LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: Adam Larsson #5 of the New Jersey Devils reches for the puck ahead of Brad Richardson #15 of the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Devils won 3-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Hey all! This is the first installment of my attempt to compile a top 5 fantasy prospect list for each team in the NHL - starting with the Atlantic Division.
As such, I am no expert nor am I pretending to be. If you think I left someone out, listed someone too high, or not high enough please leave a comment or shoot me an email. I'm always up for a friendly debate.
Anyway, here we go!
1. Adam Larsson – D – NHL: 46gp 2g 13a 15p 18 PIM -6
Larsson was expected to jump right into the Devils lineup and contribute but he has quickly established himself as their top defenseman. He is currently averaging 21:46 of ice time per game and as he gains experience I expect that number to jump into the 25 minute range. The offense has not been there quite yet but that will come with time. He is never going to put up huge offensive numbers anyway. New Jersey could really use a veteran defenseman to mentor Larsson (think Sergei Gonchar mentoring Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski) and take some pressure off of the 18 year old.
Fantasy: One of the best young defenseman to own, Larsson will soon be a 25 minute workhorse that will play in all situations. He could stand to shoot the puck more (he’s barely over 1 sog per game).
Upside: 5g 45a #1 defenseman
2. Jon Merrill – D – NCAA: 6gp 0g 4a 4p 2 PIM Even
Merrill is another defenseman built in the same mold as Adam Larsson. He is a great skater adept at both ends of the rink but like Larsson, lacks the high end offensive game of some defensive prospects like a Ryan Ellis. Merrill was expected to challenge for the title of best defenseman in NCAA hockey as well as lead the United States World Junior Classic Team to another medal but that was all derailed when he was suspended by the University of Michigan at the start of the season for a violation of team rules. He did not look rusty at the World Juniors despite not playing in much game action. I expect him to turn pro after the season and challenge for a roster spot on a weak Devils blueline.
Fantasy: Keep an eye on Merrill towards the end of the season. He could make the team next year and have a Justin Faulk-like rookie year but he could surprise if he gets onto PP1 with New Jersey.
Upside: 5g 35a top 4 stalwart
3. Adam Henrique – NHL: 43gp 13g 21a 34p 7 PIM +6
Henrique is very comfortable playing with high end talent like IlyaKovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias after playing most of his junior career with Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Greg Nemisz, and Cam Fowler. He has had a great start to his NHL career but I am not as high on Henrique as others are. He is a solid #2 center who should approach 65p this season while playing both PP and PK. He is tied with Parise for the league lead in shorthanded points with 7.
Fantasy: Henrique should settle in as a #2 center long term but could push #1 depending on Zajac once he is fully healthy. Remember, Zajac and Parise have a great chemistry so it may benefit the Devils to pair Henrique with Kovalchuk to balance out the scoring. Regardless, he’s here to stay but his upside is not as high as fellow probable Calder nominee Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
4. Scott Wedgewood – OHL: 18-6-3 2.65 GAA .918 SV% 3 shutouts
The Brodeur train is pulling into the station and Wedgewood is the only viable candidate in house to replace him. Frazee has fizzled out and the 2011 WJC member for Team Canada is the next in line. His stats are pretty decent but he is likely not a workhorse number 1 starter material in the NHL.
Fantasy: In another system, he would not make the top 5 list but New Jersey’s depth is very weak at goalie. This is a case of opportunity over upside. A New Jersey trade for a goalie along the lines of Schneider or Bernier could really hurt Wedgewood’s value.
Upside: Split starter like Luongo and Schneider have turned into.
5. Jacob Josefson – NHL: 9 gp 0g 1a 1p 2 PIM +1
Josefson had opportunity handed to him on a silver platter the past two seasons in the NHL due to injuries in New Jersey’s top 6 but he too got injured both times and his shot at a top 6 center role looks to be closed. While Zajac is still hurt, both Henrique and Elias are handling the center duties for the time being as Josefson has only recently returned from another serious injury.
Fantasy: Always touted for his excellent two way play, Josefson likely will not see much offensive upside at the NHL level. He will probably play the very tough minutes for Lou Lamoriello’s Devils and he will probably not get much time with Kovalchuk, Parise, or the other top forwards. However, he is worth keeping on your radar as he could rack up the FOW, shorthanded points, and will likely always have a good plus minus. He has some offensive skill as well so he could get into the 50 point range eventually.
Upside: 15g 30a with good plus minus.
Reid Boucher – One of the best shots in his draft class, Boucher has decent goal scoring potential if he can hone the rest of his game into an NHL product. He is currently having a disappointing year in the OHL.
Eric Gelinas – Gelinas is a much needed offensive defenseman who could pair with Merrill or Larsson on a top PP. Big skater at 6’ 3" helps his case as well.
Zach Boslett can be seen tweeting about fantasy hockey, Penguin hockey, and life as a college student here. Feel free to give a follow, say hi, or complain about how dumb I am. I'm open to it all!
He also writes for Faceoff-Factor.com, a Pittsburgh Penguin hockey website if that' sort of thing is to your liking.