It’s been one year since I wrote my first column for DobberHockey. Writing – or talking -- about hockey prospects is quite often a forward-looking exercise, but you can learn a lot by looking back. It’s educational and fun to assess a team’s drafting or scouting record to see how they did. So, I thought I’d take a look at how well I’ve done giving you advice on fantasy hockey prospects.
Giving my own grades is a conflict of interest, so I’ll err on the side of being a hard-ass so that this doesn’t seem like an exercise in self-congratulation.
Here’s a look back (chronologically) at some of the players I’ve written about in the last year, and my take on how good my assessment was. If anyone hasn’t seen some of the columns and wants to go back and read them, they’re all archived here. As always, feel free to offer your own opinions down below. It’s part of what makes this site – and the Internet – a great place to talk hockey. If you don’t think I’m being tough enough, fire away.
Kyle Turris – He’s been a disappointment for me so far. He finished last year in the AHL with decent numbers – 63 points in 79 games – but has had trouble carving out a big role with Phoenix this year. He’s been scratched for six games and missed three games with an upper body injury. In the 18 games he’s played, he’s netted just four goals and three assists. A good buy-low candidate, but as long as Dave Tippett is the coach, Turris will find it difficult to earn more ice time. He has yet to justify my optimism.
Alex Pietrangelo – I was worried about Pietrangelo’s lack of playing time in the NHL. Shortly after I wrote about him, he was sent back to junior and played great for Team Canada at the world junior tournament and finished the year with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He’s on pace for 42 points and appears to have arrived. I think going back to junior helped him, but his lack of playing time in early last year doesn’t appear to have hurt him.
Logan Couture – I was concerned about injuries robbing Couture of valuable development time, but he kept on rolling in the AHL last year and is making a smooth transition to the NHL this year. I’ve liked Couture as a prospect since seeing him play junior B when he was 15. My expectations were once high for him, but they waned a bit. He’s now meeting my earlier expectations and is a Calder Trophy candidate. My concerns were unfounded; Couture will be just fine.
Eric Tangradi – Tangradi has struggled to adjust to the pro game and has only shown brief flashes of his skill in the AHL. He was almost invisible in a nine-game trial in the NHL earlier this year. As a Tangradi owner, that disappointed me and ticked me off. He’s one of those power forwards who is going to take time to develop if he develops at all. Maybe the hat trick he scored the other night will help him get untracked, but he’s a prospect that requires patience. If he does make it in the NHL, he’ll likely be a streaky scorer. Time to get the lead out, Eric.
Zack Kassian – I wrote about him after he had earned a 20-game suspension for a hit to the head. He was dogging it earlier last year in Peterborough and I thought the trade to his home-town Windsor Spitfires would help him. He started off well, but got derailed by the suspension. He played OK in the playoffs and Memorial Cup but got in trouble during the off-season when he got in a fight in a bar. He’s since dodged his legal troubles and signed a pro contract with Buffalo. He’s also fifth in the OHL in scoring and has been invited to the Team Canada junior tryout camp. Kassian has not been fighting as much this season, but he will be an excellent source of PIMs. Few OHL players are eager to fight him and his style will mean he will be fighting quite a bit in the OHL. He loves to stick up for teammates and he will draw the ire of opponents. I just convinced a friend to pick him up in his keeper league the other day and rate him as a buy, especially in leagues that value PIMs.
Dustin Jeffrey – An underrated prospect at the time I wrote about him, he has become a popular player to own by fantasy GMs because he’s the Penguins highest-scoring farmhand. Despite being a centre on a team stacked with pivots, Jeffrey has the hockey sense to the move to the wing and could end up riding shotgun with a guy named Sid or Geno. The sticking point, he’s not a high draft pick or the “Golden Boy” like Tangradi is and has yet to earn any significant playing time. He’s still eligible for the Calder if he gets a full-time shot. The Penguins called Jeffrey up yesterday so watch his ice-time and production to see if he gets a decent shot. Give ‘em hell, kid.
Colin Wilson – Wilson was on the shuttle between Nashville and Milwaukee last year and got some valuable experience. He lost his Calder eligibility but played only 35 games. He’s on pace for a 36-point season right now and the jury is still out. I’m still optimistic about the upside of 70 points with low PIMs.
Matt Halischuk – Traded along with a second-round pick to Nashville for Jason Arnott, Halischuk hasn’t done much with his new opportunity with the Predators. He didn’t make the Predators and has just 11 points in 19 games. My projected upside of him was too high, although I’m still confident he’ll make the NHL as a third-liner. He just won’t score much. This was a miss – big time.
Bill Sweatt – I told you to stay away from Bill Sweatt and I stick by that. The Chicago Blackhawks did – opting not to sign him after he graduated from college, and shipped him to Maple Leafs who also balked at signing him. The Vancouver Canucks scooped him up though and he’s putting up decent numbers in his rookie AHL campaign with Manitoba. Sweatt is an incredible skater, but doesn’t have much upside as a scorer in the NHL. Still convinced his upside is just 40 points.
Mitch Wahl – Wahl finished his fourth junior year with 96 points but is struggling to produce with the Abbotsford Heat in his rookie AHL campaign. It’s not unusual for first-year pros to struggle, but has managed just one goal and four assists in 15 games. In late November, he was crushed by a punishing open-ice hit from Manitoba Moose winger Aaron Volpatti. It was the second serious injury for wall, who missed most of November and was just playing in his second game back when this hit occurred. Abbotsford coach Jim Playfair calls Wahl “Cool Hand Luke” because of his unflappable demeanor, so it’s too early to give up on him. He’ll have to keep his head up and stay healthy, though.
Roman Cervenka – After a great Olympic tournament, there was talk of several NHL teams pursuing him but the Czech forward opted for the KHL and is tearing it up with Omsk Avangard. He’s scored 18 goals and 17 assists in 32 games – excellent numbers for a first-year player in that league, even if he is 25. A small player, don’t look for him to come to the NHL as long as things are working out in the KHL.
Cory Conacher – Touted as a possible free agent signing, Conacher returned to Canisius College for his fourth year. His production has dipped a bit from the blistering pace he set during his junior year, but he’s still averaging more than a point a game. He is another small player who will get few chances and those he gets will be because of luck.
Next week: Part II, including a look at Tyler Ennis, P.K. Subban, Justin Schultz, Kyle Clifford, and Tyler Eckford.