This week is the seventh installment of a series that features cap bargains who are emerging in the AHL and are on the brink of becoming NHLers who can contribute to your roster. Some of these players are set to become effective depth players in your league while others possess some long-term upside on top of what they can contribute in the near future. Not all of them will pan out but you have to be ready to swing and miss when trying to find future NHL contributors.
Here are five forwards from the Western Conference:
Justin Fontaine (RW – Minnesota)
Cap Hit: $595,000
Years Left: 1
AHL Team: Houston
Admittedly, Justin Fontaine is far from the safest prospect in the hockey world. He is 25 years old and undersized. However, he is only two years removed from a very successful college career. Additionally, the Minnesota Wild do not have a great cap situation next year with several huge contracts on the books and many roster holes to fill. This makes Fontaine a dark horse to sneak into a roster spot and get some secondary power play minutes. With Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson in the mix as well, there is no guarantee for Fontaine and this might be his last chance to make it in the NHL. Nevertheless, he deserves a look in deeper points-only leagues because of his potential to contribute quickly.
Anthony Peluso (RW – Winnipeg)
Cap Hit: $605,000
Years Left: 1
AHL Team: Peoria
In roto leagues fighters carry a lot of value because of their ability to pick up hits and penalties. Having such players allows an owner to focus other roster spots on offensively-gifted forwards. Since they are in demand it may be difficult to obtain one if this becomes a need. Alternatively if your league has a farm roster you can invest in some fighters in the minor leagues who are close to earning a promotion to the NHL.
Anthony Peluso is a mammoth winger who was recently claimed off waivers by the Winnipeg Jets after being in the St. Louis system since 2007. He definitely earns the enforcer label but the development of his offensive game in the AHL makes him more intriguing.
Typically, fighters only play a few minutes per game and offer very little outside of their physical play. Those who can contribute in other areas earn more ice time and are less frequently scratched from the lineup. The added ice time gives them a better chance to get points, hits and even some additional fights. If Peluso’s offensive game can translate to the NHL he could be a hidden gem in deep roto leagues.
Tomas Tatar (LW – Detroit)
Cap Hit: $840,000
Years Left: 2
AHL Team: Grand Rapids
Already in his fourth pro season with Grand Rapids, Tomas Tatar is still just 22 years of age and is developing very well. He is currently on pace to beat his previous best mark of 58 points obtained a year ago. His 44 PIM should open some eyes as well. More importantly, he has a very cheap contract that runs through next year in addition to his sky-high potential.
The Red Wings have a deep prospect core and make it difficult for young players to make the jump but if you can be patient with Tatar you will probably be rewarded with a sniper who produces with good linemates.
Joakim Andersson (C – Detroit)
Cap Hit: $875,000
AHL Team: Grand Rapids
Joakim Anderson, Tatar’s teammate in Grand Rapids, is also developing very well but is a much different player. Andersson is a big two-way centerman who is more appealing in roto leagues. In the NHL he will likely be limited to a depth role but his all-around game along with his newly-found ability to rack up PIM will make him a nice multi-category contributor.
Andersson faces the same problem as Tatar in terms of winning a roster spot in Detroit. It may take some time, but until that happens he will not be signing any monster contracts that could hurt your fantasy team.
Linden Vey (RW – Los Angeles)
Cap Hit: $900,000
AHL Team: Manchester
Linden Vey is leading Manchester in scoring in just his second pro season. He is an average-sized forward who brings grit and sound two-way play along with an ability to produce offensively. The Kings have a good core of prospects but Vey is ahead of the pack as of right now in terms of a potential call-up to Los Angeles.
With Brad Richardson, Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner set to become unrestricted free agents after this year there will probably be some roster turnover This is to the benefit of Vey who could land a roster spot as early as next season. From there, his cheap contract will ensure that he does not hurt your team and he certainly has enough upside to climb the depth chart over the next several years.
Previous posts from Eric Daoust: