Trading hockey cards is much simpler than trading hockey players. Photo by Katie.

Finders Keepers Part 2

Dynasty and keeper league coaches are scouring the prospect airwaves while using the opportunity of intensive research to find the next gem. Let me do some of the research for you and point your attention to some high-upside snipers and D-men with an upcoming draft not featuring a franchise type player on the surface.

Each instalment of “Finders Keepers” will dive a little deeper into the dynasty pool to expose and analyse potential additions to your keeper league rosters. Summer events such as the June NHL Draft in Chicago and the Expansion Draft for Vegas will keep altering our predictions and your watch lists right up to September and October. The value of these players is strictly keeper league format dependant. Here are some high-ceiling players and prospects you should be watching:

NHL

Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh Penguins)

  • 40 GP 16-17-33

Near the top in this year’s playoff scoring, the age 22 5’11 180lb Omaha born winger has fit in nicely with Crosby on Penguins’ top line. Unlimited potential as chemistry builds.

Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton Oilers)

  • 39 GP 12-16-28 AHL Bakersfield Condors

European born sniper labeled with rare play-making talents and good size (6’4, 205) that competes in all three zones. Should stick with the Oilers, possibly on a McDavid line.

Jordan Weal (Philadelphia Flyers)

  • 43 GP 15-32-47 AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms

As a 20-year-old in 2013-14 skating for LA’s AHL affiliate Manchester notched 23-26-49 as the team’s leading scorer in 2nd pro season. At 21 led the Monarchs to the Calder Cup title with 20-49-69 earning MVP. Has found a home in Philly after Los Angeles let him go. Considered undersized at 5’9 165, every scout labels Jordan as tenacious. See if Flyers make him a multi-year offer during the summer.

AHL

Pontus Aberg (Nashville Predators)

  • 31-21-52 Milwaukee Admirals

Called up by Nashville to open the NHL playoffs, sent back to the Admirals for the AHL playoffs. Swedish-born Aberg led Milwaukee in scoring after netting 25 goals in 2015-16. With good size for a right wing, is considered a great offensive asset with a hard shot to go along with accurate passing skills.
Ben Street and Matt Lorito (Grand Rapids Griffins/Detroit Red Wings)
Former Wisconsin Badger standout Street scored 25 goals with 30 assists for 55 points with Grand Rapids while Lorito (22-34-56) is drawing league-wide interest despite both players shuffled between Grand Rapids and Detroit late this season. Lorito lacks size at 5’9 bur has produced at every level of his development.

KHL

Klim Kostin

  • 33 GP 35-31-66 in 2014-15 with Russia U16 Dynamo Moskva

Early draft projections have the young Russian star going 9th overall to Detroit. Considered the top NHL prospect of all European skaters since mid-season, Kostin is coming off injury issues and may drop to the Red Wings. He may still see another year of KHL action before making an impact in the NHL.

2017 draft predictions (in lottery pick order) that should be on your 1-2 year dynasty radar:

Team Pick Player Size Pos League
NJ 1 Nolan Patrick 6’2 198 C WHL
PHI 2 Nico Hischier 6’0 174 C QMJHL
DAL 3 Timothy Liljegren 6’0 190 D Sweden
COL 4 Gabriel Vilardi 6’2 192 C OHL
VAN 5 Miro Heiskanen 5’11 173 D Finland
VEG 6 Michael Rasmussen 6’5 200 C WHL
ARI 7 Casey Middelstadt 6’1 201 C USHL
BUF 8 Cal Foote 6’3 208 D WHL
DET 9 Klim Kostin 6’3 194 RW KHL
FLA 10 Owen Tippett 6’1 203 RW OHL
LAK 11 Martin Necas 6’0 169 C Czech
CAR 12 Cody Glass 6’2 179 C WHL
WIN 13 Cale Maker 5’10 174 D AJHL
TB 14 Nick Suzuki 5’10 183 C OHL
NYI 15 Juuso Valimaki 6’2 200 D WHL

WHL

Nolan Patrick

  • 2015-16: 93 GP (incl. playoff MVP) 54-78-132 Brandon Wheat Kings

Consensus number one overall pick in this June’s NHL draft in Chicago, Patrick has the size, skills (and bloodline) to succeed immediately at the NHL level.

Cal Foote

  • 2016-17: 85 GP (incl. playoffs) 7-57-64 Kelowna Rockets

Another big generation-type player, the son of Adam Foote has good size at the blue line. Solid playmaker with 57 assists last year. Promising blueliner displays good vision on special teams.

OHL

Gabriel Vilardi

  • 56 GP (incl. playoffs) 31-36-67 Windsor Spitfires

Offensive threat with elite puck handling skills can score in different ways while making disciplined decisions. Opponents must know when he is on the ice.

Owen Tippett

  • 76 GP 51-39-90 Mississauga Steelheads

Already noted for his skating speed and quick shot, the Laine comparisons continue to surface. Projected top 10 or better on most sites, true sniper should contribute in 2017-18.

QMJHL

Nico Hischier

  • 63 GP (incl. playoffs) 41-52-93 Halifax Mooseheads

Some analysts see him supplanting Patrick as the possible number one pick. His fluid play and keen on-ice vision bring this Swiss sniper to the top of the NHL draft. May make an impact this coming season with Dallas or in Philadelphia. Only thing that sets him behind Patrick is 179-pound frame.

Maxim Comtois

  • 68 GP (incl. playoffs) 23-29-52 Victoriaville Tigres

Big-bodied working centerman has scouts noticing his effort and room for quick improvement offensively. Nearly averaged a point per game in his two seasons with the Tigres.

SWEDEN

Timothy Liljegren

  • 19 GP 1-4-5 Rogle BK

Sturdy D-man already drawing comps to Dougherty. Good playmaker with a decent blueline shot. Can quarterback a team’s power play.

USHL

Casey Mittelstadt

  • 24 GP 13-17-30 Green Bay Gamblers

Eden Prairie, Minnesota native may not play in the NHL for a year or two despite high draft pick. Actually may return to high school from the USHL before attending the University of Minnesota. Has the raw talent and has scored everywhere he has played.