forward prospects to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the two or three season scope, I balanced the long-term upside of these players with their NHL readiness. The cut-off point for this list is 25 games played at the NHL level. Kyle Turris and Logan Couture are two players who may have cracked the list, but both have played over the limit (in Couture’s case, he has skated in exactly 25 NHL games).

 

This list is in order, so I probably wouldn’t trade the fourth player straight across for the fifth player, and so on. However, unlike my previous lists, I haven’t broken down forward prospects by position, so positional requirements in a specific league may change my rankings. I didn’t split the forwards into centers, left wings, and right wings because many times prospects don’t play their natural position at the NHL level. Many times skilled players skate at center during college and junior because they excel with the puck on their stick, and playing center allows them to do that on a more regular basis. However, many of these players are too slow, too small, or not good enough defensively to play the position at the NHL level. Some recent examples include TJ Oshie (although he moves back from time to time), Zach Parise, Jordan Schroeder, and Jordan Eberle. Another natural center that cracked the top 10 list below will probably shift to wing, but for a different reason.

 

I have also included a stylistic comparison for each player. Don’t get insulted if I have compared an unproven prospect to your favourite current or former NHL superstar – I am just comparing playing styles.

 

My previous lists:

 

Top 10 Keeper League Centers

Top 10 Keeper League Left Wingers

Top 10 Keeper League Right Wingers

Top 10 Keeper League Defensemen

Top 10 Combo Players (Points + PIM)

Top 10 Keeper League Goaltenders

 

1. Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers (LW)


The Oilers tried to make it a secret with regards to whom they were picking leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but all along it really seemed like Hall was their guy. He is a dynamic skater who plays the game on the edge. His fearless style allows him to score goals and generate chances in areas that most other skilled forwards would avoid. He’s in a great situation with the Oilers both in the short and long term.

 

Edmonton lacks a high-end center at the moment (Sam Gagner may one day become one), but they have a strong offensive group of defensemen, and Hall will get to play with some pretty talented wingers (most notably Ales Hemsky in the short-term).

 

Player comparison: Mike Modano

One year upside: 25 goals, 65 points

Three year upside: 45 goals, 90 points

 

2. Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins (C)

 

Seguin is currently the fourth center on Boston’s depth chart. In three years, he’ll be the top guy. I compared him to Pavel Datsyuk for a few reasons – his craftiness with the puck, his ability to make plays while entering the zone, and his proficiency at creating offense with both his forehand and backhand. Seguin is a faster skater than Datsyuk (I hesitate to say better, as Datsyuk is freakishly strong on his skates).

 

Even if Phil Kessel goes on to score 40 goals a season for the next decade, the Leafs will rue the day they dealt the Seguin pick to Boston. Like Evgeni Malkin, he is a second overall pick who would have gone first in most other years.

 

His one-year value may be a lower in Boston than it would be on another team (Toronto, for example), but don’t expect Marc Savard to be wearing the Spoked B for long. Over the next few years, Seguin will split the offensive minutes with David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron will take the tough defensive assignments. Seguin still needs to get bigger and show a willingness to play through contact on a consistent basis.

 

Player comparison: Pavel Datsyuk

One year upside: 20 goals, 60 points

Three year upside: 35 goals, 75 points

 

3. Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers (RW)


This column I wrote back in July sums up my thoughts on Eberle. He isn’t big, he isn’t fast, but he simply gets the game of hockey. Eberle has a great shot and he has a Sidney Crosby-like ability to always be in the right place. He’s got great hands and he’s a very cerebral player.

 

Like many young centers, he lacks the speed/size to play the position effectively at the NHL level. He’ll be much more effective on the wing, and the Oilers are expected to move him to the right side. He won’t unseat Hemsky on the top line, but he should see consistent offensive minutes with a regular power play shift on the second line.

 

Player comparison: Steve Sullivan

One year upside: 25 goals, 55 points

Three year upside: 40 goals, 80 points

 

4.  Nikita Filatov – Columbus Blue Jackets (LW)


It’s pretty hard to get a read on Filatov right now. He looked pretty good at times in his limited appearances with the Blue Jackets last season, but he bolted back to Russia after clashing with coach Ken Hitchcock. It will be interesting to see how new Columbus coach Scott Arniel handles Filatov – he’s a phenomenal offensive talent, but like many young scoring line players he struggles with consistency and he isn’t great defensively. He’s the prototypical Russian winger – great speed, dangerous shot, fantastic hands, and very creative with the puck.

