Five defensive prospects who could help you win your pool in 2013-14.
Many NHL teams are entering this offseason with the mandate to clear cap space, as the salary cap is dropping to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season. And because of that, there will be a lot of roster openings around the league. Young players are very valuable in situations like these, as their rookie contracts typically carry very low salary cap hits. However, they need to be ready for the NHL game, particularly as defensemen. It isn’t easy to step in and log top four (or even bottom pairing) minutes as a rookie.
Read on for five lesser-known defensive prospects that are primed to make an impact in 2013-14.
Look at the impact Jake Muzzin had this season in Los Angeles, or Brenden Dillon in Dallas. Neither entered the season with much fanfare. Using the Fantasy Hockey Geek tools, Dillon ranked as the 17th most valuable defenseman in my keeper league. Muzzin was 45th. We use standard categories and added hits last summer.
Shrewd fantasy hockey poolies have their ear to the ground at all times, and it is often the late round picks that make the difference. Eric Daoust has done a fantastic job looking at rookies ready to make fantasy impacts in his weekly Capped series.
Direction and fit are both important, and all five of the below defensemen fill a need on their respective NHL club when taking those two factors into account.
Adam Clendening – Chicago Blackhawks
Clendening is a mobile two-way defenseman in the Chicago organization. He was drafted in the second round back in 2011, and has had a nice developmental path since that time. After two years at Boston, he turned pro last summer. His rookie season in the AHL was a very successful one, as he finished with nine goals and 46 points in 73 games (and for you roto poolies, he also had 137 SOG and 67 PIM).
He plays a lot like Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy. Very mobile, head always up, and great at making outlet passes. He will be a natural fit on the Chicago back end with the puck possession game they like to play.
Where does he fit in?
Keith, Seabrook, and Oduya are all signed for the long term. Nick Hjalmarsson has one year left on his contract and may be trade bait this summer. Nick Leddy is an RFA this summer and will be due a nice raise, and that money has to come from somewhere. Clendening has a great shot at earning a bottom pairing spot out of camp, as he makes less than a million per season.
Matt Donovan – New York Islanders
I tabbed Donovan as a sleeper last fall, but the Islanders did the right thing and kept him in the AHL for the entire 2012-13 season. He’s a dynamic two-way defenseman with no holes in his game, and his numbers this season speak say a lot about what he brings to the table: 14 goals, 48 points, 151 SOG, and 112 PIM in 73 games. He is a lock to play in the NHL next season, especially if UFA Mark Streit moves on from Long Island.
Where does he fit in?
Donovan is seasoned and ready to make a significant impact at the NHL level. He is far and away the best young defenseman in the Islanders organization (after Travis Hamonic, of course), and could find his way onto the top power play unit sooner rather than later. Visnovsky is the only top-four defenseman under contract for next season (Matt Carkner and Brian Strait will both return in depth roles). Hamonic needs a big pay raise as an RFA, and Streit and Martinek are both UFAs.
Frank Corrado – Vancouver Canucks
Corrado had quite the season in terms of development. He was traded in the OHL at the deadline, was the last cut from Team Canada’s WJC team back in December (after being far and away the best defenseman at selection camp), and turned pro and found himself playing in the NHL postseason in the matter of a few weeks in April.
Corrado may be better off spending next season anchoring an AHL defensive unit, but his seamless transition to the NHL from the OHL shows that he has a great head for the game, and those guys usually find a way to adapt and learn very quickly. He had seven goals and 45 points split between Sudbury and Kitchener in the OHL in 2012-13.
Where does he fit in?
He has a booming point shot, but his fantasy value won’t come from his offensive production (at least not right away). He possesses average size, but he loves to hit and block shots. He is also a right-side right-shooting defenseman, and the Canucks had a dire need for one of those this season, even when both Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev were healthy.
The Canucks may look to move Alex Edler this summer in hopes of landing a top young forward (say Sean Couturier or Bobby Ryan), as Jason Garrison’s emergence as a rock solid defenseman will allow them to move a player from a position of strength. Edler is very talented, but the Canucks need to find a way to bolster their offense and he has the most value of any of their defensemen (not named Dan Hamhuis).
Corrado could slide in onto Vancouver’s bottom pairing and chip in with 10-15 points and solid peripheral numbers as a rookie in 2013-14.
Mark Pysyk – Buffalo Sabres
The smooth-skating Pysyk logged 19 games of NHL action in 2013, recording one goal and four helpers. He had four goals and 18 points in the AHL with Rochester before joining the Sabres, and he only recently turned 21. The Sabres are going through a rebuild right now, and Pysyk was one of their best defensemen on many nights as the 2013 season came to an end.
Where does he fit in?
They need to find a mobile defenseman capable of keeping up with Christian Ehrhoff on the top pairing, and Pysyk could be that guy. Tyler Myers is still struggling with living up to the expectations that come with a big contract, and the rest of Buffalo’s defense may be on the chopping block this summer. Myers, Ehrhoff, and Andrej Sekera are all locked up long term, but after that there isn’t really much standing in Pysyk’s way of earning a roster spot.
Unlike the defensemen above him on this list, Pysyk’s fantasy value will come primarily from his offensive contributions. He isn’t gritty or physical – that isn’t his game. In fact, he had zero PIM in his 19 NHL games. In addition to trading Jordan Leopold to the Blues, the Sabres sent PP specialist TJ Brennan to Florida at the deadline, which clears a few competitors out of Pysyk’s way.
Torey Krug – Boston Bruins
Dobber and I were high on Krug before last season, and we were probably a year early. The Bruins are a veteran-laden club, and they returned almost the exact same defensive group that helped them win the 2011 Stanley Cup (plus stud prospect Dougie Hamilton). Krug didn’t sulk that his NHL shot was put on delay, though. He scored 13 goals and had 45 points with Providence this past season. At 5-9 and 180 pounds, he isn’t the prototypical Bruins defenseman, but Krug knows his limitations and he plays a very smart game (much like Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon).
Salary cap reasons, mostly. Wade Redden and Andrew Ference are both likely gone from Boston unless they come back on very affordable contracts. Chara and Seidenberg are back. Hamilton, Boychuk and McQuaid, too. However, the Bruins will miss Ference’s mobility a lot (if he does indeed move on). That leaves one, maybe two spots up for grabs.
Krug’s rookie deal may work against him, though. Because he was signed as a free agent, his salary ($1.7 million per) is higher than the typical rookie. And his competitor for that sixth roster spot, Matt Bartkowski, makes only $660k next season. Still, Krug’s skill set is something that Boston will need next season, and that may give him the inside track at a roster spot.
The 2013 DobberHockey Prospects Report will be released on June 1st. More information on all of the above players (as well as hundreds of other prospects you need to know about) will be in there. And for only $2.50 more, pick up the 2013 DobberHockey Keeper League Pack, which includes the 2013-14 Fantasy Guide and the 2013-14 Draft List.
Previous Posts from Jeff:
- Top 10 Keeper League Forward Prospects of 2013
- Top 10 Keeper League Defensive Prospects of 2013
- The 2013 Prime Cuts Roster