Draft time is just around the corner. Many of you will be looking to draft prospects that can produce right now and most of you will be looking to stock up on players that will produce in a season or two. Seven prospects will be examined this week, three of whom are draftable, but won't produce this season. The other four are to be avoided completely for upcoming fantasy drafts and have a lot to prove before they are considered legitimate prospects again.
Also this week is the start of a series on underrated prospects. Each week at the end of every column I'll briefly discuss one prospect that is under hyped and overlooked.
Won't produce this season
Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida
I'm not saying not to draft Huberdeau this season, just realize that he's not going to play more than nine games. Florida is surprisingly deep at centre with Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Santorelli as the top-six options. If any of them falter or get injured, a more mature prospect, Shawn Matthias will be given a chance to prove himself as a top-six player. Huberdeau also has to fill out considerably before the Panthers will risk giving him a full time NHL job.
Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville
Despite the loss of Cody Franson, Nashville still has plenty of offensive options from the back end with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Because of an acrimonious salary arbitration, Weber will likely be moved, but expect that to happen later in the season. Nashville has two other defensive prospects in the wings - Jonathan Blum and Roman Josi - that can provide some offense. Blum is a lock to make the team and Josi is a little older than Ellis and has a full year of pro experience under his belt. Ellis might get 20-25 points this season, but don't expect more than that.
Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey
Larsson is the complete package defensively and will very likely make the Devils. The danger here is that Larsson's offensive game is a question mark. He's more than capable of playing a complete two-way game, but it's still unknown whether he'll be able to put up fantasy worthy numbers. He's worth considering, but you'll probably have to wait a couple of seasons before you know whether he's Luke Schenn or Drew Doughty.
Do not draft
Nikita Filatov, W, Ottawa
Columbus Blue Jackets' former coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn't play the highly touted Filatov because he didn't like Filatov's compete level. Many believed Hitchcock's hardnosed approach wasn't a good fit for the young Russian. After Hitchcock’s departure in 2010, however, Scott Arniel was brought in to coach the team and Arniel's assessment of Filatov was similar to Hitchcock's. Filatov was sent packing in the offseason and finds himself in offensively starved Ottawa. He will have to prove to a third coach that he has enough drive to compete at the NHL level. Unfortunately for Filatov, if there is one thing that can ruin an NHL career it is a lack of competitiveness (ask Alexandre Daigle). Not only does Filatov have two strikes against him in that area, he also suffers from neck and concussion issues. Stay away until he proves he can produce consistently.
Zach Hamill, C, Boston
Stay away from Hamill completely. The 8th pick in the 2007 draft has bust written all over him. Hamill, 5'11, 185 pounds, has sweet hands, a little grit but not much else. He's slow and he gets pushed off the puck easily. He notched 34 points in 68 games in the AHL last season but at 23, he should be producing a lot more than that. He looks like he'll be a fine AHL centre for years to come.
Luca Caputi, LW, Toronto
It usually takes bigger players more time to develop and at 6'3, 205 pounds, Caputi is a big player. He's also a well rounded forward who looked like he would get some playing time on Pittsburgh's top six earlier in his career, but his move to Toronto and injuries have taken a toll on his potential impact as a fantasy producer. Because he's so well rounded, Caputi is likely to play in the NHL in a bottom six checking role. His upside was never high to begin with and his chances of reaching it have greatly diminished.
Jordan Schroeder, C/RW, Vancouver
He's just too small. Schroeder was Vancouver's 1st pick (22nd overall) in the 2009 entry draft. Schroeder was drafted much lower than expected on draft day and his stock has been dropping ever since. At 5'8, 180 pounds, Schroeder was a risk to begin with, and unfortunately for him his development since the draft has not been smooth. Prior to the draft he scored 45 points in 35 games for Minnesota in the NCAA. In his next season Schroeder only managed 28 points in 37 games for Minnesota. Last season he scored a measly 28 points in 61 games for Manitoba in the AHL and suffered through an ankle injury. Schroeder has enough skill to make the NHL, but his size and injury potential make him a huge fantasy risk.
Anders Lindback, G, Nashville
Already 23 and with a full season as a backup under his belt, some fantasy hockey publications don't even consider Lindback to be a prospect. Lindback is still Calder eligible, however, and has done everything he can to prove he's an elite goaltending prospect. At 6'6, 215 pounds, Lindback plays the hybrid goalie style to perfection. He was 11-5-2 with a .915 save percentage, playing behind Pekke Rinne last season. If Rinne gets hurt or Lindback gets traded, look for him to thrive as a number one goalie. Because he's playing behind Rinne in a small market, Lindback hasn't gotten the same attention as other elite goalie prospects such as Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Bernier. Use that to your advantage on draft day.