Fantasy Hockey 2013: 8 Young Players About to Become Fantasy Weapons
The 2012-13 season is not yet lost. Donald Fehr and the NHLPA have stepped up and asked that negotiations resume tomorrow, and there's still time for a 60-plus game season to be salvaged.
If that happens, the following young players could realize their potential and emerge as fantasy weapons in the NHL.
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With all the incredible young talent in the NHL, it's hard to choose just eight players. The following five missed the list narrowly, but could still have great seasons.
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues
Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes
Marcus Foligno, Buffalo Sabres
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
Luke Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
8. Cody Hodgson: Buffalo Sabres
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Cody Hodgson was well on his way to becoming a fantasy weapon, and even a Calder Trophy candidate as a Vancouver Canuck.
When he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres at the deadline, Hodgson struggled to continue his momentum, picking up just eight points in 20 games with the Sabres. He finished the season with 41 points in 83 total games, falling just short of Calder candidacy.
During the NHL lockout, Hodgson has been playing with Buffalo's farm team, the Rochester Americans. He picked up 10 points in nine games with the team before breaking his hand in late October.
With the departure of Derek Roy over the offseason, Hodgson will likely be centering the second line with the Sabres when play resumes, assuming his hand is healed, of course.
First or second-line action on a team that should grossly improve off of a disappointing 2011-12 campaign could mean big numbers for the Toronto native.
7. Mikael Granlund: Minnesota Wild
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Mikael Granlund was drafted ninth overall in the 2010 draft by the Minnesota Wild. Although Granlund has not yet made his NHL debut, he could find himself as a roster regular for the 2012-13 season.
In the absence of an NHL season, Granlund has made the move to North America, playing with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. He has 12 points in just eight games.
The Wild made some significant changes over the summer, bringing in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter from free agency. With the new faces and healthy seasons from Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the team could emerge as one of the top teams in the West.
If Granlund can make the roster, he'll surely fit in with Minnesota's offensive stars.
6. David Perron: St. Louis Blues
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David Perron is one of the most talented young players in the league. If it weren't for a severe concussion that sidelined him for the majority of the past two seasons, he would already be a top offensive weapon.
Perron quickly regained his stride when he returned in December of last year, scoring 21 goals and 21 assists in 52 games.
As long as he can stay healthy, it's only up from here.
5. Jakub Voracek: Philadelphia Flyers
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Jakub Voracek scored 49 points in 78 games in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers last year. He followed up on that success with 10 points in 11 playoff games.
At 6'2", 214 lbs., Voracek is first in line to replace Jaromir Jagr on the first-line right wing.
A full season alongside Claude Giroux is the perfect way to transform this young power forward into an offensive machine.
4. Nail Yakupov: Edmonton Oilers
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Nail Yakupov was deservedly selected first overall in the 2012 entry draft. It's always hard to predict how top prospects will adapt in the NHL, but Yakupov's 14 points in 13 games with HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL is a good sign.
Yakupov should find immediate success with the Edmonton Oilers when the lockout ends, provided he can find a top-six role among all the other stars on the team.
3. Tyler Ennis: Buffalo Sabres
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Despite being one of the smallest players in the league, Tyler Ennis' speed and skill have allowed him to find success in the NHL.
When a CBA is finally signed, Ennis should find himself centering Tomas Vanek and Jason Pominville on the Buffalo Sabres' top line.
When that happens, we can expect a huge increase in productivity.
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Edmonton Oilers
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Before a shoulder injury sidelined Ryan Nugent-Hopkins midway through last season, he was on pace to take home the Calder Trophy and finish among the top scorers in the league.
He's proven he can perform in the big league and is currently tied for third in the AHL with 17 points in 14 games. When play resumes, we can expect Nugent-Hopkins to continue this pace and join Jordan Eberle with 70-plus points on the Oilers.
1. Justin Schultz: Edmonton Oilers
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The Justin Schultz sweepstakes was one of the top stories of the summer this past offseason, as the University of Wisconsin defender had all 30 teams eyeing him.
When the Edmonton Oilers finally won the sweepstakes and signed the free agent to a two-year contract which could pay Schultz $2.85 million per year in bonuses in addition to his $925,000 annual salary, many wondered if he was worth the money or the hype.
The rookie defender currently leads the AHL with 21 points in 15 games, reinforcing the Oilers' strong investment.
The Oilers are weak on the blue line, which only means a clearer path for Schultz to become one of the most dangerous offensive defenders in the NHL. Erik Karlsson can already hear the footsteps.
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