Prospect Pipeline - Time To Draft Pt 1

Harry How

So last time around we talked about the basics for how to more efficiently scout prospects; what to look for and what to be wary of. This time, we're going to jump right into some names to keep in mind for your next prospect draft!

For each player I'll give a brief bio, what they do well, what the knocks against them are and my overall thoughts on their ETA, upside and when you should consider drafting them. I can't say where you should draft them without knowing the specifics of your league, so that will be on you to decide but these guys should all be on your radar.

1. Johnny Gaudreau (W) - CGY {4th round, 104th overall 2011}

I'll start with a personal favourite of mine - borderline full blown man crush at this point - in the diminutive forward Johnny Gaudreau. He's been on my radar since Calgary drafted him after a strong season in the USHL and if you watched the 2013 WJC at all, you probably recognize his name as well. After a slow start he led Team USA and the entire tournament in goals with 7 and was a key piece in helping the underdog USA win gold. Playing for Boston College he was a major force as a rookie last season in helping the team win the National Championship and has been nominated for the Hobey Baker award as the top collegiate player in the nation this season. He has collected accolades and dominated every level he's played at.

The good;
- Very quick, agile and elusive, uncanny ability to roll off checks
- Underrated shot, not the hardest but lightning quick release and accurate
- Elite hockey sense and passing abilities
- Tireless work ethic
- Great opportunity with Calgary as they are devoid of high end skilled prospects

The bad;
- Very undersized, being listed between 5' 6" - 5'9" and 140-150lbs is worrisome
- Will need to continue to excel
- Likely several years from having an impact at the NHL level

Draft Day;
If you're in a deep dynasty/ keeper league or have a spot to stash a player for a few years then you may want to consider this guy in the next draft, if not he's a few years away so you can hold off for another year or two. He will likely play out his four years at Boston College before looking to make his mark on pro hockey but his stock is on the rise and Calgary should give him every chance to succeed. He has the potential to be a top 6 winger at the NHL level but it's top 6 or bust for him.

2. Mark Barberio (D) - TBL {6th round, 152nd overall 2008}

A late round pick by Tampa way back in 2008, Barberio had a very respectable rookie pro season before dominating the AHL in his sophomore campaign last season. He led the league in defensive scoring by a large margin and was a major factor in quarterbacking the Admirals dominant season and Calder Cup Championship. This season he hasn't been as dominate statistically but a lot of the talent in Norfolk has graduated to the parent club, so he hasn't had as much to work with. Still he was again invited to the AHL All-Star festivities and currently sits second in league scoring by defensemen.

The good;
- Great shot from the point, hard and accuate
- Excellent vision and passing ability, able to QB the PP
- Strong skater, both quick and agile
- Good work ethic, noted as being very coachable
- Very good opportunity as Tampa lacks offensive punch from the blueline

The bad;
- Can have defensive lapses at times
- Could use his size a little better
- Streaky this season, scoring in bunches

Draft Day;
This is a prospect you probably want to grab ASAP. He has yet to get a cup of coffee with the Lightning but is sure to get a look next season as there will likely be a need for his offensive prowess from the blueline with MA Bergeron's contract expiring and everyone knowing the fact Sami Salo hasn't really been hurt this season only means it will be twice as bad next season. Consider also that Tampa's new coach is very familiar with Barberio having previously been his coach with the Admirals. He has the potential to be a PP QB at the NHL level.

3. Matt Fraser (LW) - DAL {Undrafted - Free Agent}

So here's a guy that has really come out of nowhere. A true definition of the term "late bloomer" he had fairly unremarkable junior career but came on strong in his final year, though that's not unheard of for 20 year old junior players. He was invited to the Canucks prospect camp but was not signed and went on to sign with the Stars shortly after. A move I'm sure the Canucks are regretting now as Fraser found his game as a rookie in the AHL finishing 2nd in goal scoring, only two goals behind a guy who's getting a lot more attention these days, Cory Conacher. He has continued that solid play this season and currently leads the AHL in goal scoring despite several brief call ups to the NHL club. He has looked good in a limited role at the NHL level so far.

The good;
- Deadly shot, hard, quick release and accurate
- Plays power forward game well, goes hard to the net
- Good work ethic, battles hard
- Dallas lacks true top 6 scoring prospects, especially on LW

The bad;
- Defense can be suspect at times
- Not the best skater
- Could be one dimensional, Cy Young candidate since turning pro, lots of goals & few assists
- Lack of draft pedigree could hurt him if he doesn't produce when given opportunity

Draft Day;
Consider drafting him in your next draft, he's got a few call ups this season so he figures to get a better chance at sticking next season, especially if the team moves Whitney and/or Jagr now that the team has moved Jagr and may move Whitney and a top 6 spot opens up for him. He has the potential to be a top 6, goal scorer in the mold of a power forward at the NHL level.

4. Jason Akeson (F) - PHI {Undrafted - Free Agent}

Another undrafted player who is impressing is Jason Akeson. Passed over twice for several different reasons, despite being offensively dominant his final two seasons in the OHL, he was then signed by the Flyers. He posted very respectable numbers as a rookie pro in the AHL and actually led a weak Adirondack team in scoring. The lockout this year saw him demoted to the ECHL as a result of the backlog, where he thrived before being recalled and hasn't looked back since. He again is leading Adirondack in scoring by a decent margin despite playing fewer games and has again been one of the lone bright spots on the team.

The good;
- Very good playmaking and passing skills
- Great hockey sense, makes plays out of nothing
- Dedicated and works hard, took demotion to ECHL in stride
- Great puck control and poise

The bad;
- Lacks ideal size and strength
- Pass first player
- Average skater

Draft Day;
If you've got a spot you can wait on a player for a couple of years then consider Akeson this year, if not he's probably a year or two from any kind of impact at the NHL level. He should get a cup of coffee next season and if he finds himself with a top 6 opportunity, his skill set could mesh well with the big, goal scoring forwards on Philly. His odds of getting a decent shot were a lot better pre-Voracek break out but keep an eye on him as he has the potential to be a top 6, playmaking winger at the NHL level.

5. Tyler Toffoli (C/RW) - LAK {2nd round, 47th overall 2010}

This is probably one of the most "high profile" prospects you're ever going to find me writing about on here but I think he might still be somewhat under the radar in terms of the average fantasy manager and he's definitely someone you should all know of. Toffoli concluded a very successful junior career last season, finishing 2nd in OHL scoring and posting the second of back to back 50 goal, 100 point seasons. Expectations weren't low for the rookie pro coming into the season but it's fair to say he has exceeded them so far. He played very well for the Monarchs in the AHL to the point he was called up by the Kings a couple of weeks ago and has not at all looked out of place in the NHL.

The good;
- Elite shot, hard, quick release and deadly accurate
- Great hockey sense, knows where to be and when to be there
- Poised with the puck
- Very good work ethic

The bad;
- Average skater
- Needs to add muscle and strength
- Kings roster is very deep

Draft Day;
Toffoli should be drafted in your next draft if he's not already taken. He's proving that he's capable of playing at the NHL already and while the Kings roster might be very deep, they are also a team that struggles to score goals at times, so a player like Toffoli could force their hand and he could stick. He has the potential to be a top 6, goal scoring forward at the NHL level and should be owned in all dynasty/keeper leagues and probably even standard leagues right now.

Hopefully you enjoyed the piece and found it useful for your leagues, stay tuned for more of this type stuff in the future. I'm aiming for a monthly piece at this point.

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