An excellent column by our very own word-crafting, mammary-tempting and all-knowing Chris Burns inspires this week's Bugg Bytes. So you're looking at putting together a keeper league blockbuster. Now before you wet yourself with the prospect of acquiring (insert star here) for (insert other star), hold off a bit and ask yourself: why is the other guy asking for so-and-so prospect? Is there anything you can ask for that looks minor now, but has the potential to pay dividends?
Who You Shouldn't Give Up
James Sheppard (Cape Breton, QMJHL)
One of the most ballyhooed enigmas at the 2006 Draft has not had the kind of season many expected of him. And that's turned out to be a good thing. Instead of focusing merely on racking up the points, the former top-ten pick of the Minnesota Wild has seen fit to work on his overall game. Already a big kid with solid offensive instincts, Sheppard has become a deadly force in every zone. He's also got the motivation and heart that Jacques Lemaire likes to see in his players. And since proving to Cape Breton's coaching staff that he has learned the importance of consistent physical and defensive play, the 6'2 forward has been given room to play. He's since potted 74 points in 43 games. Hang on to this one.
Cam Barker (Chicago Blackhawks, NHL)
This should be a duh moment, but for a lot of east-coast poolies who don't necessarily see the west that often, you have to know that Cam Barker has finally made good on the hype. The 20 year-old, fresh off a conditioning stint in the AHL after another round of injuries, popped home his first career goal in his first game of the season, a powerplay marker that put the Hawks up 3-1 over the Wild. He's since added three assists for an extremely respectable 4 points in 11 games, and played nearly 20 minutes in last night's 2-1 loss to Edmonton. While his past troubles with illness and injury may have made him fodder for trade talk, consider him as you would any other top-notch young defenseman.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot (Edmonton Oilers, NHL)
Another 'he's finally here!' prospect. An explosive start to the season for Wilkes-Barre of the AHL resulted in several unproductive call-ups. Fast-forward to another round of go-downs and go-ups, and Edmonton's first round choice from 2003 looks to have finally turned the corner. Promoted from the baby Pens on February 8th, the 21 year-old pivot saw his first NHL action since the first week of December in last night's Oilers/Hawks matchup, and starred prominently on the second line. Pouliot was so good that Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish saw fit to use him in 14:08 of ice-time- more than Joffrey Lupul, Marty Reasoner, Raffi Torres and nearly as much as Petr Sykora! 'MAP' saw action in all situations, playing ES, PP and even on the PK. Whether or not this is a case of showcasing him for a trade, the fact remains that Pouliot looked comfortable enough to play this kind of time, and that won't change if he changes teams.
Who You SHOULD Trade
Benoit Pouliot (Houston Aeros, AHL)
Big men historically take longer to develop than their peers of average height. Such is the case with 20 year-old Benoit Pouliot. Standing 6'3 and 195 lbs, the learning curve for the burgeoning power forward is going be a steep one. He's at least two to two years away from making a consistent contribution at the NHL level. If you can trust that your keeper league will be around that long, it's not a bad idea to hang on to him. But if a barrage of e-mails are going unanswered by 2/3 of the league's GMs, get what you can for this former top-five pick. You may be surprised at the number of fantasy GMs who consider him a deal breaker- and consequently for you, a deal-maker.
Chris Stewart (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Play this kid's name up real big. You may find a fan or two in your keeper league. With 30 goals in 45 contests and his first WJC showing, the younger brother of Panthers prospect Anthony Stewart has seen a steady rise in his stock. But will that offense translate at the NHL level? It says here it doesn't. Rather, a top-echelon grinding and hitting game will be the 6'1, 225 lbs winger's calling card. It's a useful component on any winning NHL team. Just not a fantasy one.
Leland Irving (Everett Silvertips, WHL)
The best goaltender in the Dub, and a rival of Carey Price's for the best in all of major junior hockey, the 26th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and owner of a 1.66 SV% is an odd selection for this kind of list. But with Miikka Kiprusoff with the Flames until at least the end of the 2007/08 season, there isn't much room for the superbly talented keeper at the NHL level. The Flames could very easily let 'Kipper' walk at the end of his contract and hand the reigns to Irving, freeing up almost $3 million in cap space in the process. But Darryl Sutter is not one to rush his prospects, especially goalies. Meanwhile, flaunt those otherworldly numbers. He may just tip the scales of a big deal in your favor.
Slava Trukhno (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)
0.92, 1.6, 1.82. Those are numbers of steady, smooth development. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe agrees, and that's why the Oilers signed the soon-to-be 20 year-old winger to an entry-level contract in January of this year. A gritty, defensively responsible player away from the puck, Edmonton's fourth round choice in 2005 is a speed wizard with it. He's also got stellar hands and an even better shot. Trukhno has all the pieces to debut quickly and earn a spot ala Patrick Thoresen. However, with great offensive creativity and vision, he'll quickly be a lot more. Think an agitator like Thoresen crossed with Hemsky's magical abilities.
Roman Voloshenko (Houston Aeros, AHL)
A future 30-goal scorer having a poor year in the minors? That screams pick-up. With only a measly 25 points in 48 contests- including a remarkably unremarkable 9 goals- this much-hyped sniper has fallen by the wayside in many pools. However, at only 20 years old, there's simply too much development left for a player who scored 33 goals in the same league last year. Get him. Now.