 

Columbus has an intriguing mix of young wingers, headed up by Filatov and Jakub Voracek. I have personally never been a huge fan of Filatov’s, but his skill set and upside is impossible to ignore. The fact that he showed up to Columbus six weeks before training camp bodes well for both his short-term and long-term future in the NHL.

 

Player comparison: Alex Mogilny

One year upside: 25 goals, 55 points

Three year upside: 35 goals, 75 points

 

5. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson – Edmonton Oilers (LW)


Paajarvi-Svensson may be the most NHL ready prospect on this list. He is an extremely powerful skater (hence the Hossa comparisons), and he has worked very hard to develop his offensive game over the past few years. He’s a lock to make Edmonton’s roster this season, and he could be skating on the top line out of camp. Edmonton’s lineup is hard to project right now, as they lack a true top line center. Ales Hemsky is probably the only prototypical top line player (Dustin Penner is a solid complimentary option).

 

Things are looking very good in Edmonton up front for the foreseeable future.

 

Player comparison: Marian Hossa

One year upside: 20 goals, 50 points

Three year upside: 30 goals, 65 points

 

6. Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes (C)


If you are a regular reader of the site, you know that I am a huge fan of Skinner’s. He isn’t a great skater, but like Eberle and Zach Parise, he thinks the game on an extremely high level. He’s got a huge bag of offensive tricks, and he used all of them last season to score 50 goals with the Kitchener Rangers.

 

Skinner is training with Gary Roberts this summer, and although a workout program isn’t going to turn him into a 51-goal scorer at the NHL level like it did for Steven Stamkos (at least not yet), it will help his chances of earning a roster spot in Carolina at training camp. The ‘Canes are a team in transition and there are several roster spots up for grabs. Skinner lacks the explosiveness that many successful smaller players in the NHL possess, but he’s got a lot of time to develop it. What he already possesses are the skills that you can’t teach – on-ice awareness, hockey smarts, and the ability to make plays at full speed.

 

Player comparison: Mike Cammalleri

One year upside: 15 goals, 40 points

Three year upside: 35 goals, 65 points

 

7. Tyler Ennis – Buffalo Sabres (C/W)


The diminutive Ennis made quite the debut with Buffalo late last season, scoring three goals and chipping in with six assists in only 10 regular season games. He added a goal and three assists in six playoff games, averaging close to 17 minutes of ice time per game over that span. He played center in junior and at the AHL level, and he may play there at the NHL level. However, with Derek Roy and Tim Connolly occupying the top two center spots with the Sabres, Ennis’ best bet to be a short-term offensive contributor is to shift over to the wing.

 

Player comparison: Martin St. Louis

One year upside: 25 goals, 60 points

Three year upside: 30 goals, 70 points

 

8. Joe Colborne – Boston Bruins (C/W)


Colborne is probably the first surprise of this list. Most of the feedback I received on the hockey forums had people correctly picking the first seven players (not necessarily in order, but throughout their top 10 lists). Colborne didn’t make many lists, but I like him a lot as a fantasy prospect.

 

Like other big, skilled forwards, he has received his fair share of criticism for not playing physical enough. Joe Thornton got it, Jason Spezza got it (and he still gets it), but the 6’5” Colborne simply isn’t going to be a power forward. He uses his size very well to protect the puck and to dominate opposing defensemen. He played center in college, but after taking a glance at Boston’s depth chart, he has wisely made the move to the wing during his summer training.

 

The Bruins don’t have any future all-stars on the wing (Milan Lucic is a very solid player who plays his role well, and Blake Wheeler is still a mystery). They have several wingers who are on their last legs in terms of age (Mark Recchi), or contract status (Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder). Colborne projects better on the wing because he is more of a shooter than a passer (think Jeff Carter).

 

Player comparison: Mats Sundin

One year upside: 20 goals, 45 points

Three year upside: 30 goals, 65 points

 

9. Brayden Schenn – Los Angeles Kings (C)

 

Like Colborne, Schenn didn’t make the top 10 list for many of the submissions posted on the forums. He has developed quite nicely in Brandon from an offensive standpoint over the past few seasons, playing on a dominant line with Columbus prospect Matt Calvert and Scott Glennie of the Dallas Stars. It is important to be wary of production at the junior level of players who play on strong lines (more on this below), but in Schenn’s case he is the main reason for the great play of the line.

