Looking at available roster spots for next season's rookie class in this Sunday Ramblings...
It's never too soon to start thinking about the next season, and as playoffs start thinning the fantasy field its likely that alot of us already are. For the record - my fantasy squad in the deep deep DobberProspects head-to-head league is still going stong, but no team can be successful without considering who there is room for down the road. Knowing which teams have UFAs moving on is a big step twoards knowing which of your benched minor-leaguers will be most likely to become producers in the short-term.
This year presents even more uncertainty than usual thanks to the upcoming expansion draft, but if anything, this will present an extra open roster spot for rookies hoping to climb up the depth chart. This week I'm going to walk through the Eastern Conference to see which should have spots ready for the taking in 2017-18.
UFAs: Drew Stafford, Dominic Moore, JM Liles
Prospects waiting: Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen, Rob O'Gara
With only depth players heading out this summer, prospects with top-nine potential are going to have to settle for fourth-line duties until injuries arise. Then again, who knows if Boston has grander player-movement plans after they were rumored to be interested in Gabriel Landeskog at the trade deadline.
UFAs: Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Franson, Taylor Fedun, Anders Nilsson
Prospects waiting: Justin Bailey, Will Carrier, Hudson Fasching, Cole Schneider, Alex Nylander
Buffalo has lots of prospects capable of making noise when training camp comes along. Bailey, Carrier, and Fasching have all had looks with the Sabres this season and will have experience on their side, but all eyes will be on Nylander and if he can earn a top-six spot. Unfortunately, the organization is forward-heavy in prospects just as d-men are on their way out.
UFAs: Jay McClemment, Derek Ryan, Patrick Brown, Matt Tennyson
Prospects waiting: Haydn Fleury, Lucas Wallmark, Valentin Zykov
With a glut of talented defencemen already established in the NHL, Fleury will have a tough time cracking the NHL despite his high profile. He could become very valuable trade bait should the team's interest in Matt Duchene return. Zykov has already notched his first goal for the Hurricanes and should claim one of the openings up front.
Columbus Blue Jackets
UFAs: Lauri Korpikoski, Sam Gagner, Kyle Quincey
Prospects waiting: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano
This is an interesting situation if Gagner does indeed leave and present a job opening on the 2nd powerplay unit. Bjorkstrand was expected to make the team full-time this season, and flags will be raised if he doesn't grab this opportunity. Sonny Milano is not a shabby backup plan and wont lay down in training camp.
Detroit Red Wings
UFAs: Drew Miller, Mitch Callahan
Prospects waiting: Robbie Russo, Evgeny Svechnikov
For the first time in a while, the Detroit cupboard is looking empty. Russo has grabbed a spot currently thanks to injuries but hasn't been producing like in the minors. With veterans carrying the load in Grand Rapids, Svechnikov is looking like the best bet to steal a spot opening on the wing next year.
UFAs: Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Shawn Thornton, Jakub Kindl
Prospects waiting: Denis Malgin, Jayce Hawryluk, Jared McCann
Malgin should get a bump up from what he;s seeing in cups of coffe this year, while Hawryluk will be interesting to watch to see where he lands in the lineup. He will probably earn a spot but it may end up in a lesser role than ideal.
UFAs: Alex Radulov, Dwight King, Brian Flynn, Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen, Andrei Markov
Prospects waiting: Nikita Scherbak, Mike McCarron, Charles Hudon, Chris Terry
There are alot of UFAs listed above, but its safe to say Radulov and Markov will stick around, limiting the actual spots available. It will be a dogfight between perpetually almost-ready McCarron, the more established Scherbak, the lingering Hudon, and the veteran Terry for precious top-nine minutes on the Habs next season. None belong in the bottom-six but there's only so many lines to go around. Not exactly a bad situation for the Habs however.
New Jersey Devils
UFAs: Keith Kinkaid
Prospects waiting: Blake Speers, John Quenneville
Pretty short UFA list here, but its obvious that the lacklustre Devils will be very much looking to revamp their lineup next season. OHL sensation Blake Speers is the favorite to make the jump straight to the NHL next season and grab top-six minutes, while 20-year-old John Quennevile is standing out in the AHL amid a team with lots of veteran prescence.
