Fantasy hockey owners should always try to stay ahead of the curve, take chances, and see trends developing early for the most success in your pools. This starts at the draft. Not all NHL players can be drafted to teams, so there are many options to choose from as you approach the finals rounds of the draft. Of course you could go with a safer bet and choose a player that has been in the league a few more years and should give you consistent production, or you could take a chance on a young player that could be in store for a breakout season.
Personally, I like to use the final couple of rounds to take my chances on some talented young players. Young talent has more room to grow, and you could see them producing on the top line as the season progresses. We saw some examples of this trend last season with Jack Roslovic and Jesse Puljujarvi. The players on this list have shown flashes of brilliance early, and with the right opportunity this year could prove to be well worth it.
5. Max Comtois, 5% Drafted
On an Anaheim Ducks team that was last in the league in scoring, Comtois was a bright spot for the team throughout the season and for the future of the franchise. He paced the team with 0.60 points per game, scoring 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games. Not only will he continue to produce on the top line of the Ducks in 2021-22, he hits a lot and takes penalties, both great for fantasy. He was ranked 121 at the end of last season, and with another year of development and some more help around him, his numbers should climb a bit higher and possibly push into the top-100 in fantasy.
He goes undrafted in so many leagues because many fantasy owners focus on points alone. Late rounds are about taking chances and filling in holes in your lineup. Comtois is a guy that can do both, as many high-end players you probably already have on your team won’t prove that much physicality, but this player will. Combine that with him being a top line player and a mainstay on the top power-play unit, he and Trevor Zegras should push each other this season.
4. Oliver Wahlstrom, 2% Drafted
Wahlstrom could very well see top line minutes on the right side of Matthew Barzal and Anders Lee. His competition is Kyle Palmieri and Josh Bailey. After what we saw from Wahlstrom last season and into the playoffs, Barry Trotz will be looking to give this player every opportunity to play and grow at the NHL level. The team will also need him to take the next step if they hope to gain any little edge to push themselves to the Stanley Cup Final this season after consecutive Conference Final losses.
Only drafted two percent of the time, Wahlstrom will be there almost every time in the late rounds. I suggest drafting him in the last round if you can, as his ice time is unclear at this time. The coaching staff could choose to go the route of the veterans who are more defensively minded. He could also easily work his way up the lineup if he doesn’t start at the top. With two solid power-play units, Wahlstrom will definitely see time on the man advantage, and his shot could prove lethal and get him a bump to the top line.
3. Jared McCann, 9% Drafted
The Seattle Kraken looks like a team that will give many players the opportunities they weren’t offered on their previous teams. With a new franchise and coach, there is no loyalty to any player yet. McCann looks to stick as he joins his fifth NHL team. He really started to show what kind of player he is after being given a larger role with the Pittsburgh Penguins when their top centremen went down to injury.
Very underrated and unnoticed, McCann put up 32 points in 43 games last season and was a plus 17. Give him a full season with the same production and he’s a 60-point player. Throw in that he will get his shot at first line centre in the absence of Yanni Gourde to injury, and McCann’s ceiling could be very high this year. It’s not a certainty that Gourde claims the No. 1 centre position upon his return as well. McCann could prove himself worthy and lock down the top line for the entire season. After proving very useful on the Penguins’ power play last season too, look for him to hold down one of the spots on the top unit.
Over the past four seasons, McCann has increased his productivity, and with an even larger role, it should continue to climb. He is only drafted nine percent of the time in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues. It could be uncertainty with an expansion team or unfamiliarity with the player, but he is a great option to jump on late in your pool if he’s available in one of the final rounds. You will be happy you took a chance.
2. Eeli Tolvanen, 6% Drafted
The Nashville Predators struggled greatly with scoring while having a very capable but underachieving group of forwards. Tolvanen’s rookie campaign proved to be the opposite of that, as he put up 11 goals and 22 points in 40 games last season. He is all but confirmed to be playing in the top-six this upcoming season, as the team is stuck in limbo between a rebuild and contenders. As they lean more towards rebuilding, there will be more stock in young players like Tolvanen. If the team isn’t in the playoff hunt by the trade deadline, expect possible moves upfront that could open up even more doors for him to play and contribute more.
It has taken a little longer than they had hoped for Tolvanen to finally be a full-time NHLer, after failing to stick around in two previous short stints with the club. Now that he’s here, the Predators have seen what he can do. He may be able to help switch the tide of what this organization has built itself on in recent years, defence first. He is expected to play on the top power-play unit as well, which features Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg, two lethal scorers. He also adds hitting to his game, so he is worth it to keep an eye on late in your fantasy drafts.
1. Nils Hoglander, 9% Drafted
Hoglander might be the most lethal choice on this list, and should be a pick that everyone has their eye on. His downfall in regards to fantasy points is he is on the second power-play unit, so time and opportunity is limited. That’s not to say he can’t play his way into more time, and the Vancouver Canucks have been known to have injury problems with their star players.
Being exposed to the top-six group of the Canucks, Hoglander is bound to produce many points at even strength. After a strong rookie showing, he has every chance to build off that with another year of NHL experience. Look for his production to reach around 50 points. He could be a great addition in the last round of your draft.
I know it’s not the safest option to take a chance on young players, but it is much more fun when you do and they perform way better than you expect them to. All these young guns will have plenty of opportunities to shine, and you might as well be the one reaping the rewards early in your fantasy hockey pools.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.