 

He could be the second line center in Los Angeles as early as this season. Jarret Stoll hasn’t been able to produce on a consistent basis since coming over from Edmonton, and Michal Handzus is a third line checker. Schenn is big, strong, and he sees the ice really well.

 

Player comparison: Ryan Getzlaf

One year upside: 20 goals, 45 points

Three year upside: 25 goals, 70 points

 

10.  Nazem Kadri – Toronto Maple Leafs (C)

 

Kadri may not be a better player than a few of the honourable mentions, but he is in the perfect situation in Toronto. The Leafs have arguably the weakest group of centers in the entire league, especially on the top two lines (no offense to Tyler Bozak, who I really like). Kadri has put on a lot of muscle this summer, and size was probably the only thing holding him back from playing in the league last season.

 

He is a great skater, he plays with an edge (he loves to throw big open-ice body checks), and he’s got dazzling offensive abilities with the puck on his stick (hence the Ribeiro comparison). I wouldn’t be surprised to see him centering Toronto’s top line in a couple of years from now.

 

Player comparison: Mike Ribeiro

One year upside: 20 goals, 50 points

Three year upside: 25 goals, 70 points

 

Honourable Mentions:


Derek Stepan – New York Rangers – extremely smart playmaker. New York lacks a true playmaking center (Erik Christensen isn’t the answer). He’ll be playing with Gaborik in no time.

 

Cody Hodgson – Vancouver Canucks – if he proves that the back problem is a thing of the past, he is definitely on this list. Vancouver signed Malhotra because of his ability to play both wing and center. Hodgson will see PP time as well – he’s got a lightning-fast release on his wrist shot.

 

Jacob Josefson – New Jersey Devils – short-term value has gone down the tubes with the Jason Arnott trade. Long-term he projects as a solid two-way second line center.

 

Matthias Tedenby – New Jersey Devils – plays the game a lot like Ennis. Lots of talent in a tiny frame.

 

Kirill Kabanov – Long Island – can you say boom or bust?

 

Marcus Johansson – Washington Capitals – the Capitals are locked in long-term at center with two SEL standouts.

 

Eric Tangradi – Pittsburgh Penguins – a big, scoring winger on the Penguins is about as good as it gets.

 

Alexander Burmistrov – Atlanta Thrashers – skilled, feisty, aggressive. Atlanta’s future top line star.

 

 

Vladimir Tarasenko - St. Louis Blues - elite offensive talent, but carries same risks that come with all Russian players right now. When will he come to North America?

 

Brett Connolly – Tampa Bay Lightning – a lock for the top 10 a year from now if the hip injuries are gone. Elite talent.

 

Jeremy Morin – Chicago Blackhawks – big, skilled, great shot. Future top six winger on Chicago.

 

Kyle Beach – Chicago Blackhawks – needs more seasoning at the AHL level. Huge upside in leagues that record PIM.

 

Lars Eller – Montreal Canadiens – flies under the radar because he is good at everything, but great at nothing. Very solid prospect.

 

Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild – dynamic offensive talent on a team desperate for some skill.

 

Jordan Schroeder – Vancouver Canucks – small, but he thinks the game very well. He’s more of a playmaker than a scorer.

 

Tomas Tatar – Detroit Red Wings – Detroit likes to take their time with offensive forwards, but Tatar may force them to rethink that with a strong AHL campaign in 2010-11.

 

Mikael Backlund – Calgary Flames – will probably shift to the wing in the short-term in Calgary. The Flames hope he is the top line center of the future.

 

Ryan Johansen – Columbus Blue Jackets – needs another year in junior, but could be lining up with Filatov and Voracek in a few years.

 

Nino Niederreiter – Long Island – was on many people’s top 10 lists. He is a fantastic offensive talent and is probably the future Jarri Kurri to John Tavares.

 

Linus Omark – Edmonton Oilers – many are eagerly anticipating the debut for the youtube sensation. Does he stick with Oilers this season? Will have to leapfrog at least one of the three previously mentioned Oilers...

 

Beau Bennett – Pittsburgh Penguins – dynamic offensively, but a bit raw at this point.

 

Again, this isn’t an extensive list. If I missed a player or two (very likely), state your case below!

 


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Comments (13)add comment

Mabus said:

mabus
Turris doesn't Qualify He says he's only looking at guys with less than 25 games played in the NHL and Turris is over this number so he's not eligible for the list.
August 26, 2010
Votes: +0

Sam said:

Rinsseux
Turris, Kyle, number 91. Futur NHL STAR. I think Turris should number 5 on that list, I beg you pardon!
August 24, 2010
Votes: +0

littleranger said:

littleranger
Schenn I only have one problem with Schenn...and that is that he is only a center, which puts him always at #2 on the depth chart in LA. Kopitar is signed for huge money and huge years, so whats the value of having a 2nd line center (for a while), compared to someone who can take over a job with a quick and powerful stint (ie. Stepan, Connolly, Kreider, Tangradi, Couture, etc.). Although you did mention almost every forward in my top 20, so great job as per usual!
August 20, 2010
Votes: +0

Isle B. said:

Isle B.
... Good list, but there's no way Brayden Schenn unseats Jared Stoll as the Kings' 2nd line center this season. Stoll may not be the flashiest player but he does an awful lot of things over the course of a game (good defensively, good on draws, etc.) that don't necessarily show up on the scoresheet but do help the team win.
August 20, 2010
Votes: +0

angus said:

angus
... After the first seven I had some tough choices to make. Toyed with Connolly, Hodgson, Granlund, and a few others. I really like how my top seven looks.

I am really high on Jeff Skinner. Dobber doesn't agree with the ranking, but the beauty of this site is that you get many different opinions from the writers!
August 20, 2010
Votes: +0

lcbtd said:

germant
Great Read! Definitely one of the best reads on this site. Love prospect talk even if it's such a hit/miss thing.

When are you going to do prospect dmen? And then prospect goaltenders? smilies/wink.gif
August 20, 2010
Votes: +1

Curtis Curve said:

tcescon
... Great timing Angus as my league just had it's draft this week. Nice to see some of my picks validated. Proud to say I own 4 of your Top 10 plus 5 of your HMs. Not to nitpick, but Boychuk has played 31 NHL games. But glad to see him on there as I am an owner!
August 20, 2010
Votes: +1

Kraftster said:

Kraftster
Colborne Nice piece, Angus.

Just wanted to point out that Colborne did play a fair amount of wing at DU, in particular in his first season there. In the game I attended out there he played wing the entire game and that was a regular occurrence according to my brother who went to most games. Just figured I'd point that out as it will make the transition for him a lot smoother having made the same types of adjustments in the past.

August 20, 2010
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

DuklaNation
... Have to disagree on Colborne, way too high. I would put Hodgson in that spot. Tough to argue the other 9 though.
August 20, 2010
Votes: +0

angus said:

angus
... Kane and Johnson. Fixed the spelling mistake!

August 19, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan said:

letnry
... Great article, always fun to read other peoples extended opinions on up and coming prospects. Couple things, a spelling error, haha, its Magnus, not Magus.

Also, in there respectful draft years, who do you really see that Seguin would be drafted before: Tavares, Stamkos, Kane, Johnson, Crosby, Ovechkin?
August 19, 2010
Votes: +0

Darren said:

Panger
... Pretty good list. Skinner seems a bit premature, but I don't know allot about him. With the youth movement and the load of young talent already ahead of him, I can't see him in a top 6 for 3-4 years.
I really am puzzled over why Schenn is so coveted in rankings. I seen Brandon play last year a few times and was not impressed with him. Actually if any on the line, it was Calvert. To say Schenn is a 2nd line C is way over his head. He would be best served in the A for 1 if not 2 years. Plus, does Stoll not have 2 years left?
Kadri makes me laugh a bit. If you watched the draft, Burke wanted to upgrade his picks with missing out on Schenn and when he asked and Murray said they wanted Kadri, surprisingly so did Burke all of a sudden! TO needs a legitimite top C and Kadri is far from it. Just my 2 cents.
August 19, 2010
Votes: -2

Rossi said:

Dean Youngblood
Great Information Awesome read Angus. I appreciate the HMs as well with all the tidbits of information. A Must Read for guys in Keeper Leagues with farm spots or prospect teams
August 19, 2010
Votes: +0
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