Your fantasy pool won’t likely be decided by the picks in the first or second round, it will be the middle and late-round picks that make the difference. In these pick spots, you will often find great value in the next generation of talent – the prospects.
Every team has their premier prospect, the one they hope will pave the way for seasons to come. While some of these top-flight future stars are ready for primetime, others are still years away or are stuck at the bottom of the depth charts.
Related Article: The NHL’s Best Farm Systems Ranked
In an effort to dwindle down the fantasy-relevant prospects for the 2019-20 season, I used the following criteria to help make a shortlist:
- A player has played less than 50 NHL games;
- A player must be playing for the organization that drafted them.
If you are looking for a list of Calder candidates, this list is a good starting point, but it’s missing some notable names. With the extensive fantasy coverage The Hockey Writers has offered this fall, I tried to avoid some repetition.
Must-Draft Fantasy Prospects
Grab your notepads or sign into your fantasy draft headquarters and get ready to add these prospects to your queue. This group is listed in alphabetical order by team.
After piling up 41 points in 41 games as an AHL rookie in San Diego last season, Troy Terry was called up to the Anaheim Ducks and didn’t look out of place scoring 13 points in 32 games. The talented winger was already primed to have more of a role with the Ducks in 2019-20, but now with Corey Perry out the door, Terry is unquestionably slotted in the top-six.
Another Duck that made a splash in San Diego last season totaling 41 points in 53 games, Sam Steel stepped into the Anaheim third-line centre spot and produced at 0.5 point per game over a 22-game stretch. He will be in tough to crack the second-line role and overstep Adam Henrique, but will still get great offensive looks against weaker third-line matchups.
The Buffalo Sabres found an absolute gem of a player in Victor Olofsson drafting him in the seventh round in 2014. In his past three landing spots, he has been a proven scorer. From 2017-18 in Frolunda of the SHL (43 points in 50 games), 2018-19 in Rochester of the AHL (63 points in 66 games) and a late call up last season in Buffalo (4 points in 6 games), Olofsson seems to rise to the challenge. On a Sabres squad that is looking for secondary scoring, he could be the answer.
Fresh off the 2019 Hobey Baker award as the NCAA Top Collegiate player, Cale Makar is already in the conversation as a 2019-20 Calder candidate. He posted 49 points in 41 games for Umass Amherst last season and stepped right into the Colorado Avalanche lineup in Round 1 against the Calgary Flames and scored 6 points in 10 playoff games. He is an offensive dynamo and with the trading of Tyson Barrie, Maker will be sitting shotgun on the top power-play unit.
Late last season, Alexandre Texier scored his first NHL goal in only his second game. He was also a big part of the Columbus Blue Jackets success upsetting the Tampa Bay Lightning and put up 3 points in 8 playoff games. He is a crafty playmaker and poses a legitimate speed threat on the left-wing. With the departure of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, Texier should see an increase in his opportunities to contribute.
Filip Hronek has already made his mark for the Detroit Red Wings playing 46 games in 2018-19 and scoring 23 points. The offensive defenceman returned to Grand Rapids in the AHL later in the season and posted a strong 24 points in 31 games. With Mike Green consistently being inconsistent, the Red Wings need a steady source of production from the blue line and Hronek is poised to be just that.
After scoring 112 points in 50 games for the US National Under-18 squad, Jack Hughes fell into the lap of the NHL Draft Lottery-winning New Jersey Devils. Unlike other teams that select first overall, the Devils are far from rebuilding. They have gone all in and added PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev to the fold and have insulated Hughes. With his elite vision and creativity, he is a lock to hit the scoresheet in a big way.
One of the more unsung heroes in the New York Islanders sweeping of the Pittsburgh Penguins last postseason, Devon Toews registered 5 points in 8 playoff games in 2019 and took a hold of the top power-play position on the blue line. He scored 18 points in 48 games during the season in a limited role and should be in line for a significant increase in the stats column in 2019-20.
After opting to sign with the Nashville Predators and forego his final year at Boston University, Dante Fabbro fit in a few regular season games at the end of last season. The strong two-way defender looked solid over the course of six playoff games and with the trading away of PK Subban, he has a fast track to play inside the Predators top-four. Look for Fabbro to play a regular shift and see some time on the second power-play unit.
Despite being the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, Kaapo Kaako is regarded as the most NHL-ready product from his draft class. At 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, his strength and physical maturation will ease his transition to the North American pro game. His blend of size, skill and speed will get him more than enough looks and scoring opportunities. Combine his talent with a strong supporting cast in New York, Kakko could be in for a Calder-winning season.
Another New York Ranger making the trip overseas is sniper Vitali Kravstov. While the Rangers have quickly amassed quite the collection of talent on the wing, he is near the top of the list and will get a strong look during training camp. He will likely begin the season behind Kakko, but could easily move up and down the lineup depending on how the Rangers deploy their attack. With great vision, puck possession and release, Kravstov is a lethal threat on every shift.
After a terrific rookie campaign in the AHL with the Belleville Senators, Drake Batherson should get the nod to play in the top-six out of training camp. The overage draftee from 2017 scored 62 points in 59 games for Belleville and also put up 9 points in 20 games with the Ottawa last season. He boasts a well-balanced skill set in all facets of the game and is a pillar in the Senators rebuild moving forward.
After a season that saw Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks win the Calder trophy, the award may not need to travel very far in 2019-2020. Enter defenseman Quinn Hughes who plays with top-flite speed and playmaking abilities. Last season, the elite offensive defender scored over a point per game for Michigan, 3 points in a 5 game stint with the Canucks and another 3 points over 8 games for Team USA at the World Championships. He may be slight in size at only 5-foot-10, but he is more than capable to lead the Canucks defence in scoring.
As the first-ever Vegas Golden Knight draftee, Cody Glass is ready for the NHL game. After tearing up the WHL the past few seasons, he joined the Chicago Wolves in the AHL late in the 2019-20 regular season and scored 5 points in 6 games. He followed up with a stellar run in the playoffs as Chicago reached the AHL Calder Cup Final and he scored 15 points in 22 games. Glass will be in tough to carve out a spot at centre with the Knights, but don’t be surprised to see him play the wing. It will be tough to keep him out of the lineup.
Last on our list is Winnipeg Jets defender Sami Niku. The 2018 AHL Best Defenceman (54 points in 76 games) spent much of last season with the Jets watching games from the press box. With the likes of Jacob Trouba, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers out of the picture, Niku should become a focal part of the Jets defence core and get more action this season and some serious looks on the power-play as well.
This group of talent is sure to make an impact and should be regular nightly plays for your fantasy team, so don’t sleep on them in your draft. Now, knowing when to select them, that’s a different story.
Good luck in your draft this year and for more fantasy tips, check out The Hockey Writers 2019-20 Fantasy Guide all season long.
Statistics sourced from Elite Prospects.
Ottawa Senators writer for The Hockey Writers.
Scout/writer on the Nashville Predators at Dobber Prospects.
Ottawa native, hockey player, coach and referee.
Forever a fan of hockey with a keen interest in prospects and NHL rookies.