New York Islanders
UFAs: Stephen Gionta, Dennis Seidenberg
Prospects waiting: Ryan Pulock, Josh Ho-Sang, Matt Barzal, Devon Toews, Michael Dal Colle
The Isles training camps have been very entertaining thanks to their wealth of talent up front. But do the math between the out and in lists above - there's not enough room for everyone, so I'd wait until the regular season starts to bet on any of these prospects-in-waiting for 2017-18. All of the above should be taken in long-term dynasty leagues however.
New York Rangers
UFAs: Tanner Glass, Brendan Smith, Steven Kampfer
Prospects waiting: Pavel Buchnevich, Cristoval Nieves, Ryan Graves, Niklas Jensen
Buchnevich is a lock next season...if he stays in North America. Nieves could make a push in camp, but a spot only opens up if the Rangers move on from some of their RFAs (which is entirely possible).
UFAs: Tommy Wingels, Viktor Stalberg, Chris Neil, Chis Kelly, Tom Pyatt, Mike Condon
Prospects waiting: Nick Paul, Thomas Chabot, Colin White
Colin White is a sure-fire bet to grab a spot next year, maybe even this year now that his NCAA season has ended. Paul has looked promising in call-ups so far, and now that some of the old guard could be moving on, there could be ample bottom-six time available to the hardest worker.
UFAs: Chris ValdeVelde, Jordan Weal, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason
Prospects waiting: Phillipe Myers, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin
Two D spots potentially opening, three capable D-men ready for a shot. All of the names above are worth owning in dynasty leagues, but for one year pools wait it out and see who makes it out of camp still in Philidelphia. Any spot is currently Myers' to lose.
UFAs: Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Tom Sestito, Mark Streit, Ron Hainsey, Chad Ruhwedel, Cam Gaunce
Prospects waiting: Jake Guentzel, Derrick Pouliot, Oscar Sundqvist, Frank Corrado
Guentzel would've made me look smart a week ago, before he started looking like a bona fide NHLer playing with Crosby. Don't expect him to go anywhere - he's already grabbed that spot on the wing. With 4 defencemen UFAs (albeit two are usually in the press box), if Pouliot can't take hold of one of those NHL jobs next season he will probably be moving on to a new home.
Tampa Bay Lightning
UFAs: Peter Budaj, Yanni Gourde
Prospects waiting: Adam Erne, Matthew Peca, Dominik Masin
Holes in the Tampa Bay lineup will have to come via the expansion draft with not many UFAs present and most RFAs expected to re-sign. Erne and Peca have both served their time in the AHL and will have to hope a forward gets plucked by Las Vegas otherwise it an uphill battle for them.
Toronto Maple Leafs
UFAs: Brian Boyle, Ben Smith, Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick, Curtis McElhinney
Prospects waiting: Fred Gauthier, Kasperi Kapanen, Brendan Leipsic, Travis Dermott, Kerby Rychel, Seth Griffith
This is another case of a team having lots of competition for not enough jobs. Gauthier had his perfect chance this year but couldn't seal the deal, and the other forwards will have to stand out in training camp if they hope to make it into the forward group that could be pretty similar-looking next season. It's fresh blood on defence that the Leafs need, so Dermott could have a decent chance at at the very least an NHL tryout thanks to the slots available.
UFAs: TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk
Prospects waiting: Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey
I look at the UFAs, and I look at the prospects-in-waiting, and I see a perfect match. Djoos has been outstanding in the AHL of late and Vrana needs top-six minutes to be fully effective, meanwhile Oshie will leave a hole in the top-six and there will certainly be an opening in the defensive top-six. This is an excellent situation for the rookies to-be and should not be ignored by fantasy owners - rookies rarely have a path this clear!
As always, here is my favorite part of my weekly Ramblings - the frst NHL goals. These kids worked hard to get where they are and we should always be in awe of fresh blood bringing entertainment to the game.
JT Compher gives Avs fans hope for whats to come:
Carter Rowney shows some patience in close:
Remi Elie gets one from the dirty area:
John Hayden with some nice footwork before going top shelf:
John Hayden's first NHL goal was a beaut. pic.twitter.com/y5LnOyg5xe— Brian Foran (@BForanNHL) March 19, 2017
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in the depths of fantasy hockey playoffs!